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7th Sunday after Pentecost

Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!  In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, sometimes commercials are well done.  Some commercials have done a good job of introducing us to some icon or figurine that we’ll remember for our whole lives or at least associate with a certain product.  The purpose is to get your attention, perhaps be comical, but also to make you think of their product in such a way that you’ll just want to buy it.  So over the years you’ve probably come to know certain objects or figurines that when you see them you automatically think of the product it advertises.  I’m guessing that the majority of the people here will recognize this picture (show Energizer Bunny) and know what product it advertises.  It’s the Energizer Bunny and their tag line is…?  Can you guess?  “It just keeps going.”  Right?  When every rival fails, it keeps going.  When everything goes wrong, it keeps going.  When there’s extreme pressure, it keeps going.  The Energizer battery is supposed to keep going and going.  And in a way for some people this bunny has become kind of a mantra for life: to keep going when everything is against you.

Well, in our text today God gives us something to keep us going, which is far better than the Energizer Bunny : ).  What is it that keeps us going when everything is against us?  What keeps our faith going in a world where it is under constant attack?  What keeps our faith going when we are looked down on for our beliefs or persecuted because of what God’s Word says?

God gives us the answer in our text this morning.  In our text Jesus is continuing His ministry in Galilee which is in the northern part of the nation of Israel.  Just before our text Jesus has calmed the storm, healed someone possessed by a demon and then raised Jairus’ daughter back to life like we heard last week.  Now, after that Jesus traveled to His hometown, which was Nazareth about a 20 mile journey.  We are also told that Jesus brought His disciples along. There was a reason for that; He was about to teach them a truth they needed to know.

Well, Saturday or the Sabbath day rolls around and Jesus went to the Synagogue.  The Synagogue was kind of like the Jewish people’s church back then.  No doubt Jesus went there because that’s where He would have the greatest crowd to share the Gospel with.  Well, Jesus was the guest preacher for the day and He stood up to teach the people.  When they heard Jesus teaching they were amazed at His wisdom and the miracles they had heard He did.  This raised questions in their minds, “Where did this man get these things?” “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!”  They couldn’t figure it out.  They admitted that Jesus’ teaching was amazing and wonderful, they admitted Jesus’ power to do miracles, but they couldn’t accept the only logical and right answer to their questions: that Jesus is from God!

Instead they become hostile.  “Isn’t this the carpenter” they asked.  You see, Jesus hadn’t gone the traditional route of someone aspiring to become a Rabbi, He hadn’t been trained by knowledgeable Rabbis, in fact, wasn’t Jesus just some simple, common carpenter, someone you may have bought furniture from?  And isn’t He Mary’s son?  You might not catch it at first, but it is quite likely that this was meant to be derogatory.  At this time a son was almost never referred to as the son of his mother, but only of his father, even if his father had already died.  It is possible they are referring to the virgin birth and were implying that Jesus was the son of a prostitute.   Then they went on, “And don’t we all know His brothers and His sisters who are here among us?”  While it’s possible that the word here refers to relatives, it is most likely and natural to assume that Jesus had actual brothers and sisters who were born to Mary and Joseph after Jesus.

Jesus just seemed so ordinary to them.  He didn’t seem like anything special.  How could our own hometown boy be anything great?  At the same time they admitted His wisdom and His power.  But “they took offense at him.”  Literally the Greek says they were scandalized at Him, offended at Him, they tripped over Him.  It’s like they were walking along the sidewalk and tripped over one of those concrete slabs sticking up and fell on their face.  The very truth and the facts about Jesus that should have brought them to faith, instead in unbelief it was those facts that caused them to fall.

So we see the other side of Jesus, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”  Sometimes we get the impression that Jesus only spoke kindly and gently and never ruffled feathers, if so, that’s a fake Jesus we’ve created in our minds.  When it came to confronting and rebuking sin, Jesus was stern and clear.  And we are told that Jesus could not do any miracles there, except heal a few sick people.  Why?  Because no one trusted in Him, no one brought their sick to Him to heal, except a few.  If Jesus had done any miracles there with the absence of faith, all it would have amounted to was a magic show for the people who refused to believe Him.  Jesus doesn’t force His power or His Word on anyone.  God doesn’t force anyone to believe in Him.  If they reject Him, they bring their own judgment on themselves.

