July 8, 2018 – Jesus Unfiltered: Rejection

Ezekiel 2:1-5 NIV

This summer we are taking a look at Jesus Unfiltered. You know these days how you can take a photo

with a digital camera and manipulate it to look just like you want it. People have a tendency to do that

with Jesus. It is a version of the idea of humans making God in our image rather than accepting that

humanity was originally created in God’s image. Big difference. It’s what happens when we take individual

verses of Scripture and twist them to support our own agenda. We may have heard of government

officials doing it recently, but leaders both religious and secular have been doing that for millennia

. And, it is something that we have to watch out for too. If we think that Jesus always thinks just the

way we think, has the same perspective that we have, we might have to consider whether we are adding

our own filters to our picture of Jesus. Some of us want to candy coat Jesus, making him always sweet

and nice. That too is an over simplification. This week we look at a time in Jesus’ life when thinks weren’t

all sweetness and light. Jesus is returning to his hometown after teaching around the countryside and both

sides of the Sea of Galilee, performing miraculous healings, and word has gotten back to Nazareth. Are they

going to throw a parade for the returning Jesus? Probably not. 


              Mark 5:21-43 (NIV) 

      1 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,[a] 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. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.7 Calling the

Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over

impure spirits.  8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a

staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts.9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt.

 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place

will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as

a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that people should repent.

13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them. 


No, there were no welcome home parades for Jesus in Nazareth. Why do you think they rejected him?

Jealously? They didn’t expect the Jesus they knew to be able to do anything like this? Their preconceived

notions about him prevented them from seeing who he really is? 


Our Bible translations say that they “took offense at him.” First, what could he have said that would be

so offensive? And no doubt they were. In Luke’s version of this incident, Jesus’ “friends and neighbors”

were so offended that they tried to throw him off a cliff! (c.f. Luke 4:16) 


But the word that our Bibles translate as “offense” also has a connotation of being tripped up or being

caught in a trap. What about Jesus could have trapped them or tripped them up? Could it be who they

thought he was? He’s a carpenter or a builder. He can’t be as an amazing teacher as he seems. 


Do we do that? Could we miss something important because the message comes from someone we don’t

expect? They look different. We don’t think that they could possibly know much about God. Are they too

young? Do we dismiss someone because we don’t think that there is anything that we could possibly learn

from them?  


People who are less experienced with the church can often see things we can’t. They haven’t developed the

blinders of “That’s the way we’ve always done it” or “We tried that once, and it didn’t work.” We need to be

careful. God often uses the most unlikely messengers.  


The Nazarenes thought Jesus was a very unlikely messenger. They rejected him utterly and completely.

Like I mentioned before, in Luke’s version they tried to through him off a cliff.  They didn’t succeed, but

what if they had? Killing the one who has come to save you.  


Have you ever gone to the doctor’s office because you didn’t feel well or something might be seriously wrong?

You’re sitting in the exam room. The nurse has taken your vitals and asked you about your problem. He or she

leaves, and you are sitting in there waiting for the doctor. Five minutes, ten minutes, then the door opens and

the doctor doesn’t look old enough to have graduated from high school let alone medical school. How can this

person help me, save me?! 


Your mouth drops open a bit as you try to process this information. But within half a second you do, and it is

a good thing too because this person can help you. This person may even be saving your life. What happens if

we reject this person? Well, maybe we can go to another doctor, but maybe we can’t. 


There is only one Jesus. The Nazarenes are lost. Because they are lost now in the narrative, does that mean

that they are lost forever? Not necessarily. We know that Jesus brothers rejected him as Messiah before his

death and resurrection. (c.f. Mark 3:20-21, 31-32; John 7:2-5) But after Jesus’ resurrection some of his

brothers became great leaders in the church. James was the leader of the Jerusalem church. He and Jude

wrote letters that made their way into the New Testament. 


