The Not-So-Cool Jesus

Dr. Jon Morrissette - 2/16/2020

Since January, we’ve been looking at Mark’s account of Jesus’ life. Mark is the shortest and fastest historical account of Jesus’ life in the Bible. Shortest because it’s just sixteen chapters, you can read in a few hours. Fastest because its like a jam-packed action movie. We barely have a chance to digest one thing and Mark’s off to another. But another feature of Mark’s writing is “foreshadowing.” All along the way Mark is dropping little hints and clues about what will happen to Jesus.

The whole key to foreshadowing is not too much, and not too little. The other day Lara persuaded me to sit down and watch some Hallmark movie. But after five minutes in, I was like, “That dude is going dump his fiancée and end up with the wedding shop, dress-maker lady.” [I’m out!]. For several chapters Mark has been foreshadowing a growing conflict, he’s been dropping these little statements, hints and clues about the crowds. As we get Mark 6, everything begins boiling up to the surface, and the disciples find themselves in a rather perilous situation. 

But first, a quick summary is in order. For six chapters now, Mark has been foreshadowing Jesus’ growing unpopularity. You heard me right! Jesus’ growing unpopularity. Now you’d think the opposite has seemed true. You’d think Jesus was becoming a first century Superstar! The water from Jesus’ baptism barely dries, and news about him begins spreading throughout the entire vicinity of Galilee. He goes to Simon and Andrew’s house and the whole town gathers to be healed. It get so bad, he has to sleep nights out in lonely places. Mark 1:37, “Jesus everyone is looking for you.” Mark 1:45, “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. But he was out in deserted places, and they [still] came to him from everywhere.” Mark 2, some friends wreck the roof of Jesus’ home that Jesus might heal their friend. Jesus was become a spectacle of sorts. When he healed people were amazed. When he taught people were amazed. By the time we get to Mark 3, the crowds are growing aggressive, they are physically pressing in upon Jesus, crushing Him and disciples. Have you ever been crushed by a mass of people such that you couldn’t breathe (maybe at a concert or waiting in line)? By the time we get to Mark 4/5, the pressure of the crowds is a real danger, and to mitigate the danger, Jesus begins teaching from a boat. And he even has multiple boats and an entourage of men ready to help him evacuate. It’s true. Look at Mark 5:2! 

There were many ways Jesus mitigated the danger. He’d get in a boat and row away. He’d slip out at night, under the cover of darkness, to pray. He’d move on to the next village. There are countless times when Jesus just asked a person he healed to keep quiet. He certainly silences the demons (Mark 1:25)—he didn’t need nor want their testimony. But in Mark 1:43 he “sternly warned” the man healed of leprosy to say nothing to anyone except the priest. Mark 5:43 he gave Jairus’ family “strict orders” to be quiet about their daughter’s resurrection. Like adjusting a pressure valve, he was trying to regulate popularity. But how is a person to keep quiet or hide their miracle? 

In Mark 2, the Pharisees begin surveilling Jesus’ activities, that of his disciples, that of John the Baptist, and his disciples too. They wanted to know why Jesus wasn’t following their customs about fasting, and about honoring the Sabbath. Is this guy on our side? Is he maybe an impostor? In Mark 3, do you remember? They set a trap for Jesus in a Synagogue, to see if Jesus would dare heal a man with a shriveled up hand. (Jesus did of course!). In Mark 3:6 we read this ominous statement, “Immediately the Pharisees went out and started plotting with the Herodians against him, how they might kill him.” Boy that escalated quickly! By chapter three not only are people wanting to kill Jesus, people are forming whatever unholy socio, religious, political alliances they can, to do so! In Mark 3:22, the Scribes publicly accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed, of being a servant of Satan. But they cannot stand up to Jesus’ wisdom, and only appear to be ridiculous. At the same time, in Mark 3:21 Jesus own family accuse him of mental illness, they announce (probably out of pressure) they believe Jesus to be “out of his mind” or “beside himself.” To avoid shame, his own family dutifully comes to “restrain” (take physical control) of him. But again, like the Scribes, they cannot stand up to Jesus’ wisdom and fail! In Mark 4, Jesus resorts to indirect teaching (Parables), because his enemies are now listening with hostility. They are just waiting for him to make the slightest slip/or gaff so they can plaster it across the Galilean headlines. They want to weaponize Jesus’ teachings against himself. But also the people—they were ever hearing but never understanding, ever seeing but never perceiving. 

In Mark 5, when Jesus heals the unclean men, the townspeople plead with Jesus to leave! Not stay, but leave! You’d think there would be gratitude and celebration. But Jesus’ presence had a negative impact. They’d rather save their own bacon (2000 pigs ran off a cliff, how many more pigs would have to die?) than a man’s soul be saved. In Mark 5 when Jesus proclaims the little girl isn’t dead, but just sleeping, the people laughed/snickered at Jesus. It seems that what Mark is telling us is that more people come to see/ hear/ know Jesus, the more sharply divided they become. Some respond with faith—but many hate Jesus and want to drive him away, and even want to kill him. 

