Encounter with Jesus - 3 kinds of folks at church
Encounter with Jesus: Three Kinds of Folks at Church (Mark 3:1-6)
Not everyone who shows up at church comes for the same reason. We all know that. When the Lord Jesus comes to church, He comes to confront those here for the wrong reason and to help those who came for the right reason. The presence of Jesus means both conflict and healing. Mark 2:1 to 3:6 finds Jesus in constant conflict with the religious establishment. The religious establishment cared more for institutions than for persons. Jesus cared more for persons than for institutions. Jesus comes to get God's healing grace to people. Religious establishments always tend to protect their power, keep their traditions, and control the situation.
Jesus confronts meaningless religious tradition but gives wholeness to those who admit their own disability.
Some Come to Church Aware of Personal Disability
Some of us come with an acute consciousness of personal disability. The man with a shriveled hand stands for all of us who come here withered in ourselves. He had not always been this way. The words suggest that this was not congenital. Through a terrifying process he had watched his hand retract and shrink. Tradition says he was a stone-mason, ruined for life. Some of us know what it means to watch ourselves decay and not be able to stop it.
We may come to church in passivity. This man is silent and passive throughout the story. He says nothing and does nothing without being told. He has lost initiative in life. He sits and watches. Some here today are paralyzed to speak or act in the spiritual realm. We just wait.
We may come to church in expectancy. He must have held some vague, half-conceived notion that the only place he would actually find help was in God's house. He was there with hope, however small.
We may expect to receive mercy. He did receive mercy. God gave him back his wholeness. This was altogether unrequested and undeserved. There was no more merit in him than in thousands of others with such disability. God acted in grace and sovereignty. That is the only reason that any of us are whole.
Others Come to Church Projecting Personal Superiority
Some come to church only with the insight that they are superior to the others present. The Pharisees were the power people who kept the traditions and retained the rituals. Their driving motive was to protect and control their power and position.
We may come to church with the wrong motive. We may come more for the institution than for people. The Pharisees placed tradition above compassion. Their motive went wrong with their whole viewpoint: God was interested more in outward ritual than inward reality. This motivated them to do anything to kill Jesus (v. 6). He embodied a total threat to their whole world. They lived for legalism. Jesus lives for liberty.
When we come to church with the wrong motive, it leads to the wrong method. We come to make observations rather than receive grace: "they watched him [Jesus] closely" (v. 2). They came to church to see that everything was done "right."
They comprised "The Way We Always Do It Here Committee." Out of their observations they came to question: "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath [day]?" (Matt. 12:10). Listen to how someone talks about church. Are they always carping about "the way things are done around here" or are they ever rejoicing that God did something here?
The wrong method leads to the wrong message. How little can we do here instead of how much? Church becomes confining rather than freeing, restricting rather than liberating, limiting rather than enlarging.
The greatest sin our church can commit is to do anything to keep the grace of God from meeting human need.
Jesus Comes to Church to Make Us Whole and Set Us Free
Jesus does come to church, even when we do not deserve it. Where His word is expounded He comes to meet with us. Even though the teaching was poor, He got little out of the message, knew much more than the preacher, and was not Himself wanted— He still went to church!
Jesus comes to church confrontively. Be careful before you gush, "How great it would be if Jesus came to church." Jesus comes to church with question and observation. He questions whether we really understand God's intent for church. Are we here to guard the rules or to heal withered people (v. 4)? He comes to make observation: "He looked around at them." Mark often regards this searching glance of Jesus at friend and foe. We would do well to remember as we meet that He still looks around at us.
Jesus comes to church emotionally. He can come to church with anger and sorrow. His anger is not vindictive. He hates legalism but loves legalists. He is angry when He sees an entire institution forget why it exists, to make withered people whole. Yet He always mixes anger with even deeper sorrow: "deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts. . . . " He actually feels sorry for those who live with the self-imposed misery of spiritual callousness. Legalism makes unhappy people.
Jesus can make us whole at church. Jesus confronts our impossibility. He asked this man to do precisely what the man could not do, "Stretch out your hand." His power pours into our impossible situation after our obedience.
Jesus demonstrates His potency: "his hand was completely restored" (v. 5). Jesus restores without a word or a touch. By sheer power of His will He makes whole. He can do that today from the right hand of God as easily as He did so in the synagogue.
Jesus answers empty discussion with powerful action. Which crowd do you belong to at church today?