MARCH 3rd, 2019 PASTOR DON PIEPER
Right On The Mark MARK 3:20-30; 4:35-41
(Sorry, no Audio this week)
“WHO IS THIS MAN?”
Have you noticed how most of us are inclined to present ourselves as better or smarter or kinder than we really are? Such behavior starts at an early age...
Calvin: Mom, from now on, I don’t want to be introduced to people as plain “Calvin.” I want to be introduced as “Calvin, Boy of Destiny.”
Mom: Boy of Destiny??
Calvin: But you have to say it right. Pause a little after “boy” and say “destiny” a bit slower & deeper for emphasis. Say it, “Boy…of Dessstiny” – like that!
Mom: I think I’m going to stop introducing you altogether.
Calvin: I wish you had some cymbals to crash after you said it.
Hobbes: I suppose one could recognize a boy of destiny by his planet-and-star underpants.
Calvin: Keep it up, tiger breath…! (The Days Are Just Packed, p. 44)
Calvin gives new meaning to the word, “pretentious”, but he’s not alone. Those in Hollywood, the media, cosmetics, sports, marketing, as well as classmates, neighbors, lovers and even ministers, are also driven by the quest to impress. When we lived in KC I was part of cluster of Lutheran pastors who met in the church where the bishop worshipped, and it always felt like my colleagues were presenting their credentials, how big their church was, etc., fearful that our credibility was on the line....
In chapter three, Mark shares the first of several accounts in which Jesus’ credibility is being questioned. Some think he is being pretentious, but the lowest cut of all, is that this skepticism is coming from within his own family. “When his family heard about what was happening, they tried to take him away. ‘He’s out of his mind,’ they said.” (Mark 3:21)
When his family heard... Heard what and from whom? Apparently, a friend of the family must’ve burst into Mary’s home and spilled the beans. “Have you heard what they’re saying? They say he’s gathered a bunch of hoodlums around him, uncouth, unwashed fishermen, and women of ill repute and lying, cheating tax collectors, and who knows what else – and he’s going around interacting with lepers and the demonized! Oh, Mary - how embarrassing!
“When his family heard…about what was happening” – that Jesus’ scandalous behavior was drawing crowds of even more questionable types, and that instead of sending them away, Jesus seemed to be encouraging it, his family was so embarrassed that they tried to shut it down, to intervene - they tried to take him away and stop the bleeding! They called for an intervention...
How so? They told people, “He’s out of his mind.” In other words, “Don’t take him seriously. He’s been a bit off ever since he dropped his hammer and saw and took off on that crazy forty day fast in the wilderness. He hasn’t been the same since! He’s out of his mind!
By saying this about their own brother, they make the distinction that he didn’t get these delu-sions of grandeur from them. It’s like the disclaimer on T.V.: “The following program does not repre-sent the views of the producers of this program and by no means are we to be held liable for any offensive material that may follow or brain damage that may ensue.” (That's what they should say!)
Jesus' family disclaim Jesus while at the same time try and gain control of the situation and over Jesus. They’re not alone. The teachers of the law are taking issue with Jesus as well: “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.” (Mark 3:22)
These guys hold nothing back. They unload both barrels in an attempt to discredit Jesus and his followers. They accuse him with the most emotionally charged assault in their arsenal. They claim that he is in league with God’s immortal enemy – Lucifer…!
And yet, as Jesus proclaims that the kingdom of heaven is at hand he puts a cripple on his feet, heals a leper, forgives sinners, offers a sense of belonging to the disconnected, and deliverance to the spiritually oppressed. People begin to wonder what this is all about. Even his own disciples wonder, “Who is this man?” (Mark 4:41)
The dissenting voices in his midst say he is an embarrassment, that he's out of his mind, posses-sed by Satan even - and thing of it is, those things are still being said of him today. There's an increas-ingly vocal voice in America today that suggest that those who claim Jesus as Lord are a serious threat to peace, and to society as a whole.
Such ideas are being projected on the Silver Screen in increasingly bold and aggressive ways. The award winning film, Chocolat, was blatant in its portrayal of the church causing more harm than good. The DaVinci Code upped the anti by depicting church history as that of suppression, corruption and an ongoing attempt to silence the truth. The film The Kingdom of God depicts Christians as delusional and blood thirsty thugs and in the film, The Peacemaker, a Serbian Christian plots to set off an atomic bomb in New York. As he boards the plane the terrorist crosses himself.