In Mark 6:1-6, Mark gives us this startling portrait of Jesus’ growing unpopularity. [After leaving Jairus’ house] “He left there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. ‘Where did this man get these things?’ they said. ‘What is this wisdom that has been given to him, and how are these miracles performed by his hands? Isn’t this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And aren’t his sisters here with us?’ So they were offended by him. Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his household.’ ** He was not able to do a miracle there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. He was going around the villages teaching.” 

In my notes, I’ve nicknamed this sermon the “Uncool Jesus.” Maybe it isn’t so cool to be with Jesus? It’s cool to be with a cultural icon like Kanye West, singing about Jesus King, forking up $300 for a pair of tennis shoes, or to get tickets to the Osteen’s superdome to rock out to a concert. From time to time, it becomes cool to wear the WWJD bracelet, or jump on some bandwagon. But what I’m thinking about is Jesus warnings in places like Matthew 5:11-12, “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because you reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” What about the times it isn’t cool to stand with Jesus? 

We live in a most remarkable time, don’t you agree? People’s core value these days is to “be liked” and “loved.” We’re obsessed every moment of every day whether were getting a Facebook thumbs up or an Instagram heart. And we’re utterly crushed when get a hostile face emoji, or worse, get ignored. How uncomfortable do you think it was for Jesus’ Twelve to follow him? Would you have liked to have been in the same boat with him (literally and metaphorically)? 

As I read Mark, my mind races. Here Jesus is in his hometown synagogue, among his hometown family/friends/community, being ridiculed. He teaches, and the people snicker, “where did he get all these ideas?” He does good, and people wonder, “Is this some gimmick or trick?” When he announces He’s God’s Christ they point at his family. “Jesus isn’t that your mother right there? Who’s your father? Aren’t all these your brothers/sisters? There is nothing extraordinary about them? Why do you think you are special? Their probably your step brothers/sisters anyway. **They were offended at him. A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown, among his relatives, and in his household. 

Earlier they were at a funeral with Jesus, and were laughed at. When was the last time someone snickered at your faith? A professor maybe? A friend? A parent? Someone you wanted to impress? When was the last time you shared some nugget of Godly wisdom only to have someone sneer, “Where did you get that idea?” When have you tried to grow in Christ’s likeness only to be reminded of your unsavory past, your broken family, or your humble roots? When was the last time you walked on eggshells because everything about your “new life in Christ” so easily triggered, and so readily offended, someone you’d hoped to impress? When was the last time someone told you what you believe about X is ridiculous? When was the last time someone demonized you? Marginalized you? Disowned you? When was the last time someone told you were crazy believing God, or trusting God’s word, or God’s perspective, or believe in Jesus? 

*What about those times you’ve found it far less cool to stand with Jesus than apart from him? I’ve lost hundreds of friends following Christ, being a “preacher.” Of course I have gained just as many (or more). Praise God. 

When Jesus was baptized, the Father’s voice boomed from heaven. Mark 1:11, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased.” One of the first things we have to resolve is whether pleasing the Father will be “enough” for us. It is enough for the Father to give me a like, a star? Is it enough to be loved of God, to please our Father in Heaven? Because in the world, even when I’m giving my best to God, I’m going to be hated. Nothing “cool” about following Jesus. 

In Mark 6:7-13, Jesus summons the Twelve and sends them out on mission. Whenever Jesus entered into a new area, their job (like John the Baptist) was to run ahead and prepare the way. Mark 6:7-12 gives us a pretty good snapshot of what Jesus expected of his disciples during his evangelistic crusades. “He summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs and gave them authority over unclean spirits. 8 He instructed them to take nothing for the road except a staff—no bread, no traveling bag, no money in their belts, 9 but to wear sandals and not put on an extra shirt. 10 He said to them, ‘Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that place. 11 If any place does not welcome you or listen to you, when you leave there, shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.’ 12 So they went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons, anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.” 

They were put into pairs. They were given spiritual authority to drive out demons, to anoint sick people with oil (which we still have authority to do). They were instructed to pack light, to engage people in their homes (across dinner table). They were instructed what to do whether received/rejects. They were told to preach what Jesus preached, “Kingdom is coming. Repent and Believe.” There are a lot of practical things we can extrapolate from these instructions on how to do evangelism. 

But what Mark wants us to notice is this… Immediately after Jesus commissions his Twelve Apostles, news of John the Baptist’s beheading comes back to Jesus/Twelve. It’s a terrifying moment. And not only has Herod beheaded John the Baptist, but now Herod has turned his paranoid attention toward Jesus! 

