I read recently that there are three kinds of people. Those who make things happen. Those who watch things happen and those who are always asking “what happened?”
The Bible tells us that there are really only two kinds of people in the world. Different passages use different words for these two groups. Those who are lost and those who have been found. Those who are living in darkness and those who are living in the light. Those who are God’s enemies and those who have been changed into God’s friends. Those who are dead and those who have been made alive. From the outside we may not be able to see which of these groups a person belongs to, but God looks right into our hearts. God knows our deepest thoughts and God can see which group of people we are in.
And the Bible tells us that which group a person is in is determined by their response to Jesus Christ. John’s gospel highlights this.
John 110 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who reject Jesus and those who receive Jesus. And Mark 6 clearly illustrates these two kinds of people.
THE PEOPLE WHO REJECT JESUS
110 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.
What a disappointment it must have been to Jesus, that so many people simply rejected him.
6 Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
People were amazed at Jesus’s teaching. But not amazed enough to put their trust in Him. Because there in his home town of Nazareth, those folk thought they knew everything about Jesus. You might think they would have recognized Jesus as the Son of God as he was growing up among them. But no! “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The people of Nazareth were too blind to see. And it can be the same today. Some people know the Bible stories, they may come to church every week, they may even become professors of theology, and still end up rejecting Jesus. It is possible to know all about Jesus without ever having a relationship with Jesus as Lord, Saviour and Friend.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles!
Those people at Nazareth recognised Jesus’s power, Jesus’s wisdom, Jesus’s authority. But they failed to recognise who Jesus really was. Maybe they were actually refusing to recognise Jesus as Son of God. They refused to recognise that Jesus’s wisdom and power came from God. Like people today who acknowledge Jesus to be a great moral teacher, but ignore the claims He made to be much more than that. To be the light of the world and the resurrection and the life. Claims like “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.”
So people said 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Some of Jesus’s neighbours dismissed His teaching because he wasn’t an educated Rabbi, only a carpenter, a craftsman not an academic or a recognized religious teacher. So many people today think that believing in Jesus is intellectual suicide and that religion is only for people who can’t think for themselves. That idea is so mis-informed! Belief in God is perfectly intellectually respectable. Many of the worlds’s greatest thinkers have believed in Jesus Christ.
Isn’t this Mary’s son? There is the insult. Not Joseph’s son but Mary’s son. Jesus had grown up with the slur of an illegitimate birth. He wasn’t respectable. He wasn’t one of the establishment. And there are people who reject Jesus today because he is outside the establishment, because he poses too much of a threat to the status quo.
Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” Perhaps here are signs of envy. People who couldn’t believe that their childhood friend had turned out to be so much more. Perhaps this was pride. People were too proud to admit they needed saving by Mary’s boy, the carpenter!
And they took offence at him. Jesus caused a scandal in his home town of Nazareth. And people have been taking offence at Jesus ever since!
4 Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.”
Parents find it so hard to learn anything from their children, and children from their siblings. So the people of Nazareth failed to put their trust in Jesus as the Son of God and the Saviour of the world. And there were three results of this lack of faith.
5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.
What an amazing statement. It was not that miracles depended on faith. But Jesus generally only worked miracles in response to the faith of the people he healed or occasionally of their friends. Miracles where faith was absent would have been misunderstood and would have been pointless. Very sadly, so very few people in Nazareth put their faith in Jesus that there were scarcely any opportunities for miracles. It is still true today. People who reject Jesus cannot expect to see miracles in their lives.
6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith. The unbelief was so illogical that even Jesus was amazed. How could anybody reject God’s love and God’s mercy? How could they reject the Saviour of the world? And Jesus must have been especially sad that these were his childhood friends and neighbours who refused to put their trust in Him. But reject Jesus they did. So we read of the third consequence of their lack of faith
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Jesus left Nazareth and never returned. The people of Nazareth had had their opportunity to accept Jesus and they refused to believe. Jesus would never preach there again. Their rejection of Jesus was final. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Just some of the kind of people who reject Jesus. But then there is the other group,
THE PEOPLE WHO RECEIVE JESUS
12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
When we receive Jesus, God gives people so many blessings all wrapped up in our relationship with Him. God forgives our sins and takes away our guilt. God turns us from His enemies into His friends, from rebels into beloved children. God gives us eternal life, life in all its fullness. All these blessings are for those who receive Jesus and believe in His name.
