Sermon – What Do You See

What do you see when you see Jesus?  In the Gospel of Mark, the first thing that happens during Jesus’ ministry is that he calls fishermen –two pairs of brothers Simon and Andrew James and John – and these four “left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him”[1].

One suspects that they looked at Jesus and saw the Lord.

What do you see when you see Jesus?

Then Jesus encountered a man with an unclean spirit, and drove the spirit away.

& The people said, “What is this?  A new teaching — with authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him”.[2]  One suspects that they looked at Jesus and saw the Lord. And then Jesus healed a leper.  People heard about it and came to him from everywhere – so much so that Jesus could no longer travel freely because of the crush of people.

One suspects that they looked at Jesus and saw the Lord.

What do you see when you see Jesus?

And then he healed a paralytic, and people “were all amazed and glorified God, saying ‘We have never seen anything like this!'[3] ”

One suspects that they looked at Jesus and saw the Lord.

What do you see when you see Jesus?

 

And so on and on it went – that is until Jesus came to his hometown.  He had been raised in Nazareth — a small town — perhaps five hundred people — maybe a thousand — in any event, a pretty small town – a place where everyone knows everyone else — and everyone else’s business – a place where there is only one butcher and one baker and one candlestick maker.

 

When Jesus came to his hometown, you would think that they would welcome him with open arms.  He had been doing marvelous things, and you would think that the word would have reached them everyone else seemed to know.  Perhaps they would have a little parade for him or ask him to do some tricks for them.  But when Jesus came with his disciples in tow, the people didn’t welcome him like that.  Oh, They did invite him to teach in the synagogue – an honor to be sure, but not a great honor – someone in that little town taught in the synagogue every week,  and they passed the chore around.

Anyone with something to say could be pretty sure of an opportunity to say it.

 

But when Jesus began to teach in the synagogue, he surprised them.  Nobody took a nap that day!  Jesus started strong and got stronger.  Pretty soon, the people were hanging onto the edge of their seats, unsure just where Jesus was going next, but certain that it would be an exciting ride. “Wow!” they said, “Where did this man get all this?  What is this wisdom that has been given to him?  What deeds of power are being done by his hands!”  Well – It sounds as if they looked at Jesus and saw the Lord

 

 

But friend’s, here’s the thing – then they said, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary

and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at him. Imagine – Took offense!  Where other people looked at Jesus and saw the Lord, these people looked at Jesus and saw only the kid who grew up down the block –Mary’s son.  They knew his father and his mother – his brothers and his sisters — a pretty ordinary family.  So who did he think he was, anyway

— sitting in the teacher’s seat as if he owned it

— his voice sounding like the voice of God?

Jesus had been gone from Nazareth for a while, and now he had come back full of himself – putting on airs. They might have been interested in his opinion about

building a house — or shaping an ox yoke. They knew that Joseph had taught him

some carpentry skills.

 

But now Jesus — this young man — sounded as if he possessed the wisdom of the ages

— and they didn’t like that.  Who did he think he was, anyway! They looked at Jesus, and they didn’t see the Lord. They saw only a young man grown too big for his britches. So I repeat – What do you see when you look at Jesus?  Well, the quick answers are Lord — Messiah – Son of God — Savior.  Those are the kinds of words that we have used to describe Jesus for over two thousand years, so they come readily to mind.

 

But I sometimes wonder if we really believe those things about Jesus–Lord — Messiah — Son of God — Savior.  We live in a culture that is no respecter of persons — perhaps it would be better to say that we live in a culture that respects no one.  We say, “He puts his pants on one leg at a time, doesn’t he!” which is just another way of saying that he is no better than we are.

 

We are apt to give Jesus credit for being wiser than most — but Lord — Messiah — Son of God — Savior?  The titles roll easily off our lips, but do we really believe them?  Do we really believe that Jesus was –

one of a kind

–  God come into our midst

–  the one who makes it possible for us to have life eternal?

 

Do we really believe that he not only opens heaven to us but also gives us wisdom for our day-by-day lives right here on earth?  Do we really believe, for instance, when Jesus tells us to love our enemies, that he has the faintest clue?  Surely that must just be a bit of exaggeration – overstatement for effect!  Surely Jesus doesn’t really expect us to love our enemies!

