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Like a Summer Thunderstorm

Introducing someone is easy enough if the person is there with you.
Introducing someone who is not present requires you to describe the person in terms that accurately portray who that person is.

For example, in a small rural community where populations are stable and folks know each other for generations, you might describe someone who is returning from many years abroad by saying, "She is aunt Grace's youngest daughter." The person might add, "oh yes, that would make her Florence and Stanley Ferguson's granddaughter. I know who she is."
That is pretty much what Matthew does with Jesus. He brings out the family tree and starts his narrative by locating Jesus in the family tree. He begins with Abraham, through David right through to Jesus. Thus his pedigree and roots are described to people who would know and care.

John's on the other hand is how a more philosophical and poetically minded person might describe someone. He might say something like, "Ok, imagine all the characteristics of the perfect person and friend and imagine all of that from God totally in one person. That is Jesus"

Luke the gentile physician who had never met Jesus was in Judea with his friend Paul. He says he took the opportunity of . . .

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ?What is this? A new teaching?and with authority!
He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.?
  Mark 1:27


Introducing someone is easy enough if the person is there with you.
Introducing someone who is not present requires you to describe the person in terms that accurately portray who that person is.

For example, in a small rural community where populations are stable and folks know each other for generations, you might describe someone who is returning from many years abroad by saying, "She is aunt Grace's youngest daughter." The person might add, "oh yes, that would make her Florence and Stanley Ferguson's granddaughter. I know who she is."
That is pretty much what Matthew does with Jesus. He brings out the family tree and starts his narrative by locating Jesus in the family tree. He begins with Abraham, through David right through to Jesus. Thus his pedigree and roots are described to people who would know and care.

John's on the other hand is how a more philosophical and poetically minded person might describe someone. He might say something like, "Ok, imagine all the characteristics of the perfect person and friend and imagine all of that from God totally in one person. That is Jesus"

Luke the gentile physician who had never met Jesus was in Judea with his friend Paul. He says he took the opportunity of interviewing as many people first hand as he could to round out his picture of Jesus. It is quite possible that he was able to interview Mary, who would have been an elderly lady by then. Being the complete physician doing a family history he might start as any family history would start, with the pregnancy and birth. He might have asked her, "when did you first begin to notice that there was something different about Jesus?"   And she would look at him with her alive dark brown eyes and a smile would cross her lips as she quietly began to tell her story: "I knew before he was born. When I was a young girl, even before I was married, and angel came to me..."

Like a Summer Thunderstorm
Then there is Mark. Mark knew Jesus first hand as a young man, and has a young man's perspective on Jesus.
He writes like a young Ernest Hemmingway, using tight action packed drama.  One of Mark's favorite words is "immediately". Like an action movie, the drama begins quickly and the conflict builds to its climax. In chapter one Jesus declares war on the demons, by chapter two the Pharisees had declared war on him; and by chapter three, the Herodians and priests had joined an alliance to kill him.
Mark might describe Jesus coming into the world this way:
"You know how in the blistering heat of summer, you first notice an approaching storm. First the wind picks up then the dark clouds roll in and before you know it comes the first bright flash of lightning and immediately a loud bang. Then the rain comes down in torrents, and the summer drought is over. That's what it was like when Jesus showed up."

Jesus is the humble child of Luke, born not in a palace but a stable.
In John's gospel we see him taking a towel; and like a servant, going to each of his disciples and washing their feet.
But when he comes into the world to confront the kingdom of this world, he does not come cap in hand ringing the bell at the servants' entrance. He comes with the twelve like a Judean SWAT team right to the front door of this world's kingdom and proceeds to kick it in.

Mark describes the first public ministry of Jesus once he had begun calling his servants. He says that on the sabbath they went to the synagogue as was their usual pattern. On this day, Jesus begins to teach. But his teaching is different. The rabbis taught by referring to one another and quoting this rabbi and that precedent, much as lawyers quote precedents in court.
But Jesus does not build his case on what anyone else has said other than the scriptures themselves and his own authority to understand and teach them.  People were amazed because she spoke as if he knew exactly what he was talking about and with authority.
Just then, or "immediately" as Mark puts it, a man with an unclean spirit begins shouting, "What do you want with us Jesus, to destroy us? I know who you are...the Holy One of God."
Jesus tells him to be quiet and sends the spirit out of the man. It does not come out quietly, the man gives a shriek and it is gone.
Mark says, this really amazed everyone. They knew something different was happening.
He spoke with authority and even spirits obeyed him. And from then on, word was out. Like in an old western movie, a new sheriff is in town and it doesn't take long for word to get back to the baddest of the bad. There will be a show-down by high noon. Jesus versus the forces of darkness.