In Mark’s Gospel the Twelve Apostles show us what it is like when people put their trust in Jesus. And this passage shows us four marks of these people who receive Jesus as Saviour and Lord, marks of all Christians in every generation.
THEY OBEY GOD
7 Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.
So many people spend their lives running away from God hoping He doesn’t exist. So many people ignore the things God has revealed in His Word, the Bible, things like the ten commandments which are God’s blueprint for living in His world. So many people want to live their own lives their way. But if we are following Jesus what we want must come second and what God wants must come first. For the apostles this meant being sent out on a dangerous mission to preach the gospel. And God calls Christians today to step out of the cosy comfort of church and take His love into a damaged world of hurting people. People who have received Jesus will obey that call, whatever the cost. And that takes faith.
THEY TRUST GOD
8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra tunic. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave, as a testimony against them.”
Stepping out in faith the apostles were trusting God to provide everything they would need. So many people in today’s world spend their lives chasing after luxuries, the bigger car, the newest iPhone. They waste their money on that great god entertainment and end up disillusioned and flat. Jesus promised to give his followers “life in all its fullness” which comes in the love and joy and peace of knowing God. God does not promise us luxuries. But He does invite us to trust Him for the necessities of life.
Psalm 37 3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. 4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
In obedience to Jesus the apostles stepped out in faith. And here is the third mark of those who have received Jesus as Saviour and Lord
THEY PREACH THE GOSPEL
12 They went out and preached that people should repent.
The Twelve had a life and death message to deliver. Nazareth had rejected Jesus but there were so many other villages which had not yet heard the Good News of Jesus, the Saviour of the World – so many other people who had not yet had the opportunity to receive Jesus for themselves – too many for Jesus ever to visit in person.
Sent out by Jesus the apostles preached that people should repent. We learned last Sunday evening that the New Testament uses the word “preach” just six times in the context of preaching a sermon in church. But the same word appears 106 times with the meaning of proclaiming the good news, delivering the message of salvation. And that is what the gospel is – an announcement. The gospel is not an offer. The gospel is not an invitation. The gospel is not a debate. The true gospel is simply an announcement that Christ has come, and that Christ is Lord of all. And that announcement is so earth-shattering that it demands a response from every one of us who hears it. JESUS IS THE CHRIST, the Son of the Living God! So repent and believe!
They preached that people should repent. Repentance is the only suitable response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Peter was still preaching the same message on the day of Pentecost after Jesus had risen from the dead.
Acts 2 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is Lord – so people should repent and confess their sins. And then God promises forgiveness and eternal life and the gift of the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is the gospel the church still preaches today. God’s gift rescuing sinful men and women from death and judgment. That is the life-transforming message all of us who have received Jesus continue to proclaim.
The story is told of an eye surgeon who set up in practice in London but had no clients. One day he met a blind man who was poor and would never be able to pay for the simple eye operation he needed. But the surgeon operated anyway and the man recovered his sight. “How can I ever repay you?” the man asked. “I don’t want money,” the surgeon replied. “Just tell everybody you meet who it was made you able to see again.”
In the same way, Christians want to tell everybody about Jesus – we are just so grateful for all He has done for us! We obey God, we trust God, we preach the gospel, and the fourth thing which is true of people who have received Jesus is this.
GOD WORKS IN THEIR LIVES
13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
That is the way it was for the Twelve Apostles. And that is the way it is for people who receive Jesus still today. In the name of Jesus Christians still drive out demons, setting people free from the grip of evil and of the occult. In the name of Jesus sick people are still healed in body mind and spirit. EVERY believer can pray to God in Jesus’s name and expect God to answer their prayers, and sometimes those answers are miraculous. God works in amazing ways in the lives of those who receive Jesus and believe in His name.
So the Bible tells us that there are just two kinds of people. Those who believe in Jesus and those who reject Him. Which group are you in?
God’s free gift of eternal life which Jesus offers is not just some optional extra to make life a bit more exciting or a bit more comfortable. What Jesus offers is God’s way of escape from the judgment which every single man woman and child faces for rejecting God. Jesus is like the ladder at the window of the blazing building. Jesus is like the lifeboat from the sinking ship. If a person does not take that way of escape, they are doomed!
This is the message which the apostles went out and preached. And this is the message which all of us who have received Jesus must deliver to our generation, before it is too late!