Jesus: More than Meets the Eye (by John Frye)

Jesus: More than Meets the Eye (by John Frye) August 14, 2015

Screen Shot 2015-01-07 at 3.35.58 PMJesus became a wrecking ball to life in Galilee and Judea as he came out of the wilderness in the power of the Spirit (Luke 4:13-14). With his cousin, John the Baptist, arrested, Jesus roared into action. Jesus came out of the wilderness with a sense of urgency, a vision with unparalleled clarity, and insight that there is more to any moment and situation than meets the eye. Time was pregnant with the kingdom of God and Jesus announced its arrival. Jesus’arrival was the kingdom’s arrival. Jesus began defining human experience with kingdom realities. We are seeking to meet Jesus as revealed in the Gospel of Mark 1:14-28.

Far from the learned conclaves of religious leaders in Jerusalem, Jesus roamed the shore of the Sea of Galilee in search of leaders. Kingdom leaders. Two pairs of brothers, yearning for the kingdom to come, are called by Jesus into the kingdom task. Two were casting nets and two were repairing nets: ordinary business work by ordinary, unschooled men. No Bible classes, no seminary papers, no doctrinal defenses—their task: rescuing people from the wrath to come. Fishing is a biblical metaphor for saving people from judgment. “I am going to make you fishers of people.”The kingdom presence rearranges everything. Four men walk away with Jesus from all they know into an unknown future that will shock and transform them.  How will Jesus “make”them into fishers of people?

In this fishing enterprise, Jesus is the bait. Jesus and the four fishermen soon entered sacred space (a synagogue) and sacred time (on the sabbath). The routine decorum of the synagogue service was blasted by chaotic yelling. What a surprise! Sacred space and time were invested with demons. The unclean spirit cried, “We know who you are, Jesus, the son of God.”More than meets the eye, for sure. Can’t you hear some people saying, “Who knew that old Abijah was possessed with a demon?”

This episode so early in Mark sets up the cosmic battle that unfolds in his gospel. Jesus’work reveals the screaming need for the rescue of humanity. The very bounded space and time reserved for the Holy One of Israel had become the hide-out for unclean spirits. The religious leaders who oversaw the spiritual well-being of Israel were themselves “of their father, the devil,”according to Jesus (John 8:44). People were being taught “the word”and its multiple interpretations by the grammatous (scribes), but demons merely yawned and slept with the bored-silly people. Until Jesus showed up. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers and the religious leaders of Jesus’time celebrated their unbelief (John 7:47-49).

I lament American evangelicalism, smothered as it is in a plurality of views on almost any topic of Scripture; many factions bickering about who is “biblical”and who is, God forbid, “heretical.” Ben Witherington III writes that Jesus and the disciples lived in “a scripturally textured world.”So do evangelicals. When will we learn that biblical precision does not equal spiritual authority? Both are important, but they are not the same. Unbelief can rest easy in a faith that is only words. “The people were amazed, astonished, shocked at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority…”Teaching in the New Testament is both oral and active, both word and deed, and even “unschooled, ordinary”people like two fisherman who followed Jesus would become outstanding leaders in Jesus’kingdom (Acts 4:13).

I attended the celebration of life service for an ordinary man, a layman. Brad had been a respected civil engineer and his memorial service was in a building in Frederik Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids, MI. Brad had designed and helped oversee the construction of the beautiful building. He died of cancer. His wife said that her husband often struggled with whether or not he was really doing anything for the kingdom of God as an engineer. Brad had been a vibrant Christian witness, had shown compassion and caring, had left the fragrance of Christ wherever he went and in whatever he did. I felt jolted. This man, this ordinary engineer, probably had done more for the kingdom than I have ever done as a pastor and “scribe”of the Bible. When the kingdom of God comes, as Ken Medema sang, it “comes in the streets.”

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