Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Reaction Time

Jesus prompts a reaction.  Everywhere He goes.  People either welcome Him or reject Him, but they are never indifferent.  In Matthew 4:13 something caught my eye (go ahead and open that passage up and read it!):  Jesus leaves Jerusalem and departs for Galilee.  And then it says "And leaving Nazareth"... wait, what?  What did He do there?  Why Nazareth?  Maybe He went home to see his family before stepping into His ministry.  Nazareth was the town Jesus grew up in.  Luke 4:14ff gives more insight as to what really happened:  Jesus came to His home first to give them the chance to accept Him as the Anointed One, the Messiah, first.  He is asked to read a passage during church (well, during Synagogue) and chooses Isaiah 61.  Then He tells them that that scripture, which the Jews knew full well was all about the Messiah, was fulfilled in their hearing "this day".  So, He's saying: "Dude, I'm it!  I'm God!  I'm the Anointed One.  I am your king."  And their reaction is, get this!:  to take Him out of the city and stone Him.

It's not that they didn't want the Messiah to come.  They did.  They wanted Him to come and beat up the Romans. But they expected the Messiah to have no history.  Their response to Jesus, whom they had known from boyhood, was, "Wait, isn't this Mary's son?" (and note, usually men were identified as "insert father's name"'s son - like Peter bar Jonas: Peter, son of Jonas... much like the Irish O'... or the Scottish Mac/Mc...).  So they not only were saying, "hey, we know him, he went to school with us, he can't possibly be the guy we're waiting for...".  No, they were making a statement about Mary's illegitimate conception.  They were basically saying, "Isn't this Jesus the Bastard?"  How could someone like that make a statement that He was God?  So they reacted:  They dragged Jesus outside to stone him (the appropriate response in the law to one who blasphemes God).  But, somehow, Jesus walks right through their midst.

They reacted.

So Jesus goes to Capernaum, a city by the Sea of Galilee.  There He recruits Andrew, Peter, James and John!  It appears, they knew Him from Jerusalem (several of them were disciples of John the Baptist) and He knew them.  They most likely traveled up to the region of Galilee together.  But for some reason the boys go to Capernaum and join their fathers' fishing businesses while Jesus goes to Nazareth.

Capernaum is the exact opposite to Nazareth.  The whole region welcomes Jesus.  He not only finds his closest friends there but the cities in the area welcome Him into their synagogues to teach, and they marvel at the way He teaches with authority.  They are open.  They bring the sick and the suffering to Him, and in return, they see mighty miracles of God, and Jesus' most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount, is given there.

They reacted.

Now, fast forward to Mt. 8, Luke 8 and Mark 4:37ff.  Jesus leaves the region by boat with the disciples.  The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by mountains and the conditions are such that the weather can change dramatically in a matter of minutes.  These seasoned fishermen (ok, so not all of them were, but a large chunk of them had experience on this lake) are afraid.  That's a bad storm.  Peter, James, John and Andrew would not have panicked had this been some ordinary storm.  This was THE PERFECT STORM, long before Hollywood produced it!  And Jesus is sleeping.  No, wait, the boat is filling with water, standing on end, tossed to an fro... and Jesus is sleeping.  That's some good sleep... and a pretty exhausted body after days and days of ministering to large crowds!  the fact that Jesus is sleeping in a storm of this magnitude is tremendous... and funny.  Jesus is YHWH, the Creator, Ancient of Days, the one who spoke stars into being... and a "little tempest" really doesn't rattle Him.  Why?  Because one word from Him, and there is SILENCE.  You know, when you've been to a concert and you come home and your ears ring for hours?  This silence was just as deafening.  I bet the disciples' ears were ringing and they had "deer in the head light" looks on their faces.  And Jesus loves on them, "Oh you of little (underdeveloped) faith..."  And they worship.

They reacted.

And right after this, they come to a region called Decapolis ("Ten Cities"... named for the obvious).  It was a gentile region, predominantly.  This is the only time we see Jesus reach out to Gentiles.  Any other instance he was approached by the person first.  So, they go on land and immediately this "Demoniac", this suffering man who lived in tombs (oooh, stench!), wore no clothes (ok, I've got to take my brain out and scrub that image away), hid from people and cut himself with stones... do you get the picture of his depravity, his suffering?  How bad do things have to be for man to go to such extremes?  Pretty darn bad!!  No one could tame him.  No one could chain him.  He plagued the region, his family, himself... And Jesus brings him freedom.  The demons leave, the swine commit suicide and the pig herders run to tell the owners it wasn't their fault that their stock in pork just plummeted.  In fact, they remind me of the shepherds at Jesus's birth, who told everyone of the birth of the Messiah.  They were, however, on divine assignment.  These men were covering their hides and delighting in a sensation!  The town comes out to where Jesus is, sees the man healed, clothed and "in his right mind" and you'd think they'd throw a party and say, "Jesus, stay, man!  Hang with us and tell us more! You must be the very Son of God if you could restore this man!!"  But no.  They are afraid of Him.  (why?  were they hiding something that Jesus might expose?)  They ask Him to leave!  They. ask. Him. to. leave!!

They reacted.

Of these four groups no one was indifferent.  Jesus was never just tolerated.  He was either rejected or welcomed, stoned or worshiped.  But never just ignored.  So, this begs the question:  If people around us are indifferent to the Jesus we are presenting... are we actually introducing them to the Jesus of the Bible... or a Jesus of our own making?

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