Some have asked for my notes from my sermon in Seminary chapel, so here are the notes I used that day.
CounterIntutive Christ—Three Questions
Intro—Working in the bookstore coffee shop, I learned that some dark
roasts have less caffeine than lighter roasts if measured by volume (i.e., by
the scoop). This seems CounterIntuitive.
expectations; Not in accordance with what would naturally be assumed or
expected. When I was learning to drive, I was told that if the car began to
skid then I should turn in the direction of the skid. That seems wrong. Most of
us would naturally expect to turn away from the skid. If you do, however, you
will crash. Counterintuitive things run
counter to what we would naturally expect.
Jesus’ entire ministry may be
considered as counterintuitive in some sense. He was born of a Virgin (the
Romans and some Jews would make light of his “illegitimacy”). He was born of
low estate. Yet in spite of his bad “pedigree,” he was declared a King, even
the Messiah! Jesus even had a habit of
doing and saying things that ran counter to what was expected—the Wedding in
Cana (John 2)—instead of buying wine, he made wine. The lame man at the Pool of
Bethesda (John 5)—Jesus commands the man to get up and carry his bed on the
Sabbath. That got both men in trouble!
Raising Lazarus—waited until Lazarus died instead of healing him on his sick
Mark’s Gospel includes similar
stories. Mark 2—man on a pallet lowered by his friends, Jesus extends
forgiveness as a way to heal. Mark 3—healed a withered hand on the Sabbath at the synagogue. Claimed his family was made up of folks who did what God wanted, NOT
flesh and blood. Mark 4—slept in the boat during the storm.
Mark 8 is no exception. Jesus has
been teaching and doing miracles among the people. Now he and his disciples arrive at Caesarea
Phillipi. This is a city known for its
devotion to Caesar and Rome. It is a very political place. And here Jesus
engages in a conversation with his disciples that at first sounds political,
but the disciples are about to receive something they did not expect. Jesus’ counterintuitive ministry raised a lot
of questions, in our passage today I want us to consider three questions
brought up by our text. We will see that
Jesus’ responses to these questions are indeed unexpected.
Mark 8:27-30 Question 1—Who is Jesus?
The fundamental definition of a
person is wrapped up in the question “Who are you?” or “Who am I”? Jesus begins the discussion with a question.
Who do people say that I am? This was an
opportunity for the people around him to show what they thought of him; what
were their expectations. To ask that question in a political environment like
Caesara Phillipi (the center of power politics) transforms the query from an
idle question of curiosity into a loaded question bristling with implications.
He asks what seems to be a political question in the center of adoration of
Roman occupation! Jesus seems curious about the opinions of others.
What does the world say about
Jesus today? He is a fine
teacher, he is a fiction, he is one way to God, etc. People will always try to
identify Jesus or God on their own terms, and often they will make him in their
own image. Are we guilty of the same crime?
But after the responses are
listed, Jesus digs deeper—Who
do YOU say I am? Jesus goes beyond the opinions of those outside of his
circle and asks his own people how they define him.
Peter’s response—You ARE
the Christ. Peter’s answer reveals a bit of political zeal here. Given where
they were, that confession was like going to Washington D.C., standing outside
the White House, and hoisting up a placard that declared, "Impeach the
Jesus responds: “Don’t
tell anyone.” Jesus didn’t want to play politics as usual. You see, there were differing views of Messiah out there—Jews expected a
conquering figure who would run the Romans out of office. Yet the Counterintuitive
Christ refused to even campaign for the office. In spite of the support, Jesus
refused to participate in the popular way to do things. “Keep it quiet!”
Who is Jesus?
He is the Counterintuitive Christ—a Messiah not made in the image of
human heroes. When we think he should shout his presence, he is sometimes
almost mute in his response! He does not operate on our definitions or our time
table. He is who he defines himself to be. He will soon define his mission, but
his lack of enthusiasm for being a political hero is counterintuitive. Jesus is not a Messiah who does things the
way we expect. Jesus isn’t what the disciples think, is he what we think? This leads to our second question, a question of mission.
