HOPE CHAPEL - Sunday, February 20, 202
Youtube link... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGqOH4xjelY
Teaching Series - “Doing Life with Jesus"
Weekly Topic - “Counterculture”
Texts – Mark 10:13-16, Luke 10:38-42, Luke 5:12-14, Luke 19:1-10, Romans 1:28-2:11
Last week we considered Jesus’ response to rejection. Though he knew everything that was about to transpire even before it happened, he kneeled before the betrayer and showed his incredible love by washing Judas’ feet. He continued to show his love as he washed the feet of Peter, who would deny even knowing him. In fact, he loved them all to the end, washing each one’s feet in turn, knowing that all would abandon him before the night was out. He set an example for the twelve, and for all those who would call him Lord in the years since, that would not be easy to follow.
Today, we examine Jesus’ response to people who found themselves on the receiving end of rejection. He did not concern himself with what other people thought, with societal stereotypes or even about keeping a good reputation. He loved on people…all people! No one was excluded. So this morning, let’s dive right in to discover just how very counterculture Jesus’ treatment of others really was.
Mark 10:13-16 – “13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. 14 When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. 15 I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” 16 Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them.”
What was happening? [parents were bringing their children to Jesus for a blessing]
Why did the disciples ‘scold’ the parents? [they thought Jesus was too busy to be bothered; he had more important things to do than spend time with kids]
How does Jesus react? [He’s angry with his disciples. How dare they prevent anyone from coming to him?]
We should not be too quick to judge the disciples; try putting yourselves in a similar situation. An important guest has been invited to speak and when you attempt to talk to this person, a bunch of kids are milling around making lots of noise. How do you respond? What thoughts are going through your head? Just as in Jesus’ day, children are sometimes viewed as an inconvenience and even a nuisance in some circumstances. Most of us claim to love children, but not their noise or their mess. And let’s be honest, sometimes just their presence in the same room causes us to wish they weren’t…like a little one having a temper tantrum at the mall in the next aisle…
Just so in Jesus’ day. Children were considered of little to no consequence by the majority of adults. It was important to have a boy to pass on the family name and property; it was important to have children to help ease the workload of daily living. However, that does not mean that they held any particular worth in the eyes of their elders beyond that. For many, the desire and/or regard for children, did not match the need for children given the stated reasons. In the minds of many adults, they were to be seen and not heard, tolerated until they were old enough to be of use; they were certainly nothing more than an unwelcome distraction when the big people were talking.
But how does Jesus respond to the presence of the children? He invites them over, embraces them, blesses them and points to them as an example of what is required to enter the kingdom of heaven. In essence he was telling his audience, including the disciples, “Think you’re better than a child? Think again!”
No one was unimportant to Jesus, especially not children.
Luke 10:38-42 – “As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. 39 Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. 40 But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”
41 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! 42 There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”
There are many stories of Jesus treating women with greater regard than society did, but few show the depth to which Jesus advocated for women’s rights and abilities like the one we just read. Let’s take a closer look.
An important guest, Jesus, is visiting the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. When it came to playing host, how would the expectations on the men and the women have differed? [the women were to prepare the meal and wait on the men; the men would talk, often in a separate room]
Which of the siblings is not living up to expectations? [Mary, who has chosen to join the men and listen to Jesus as he teaches]
Martha is attempting to be the responsible female and calls on Jesus to back her up by telling Mary to join her in the kitchen. But what does Jesus say? [Mary has chosen the better thing and it will not be taken from her] Can’t you just see Martha’s shock, matched only by some of the disciples who may have been questioning Mary’s presence as well? Jesus dismissed the gendered expectations and refused to deny this opportunity to Mary, who many would have judged as shirking her womanly responsibility.
Was Jesus being unsympathetic to Martha’s workload? No, I don’t think so. I think that Jesus was actually inviting Martha to set aside the things she thought were required of her and come join the group too…she was missing out! What would have happened if she had stopped? The meal might have been served later, but no one would have gone hungry. Mary and probably Jesus, himself, would have pitched in to help in the preparation of the meal after the discussion. Martha was being invited to sit at the Teacher’s feet as his student…with the men.
