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Jesus Could Not

He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith. -Mark 6:5, 6a (NIV)

“He can do anything, anything.” Those words, applied to Jesus, were the words of a song in one of the most powerful children’s musicals I remember from my years as a pastor. It is a sentiment you’ve probably heard repeated many times if you’ve been around Christians for any length of time. I would guess you’ve probably expressed it yourself or at least thought it. I know I have.

The only trouble with that is, the Bible says differently. In a text, that “stops me in my tracks,” whenever I read it, we are told, “He [Jesus] could not do any miracles there, except” heal a few sick people. “Could not” is not a phrase we connect to Jesus/God. It took a while for that to register.

My initial reaction to that text was focused on the “except” heal a few sick people. That’s not an absence of miracles. It is a powerful expression of God’s power. And it was done in spite of opposition and lack of faith. How we would rejoice to see that. Only after thinking about that for years did I begin to hear “could not.”

The implications of that are sobering to say the least. I don’t understand all it means. But for sure, in some important way, human beings who resist Jesus, who lack faith, hinder His work. Of course I believe that God is sovereign and that His ultimate plan will be fulfilled. However, it surely means some things God wants to do are limited by people just like you and me. And that probably explains why it took so long for that text to really sink in. I am responsible for preventing some of what God wants to do for me and through me. I don’t really want to hear that.

But the good news—you, I can make a difference, in the church, in the community, in the world by cooperating with and trusting Jesus.

What does God want to do where you are?

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Jesus Is Alive

If Christ has not been raised then your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
–I Corinthians 15:17

            This story is told about T.S. Eliot: “A literature student, upon graduating from Harvard, went to ….Eliot to get advice.  For a while Eliot said nothing.  Then he said, ‘40 years ago I went from Harvard to Oxford.  Now you are going from Harvard to Oxford.’  Then he paused some more.  The student was anxious to hear his famous words that he would remember for the rest of his life.  Finally, Eliot put his hand on the young man’s shoulder and said, ‘Don’t forget your long underwear.’”

            Sometimes I’m afraid people come to church wanting to hear something to sustain them for the rest of their life and are disappointed with the trivial.  Even with Easter, the Resurrection, we can trivialize it by talking of budding flowers, butterflies, and Easter eggs.

            Last week, I said that we sometimes seem to minimize Jesus’ death in order to emphasize the resurrection.  To do that is also to minimize the resurrection.

            One of the reasons we may not appreciate the resurrection as we should is that we avoid death, evil, refuse to acknowledge it in our life, our world.  Philip Yancey reminds of a scene from the novel, Watership Down:

A colony of wild rabbits is uprooted by a construction project. They begin to wander and encounter a new breed of rabbits, huge, healthy, and beautiful,  Their bodies show no signs of scars or struggle.  They are asked how they “live so well.”  The answer: “Someone provides for us.  LIFE IS GRAND!”

The displaced rabbits are impressed but suspicious.  One day they notice one of the fattest and sleekest tame rabbits has disappeared.

They are told.  It happens regularly.  We don’t understand, but we don’t let it interfere with our lives.

Then they discover a trap with a noose.

The gullible rabbits ignore the imminent danger of death.

The more you are aware of evil, death, the more you understand its pervasiveness, the more it enters your experience, the more important the resurrection, hope, a new beginning becomes.  In fact, we are not prepared to experience resurrection until we have experienced crucifixion, until what we hold dear has been “put to death.”  Only then can it be raised to life, eternal life.

When you have lost all hope in your intelligence, physical energy, cunning, hard work, education, security in things; only then does resurrection, new life come.

It comes as you place your trust in the living Christ.