Are You Offended?

homeless woman with dogs
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/livenature/256934977/">Franco Folini</a>

Luke 7:18-23

When John’s students told him all of this, he summoned two of them and sent them to ask Jesus, “Are you the one we’re waiting for, or should we look for someone else?”

When they arrived, they told Jesus, “John has asked us to ask you if you’re the one we’re waiting for, or should we look for someone else?”

As they looked on, Jesus cured many people of their ills and injuries. He rid many of evil spirits, and restored sight to several blind people. Then he told them, “Go and tell John what you’ve seen and heard. The blind see. The crippled walk. The defiled are made pure. The deaf hear. The dead live. The poor are given relief. If you’re not offended about this, you’ll be alright.”

Hard as it may be to imagine, some folk talk a good line about taking care of the sick, the troubled, and the poor, but when it it starts to really change lives, they take offense.

It’s the difference between actually changing people’s economic or social position, and offering a handout that just gets someone by one more day or one more meal. One is revolutionary, the other is just patronizing. One is the real thing, and the other is – well, you may as well look for someone else.

Think about it. If you’re poor, good news – real good news – is not that you’re going to be able to stay the night in a homeless shelter. It’s that you’re not going to be poor any more.

For some people, that’s pretty offensive. It means you might actually have to treat “those people” like equals.

The Cost and Benefits of Being Extraordinary

Homer Simpson Scream
Image via SuperflyGallery

Mark 3:7-12

Jesus took his disciples and retreated to the sea, and people from all over the place who had heard what he was up to followed in droves, from Judea and Jerusalem (south), from Idumea (west), from the other side of Jordan River (east), and from all around Tyre and Sidon (north) . The crowd pressed in upon him so that Jesus told his disciples to get a boat ready. He had healed many, and everyone who was ill was trying to touch him. And whenever spirits of ill saw him they fell, screaming, “You are the son of God.” But he forbid them to tell who he really was.

This was not a retreat in the sense of a vacation getaway or a spiritual renewal or an extended board-room brainstorming meeting.

Jesus was retreating because the church people back in town had started plotting to kill him. The church people. Because he insisted that doing good was more important than being religious.

Neither was it a break from the work Jesus was doing. In spite of having a warrant out for his arrest, people were coming from every direction. Because he was doing something worth going out of their way for. Something they couldn’t get from their usual “service providers.”

Two observations:

  1. You can’t be extraordinary at anything without offending people who insist that the ordinary way is the only way. And
  2. If you really are extraordinary at what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter to the people you are helping what the “experts” say about you.

[Bonus: Son of God was a title reserved for the Roman emperor. Two things are going on here:

  1. The spirits of ill are trying to name Jesus, which in the mythological framework of demonology would give them power over him. We do the same thing when we think we can treat a disease if only it can be diagnosed (given a name). But, Son of God is an incorrect name – it doesn’t render Jesus powerless and Jesus forbids them tell who he really is.
  2. We are getting a preview of what Jesus’ opponents – who are spirits of ill – will accuse him of to bring him down. Crucifixion was a sentence reserved for non-citizens convicted of treason against the Roman emperor.]