The current rejection may be merely part of their path to belief. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians chapter 3,

“As the Lord has assigned each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.” Paul

is talking against divisions within the church here, but his point is that we all have our role. We don’t know

where we are in the cycle. However, God has given us our task. Then, God will do God’s part. We might see

rejection, but we might be preparing the ground for seed that someone else will plant. 


To extend this metaphor, what we perceive as lostness, may be the ground being fertilized and prepared for

seed by you. It may be soil where nothing will ever grow. We don’t know. It’s not our decision to make.   


There was a woman that attended an Episcopal church. She worked in a bookstore. One day as she arrived at

work, she encountered a man dressed as a Buddhist Monk. She asked him if he was looking for anything in

particular. “Yes,” he answered softly, “I would like to know about Jesus.” She told him where he could find the

books about Jesus and turned to continue opening the shop, but he called her back. “No,” he said, “Don’t show

me any more books, tell me what you believe.” “My Episcopal soul shivered,” the woman said later. But she

gulped and told him everything she could think of.’ (Michael L Lindvull, Feasting on the Word…, Kindle ed,

location 7642) 


That brings us to the next part of our Scripture narrative. Jesus’ hometown rejected him. He may have been

disappointed, but he didn’t let that stop him. He left Nazareth, and he kept on teaching in village after village.

He also commissioned the Twelve to go out to even more places. 


The Nazarenes may have wondered who Jesus the Carpenter thought he was teaching with such wisdom in

synagogue. The next part of the passage tells us. Jesus is the one with the authority to share his power with

others to be able to reach more and more people.  


Our unfiltered Jesus has some challenging orders for his missionaries. They were traveling very light. They

had to depend on the kindness of strangers. Whether the people listened or not, they were to keep going. 


As we heard earlier in Ezekiel, [The Lord says,] “Whether they listen or fail to listen – for they are a rebellious

people – they will know a prophet has been among them” (Ez 2:5). 


It can be easy to be troubled by the verse in Mark “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave

that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” (6:11) 


One commentator suggested that this may be a warning to the people of the town and give them an opportunity

to see the light. (Efrain Agosto, Feasting…., Kindle ed, location 7701). 


Is that sugar coated Jesus? We don’t like what Jesus said, so we try to soften it? Maybe, but Jesus has already

told us in Mark 3:28 that “People can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter,” except for

blaspheming the Holy Spirit, which some scribes did by saying that Jesus power did not come from the Holy

Spirit but from Satan. But EVERYTHING ELSE can be forgiven. Even the rejection of Jesus and the gospel

message, which even his disciples will eventually do. 


Jonah in the Older Testament was told to go to Nineveh to tell them that God would punish them for their

evil deeds. Jonah didn’t want to go because he knew that if they repented that God would be merciful, and

Jonah didn’t think that was fair. They did repent, and God did not destroy them. 


We know that Jesus forgave the disciples who deserted him the night that he was arrested. We know that his

brothers became leaders in the early church. 


So, even if a village and all the people in it initially rejected Jesus’ message and his disciples does not mean

that they are destined to always reject it. Again we don’t know. They may reject it when we offer it, but because

of us, the next time they may be more receptive. 


What Jesus teaches us both through his own experience in Nazareth and with his instructions to the Twelve

is that when we try to share the love of Jesus, there are those who are going to reject that love. It seems

strange that anyone would reject the power of God’s love. Why would anyone do that? Part of it is because

this is a love over which we have no control. We don’t get to decide if someone is worthy or not. That was

Jonah’s big problem. He didn’t think the Ninivites were worthy of mercy and compassion after the evil

they perpetrated on the Israelite people. 


God can extend God’s love to whomever God wants, whether or not they look like us, think like us, have

the same priorities, have made lifestyle choices we don’t understand, love people we consider unlovable,

done things that we consider unforgivable.  