 

You see, what we see depends on what we choose to see.  When the people of Nazareth looked at Jesus, they chose not to see very much.  What do we choose to see? It is an extremely important and a significant question.  In our busy lives, we are inclined to give Jesus so little time and attention.  We glance through the window at him, and then turn back to our everyday routine and then wonder why Jesus doesn’t make more of a difference in our lives why he isn’t more help. We wonder why the routine of our lives is, well, so routine.

A few decades ago, people took time to sit down with Jesus — to give him their full attention — to really see him.  Sunday was a holy day, devoted to God and family.

Families sat down together for dinner and began with prayer.  Parents taught their children prayers at bedtime.  They took time to see the Lord. Things have changed so much.  We are distracted by pagers — and cell phones — and television — and Nintendo — and computers – and Blackberry’s and a thousand other things.

 

Our lives are more exciting, but I wonder if they are better.  I suspect not. You see friends – here’s the thing, God is a God of expectations, too. He always expects a response from us. He expects us to make the decision to step into relationship with him       and then he expects us to act on it. He expects us to make the commitment to continue on that path with him.

 

It’s not enough just to show up and listen. Jesus always expects us to participate . .to share actively in our own salvation. We’ve seen it over and over: every healing, every miracle that Jesus ever performed (save one) was a response itself.

Before he will move in our lives, we have to ask him.

Before he will change our hearts, we have to invite him in.

Before he will take away our sin, we have to recognize that sin and give it to him.

All we can do is respond to the open-ended offer God makes us through Jesus.

All we can do is actively participate in the relationship that he makes possible.

 

If we look to the message of God

–          like a prophet too close to home,

–          as too familiar too costly,

we cannot recognize God for whom and what God is.

 

If we fail to honor Jesus as Lord and Savior, we will not connect with God nor take advantage of what God offers us. The people of Nazareth lost a great opportunity by not listening more carefully to their neighbor and relative who they knew only as Jesus the carpenter son of Mary. But we know differently – don’t we. We know him as Jesus the Christ, our Lord and Savior. And we know not to reject the God that might seem too familiar to us.

 

We say that we can’t turn back the clock, and that is true.  But we can make choices about how we live our lives –  even today – even right now.  We can choose to

– sit on the patio with Jesus

– to give Jesus our undivided attention

– to tell Jesus our concerns

– to seek his advice and counsel –

– to ask his blessing –

and we can choose

–          to give him our lives.

 

We can spend a little time each day in prayer!  A little time reading the scriptures! A little time serving the needy in Jesus’ name!  Even with our busy lives, we can choose to take a little time to look at Jesus — and to recognize him as Lord.

 

Try it!  Try it for a week!  Try it for a month!  See if it doesn’t change your life! Author and speaker Brennan Manning came up with a slogan. The slogan is, “I am the one Jesus loves.” It sounds a little arrogant doesn’t it? But – you know what – he is actually quoting Scripture. Jesus’ closest friend on earth, the disciple named John, is identified in the Gospels as “the one Jesus loved.” Manning said, “If John were to be asked, ‘What is your primary identity in life?’ he would not reply, ‘I am a disciple, an apostle, an evangelist, an author of one of the four Gospels,’ but rather, ‘I am the one Jesus loves.'”

 

What would it mean, I ask myself, if we too came to the place where we saw our primary identity in life as “the one Jesus loves”? How differently would we view ourselves at the end of a day? Sociologists have a theory called the looking-glass self: you become what the most important person in your life (wife, father, boss, etc.) thinks you are.

 

How would our lives change if we truly believed the Bible’s astounding words about God’s love for us, if we looked in the mirror and saw what God sees?

 

There is a the story of an Irish priest who, on a walking tour of a rural parish, sees an old peasant kneeling by the side of the road, praying. Impressed, the priest says to the man,

“You must be very close to God.” The peasant looks up from his prayers, thinks a moment, and then smiles, “Yes, he’s very fond of me.” What do you choose to see when you see Jesus.

 

God Bless You – Amen

 

[1] Mark 1:20

[2]Mark 1:27

[3] Mark 2: 12