“King Herod heard about it, because Jesus’s name had become well known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that’s why miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He’s Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet, like one of the prophets from long ago.” 16 When Herod heard of it, he said, “John, the one I beheaded, has been raised!” [In Luke’s account, Luke 9:9, we’re told Herod wanted to see Jesus!] 

17 For Herod himself had given orders to arrest John and to chain him in prison on account of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 John had been telling Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias held a grudge against him and wanted to kill him. But she could not, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing he was a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard him he would be very perplexed, and yet he liked to listen to him. 

Keeping friends with Herod is like keep friends with a Wild Lion, or Bear, or Python or Alligator. There may be some good days, but your virtually guaranteed at least one really bad day… and it’s the day you your life gets served on a platter. I feel this way when I see Christians aligning with political powers/movements. You never know the trust price you’re paying until its too late. 

21 An opportune time came on his birthday, when Herod gave a banquet for his nobles, military commanders, and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When Herodias’s own daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. The king said to the girl, “Ask me whatever you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 He promised her with an oath: “Whatever you ask me I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”  24 She went out and said to her mother, “What should I ask for?” “John the Baptist’s head,” she said. 25 At once she hurried to the king and said, “I want you to give me John the Baptist’s head on a platter immediately.” 26 Although the king was deeply distressed, because of his oaths and the guests he did not want to refuse her. 27 The king immediately sent for an executioner and commanded him to bring John’s head. So he went and beheaded him in prison, 28 brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl. Then the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When John’s disciples heard about it, they came and removed his corpse and placed it in a tomb. 

How might the rejection of Jesus in his hometown, how might the beheading of John the Baptist, raised the prospects, of the disciple’s own rejection and possible suffering and death? In Luke’s account, in Luke 9:22, Jesus seizes this occasion and starts teaching that [Like John] He also (the Son of Man) “must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and be raised on the third day.” So you want to follow Jesus? So you want to preach? So you want to be liked and loved by the world? So you want some political figure to carry your water? For the Apostles, faithfully serving God would spell rejection (at best) and suffering even death (at worst)! To follow Jesus, they would need to trust Jesus in persecution just like they needed to trust Jesus in that storm. Some practical applications… 

1. You will be hated. Expect it. The same happened to Jesus, apostles, prophets. 

2. You will be richly rewarded. You will gain back hundreds times whatever lost. 

3. Don’t Get Isolated. Pair up. A cord/strand of two/three is not easily broken. 

4. Exercise Your Spiritual Authority. Preach faithfully and fully. Confront darkness. Anoint people with oil for healing. 

5. Pack lightly. Be Generous. We don’t need that much to survive. Life is Short. 

6. Practice hospitality. The first most important mission field is kitchen table! 

7. Leave the results to God. The disciples exercised the authority they were given and God did the rest. Sometimes their ministry received, sometimes shook dust off their sandals. Sometimes people had faith/healed, sometimes became haters. Are we willing though to get in boat with Jesus and stay there?

Scripture Verses

Mark 6:1-29

Worship Playlist

Never Gonna Stop Singing by Jesus Culture

Holy Ground by Passion

Strong God by New Life Worship

Build My Life by Passion

Study Questions

  1. Do you experience any negative social ramifications for being a Christian? Explain.
  2. Read Mark 3:20-21, 31-35. What was the attitude of Jesus' family toward His public ministry? How did Jesus navigate his family's skepticism, unbelief and interference? How does your family view your devotion to Jesus?    
  3. Read Mark 6:1-6a. What was the attitude of Jesus' hometown toward His public ministry? Why aren't prophets honored in their hometown, or among their own family? How should we expect to be received for our faith?  
  4. How has Jesus intentionally developed the Twelve throughout the opening chapters of Mark? What would it have been like for the Twelve to be with Jesus? What was his agenda? Consider Mark 1:16-20, 1:29-31, 2:13-14, 3:7-12, 3:13-19, 4:35-41. What instructions does Jesus give the Twelve?   
  5. Read Mark 6:6b-12. What instructions did Jesus give the Twelve? How did he calibrate their expectations? How might these instructions apply to those who would make disciples today?  
  6. Read Mark 6:14-29. The Commissioning of the Twelve was a high point in Jesus' development of the disciples. Why does Mark interject the account of John the Baptist's beheading right alongside the Commission of the Twelve?  
  7. Review Mark 5. Representing the Resurrection and Life can be a matter of life and death. What examples have the Twelve seen of Jesus' power over life and death thus far?  
  8. Ultimately Jesus is sacrificed on the altar of His own mission. What might we have to sacrifice to serve God? What sacrifices are you willing to make to serve God?

Apply It!

Resources

At the Lakeside Bookshelf:

Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of The Son of God by Timothy Keller