People can find that all-encompassing unpredictable love threatening. In Jesus’ day the authorities found

it so threatening that they executed Jesus for it. That is the most extreme form of rejection. Killing the one

who has come to save you. (Karoline Lewis, “Rejection,” Dear Working Preacher, workingpreacher.org) 


The fact that some will reject the message of the good news, of God’s love, of God’s rescue mission fo

r humanity does not relieve us from the responsibility of sharing that message. 


After Jesus extreme rejection in Nazareth, he sends out the Twelve. However, they now know what they’re

getting into. If people can reject Jesus, not just religious leaders that were threatened by his power, people

can reject anyone with the message. 


As Jesus said to the disciples at the Last Supper, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”

(John 15:18). 


But still, he charges them, charges us, to spread the news, even if we’re scared of getting it wrong, even if

we’re afraid of offending. Why? Because the message of God’s love for the world is too important not to share. 


As, Paul says in Romans 10:14-15, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can

they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to

them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those

who bring good news!”” 


If God wanted to, God could input all this information in everyone’s brains, but God doesn’t do it that way. This

good news is spread from person to person. We share God’s love by showing love to our neighbor. It is very

relational, demonstrating the relationship that God wants to have with us. 


How do we do it? We probably won’t have a perfect stranger come up to us one day and asked us to tell them

about Jesus. It could happen. It’s more likely to happen to me in my vocation as a pastor by someone stopping

by the church office or something, but it hasn’t happened very often. 


Does our walk match our talk? Does what we do match up with what we say we believe? 


“A powerful illustration of the integrity and balance between “doing” the word and “speaking” the word

was offered by one Hugh Thompson at the commencement exercises at Emory University several years

ago. Honorary degrees were being awarded; the recipients made the requisite speeches. As is often the

case, the students chatted through the whole ceremony. In fact, there was only one moment when they

actually listened. “It was when a man named Hugh Thompson was speaking. Thompson was probably

the least educated man on the platform.…He…did not finish college, choosing instead to enlist in the Army,

where he became a helicopter pilot. “On March 16, 1968, he was flying a routine patrol in Vietnam when he

happened to fly over the village of Mai Lai just as American troops … were slaughtering dozens of unarmed…

villagers—old men, women, and children. Thompson set his helicopter down between the troops and the

remaining…civilians. He ordered his tail-gunner to train the helicopter guns on the American soldiers, and

he ordered the gunmen to stop killing the villagers.…Hugh Thompson’s actions saved the lives of dozens of

people…he was almost court-martialed.…It was thirty years before the Army…awarded him the Soldier’s Medal.

“As he stood at the microphone, the…rowdy student body grew still.” And then Thompson talked about his faith.

Simple words. Speaking of what his parents taught him as a child Thompson said, “they taught me, ‘Do unto

others as you would have them do onto you.’” The students were amazed at these “words of Jesus, words from

Sunday school, words from worship, words of Christian testimony…they leapt to their feet and gave him a standing

ovation.” (Tom Long, Pulpit Resources 32 (January-March 2004): 39. from Feasting on the Word, Kindle ed

location 7622) 


“Thompson’s words about his faith had weight because the man had obviously “walked the talk.” In the same

way, the church will not be heard if what we do as Christians is incongruous with what we say about our faith.”

(Agosto, location 7637) 


How do people see us? We don’t have to do anything as dramatic as Hugh Thompson. Are we authentic?

Do our actions match what we say? Do they know that we are Christians or a follower of Jesus? Do they

know that we do what we do the way we do it because we follow Jesus? Are we willing to talk about Jesus at all?  


In the end some people are going to say, “Okay, I hear you, but I just don’t buy it,” or they will dismiss us

entirely. Does that mean that we failed? No, as the Lord said to Ezekiel, “You must speak my words to them

whether they listen or fail to listen” (Ezekiel 2:7). 


The good news of God’s love is too good to keep to ourselves. And that is Jesus Unfiltered. 




Categorized as Sermon