When Does God Offend

Text: Mark 6:1-13

Proposition: People are offended by the name of Jesus when their sense of order clashes with God’s design for order and unbelief sets itself up against truth.

Introduction:  In 1 Corinthians 1:23, Paul writes, “ But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” The stumbling block for the Jews and the “foolishness” for the Gentiles represents two different ways that these people groups were offended by God. Author  Ken Ham with the Answers in Genesis ministry comments on this in his book, “Why Won’t They Listen, “Peter didn’t have to convince them concerning the truth of creation. He didn’t have to convince Jews that there was such a thing as sin. He didn’t have to convince them that the Holy Scripture was God’s infallible Word. The problem they had was not accepting that Jesus Christ was God manifest in the flesh and was the Messiah. This was their stumbling block.”  The Israel of Peter’s day had a substantial amount of truth from the Old Testament, the stumbling block was that God would, in such a personal way as the incarnation, present Himself as the One to die for the payment of sin. The resurrection proclaimed that the price was paid in full and that man now found redemption through obedience to Christ rather than obedience to the Law. Jesus had now become the successor to the Law as the means to righteousness. The Law was still valid for the exposing of sin but faith in Christ rather than faith in animal sacrifice was now the only way to redemption.  For the Gentiles, on the other hand, they had none of this truth foundation, Jesus was not a stumbling block to them. The gospel of redemption was pure foolishness because they had no perceived sense of need. If you aren’t a sinner you don’t need a Savior. If you aren’t in peril you don’t need rescue. If man is basically good he doesn’t need redeeming. The gospel of Jesus was to the Gentiles needless and thus as a matter of importance, foolishness. Their understanding of creation was missing truth, their understanding of the essence of man and his sin nature was missing truth, their understanding of God’s design for marriage, government and social order was missing truth. Consequently their understanding of the ultimate purpose of man was missing truth. The crucifixion of Jesus which had high regard for the ultimate purpose of man was therefore lost their understanding, it was to them foolishness.   The issue of when God offends people is all about a clash of beliefs. To change a person’s belief  on small things is difficult, to change their belief on something that is on the scale of life changing, even life saving, that is when offense occurs. The issue that is at the core of the offense is truth. The truth they have held to this point, upon which their belief system was founded, is now being challenged as to it’s worthiness, it’s soundness. Their belief system has, to a considerable degree, guided them from A to B and now they are being called to repent, to change their belief and to call what they once regarded as truth to not be truth and to embrace this which to a great degree is un-tested and new to them as the actual truth.  Faith then becomes the essential means for the acceptance of truth, the willingness to repent and the desire to obey Scripture.     Let’s read a passage of Scripture where Jesus offended the people, where the issue of truth created a stumbling block. Turn with me to Mark 6:1-13.

I. Perceptions Are Powerful Enough to Overrule Truth.                                                  Jesus leads the disciples up to the hill country of Nazareth and begins to teach in the local synagogue. The truth that Jesus presented to them was at first impressive. They recognized the wisdom that He spoke with, the authority of His words was un-mistakable. But perception overrules truth, they have known about Jesus for a long time, they know His family. The truth of Who Jesus is challenged their opinions of Him and their opinions were what they went with. There’s a story of a pastor who as he taught a Sunday School class brought a jar full of beans. He asks the class to guess how many beans are in the jar and on the blackboard writes down who guessed what. Once they have all had a chance to do this he then asks them to list their favorite songs and he writes the list of songs next to the first column. When the lists are complete he reveals to the class how many beans there were in the jar and they look to see who came the closest to getting the right answer. Then he turns to the list of favorite songs. “And which one of these is closest to being right?” he asks. The students protest that there is no “right answer”; a person’s favorite song is purely a matter of taste. Then he asks the key question , “When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?” Always, from old as well as young, he gets the same answer: Choosing one’s faith is more like choosing a favorite song. Preference it seems overrules factual truth. The response of Jesus to the people of Nazareth was that their familiarity with Him blocked their ability to believe. He said that even a prophet received honor in most places but when it came to his home community, they did not acknowledge him. In  fact it says that Jesus marveled at their unbelief. Perceptions are partly based on experience, partly based on preference and partly based on factors that favor us as opposed to the other person. Jesus knew that perceptions are powerful, He knew that perceptions are not interested in truth as much as they are in self justification. Yet Jesus leads the disciples right into this. Was it possible that what He was teaching the disciples was how to respond when the name of Jesus Christ is a stumbling block, how to respond when God offends?     

II. Faith Triumphs Over Perception.Jesus gathers the disciples together, blesses them for service and begins to send them out two by two. He puts certain restrictions upon them as they go, certain guidelines to remember when they get there including what to do when they experience rejection. Let’s look at how Jesus sends out His people that they would not stumble at rejection.

1. He sends them in simplicity, no money, extra clothes or shoes. The intent we would believe is both to move them to utter dependence on God to supply and to enable them to move quickly and inconspicuously among the peoples of the nearby towns.

2. He sends them to move with humility and thankfulness. They were not to have regard for whether this was a rich house or poor house. They were not to leave where the door had been opened to them because of personal comfort.

3. He cautions them not let unbelief affect holiness. If people rejected them they were to shake the dust from their sandals and move on the next place. The purpose of such an action was that to show that the place was considered unclean and that the judgment of God was set against it. The action was meant to be that which would prompt repentance but failing that the message was that if you reject these messengers you are rejecting the One who sent them.What Jesus is clearly inferring to the disciples is that there are people out there who will receive them in faith. There are people out there oppressed by demons, others who are sick, others who are ready to hear the truth about Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Messiah, here now among them. Faith was ready and waiting for them to arrive and God would use the disciples to call it into action.

Faith triumphs over perception,  allowing the truth of God to gain a foothold.  Perhaps even this week God may offend you, His truth claims upon your life clashing with what you believe to be true. His truth is… He invites us to constantly turn from foolishness, to turn in faith and obedience, through the tests of when God offends.


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