Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In the gaze of Christ's amazement

It took a lot to amaze Jesus.  Unlike His disciples, He wasn't amazed at the massively impressive Temple in Jerusalem which Herod the Great had constructed (Mk. 13:1), because He knew it would soon be a heap of rubble at the hands of the Romans.  He wasn't amazed at Judas' betrayal (Lk. 22:47ff.), because He knew it was ordained by the Father in order to bring about His atoning death (John 17:12).  Jesus wasn't amazed at the  merely superficial loyalty of most who initially followed Him, because He knew that people are naturally self-serving (John 2:23-25).

What, then, did amaze Jesus?  Two things according to the Gospels.  Two things that should get our attention.  One was positive and one was negative.  First, the positive.  In Luke 7 a Roman centurion (similar to a modern day a company commander in the Army) had a servant who fell deathly ill.  He had heard about Jesus.  He believed in Jesus' supernatural power and holiness.  Like the authority-bound, military world in which he lived (with commanders above him from whom he took orders and subordinates below him to whom he gave orders), he understood that Jesus was perfectly obedient to the Father and the supernatural world was obedient to Him.  He understood Christ in a way few in Jesus' day did.  But the centurion went farther: his understanding translated to trust.  "Just say the word, and my servant will be healed," was the report his men brought to Jesus.  And notice Christ's response: "I tell you not even in Israel (i.e. among the Jews) have I found such faith."  The centurion was commended and honored by Christ because his understanding of Who Jesus was translated into trusting action.  Jesus was amazed at his faith.

Now the negative example.  In Mark 6 Jesus traveled to His hometown, Nazareth.  While there on a certain Sabbath He taught in the local synagogue.  The response was immediate.  The townspeople He'd grown up with recognized something different about Him.  He taught with wisdom.  He understood the Scriptures deeply.  He applied them to their lives incisively.  He also amazed them by healing some sick people who were brought to Him.  Back in Mark 1 Jesus had done the same things in the Galilean town of Capernaum: He taught in the synagogue with authority and healed people.  There the people responded positively.  "And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee." (Mk. 1:28)  In Nazareth, on the other hand, the people responded negatively.  "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?  And are not his sisters here with us?  And they took offense at him." (Mk. 6:3)  Mark well Jesus' response: "And he marveled because of their unbelief." (v. 6)

In what ways will you and I amaze Jesus today?  With our great faith or our unbelief?

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