Once again, Jesus and his followers are being portrayed as being a demonic, destructive force to be stopped if not silenced. Others see him and his movement as being out of touch with reality. A prime example of their perspective can be seen in Bill Maher’s film: Religulous or in the videos and presentations by Bill Nye, the Science Guy, among many others.
Who is this man, this Jesus? Some say he’s a threat, others, that he’s out of touch. But there are others who are simply embarrassed by him, such as those in his own family.
“Why can’t you be what we want you to be?” Such is the historical response to Jesus. The religious community didn’t mind Jesus talking about God and urging people to repent they just didn’t appreciate the way he did it. His tendency to forgive sins and drive out demons compromised their own authority. Why couldn’t he work within the system? Why couldn’t he be what they wanted him to be?
His family, too, struggled with the way he stirred things up, made the kingdom of God his top priority rather than his family and the family business. They didn’t get why he couldn’t just stay at home, saw wood and occasionally turn some water into wine. So they went after him to bring him home, crazy or not, to demand of him: Why can’t you be what we want you to be?
In much the same way we also recast Jesus in a way that makes him more compatible with the way we want to do things, with the way we want him to be, choosing the parts of his message that are easiest to follow and disregarding the rest! “Who is this man?” Jesus’ friends asked themselves.
When that gale blew in and began to toss their boat around in the dark, stormy waves, they were undoubtedly wishing the sides of the boat were a little higher, the wood a little thicker and the shore a little closer. Fear got the best of them. “They were terrified!” (Mark 4:39) Instead of seeing hope heading their way, as Jesus made his way towards them across the stormy sea, they saw a ghost...
It was a rather odd conclusion to draw... I mean, how many ghosts had they seen, collectively? Zilch. After all, who else could it be? Still, in the middle of the storm, tormented by waves of dread and doubt, I'd have to admit, I'm no better at recognizing his presence than they were.
This all raises a question: what was Jesus up to walking around on the lake at 3:00 in the morn-ing? Mark's provides a clue. He includes this observation: “Jesus was going to pass them by” (Mark 6:48) Wait – he was going to do what? Imagine the disciples' reaction: 'Wait – where he's going?' The key word here is the verb, parechomai, (to pass by) which can also be found in the Greek translation of the Old Testament and is a term that earmarks a theophany in the text.
A 'theophany' is a defining moment in which “God made striking and temporary appearances in the earthly realm to select a person for the purpose of communicating a message.”
(David Garland's commentary on Mark)
For example, God put Moses in a cleft in a rock so Moses could see “God's glory as He passed by” - and sure enough, “the Lord passed before him.” (Exodus 33:2)
And again, God told Elijah to stand on the mountain, “for the Lord is about to pass by.”
(1 Kings 19:11)
There is a pattern to these stories. In each case God had to get his people's attention – through a burning bush, or wind and fire, or walking on the water. With each person God was going to call them to do something extraordinary. In each situation the person that God called felt afraid, but every time they said 'yes' to their calling, they experienced the power of God in their lives.
When Jesus came to the disciples on the water intending to 'pass them by' he wasn't racing them or ignoring them. He was revealing his divine presence and power to them.
Mark also notes that when the waves began filling the boat with water Jesus was sound asleep. Why did Mark include that detail? Was it perhaps because he wanted us to see Jesus’ humanity, to see that Jesus also got tired and weak, to see that he is just like us, one of us? But then we see him calming the storm with a word, “Silence! Be still!” (Mark 4:39) He was human and yet his relationship with the Father was such that he could call on the power of heaven at will - and still can – and does!
Who is this man? He is Jesus, the one who can calm the storms of life, if we will but put our trust in him and follow his lead. And where does this Jesus take us? What is it that he wants to do among us and through us? His answer to the religious leaders gives us a clue. When they accused him of working for Satan, he asked them, “Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone who is even stronger – someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.” (Mark 3:27)
Who is this man? He is the one sent by the Father to accomplish his mission: to take back the spiritual territory of the hearts of men and women held captive by Satan, to forgive the sinner, to heal those who know they're sick - and he intends to use the likes of followers like you and me to do it!
Who is this man? He is the one powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods! He is the one who casts out demons, removes our guilt, silences our shame and gives us purpose – he is the one who calms the stormy seas of life – he of whom “even the wind and the waves obey...! (Mark 4:41) And he is for you!