I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.
- John 10:10
The story is told of a blind golfer whose scores were so impressive that legendary golfer Arnold Palmer thought he might gain a few pointers if the two of them played a round together. Palmer was delighted when the blind man agreed to the match.
Good! Palmer exclaim-ed. When would you like to play?
Any night you choose, he replied.
Like Arnold Palmer, we, too, are surprised by the occasional, unexpected answer to our questions. But when it comes to surprising responses, no one ever delivered the unexpected more often than Jesus did.
Though my devotional reading is often limited to a few Bible verses a day, I prefer to set aside enough time to read several chapters or an entire book at one sitting. At no time does this type of study seem more important than the weeks leading up to Easter, when I feel a need to concentrate on the whole life of Jesus, not just one event. If youve never done this before, I recommend the Gospel of Mark. With its 16 chapters - about 25 pages in the average Bible - you get something like the Readers Digest condensed version of Jesus life and ministry in a short period of time.
Having just re-read Marks gospel myself, I was struck again by the difference between who Jesus really was, and what the people He lived among expected Him to be. The following are a few of the un-expectations I found:
It becomes apparent in the very first chapter that, for all His powers and gifts, Jesus meant what He told Satan during their encounter in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11): He did not come to earth to draw attention to Himself or to become a public sensation. How different from others they had known, whose skills were far inferior to His but who loved the limelight anyway. Though we have no record that Jesus ever refused to heal the sick or feed the hungry, we are surprised when he tells the man he has just healed from leprosy, See that you dont tell anyone about this (Mark 1:44). Were not surprised when in his excitement the man disregards this command or, as Jesus knew and had tried to avoid, that His fame spread so quickly He was besieged with crowds of sick people wherever He went. Healing miracles were a by-product of His ministry. He had come to heal mens souls.
In chapter 6 (verses 1-6), while visiting His home town of Nazareth, Jesus utters the familiar phrase, A prophet is without honor in his own country. Though the people were amazed when they heard Him preach, they were quickly filled with suspicion.
Isnt this the carpenter... Marys son? they sneered. Whats this wisdom thats been given to Him? They didnt expect their Messiah to be a hometown boy.
No one was more shocked by Jesus behavior than the religious leaders who had their own ideas about how their faith should be practiced. One of their many laws which they followed to the letter concerned the hand-washing ritual they performed before every meal.
So when Jesus allowed his disciples to eat with unclean (without ceremony) hands (Mark 7:1-8), the Pharisees were appalled. When they asked why His disciples, of all people, failed to live by their traditions, He surprised them by turning the criticism toward them: You (Pharisees) have let go of the commands of God, while you hold to the traditions of men.
Later Jesus reminded them that its not what goes into a man thats unclean - dirt on the hands or the food, etc. - but what comes out, as in evil thoughts, arrogance, and greed (vs. 15-23).
Finally, in chapters 8 and beyond, the Jesus they thought would set up a Kingdom on earth surprised them again by telling them what they must do to follow Him: Deny yourself... take up your cross... be willing to go beyond obeying a set of rules, and become a servant to others... (Mark 8:34-38, 9:35).
This was too tall an order for those who expected to receive high places in their Messiahs new kingdom, not the lowest of the low.
Though Jesus came to offer forgiveness and eternal life to all who believed in Him, He wasnt anything like the first century world expected Him to be.
I wonder, what would have happened to Gods plan to redeem the world if Jesus had lived down to those expectations?
(Barbara Seaborn is a local free-lance writer. E-mail comments to seabara@ aol.com.)
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