Great Expectations

Jesus Preaching Inside

Mark 2:1-2“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.”

Jesus’ words fill us with great expectations. These people had come to know that Jesus didn’t pontificate on pious platitudes like so many of their other teachers. Dining at his spiritual table wasn’t like eating bland comfort food– the spiritual equivalent of mashed potatoes and white bread and canned green beans. It was more like three-alarm chili or spicy Thai chicken. His message had a bite to it, a message that burned a little and made you sweat.

But Jesus’ words were real, they were true to life, and he always followed them up with something incredibly sweet and soothing to put out the fire. No one preached about sinful life, and no one preached about the height, and the depth, and the breadth of God’s love the way that he did.

That is why Jesus was preaching to a packed house in our text. Even his enemies came to hear the outrageous things (in their opinion) that came out of his mouth. Are we today losing our taste for the kinds of things that Jesus’ is serving in his word? Why is it that less than half of Christians go to worship each week? Why is Bible class such a hard sell, and even fewer Christians are willing to attend? Why are home devotions and family prayer conducted in less than 5% of Christian homes? Why aren’t we hounding Jesus like the people did in his day, never giving him a break, pressing close around his word all the time?

If it’s because the messengers have lost the guts to tell it like it is, and the passion to plum the depths of God’s grace, then shame on us. If God’s people have grown tired of being challenged, and are taking God’s grace for granted, and as uptight, dignified, middle class Americans don’t want to be seen as some sort of religious fanatics, then shame on you. If we have all begun to find the greatest story ever told boring and irrelevant, then God have mercy on us all.

What do you hope to find at church on Sunday morning when you do go? Maybe some of you go hoping to pick up a few helpful tidbits on how to manage your out-of-control life. Maybe you look to find a little inspiration, something to pick you up after a week of office politics, whiney kids, and home repair projects gone sour. Maybe you come for the people– for you, church fills the longing described in the theme song from the old TV series Cheers: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came, you want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same; You want to be where everybody knows your name.”

We can find all of that, I hope. But that is not where Sunday worship begins. Week after week the hymns, the Scripture lessons, the creeds, the sermon, and the Lord’s supper want to draw our attention to one thing: the incredible grace of God that spared no price, that stopped at no sacrifice, to bring us forgiveness for our sins.

So often, when we come to Jesus, we set our expectations too low. We want a little relief from earthly hardship. He wants to deliver us from earth and carry us to heaven. It is the promise of his love and grace that take us on that trip. It may not always be the first thing for which we ask, but it is the last thing we will ever need.

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