Do you rely on first impressions? You know those first encounters with a person or group of people that God places in your path. Do you trust your first impression? Do you go with it or do you leave room for God in the midst of that uneasiness, or even negative feeling?
Dr. Luis Palau was our plenary speaker at the conference and retreat this year. You may be wondering as I was before going just who he is. Of course being a geek I looked him up on the net and even listened to a message from him on Youtube before I went to the Conference. And my first impression was…why on earth had our BCMB Leadership picked Dr. Palau as the plenary speaker?
Not that I found anything wrong with him on the net. It’s just that first impression stuff that we all grapple with and frankly I am really beginning to think we need to tame at times! Maybe even throw out!
See, I saw an old man of Argentinian decent whose English was somewhat Spanglish, though the Latino accent was not too overwhelming. His gruff voice told me he had used that instrument a lot in life and oh did I mention that he is now over eighty?
So to be honest, before getting to know him, my first impression was sounds like a nice enough guy. But this is our BC Conference big event of the year. Usually we have some hot shot, you know the latest church planting or church growth guru from the States. I guess we don’t have any Canadians worth listening too? Anyway this 81-year-old Palau was paid to speak to 340 Pastors and Spouses of the BC Conference about Spirit Empowered Ministry.
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure living that long would bound to have given this man a good story or two to share… but really…you would think that at 81 he’s been retired likely for most of my ministry life… I confess, first impressions can create in us bad attitudes! I actually had to begin praying before getting to this event that God would soften my heart so that I would actually hear what God wanted to impart through Dr. Palau. And I also prayed that I would respect the leadership’s decision, that of all the people on planet earth this was the one we as Province needed to listen to.
And I am sure glad I went. I can tell you that I was actually amazed by what God was able to accomplish through this aging man of God. Delighted! In fact, in my almost twenty years of going to these conferences I have never been so blessed, challenged and filled as I was at this one. What can you learn from an octogenarian who has been used of God to lead millions to Christ? Mucho! If you have ears to hear and a heart that is open to the Holy Spirit of God. Or perhaps nothing at all if you simply rely on first impressions.
First impressions! Seriously folks we need to get over them if God is going to be able to do anything of substance in our midst and more importantly if He is going to be able to use you and me to extend His Kingdom. And you know what? We aren’t the first people nor the last ones that have become too full of our own opinions that we would miss out on what God is wanting to do in our midst. Even when Jesus walked the earth he ran into those attitudes that inhibit faith and frankly can get in the way of miracles.
If you have your Bible or your device with you turn with me to Mark 6:1-6.
“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, that he even does miracles! 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, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith. Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.” (Mark 6:1-6 (NIV)
I was born and grew up in NE Calgary and pretty much lived there for the first seventeen years of my life. My father and sisters still live in this house I called home and many of their neighbors, at least the ones who are still alive, still live on that block.
Across the street we had this great park where all the children of the neighborhood would play under the watchful eyes of the moms and dads of the community. You couldn’t get away with anything without it being noticed and when warranted, reported back to mom or dad.
What a surprise it was to those old neighbors when, as one person in earshot said, “that little rascal Blake preached at his mom’s funeral”. Afterward some of the neighbors actually came up to me and said they could hardly believe it was me. And they couldn’t believe how I turned out nor what came out of my mouth. They were pretty sure I was headed for a life of crime or something not for the pastorate.
Like my old neighbors the folks in HIStory were beyond first impressions! This story takes place where Jesus grew up and became a man. Where He started His trade as a carpenter, and where He was well known by the people.
Many in that crowd were actually related to Him, many but not all. Some were half-brothers and half-sisters on His mother’s side. Clearly Mary was no perpetual virgin as some religions call her!
But these were His neighbors the ones who played with Jesus as a child, who went to synagogue and likely traveled to the festivals and Jerusalem in caravan. But as the old saying goes “familiarity breeds contempt”. And that saying certainly fits so well for this part of HIStory. They seemed happy to see Him come home. Happy to come and listen to him teach. After all who doesn’t want to hear the neighborhood boy that grew up and made a name for himself? You get to play remember when…
In fact, Luke says, “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” But Jesus knew their hearts. “Jesus said to the likes of them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'” Luke 4:22-23 (NIV). They remembered the Jesus that went away but clearly couldn’t recognize Who stood before them that day. They were stuck on those last impressions and refused to accept the authority by which He now spoke. Familiarity had indeed bred contempt.