Mark 8:31-33—What is Jesus' mission? Peter acts like he thinks he is Jesus’ political handler or PR
man. After the rousing announcement of
Jesus’ candidacy for Messiah, Jesus refuses to run and then offers a definition
of the mission of Messiah that causes some problems for Peter. Jesus’ Messiah will suffer
before he will reign. He will die at the hands of the current rulers. And Jesus
said these things in plain language so that folks would get it. I am Messiah,
but I will die instead of kill. I will rule by resurrection and not by sheer
Peter “rebukes” Jesus (the same word used in “rebuking” demons elsewhere in the New Testament) for his
negative take on the campaign. Jesus sees the other disciples around (in that
moment, did he entertain the idea that Peter may be right, that an alternative
was possible? No, that alternative was
not God’s way). Jesus says that Peter represents Satan’s approach and not
God’s. Here in a political environment, Jesus rejects a purely political
solution. He knows that the way to win is to lose. The way to victory is to
die. The way up is down. He knew his mission was to die.
Fully 1/3 of the
Gospel of Mark is focused on the last week of Jesus’ life. The Passion. One
theologian of the early church said that the Gospels are passion narratives
with extended introductions. Jesus’ mission is to die. The CounterIntuitive Christ comes not to rule
(politically), but to serve and to die and to rise again. Jesus often comes to
us in unexpected ways. If his own life ran counter to human expectations, how
much more should our lives run counter to the expectations of those around us? What would Jesus demand of his followers?
Mark 8:34=38—What does he demand of his followers? He calls us to
follow him into this counterintuitive life of his. What does it mean to follow? When I go to a
restaurant and the hostess says “follow me,” then I will follow her to the
table if I want to eat. Jesus calls us to follow.
To be his disciple is to
learn from him. Discipleship is not optional, it is not possible to be a
Christian without making progress toward becoming a disciple. Can you imagine what would happen if everyone
here took seriously this call to be a disciple?
To be a disciple means to live a
cross shaped life. It means to do like
Christ and learn that the way up is down, humble service leads to useful
service, to die is to live, to follow is to lead, etc. To be a disciple is a call to die, to do that
which is counter-intuitive, against common sense.
This flies in the face of conventional
wisdom. Jesus reveals a secret so counter-intuitive that only the mind of God
could have come up with it. Jesus says we need to sink deeper into the number
one problem that plagues this world: death itself. It turns out that the
redemptive escape hatch out of this world and its enslavement to decay is down,
not up; it's in the depths of Sheol not up in some false paradise that could be
constructed through human ingenuity and the exercise of raw political power. "Take up your cross," Jesus says. In other words, "Live under
the sentence of death." Somehow, in so doing, we travel a path that leads
to life precisely because it passes through death.
Philippians 2:5-8—Jesus emptied
himself to become a servant faithful unto death and in so doing not only made
the universe turn the corner from darkness into light, he left us an example by
which now to live as his disciples. But it's a hard lesson to learn. It's even more
difficult actually to put it into practice. It is this kind of conundrum that
has long vexed Christians. The problem is learning to live in the world but not
being of the world, about having things as though having them not.
Jesus wants all of us. We must give all we
have to be his. His demand on us is total, and our response must be total
surrender. The only response to the CounterIntuitive Christ is reckless
abandon, the willingness to lose it all to gain him. If humility was right for
Jesus, it must be right for us (To paraphrase Dr. Gary Habermas—How can we expect to be treated
differently than Jesus?) C. T. Studd—"If
Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me
to make for him."
Now What? (James 2:14-17) These questions did not lose their
strength or relevance after Jesus’ experience with the disciples sometime in
the early first century. They are still relevant today. We all must ask
today—Who is Jesus? Who do we say that
he is? Jesus’ mission
was to die for you so that you might live.
His mission was to become poor so that you may be rich, to become sin so that you might become the righteousness of God in him, etc.
