Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Does Jesus Offend You?
Mark 11:15-18  -  John 6:60-67
     Did you hear about the Ohio man who got fired as the voice of Smokey Bear?  The 65 year old man who volunteered as the voice of Smokey Bear at the Ohio State Fair made a joke about grey hair to a US Senator, and before the day was over – was called into the office and fired.  Fired because he offended someone.

     This is just one example of how sensitive of a society we live in.  Can any of you remember a time when it took so little to offend so many?  We have got to be on our toes everywhere we go, lest we offend someone. 

     Those of you in the medical field, you know how careful you must be when speaking with patients, and with family members.  And those of you who are teachers, or in the education field.  Dealing with so many different students, and parents, and others in your field.  How many of you have been through ‘sensitivity training’, or some course designed to teach you how not to offend others?

     Even the church has to be very careful about offending people.  Many a policy and practice has been put in place, and training sessions conducted in order to help keep pastors and leaders from offending people.  Great pains are taken to avoid hurting someone’s feelings, or causing someone to feel uncomfortable, or causing displeasure or anger. 

     But this morning, in our Scripture readings, we see where Jesus obviously didn’t get the memo or attend those sensitivity classes.  In Mark, He is driving the moneychangers and merchandisers out of the temple.  In the John Chapter 2 it says, “He had made a whip of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers' money and overturned the tables. And He said to those who sold doves, "Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!”

     In our reading from John 6, we read that what Jesus said offended many of His disciples, and they left Him, to follow Him no more.  “Then He said to the twelve, Do you also want to go away?”

     Throughout the Gospels, how many times did Jesus say or do something which offended the Jews, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, or the Romans?  How many times did they want to destroy or kill Him?  How many times did He say something which offended, or caused distress in someone else, like the disciples?

     The fact is, Jesus offended a lot of people.  And He still does today.  Jesus offends so many people because He came to call us to repentance from our sins and to follow Him. 

     This offends us because we do not want to admit we are sinners, that we are in need of repentance, that we don’t need to ask for forgiveness, and that we are quite able to follow our own ways. 

     To be called a sinner offends us.  It makes us feel uncomfortable.  It hurts our pride.  We don’t like being told we are sinners.  It bothers us to hear Jesus say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  It makes us nervous and queasy, and offends us to hear Him say stuff like, “unless we repent we will likewise perish.”

     Does it offend you to hear the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 6, remind us, “that those who do wrong will have no share in the Kingdom of God?  Don't fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, who are idol worshipers, adulterers, male prostitutes, homosexuals, thieves, greedy people, drunkards, abusers, and swindlers-none of these will have a share in the Kingdom of God.”

     How many of you watched the movie Passion of the Christ?  How did you feel during the flogging scenes when Christ was being beaten, and whipped with a cat of nine tails?  How did you feel while watching Him being nailed to the cross?  Was it a little repulsive?  Did it offend you to see that level of graphic violence?

     It did me.  I found it very hard to watch.  To see a man treated so brutally.  Especially a man who came with one purpose in mind.  To save us from ourselves and sin.  A man who came to us, to you and me, out of the purest purpose of all, love.  Because God loves us so much He sent His only Son, “that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

     God sent Jesus Christ into the world, to you and me with a message of love.  But because of our own pride, our own ego’s, we become offended when we hear the truth of who we are and where we are going – without Christ as our Lord and Savior. 

     Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  A message of love and grace and mercy.  A message that says no matter who we are, no matter what we have done, no matter what our circumstances may be, God loves us and wants an intimate and meaningful relationship with us. 

     He wants nothing more than to see us return to Him.  To set aside the ways of this world, to set our pride aside, and to humble ourselves before Him and accept Christ as our Savior.

     It is not my intention to offend you this morning, but I am admonished to carry the message of Christ to you.  Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”.  And in Chapter 6 he says, “the wages of sin is death.”   But the good news is, as Paul continues, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

     It is my hope and prayer that you are not offended, or hurt or angered by Jesus’ wonderful message of love, and hope, and grace.  Some of you may however, be feeling a little uncomfortable, or uneasy.  You may be wrestling with the whole sin, self, Son, salvation thing.  It’s OK.  It’s a tough concept for some to grasp.  But one, when understood and accepted, changes the offensiveness - to glory, and peace, and joy.

     As Paul reminds us in Romans 5:1, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”   Although Jesus may offend some, His message is about love and peace. 

     Instead of being offended, let us rejoice in the love and peace Jesus came to give us.  Hear His words in John, Chapter 14, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  “I am going away and coming back to you.”

     The words may, at times, be harsh, but the love is unconditional and the grace unending.  “May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Amen.

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