This is true of all our stories! Remember the zealousness you had as a new believer? If you were anything like me, you couldn’t wait to share what you found out about Jesus with your family and friends and the people closest to you…the very ones you grew up with. At first I had no filters that way. No inhibitions…just a burning desire to introduce them to Jesus. Since I didn’t really know all that much about Jesus I used tracts and carefully placed portions of Scripture. And I tried hard to work Jesus into every conversation I could.
Even though I had changed dramatically all they could see and what they were heard through their well-worn filters was the same old Blake that they had already rejected as not relevant to their lives telling them about Jesus who they had long ago dismissed as irrelevant. Now it doesn’t matter that they found me wanting but Jesus?
And of course when I detected even a hint of rejection I beat them over the head with the Word. I told them they would burn in hell if they didn’t accept Jesus as Lord and Saviour!
That sure went over well. Some of those relationships were never quite the same again. After that approach they took offense at anything that I said that remotely resembled the gospel.
The ones that put up with me told me that “I would get over that Christian stuff in time”. Well that was thirty years ago next month and I’m still not over it but some of them are beginning to come around.
Yet I have to say I can’t blame them for wanting to shoot the messenger. If I’d known, then, what I know now I suspect the message might have had a lot more of the grace of Jesus and a lot less zeal of me attached to the message I proclaimed.
That grace is so evident in this passage. Can you even begin to imagine the scenario that Mark paints for us here?
Jesus sees His family and friends treating Him disrespectfully and yet there He was laying hands on the sick and they were being healed! Healed! Right there in front of those people who knew Him best but denied Him most. Say what would you call that? Sick people instantly healed? There is a word for that.
I’ll tell you what I’d call it grace in action…miracles from the hands of the Lord. It was a miracle designed to remind those who disrespected Him just who it was they “took offence” at.
If it was me I would have rained lightning bolts down from heaven or told those friends and relatives that they were all in danger of going to Hell. But our Lord is so amazingly patient. He never held back the truth …but He amazingly patient!
“ 16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” John 3:16-18 (NIV)
Healings! Yet Mark says that no miracles could happen there except one kind! Why was Jesus only able to heal the sick? We are not directly told but I believe that those who were most in need likely didn’t show the same contempt His “smarter healthier” friends did. They were too sick to waste energy on contempt. And you know how you are when you are sick. A lot of those preconceived biases just seem to get laid aside. In fact, it’s hard to think much about anything else other than getting well.
And I can tell you from experience being down trodden or sick or on death’s door step is actually fertile ground that allows for miracles. In humility those sort of folks received prayer and the laying on of hands from the Master. And Mark says they were healed!
So why no other miracles? The real issue was that most of the people in His hometown only saw Jesus as one of the boys! One of Mary’s sons! No one special…just one of the boys!
And while that bias may be true of you and I when we return home it certainly wasn’t true of Jesus. There was never before in HIStory a man just like Him. He was one in a billion!
No even that would lower Him in order to elevate us to His level. But you and I will never be at His level. While it is absolutely true that Jesus put on flesh and walked amongst mankind it is also absolutely true that being fully man He retained His identity as fully God (cf. Philippians 2:6-11).
Now, I personally cannot comprehend that. Fully man yet fully God. It’s above my pay scale to even begin to explain it. It takes faith to even accept it…but it is true never the less.
And clearly it was way too much for the people who had watched Jesus grow into a competent carpenter having taken on his father’s trade. They could not comprehend, let alone accept, that the one who lived next door actually was the Son of God. To them He was just Jesus bar Joseph, who made excellent furniture as a skilled crafts man.
I believe Jesus knew that would be the reaction. He knew that “a Prophet is not Honored in His own home town”.
We all have seen this to some degree. It’s that “familiarity breeds contempt” that we witness when people don’t respect the teacher who they know, who has lived and worked and served them in their own community for decades but when a out of town expert comes all of a sudden there is respect for authority. Remember an expert is just someone who knows something different than you do but lives outside your circle of influence.