That may not seem like much of a big deal for us here today, but it wasn’t so very long ago that women were not permitted to attend university. We still have countries around this world where girls are not allowed to attend school past grade eight, if at all. In Jesus’ day, girls were not educated in the same way that the boys were. Boys were permitted to engage in higher learning—reading, writing, arithmetic, religious studies and philosophy—while the instruction of girls focused on domestic skills like cooking, sewing, basket weaving, child-rearing and the like.
The view of women in Jesus’ day was dismally low. Many viewed a girl’s education in areas outside of keeping a home and raising children to be a waste of time and resources…if she was capable of learning at all. A woman who burnt the morning toast could find herself served with divorce papers before the day was out. The prayer of blessing, as part of the halakha, has taught Orthodox Jewish men to thank God each morning, “Blessed are you, Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has not made me a woman.”
Jesus dismissed this patriarchal view that put women in an inferior position to men. He not only tolerated Mary in the room, he commended her for her choice and refused to allow anyone to take this right from her. “Mary has chosen the better thing and it will not be taken from her.” After that, who would dare protest her choice? She had received Jesus’ approval…and backing!
No one was unteachable to Jesus, not even women.
Luke 5:12-14– “In one of the villages, Jesus met a man with an advanced case of leprosy. When the man saw Jesus, he bowed with his face to the ground, begging to be healed. “Lord,” he said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”
13 Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. 14 Then Jesus instructed him not to tell anyone what had happened. He said, “Go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
Leprosy, now known as Hansen’s Disease, is the result of a slow growing bacteria that affects the nerves, eyes and skin. It is no longer thought to be as contagious as it once was and effective treatments exist, but if left untreated, the nerve damage can result in crippling of hands and feet, paralysis, and blindness. Luke tells us that Jesus is met by a man with an advanced case of leprosy. He could not hide his condition, even if he had wanted to.
In the first century, there was much fear surrounding the condition. Some were forced from their homes, shunned by family members and anyone with leprosy was considered ‘unclean’ so could not enter the Temple to worship God.
After the man begs Jesus to heal him, how does Jesus respond? [he touches him…affirms his willingness…heals him…instructs him to go to the priest to receive his clean bill of health] He has literally given this man his life back.
It has always struck me as significant that Jesus ‘touched’ the man. The Law of Moses stipulated that anyone who touched someone who was unclean would remain unclean themselves until evening or longer, depending on the source of the uncleanness. Jesus, therefore, willingly became ‘unclean’ by touching this man and would himself have been unable to enter the Temple court which was set aside for worship of God by men.
No one was untouchable to Jesus, not even the contagious.
Luke 19:1-10 – “Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town. 2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich. 3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way. 5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”
6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy. 7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled. 8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!” 9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”
How much do you think Zachaeus was hated? Before his encounter with Jesus, Zachaeus had been a greedy, selfish traitor of his people. He had become exceedingly wealthy by overcharging on taxes and defrauding those who didn’t have the power to resist without fear of the Romans for non-compliance.
The reaction of the people, who treated Zacchaeus the way his notoriety deserved, did nothing to change his despicable behaviour. No one wanted anything to do with this little man, protected by Rome, who had become rich off his dishonest practices as a tax collector. But just one afternoon with Jesus and he is a radically changed man. What happened?
He had climbed a tree just to see Jesus. When Jesus reaches the spot, he invites himself to Zacchaeus’ home for a meal. He is overjoyed…and the crowd is visibly upset.
Can you think of anyone…a politician maybe…who you regard with the same disdain as the crowd felt for Zacchaeus? What if you had been in the crowd eager to talk with Jesus and it was with this individual that Jesus chose to spend time? How would you react? [Why would he do that? Well, at least I hope Jesus lets them have it!]
You might wish that Jesus had a not-so-nice surprise in store for this sinner, but not so. In fact, Zacchaeus is so grateful for this honour that Jesus bestows on him that he becomes an entirely changed man. He promises to give half his wealth away to the poor and to pay back four times as much to anyone he has cheated, which he would have known because part of his job was to keep detailed records. This man, who many had condemned and had remained unchanged, became a new man after his brief encounter with the kindness of Jesus.
No one was unworthy to Jesus, not even sinners.
But what about us…are there some people we consider unimportant, unteachable, untouchable or unworthy?