And we are told that even Jesus was “amazed at their lack of faith.”  How could people who had so much be so ignorant and hard-hearted?  But it’s nothing new.  It happened to Ezekiel in our first lesson.  In fact, the same rejection, the same persecution, the same hard-heartedness is what every true believer of God’s Word will face on this earth.  So what does Jesus do?  “Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village.”  What did He do?  He kept going.  He kept going.  Kept spreading the Word, kept sharing the Gospel, kept telling people the truth about who He is, the Son of God, and what He has come to do, save people from their sins.

So what does this all mean for us?  Well, there are only 2 options in life.  You can either let your traditions, your experience, your background, your presuppositions stand in judgment of Jesus and His Words, like the people of Nazareth, or you can let your background, traditions, and presuppositions be judged by Jesus and His Words.  Essentially it’s the difference between faith and unbelief.  Unfortunately since many take the road of unbelief, it spells trouble for us.  In this text God gives us a lesson on the reality of what life is like for a faithful follower of Christ in this fallen and sinful world.

It might seem as if the deck were stacked against us.  Not only do we live in a world that invents new ways to rebel against God, but how sad it is to endure persecution from people who should know better.  Here Jesus was in his hometown, among his relatives and the people who had been with Him as He grew up, people who knew Him, people who went to the Synagogue to hear God’s Word, they should have been the first to accept Him for who He is: the Messiah.  And yet they rejected Him, refused to believe the truth.  Even though they heard the teaching and saw the miracles, since they couldn’t stomach the truth that Jesus was from God, they rejected Him.

This is also true in our day among people who should know better.  Our nation for many years has been richly blessed by God, but what do we do?  We exchange the child of Bethlehem at Christmas time for…Santa Claus.  We exchange the risen Christ at Easter for…the Easter bunny.  And then we have the same thing happening among Christians as well: people who have the Bible and have God’s Word refuse to take it to heart or pick and choose whatever it is from the Bible they can twist into their own liking.  All you have to do is read the newspaper or turn on the TV and you hear it again and again voices defending homosexuality.  So many have exchanged the truth of God for a lie.  Even Christian churches are coming out publicly in support of gay marriage and homosexuality and Christians like you and me, who stand up for God’s Word and hold on to all of it- even the part about homosexuality being a sin- are called “unchristian” or are accused of violating God’s Word by judging others.  So many, even Christians, have quit getting to know Jesus and now no longer know Him at all.  And yet there’s even a part inside each of us that wants to be like these people in Jesus’ hometown.  There’s a part of us, our sinful nature, that doesn’t want to listen to Jesus.  That wants to do its own thing.  That hates it when God tells us that impure thoughts, biting words, or selfish pride are sins.  All of this can be quite discouraging! So what keeps our faith going?

In a world of unfaithfulness, rejection and resentment, hate and persecution, God remains faithful.  So faithful that His Word always comes true.  Jesus predicted this very same rejection that He faced would face us.  Jesus said, “No servant is above his master; if this is the way they treated me, they will treat you likewise.”  When you are faced with people who hate you because you stand firm on God’s Word, remember God is faithful, He already foretold it and knew it would happen.  When you realize your unfaithfulness to Him and how often you have be unwilling to welcome Jesus or His Word or His directions into your life, repent and remember God’s faithfulness that He came in order to take that sin and every sin on Himself.  When you are timid and afraid to spread God’s Word because you know you’ll be faced with rejection, remember God’s faithfulness: Jesus was rejected and He kept going from village to village to spread the Word and because He did that, the Word was passed on to other people from generation to generation all the way down to you today.  Again, that’s what God promised in His Word, He remains faithful.

So what is that keeps you going?  No, it’s not the Energizer Bunny : )!  It’s remembering God’s faithfulness, His promises.  You see, when you meet rejection, it’s further proof God is faithful and remains in control.  Remain faithful to His Word, hold on to all of it, and spread it.  Why?  Because God has also promised that His Word will not return to Him empty but will accomplish what He wants.  So keep going.  Keep listening to God’s Word, keep living the way God wants, keep spreading His Word.  And trust in God’s faithfulness!  That’s how your faith keeps going!   Amen.