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A Very Important Difference

July 08, 2018
By Rev. David French


One of Christianity’s most basic confessions about God is the fact that He is omnipotent (all-powerful). To the best of my knowledge, no Christian Church body denies that truth. Even the youngest of our children make this confession as they sing, “My God is so great, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do,” a basic teaching that no faithful Christian would ever question or doubt.

And yet, as we read our Gospel lesson for this morning, we’re faced with a rather stark contradiction. [Jesus] could do no mighty work among his hometown people, except lay His hands on a couple of sick people and heal them. What? Jesus could do no mighty work? Now that’s a problem! According to Mark, our all-powerful God was left powerless. The almighty One … does not look so almighty. So, what does this mean?!

Well, let’s think about this for a minute. Our lesson clearly says that Jesus could do no mighty works in the presence of the hometown folks who doubted Him. But does that mean Jesus didn’t possess the skills, the abilities, the resources - the power - to work powerful things among them? Or could it mean that Jesus (because of God’s specific plan) was not permitted to work these powerful signs among them? You see, there is a difference—a very important difference!

Remember Jesus’s lesson for the bleeding woman last week … it was not just touching me that made you well, it was believing that I am who the miracle says I am which made you well? You see, you can have all the skills, abilities, and resources in the world, but if you’re not permitted to use them, that is if you’re stopped from doing your work, those resources don’t do anybody any good. The truth is, if someone refuses to receive, you can be made powerless to give no matter how much power you truly possess and are willing to share.

So it’s true that Jesus could not do any mighty works in His hometown, but the reason is not found in Him. The reason, again, was that they refused to believe He was who the miracle said He was; that is, the people there doubted Him.

Remember the words, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.” These people heard the very Word of God, both Law and Gospel, proclaimed by God with the authority of God and they not only rejected it, they were offended by it. And that really hasn’t changed.

“Who does this guy think He is? What right does He have to judge me!” They, with mere human strength, prevented Jesus, the almighty Son of God, from working His powerful life-saving, life-giving gifts of repentance, forgiveness, and salvation. And so do we.

Now, could Jesus, as almighty and all-powerful God, have simply spoken a word and made them change their minds?  In effect, take away their free will? Absolutely! I mean, He raised the dead with a word. Certainly He can make us change our minds. But if He did that, He would no longer be a loving and gracious God. He would no longer be the God He has revealed Himself to be. He would instead be a forceful, tyrannical God; a puppet master pulling His strings. “You will serve, honor, love, and obey Me, whether you like it or not!”

You know, it really is sad that this same faithlessness seen in Jesus’s hometown crowd is still seen today. People still deny and prevent Jesus from working all the time. Many complain about all the trials and tribulations they endure and then ignore the very Means of Grace which God offers to comfort and strengthen us during those very trials and tribulations.  Countless Christian parents keep their children from Christ’s life-giving power in baptism because while the words sound nice … all they see is water.

Christians across the world this very day will share crackers and juice and call it communion and then openly teach against Scripture that Jesus isn’t physically present, but only figuratively present with His body and blood to remind us about the forgiveness of sins.

But why? I don’t need to be reminded that Jesus paid for my sin, I need to be forgiven.  Scriptures clearly teach Jesus saying He gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of our sin. But apparently, those enlightened Christians even while seeing what He says know what Jesus “really” meant. And so, well-meaning Christians stop Christ from giving them the life-giving gifts of His Body and Blood. I truly don’t understand such blatant indifference within the Church at large. And this is just looking at things inside the Church. We also prevent the truth of God’s love being shared in our daily lives as well.

We certainly don’t like to admit it or even think about it, but we routinely deny and prevent Christ from working His gifts of life and salvation for any number of reasons or no reason at all. We stay away from church because we’re not in the mood, the weather, the time, the hymns, the sermons … the whatever.

How many times have you stopped yourself from opening your mouth and proclaiming God’s love to those in your life who you know need to hear it? I know that you all know someone who isn’t here today who needs to hear again about God’s love and mercy for them, or maybe just need the shoulder of a fellow believer to lean on.  But, have you reached out to them? What’s stopping you from speaking the truth of Christ in your own circle?

Lord, forgive us, but surely we’re not surprised that He marveled at the unbelief of the people during His days on earth. No doubt He still does. And if we stop and think about it, it really is sad because through all these things that happen in our lives, our almighty God is calling to us and reaching out for us so that He might work and speak with us, and also work and speak with others through us. He is calling to teach us and to teach others through us; to feed and nourish us and to feed and nourish others through us, all with the gift of Christ.

And more often than not, our response is to muzzle Him and stop Him from working the life-giving, life-saving gifts He so desperately wants to give to all who are born of sin; gifts of grace, mercy, repentance, forgiveness, peace, and everlasting salvation.

My friends, It is finished, your place in heaven has been and is secure in Christ alone and because of Christ alone. The powers of sin and death were left behind in the tomb by the almighty power of Christ’s all-redeeming life, death, and resurrection. Last week we were reminded there is nothing to fear. This week there is no reason to doubt, no matter how dark this world or your circumstances in this world may seem. Our all mighty God has declared it to be so, and so it is. That is your baptismal reality.

My prayer is that through the eyes and ears of saving faith, which God has freely given to you as His gift, a gift which enables you to recognize, repent, receive and give thanks for the mighty and powerful workings of God through His Word and Sacraments, that here on His altar you see not just the earthly means God has chosen to use, but the true giver of these gifts, that is, Jesus - your all-powerful, loving, and gracious Lord and Savior; the very Son of God who willingly and freely laid down His life for you and the forgiveness of all your sins.

In His Name, Amen.

Tags: Mark 6:1-13