Mark is saying to us, "Jesus is someone to be reckoned with."
When he came, he clearly demonstrated his personal authority.
The forces of darkness recognized the threat immediately.

There is a song that I learned as a child in Sunday School. The love of God is described as being
so high you can't get over it,
so wide you can't get 'round it,
so low you can't get under it.

Jesus is the Way Maker
When I was a boy in Alberta, we had a pretty good summer fair and rodeo at the exhibition grounds.
I always wanted to see the grandstand and rodeo, but grandstand tickets were expensive and I didn't think my parents would pay for me to do that. I of course never asked, but just didn't think they would.
So my buddy Phil Jones and I conceived a plan.
The exhibition grounds were open during the year and it was a simple matter to ride our bicycles into the grounds out to the grandstand area. It was surrounded by a high corrugated metal fence, so you could not stand outside and watch.
But the ground was soft and we dug a hole beneath the fence so that we could slip in when the time came.
A few days before the time came we went back to make sure our secret plan was still in play. It wasn't. Our tunnel beneath the fence had been discovered and filled in. What to do?

Then we noticed it. There was a place next to the grandstand and next to the fence where the men's and ladies washrooms were located in its own fenced-off area. And because of how the fence was built at that spot, it was possible to scramble over it and drop into the rest room area. Perfect!  We would climb the fence drop into the washroom area then pretend we had just come from the men's room and casually stroll over to the grandstand and find a vacant seat.

The day came and we made good on our plan. It was easy getting over the fence and into the men's washroom area.
We were ecstatic until we took the exit back out into the general grandstand area and right there before us was a city of Lethbridge policeman. He looked at the two boys, and as it was his job to watch who went in and who came out, we were busted. He didn't say a word but just motioned for us to follow him. We did, scared as you can imagine. He just ushered us to the exit and said, "buy a ticket." I was never so relieved and chagrined as at that moment. At least for that summer.

Mark says, Jesus has the authority to open the door and let you in, or to let you out as is needed.
He is the one you must deal with.
There is no sense thinking you can do an end around Jesus' authority. You can't.
There is only one option. Find out what Jesus is saying about your life. That is not so difficult. Read the gospels and its spelled out plainly.  Read what is written and follow it. Do that and the doors will be opened and you will have your own ticket to the grandstand, box seats.

There is another implication. Jesus can open other doors. Doors of confinement.
Door and fences can keep us out, but they can keep us in.
When Jesus shows up in the synagogue, there is a man who is confined we might say, by his own inner demons.
They have held this man in their power. He is in the synagogue which means he has some level of love or respect for God his creator. Maybe he comes and leaves every Sabbath filled with longing or guilt of something he cannot break free from.
Enter Jesus.
The gates of confinement are blown off their hinges; and as the dust settles, Jesus stands at the door and motions, "follow me."

As a young boy I didn't bother asking my parents if they would take me. I didn't think they would, so I tried to devise my own scheme.
It's rather silly for a boy to do that.
It's tragic for an adult to do that when we have a heavenly father who will open doors for us.

I am not implying that just because you love Jesus that every obstacle in life will simply melt away. You know better than that.
What I am saying and what Mark is saying is that the person who has the authority is the Galilean named Jesus.
What he says is good and right. Take your cue from him.
If this or that door does not open, follow him to where he leads. The right door will open in the right time.
And sometimes it is God's purpose for us model to others what God's love looks like in tough circumstances.
But Jesus' words are God's words. That is the nub of the matter.

Whether its needing to find an open door to move on in life, or whether its the need to find a way out of an intolerable inner oppression, Jesus is the way-maker.
Follow Him.

Preached  January 29, 2006
Dr. Harold McNabb
West Shore Presbyterian Church
Victoria, British Columbia
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