“THERE IS NO ‘THEM’”
Romans 1:28-2:11 – “Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. 29 Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. 30 They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. 31 They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. 32 They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.
You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things. 2 And we know that God, in his justice, will punish anyone who does such things. 3 Since you judge others for doing these things, why do you think you can avoid God’s judgment when you do the same things? 4 Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
5 But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 He will judge everyone according to what they have done. 7 He will give eternal life to those who keep on doing good, seeking after the glory and honor and immortality that God offers. 8 But he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness. 9 There will be trouble and calamity for everyone who keeps on doing what is evil—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 10 But there will be glory and honor and peace from God for all who do good—for the Jew first and also for the Gentile. 11 For God does not show favoritism.”
Who is Paul writing this warning to? [the believing church in Rome]
Is it enough to ‘know’ God? [No, because even in the face of ‘knowing’ we can still choose to ignore him.]
What ensures that we will experience God’s glory and honour and peace in our lives? [Obedience to Him.]
Is it reassuring or alarming to you that God doesn’t play favourites? [That all depends on who is really in charge of your life—you or God.]
God looks at us as one human race…equally sinful…equally loved! There is no ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ from God’s perspective; so, when we think that way, we are not living with the mind of Christ. If we live and talk as though we are different from ‘them’ or ‘those people,’ we are doing what comes naturally for us as sinful humanity--pitting ourselves against one another and choosing sides. No matter how others are responding to situations we experience, we are to remain firmly on God’s side.
We are called to advocate for the powerless. We are to stand up for justice. But in so doing, our words and actions should never bring shame to Jesus. Name calling, slander, shouting matches, angry diatribes, belittling others or ‘hitting someone over the head with the truth’ bring dishonour to the One we claim to follow. We are not to blend in or mirror the attitudes and behaviours of those who have never experienced God’s grace and forgiveness firsthand. We are called to stand out, to live life counterculturally just as Jesus did.
If we don’t, are we really his? The proof that we are Jesus’ disciples is demonstrated in our following his example. Do we, like Jesus, permit others to ‘inconvenience’ us or do we dismiss them? Do we graciously listen to and engage others who might have different opinions, or do we denigrate them, applying one of many nasty labels? Do we allow the messiness of another’s life to cause us to be compassionate or do we push back in fear? Do we offer life-changing kindness as Jesus did, or further malign and add our voices to the vitriol being flung at someone for their poor choices? Too often, rather than obeying Jesus to ‘love our enemies’ and ‘pray for those who persecute us,’ we fall into the traps of mischaracterizing those we disagree with and dehumanizing them in order that we can ‘justifiably’ disregard them altogether.
We must stop taking our cues from the world. We may need to take a sabbatical from Facebook or an extended hiatus from all news media. If what you are listening to is causing you increasing anxiety, causing your blood to boil and producing hatred in your heart, then it is time to recalibrate…turn off the noise…get alone with God…and listen for him to speak anew.
Jesus has given us a commission, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). And he’s given us a new commandment, “Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).
God loves our ‘us’ and ‘them’ equally. Praise him for his incredible kindness, tolerance and patience despite our willful disobedience, belligerence and the shame we often bring to his name. But don’t be mislead…a time is coming when Jesus will pronounce his judgements on all. Let’s be diligent in doing life with Jesus…living our lives on his terms!
References and for further study / inspiration…
“Should I Thank God for Not Making Me a Woman” Rabbi Ari Hart https://www.huffpost.com/entry/should-i-thank-god-for-not-making-me-a-woman_b_3197422#:~:text=As%20a%20committed%20Orthodox%20Jew,to%20say%20that%20each%20morning.&text=%22Blessed%20are%20you%2C%20Lord%20our,12.
Sunday, February 27, 2022 – 2022 Theme - “Doing Life with Jesus – Jesus & the Sabbath” – In-person and Online
Pastor Jane Peck, Hope Chapel
(Collingwood EMCC Church)
"Learning and Living the Way of Jesus!"
First licensed for pastoral ministry in 1994, Pastor Jane Peck has served in camp and church ministries in three denominations, five provinces and in a variety of roles. Her most recent position is that of Pastor at Hope Chapel which she began in 2020. She is excited to see what God can and will do in the days to come!