Jesus is truly amazing! Even their lackadaisical treatment didn’t prevent Jesus from trying to share the Gospel. It was far too important. And yet their treating God with contempt, and actually taking offense with Him, did have consequences. He chose not to do His bigger miracles in their midst. And so they lost out on inexpressible awe and joy that could have been theirs if only they would have exercised a little more faith.
Canada has suffered from this familiarity problem with Jesus for long enough now. There was a time in our part of HIStory when Canada could be called mostly a Christian nation. A time when Jesus name was honored in schools and in the courts of our land. A time when uttering the name of Jesus perversely swiftly brought on a bar of soap to cleanse the tongue. But that time has past. The familiarity brought such contempt for the name of Jesus that it is more often used as a swear word in our land than the Author of the WORD.
Mark tell us that Jesus was shocked at their stubbornness. Amazed is what the word the NIV uses. Amazed? Why was Jesus amazed?
Was it not because they knew Him. They actually knew Him on sight. They were His family and friends! What’s wrong with this picture?
I don’t know about your but I kind of expect push back from strangers when I teach about Jesus. After-all how do they know if I’m an expert or something. Yet those closest to Jesus chose not to know Him for Who He was and is and will always be. It’s not like they didn’t know any better. They clearly had received word from reliable sources about all the miracles He had done in Capernaum. They simply made a decision to ignore their old friend’s wisdom because they thought they new better than him. Like all of us they suffered from pride and envy.
And it’s pride and envy that warps our first impressions! Remember it can take less than a tenth of a second to make a first impression and we all too quickly pass judgement based upon that flicker in time. And that bias may stick with us for eternity if we’re not willing to test it out. But remember who in this story today were the ones that suffered most from a lack of faith? It wasn’t a 1st impression!
Jesus knows the heart of man. He knew that those who quickly believed in Him would also be the ones who yelled loudest crucify Him (cf. Jn. 2:24). And He knew that those in His family, the ones that amazed Him with their initial lack of faith, would one day be the very pillars of the church leading scores of others to Him (cf. Gal. 1:18; James 1-5).
So I ask you again, have first impressions of Christ caused you to doubt Who He claimed to be? Then dig into the Word and examine the evidence before making those first impressions your last. Did you grow up in a Christian home and walk away as a young adult? Perhaps the familiarity bred contempt? You need to confess that to the LORD and return to believing in the one who healed the sick and even raised the dead and Who is alive forever more! Because HE is coming again! Coming only for those who don’t amaze Him by their lack of faith!
- Do you rely on first impressions? Tell of a time when your 1st impression proved off.
- Have there been times in your life when you felt like a second class citizen in your own hometown?
- How have other members of you family felt about your faith?
Read Mark 6:1-6 in several translations if possible.
- Where did Jesus and his disciples end up in verse 1? (Mark 6:1; Luke 4:16)
- Was Jesus a good teacher according to verse 2? (Mark 6:2; 1:22; Luke 4:15, 32; Matthew 7:28-29)
- What made His teaching so amazing? (Jeremiah 23:28-29; Jn 6:63; 1 Cor. 2:4-5 ; 2 Cor. 4:2; 2 Cor. 10:4-5; 1 Thes. 1:5; Hebrews 4:12-13)
- Did the people know Jesus according to verse 3? (Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55-56; Luke 4:22; John 6:42; Isaiah 53:2-3; Matthew 12:46; Gal 1:19; Jude 1:1; Mark 3:18; Acts 1:13)
- Why did they take offence? (Mark 6:3-4; Luke 2:34; John 6:60-61; 1 Cor. 1:23)
- Did Jesus do any miracles in his hometown? (Mark 6:5; Matthew 13:58; Isaiah 59:1-2)
- What inhibited Jesus from doing more miracles in His hometown? (Mark 6:5; Heb. 4:2)
- What inhibits Jesus from doing miracles amongst us? (Heb. 4:2)
- What amazed Jesus in verse 6? (Mark 6:6 )
- What can we do to prevent becoming like the people from Nazareth? (1Tim 6:20-21; Jude 3 , 20 )