We must also ask—what does he
demand of us? We must live cross shaped
Ways to die—stop thinking of
those things that will benefit you and look for things that will benefit others
even (or maybe, especially) at your own expense. Take someone in, be kind to others, give
money to those in need, even money you’ve set aside for your own
pleasures. Help those who can’t help
themselves. Be counterintuitive in responding to Jesus—die that you may live.
Thanks for reading!
Labels: Counter Intuitive Christ, Mark 8:27-38
Several weeks ago I preached at Clover Bottom Baptist Church. My text was Luke 13:10-16, and my topic was "Authentic Love." Here are my notes from that sermon.
Love: The Example of Jesus
Introduction—Today I want to
talk about authentic love. This is a
love that is not hypocritical, it is a love that responds to others not
according to what they deserve, but according to the grace received from
The nature of authentic love is to
share it once you’ve received it. 1 John 4:7-8; If a person is born of God, then they should express authentic
love, God’s kind of love. A relationship
with Christ should cause you to be a more loving person. If your life does not display compassion for
others, then your relationship with God may not be what you think.
slays what we have been that we may be what we were not.”
changes things. It takes sinful people
and by the blood of Jesus and the genuine love of God makes them saints. God’s love invades our lives and slays all the
old distorted images of ourselves; making us acceptable, lovable and capable,
and God invites us to share that same love with others.
Love is not only the verification and
validation of your faith, but it is the telltale sign of a growing faith. It’s not knowledge, or a change in habits, or
how many times you come to church in a month.
The best indicator of spiritual growth is an ever-increasing love.
In Mark 12 Jesus says that the greatest
commandment is to love God and to love others.
You can’t love God without also loving others. So, to get a picture of how God wants us to
love other people, let’s go straight to the source and see Jesus’ example of
Luke 13:10-16—Authentic love follows the example of
Jesus. What did Jesus do? We find five clear items that, if
applied, could radically change how we love others.
1. See Others—Jesus was
teaching in the synagogue--just another preaching event in the life of a
traveling preacher. The crowd was into
the sermon, and as Jesus looked at them he noticed one special person: A woman
who was bent over and couldn’t stand up (v. 16 tells us that a demon had caused
Notice the important word
in Luke 13:12—Jesus “saw” the woman—he noticed her. Jesus locked his eyes on
this poor woman and had compassion for her. One of the unique aspects of
Christianity is the idea that God notices us—the God of all creation pays
attention to us. This is an amazing idea when you think about it. God has
numbered the hairs on our head (Matt. 10:30—but that doesn’t mean he’ll replace
the missing ones!). Cf. Matthew 9:36—Jesus looks with compassion on others.
Two things to recognize here: 1. People want to be
noticed, they want attention 2. To notice others may require us to slow down.
is one of the most powerful forces in the world. People
want our undivided attention. They want us to show interest. Every day we pass
people who simply want to be noticed, to be acknowledged. They are bent over,
even crippled by a lack of compassion or notice, and they are waiting for a
friendly face. To see them we must slow down. If someone was standing on the
side of the road, would you notice more if you flew by them at 75 MPH, or if you
walked by them on the sidewalk? The
speed of our lives causes us to miss many people who God wants us to notice.
week, take time to notice people. Take the time to look people in the eye,
notice them, encourage them. Slow down enough to spend some time reading the Gospels—pay
attention to how Jesus treats people and ask his Spirit to help you to treat
others that way.
Authentic love sees others as God sees them. Once we’ve
noticed people, we need then to take a risk and engage them.
2. Engage Others—Luke 13 tells us
that Jesus didn’t just “see” the woman, he took the risk to engage her and her
need. Jesus spoke to her in the synagogue (something taboo in the first
century—an unattached male speaking to a woman that is not his family member). He
called her over to himself and healed her.
Jesus demonstrated bold and almost reckless
behavior to show compassion to this woman. Sometimes love requires bold action
in its expression. Authentic love requires engagement—we must get involved in
the lives of others in order to love them.
C.S. Lewis said “To love at all is to be
vulnerable. Love anything, and your
heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it
intact, you must give your heart to no one.” The Four Loves.
encourages us to disengage, to remain isolated, and to plug into the internet
instead. Stay out of touch! Who knows what might happen if you get
The truth is, entering into
other people’s lives or experiences is messy, but nevertheless we are commanded to
love: see Matthew 5:46-47. We don’t have to
do it perfectly, but we must show up.
