Today’s reading was Mark 6:1-6
6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.
What’s remarkable about this story is that they thought they knew him, but they didn’t really. In their minds he is the carpenter, the son of Mary (possible a dig at his “illegitimate” birth rumor that circulated during his lifetime, since it was very unusual to refer to someone in relation to their mother). They have preconceived categories into which Jesus must fit, and he’s ignoring them. He is someone they know, a sibling, a carpenter – certainly not an impressive public speaker, learned scholar and worker of miracles.
The challenge for those of us who call ourselves Christians is the same. Do we know him really? Or do we just have a set of preconceived ideas into which we hope Jesus will fit. How many of us have an idea of who Jesus is, and then we read the Bible, and hope that it fits our understanding. Or do we rather start from almost zero, and allow the Bible to form our image of Christ? The danger is that we make him into our own image, rather than allow the I AM to be who he will be.
This genuine knowing is actually a critical point. In Matthew 7, we come across these alarming verses:
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)
On the surface, these people looked like Christians. I mean, they were prophesying, driving out demons and performing miracles. Yet the verdict is “I never knew you.” Clearly our relationship with Christ is more than simply doing good works FOR Christ. It seems that these people were able to avail themselves of some pretty impressive spiritual power, even without genuine relational knowledge of Jesus. That’s worrying.
In my experience as a pastor, I am often in the position of asking people about their relationship with Christ, and it surprises me how often people define it by their activity FOR Christ, rather than in relational terms. They tell me what ministries they are involved in, how they serve, how they give. Rarely do I hear someone talk about the time they spend with Jesus, simply enjoying him. It sounds more like Jesus as Boss, rather than Jesus as Savior and Friend.
God is a Person, and in the deep of His mighty nature He thinks, wills, enjoys, feels, loves, desires and suffers as any other person may. In making Himself known to us He stays by the familiar pattern of personality. He communicates with us through the avenues of our minds, our wills and our emotions. The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.
Tozer, A. W. (Aiden Wilson) The Pursuit of God (pp. 12-13).
At the end of the story, we find Jesus being amazed. This is the only time in the gospel of Mark we see that. What he is amazed about is their lack of faith. Perhaps our challenge of faith is different than theirs. We may find it easier than they did to believe that Jesus is a worker of miracles, an inspired prophet, even the Messiah. Perhaps our challenge to faith is to believe that this relationship can be cultivated like any other. And like any other relationship, it requires time and commitment: time in the Word and prayer. Commitment to doing his will.
Perhaps take some time this summer to read through a gospel, and ask God to give you a second naivete, that you might discover Jesus afresh and appreciate him as never before.