Monday, December 1, 2008

What makes Jesus glad, sad, mad

What makes Jesus Glad, Sad, Mad
Preached 9/14/2008

Framing Scripture: Mark 12:28-34
One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that Jesus answered them well, he asked Jesus, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher . . . These are much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” And Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

The entire Trinity is looking for the lost and if we turn and look God in the eyes we will find we are in our true home. This is the good news Jesus came to tell us and live for us. This is the Kingdom of God; this is our adoption into God’s family, where Jesus is our Elder Brother, as the book of Hebrews says. We keep our eyes on God’s eyes so that we know how God feels about us and that we can trust God with our whole selves.

God shows a central preoccupation with seeking the lost and teaching them to trust in God’s love for them. Jesus clearly shares this central preoccupation—seeking, finding, restoring the lost. Sometimes we are lost because we have hidden from God and are afraid to come out of hiding, but when we come out and look God in the eyes, we see nothing but love. We can trust that love.

Take a minute or two to look into God’s eyes. Remember that love—which can’t be earned or lost. And then think about this: There is no shortage of God’s love; the pie of God’s love is not fixed in size; every single person is loved by God in that simply astonishing fashion. It is enough to fill us with awe that shuts our mouths.

And yet, it was possible when Jesus walked the earth, it was possible to make him mad. I wonder if you remember in Mark’s gospel when it is noted that Jesus became emotional—the words are “anger, grieved in spirit, indignant” and he speaks words of rebuke and confrontation. Since Jesus had trusted God entirely with his “image,” he didn’t get mad to protect himself. This is the freedom he gained by keeping his own eyes on God and knowing all the time what God thought of him—my well-loved Son, I am so pleased with you—All of you out there, listen to my Son. If we pay attention to what upsets God’s Son, we can get insight into what is important to God also.

What makes Jesus mad? 1) he didn’t want anyone to try to persuade him to do something different from what God set before him to do; 2) he didn’t want people to question the authenticity of others’ encounters with him; 3) he particularly didn’t want anyone to put up barriers between people and God.

Do the will of God

Jesus told this disciples three times that he would be arrested, tortured, crucified, and would then be raised from death. The first time, Peter said, “No, it doesn’t have to be this way.” Jesus rebuked (scolded) Peter and said, “You are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things” (Mark 8:33, NRSV throughout).

In the teaching that follows, Jesus tells those around him: “if any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their lives will lose them, and those who lose their lives for my sake and for the sake of the gospel, will save them. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their lives? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Trust others’ experience of Jesus
Another time when Jesus scolded the disciples, he did so because they didn’t believe the women and others to whom he had spoken after his resurrection. “Later he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were sitting at the table; and he upbraided [scolded] them for their lack of faith and stubbornness, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen [Mary Magdalene and two others who weren’t part of the eleven disciples]” (Mk. 16:14). And they doubted the witness of these people despite Jesus telling them three times that God would raise him from the dead.

Let God work even when it violates tradition
Jesus’s harshest feelings are against the Pharisees, not because they were religious, but because they hid from God in their religion, placing tradition ahead of obedience and making it hard for others to trust God.

He was actually angry at the Pharisees for their willingness to let a person suffer rather than violate the law about keeping Sabbath. “The Pharisees were watching him to see what he would do when confronted with a man with a withered hand in synagogue on the Sabbath. Jesus asked them, ‘Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill?’ but they were silent. He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness [blindness] of heart and said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him” (Mk 3:1-6).

Because they said they knew what God wanted but resisted the work of God through Jesus, Jesus called the Pharisees hypocrites.

The Pharisees asked why the disciples violated the tradition of the elders and ate without properly washing their hands. Jesus told them they were teaching human precepts as doctrines, that they paid lip honor to God but their hearts were far away, and that they abandoned God’s commandment and held on to human tradition. Then Jesus moved on to saying that what a person eats just passes through the body and does not defile the person; but that what defiles a person comes out of the evil intentions of the heart (Mk 7:6-23). So it makes Jesus mad when people teach tradition as doctrine, when they substitute tradition for God’s command, and when they think if their hands are clean, they don’t have to worry about their hearts.

Allow outsiders to be close to God, despite their youth or their social status

Jesus even became indignant with his closest disciples. People were bringing children to him so that he might touch them, and the disciples were speaking sternly to them; when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them, for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them (Mk 10:13-16).

What makes Jesus glad? The same things that make God glad.

We can learn four lessons about how to please God from the stories above.

1) Listen to God and obey God’s direction (do what we see the Father doing)
2) Affirm and nurture others’ experience of the risen Jesus
3) Come out of religious hiding behind tradition or status to stand without pretense or shame in honesty before God
4) Clear the way for others, particularly children, to trust God

Look again into God’s eyes. What do you see there? Listen to God’s voice. What is God saying to you?

Let’s help each other towards God.

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