We must take the risk, take the initiative, and get involved in spreading
grace to others. (2 Cor. 5:14-15)
week, how can we engage others in love?
Where do we need to take a risk? Make some time this week to listen to
someone’s story or find a way to bless someone.
Authentic love takes the risk
to engage others, but to do that we must reach out to them.
3. Reach Out—Most of all,
love reaches out and gives. Giving is
how love expresses itself. (see John 3:16)
you meet is made in the image of God.
You never lock eyes with another person that doesn’t matter to God. Jesus
notices this poor woman, he engages her, and now he reaches out to her. Luke
13:13 says he laid his hands on her and healed her. He stepped outside of the
“comfort zone” of his society and ministered to her need.
Notice how Jesus
reached out to this woman: 1. By the
words he spoke; In verse 16, Jesus refers to her as a “daughter of Abraham” (he sees her potential, not her condition). He
doesn’t see her as an elderly crippled woman.
He sees her as a child of the great patriarch of the Jewish people. Our words can heal or destroy. 2. By his
touch; Everyone needs some touch. Luke 5:12-16—Jesus heals a leper—he actually
“touches” him! All people need human touch.
Studies have been conducted showing that people who experience
meaningful touch on a regular basis actually have a longer life expectancy.
This week, hand out some hugs, a gentle
touch, or some kind words. Authentic love requires us to reach out and touch
others. When you do this, however, don’t expect everyone to understand or to
praise your effort.
4. Expect Criticism/Resistance—Notice the
reaction of the synagogue official in v 14.
An amazing miracle has happened in his "church" service, and instead of
rejoicing in the amazing mercy shown to this woman, the official gets upset
that his “order of worship” was changed. Where the synagogue official saw a
policy issue, Jesus saw a person.
you will notice in the Bible is that Jesus showed incredible patience and grace
to those who were broken and seeking. However,
he had little patience with pompous, self-righteous religious people that cared nothing
for people or their needs.
received criticism for his kindness and for hanging out with the “wrong kind”
of people. (Luke 7:34) In spite of the
criticism, Jesus continued to love on others.
He refused to stop. When we decide to follow Jesus, we may well find
ourselves doing things that others will criticize. If we are doing the works of Christ,
however, we should keep it up and love even those who criticize or persecute us
(Matt. 5:43-45). In fact, we should pray for those who abuse us. That is one way to deal with criticism or resistance. Authentic love requires us to persevere and to pray even when criticized.
5. Look for opportunities—In this passage,
Jesus finds himself involved in a normal Sabbath activity—he was in the
synagogue and he was teaching. He did
not let the mundane or normal activity keep him from looking for
opportunities. In the midst of the
“usual,” Jesus looked for a moment to do something unusual. He seized the moment that God provided. (1
John 3:18 and 1 Thess. 3:12).
Let’s take advantage of the moments God gives us.
Authentic love looks for an opportunity.
This week, in the midst of your normal activities,
do these things: Look around and see what is happening—look for the need, see
the people; Take a chance, risk engaging others with God’s love and grace; Reach
out and touch those who need it; Pray for/love the critics; Seize the moment.
Authentic love compels us to sacrifice for others as
Christ did for us (take up your cross)—how can we respond
In what ways were you “crippled”
by your life and sin? How did Jesus heal
Describe a time when extravagant
love overwhelmed your life. How did you
respond? How did it make you feel? What was the impact of this love?
Describe a time when someone took
a risk and touched your life.
Who in your life is “bent over”
or “crippled” by circumstances or Satan?
How can you bring the grace of Jesus into that situation?
What is your routine? Who are some of the people you see on a
regular basis? How can you engage them
and touch them with the love of Christ?
What can you do or say this week
that will show the love of God to another?
Will you risk it?
Thanks for reading!
Labels: Authentic Love, Luke 13:10-16, The Example of Jesus