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Jesus: astonishing in so many ways

March 2, 2023

Daily Scripture

Mark 6:1-6, John 3:1-10

Mark 6

1 Jesus left that place and came to his hometown. His disciples followed him. 2 On the Sabbath, he began to teach in the synagogue. Many who heard him were surprised. “Where did this man get all this? What’s this wisdom he’s been given? What about the powerful acts accomplished through him? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” They were repulsed by him and fell into sin.
4 Jesus said to them, “Prophets are honored everywhere except in their own hometowns, among their relatives, and in their own households.” 5 He was unable to do any miracles there, except that he placed his hands on a few sick people and healed them. 6 He was appalled by their disbelief.

John 3

1 There was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a Jewish leader. 2 He came to Jesus at night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could do these miraculous signs that you do unless God is with him.”
3 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born anew [Or from above], it’s not possible to see God’s kingdom.”
4 Nicodemus asked, “How is it possible for an adult to be born? It’s impossible to enter the mother’s womb for a second time and be born, isn’t it?”
5 Jesus answered, “I assure you, unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, it’s not possible to enter God’s kingdom. 6 Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and whatever is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Don’t be surprised that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’ 8 God’s Spirit [or wind] blows wherever it wishes. You hear its sound, but you don’t know where it comes from or where it is going. It’s the same with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said, “How are these things possible?”
10 “Jesus answered, “You are a teacher of Israel and you don’t know these things?

Daily Reflection & Prayer

We sometimes see Jesus as a rather “vanilla” figure, nice and innocuous. In fact, he often astonished people. In his hometown synagogue, his teaching (for a longer account of his surprising words, cf. Luke 4:14-30) upset and infuriated those who heard him. In John 3, Jesus met with Nicodemus, a Pharisee whose authority came from religious status attained through strict outward piety. Jesus’ invitation to inner spiritual rebirth left the seminary-trained religious leader puzzled and amazed.

  • What seems to have angered Jesus’ hearers in the Nazareth synagogue? In what ways did “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t he Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” show a refusal to even think about Jesus’ claims to be the promised, long-awaited Messiah? Besides, “The kind of kingdom Jesus was talking about was not the sort of kingdom his contemporaries wanted to hear about.” * Is it the kind of kingdom you want today?
  • Just before the Nicodemus story, John told about Jesus driving out the Temple money-changers (cf. John 2:13-25). That challenged the Pharisees’ power. Nicodemus may have come at night (John 3:2) so other Pharisees didn’t see him with Jesus. That night, Jesus invited Nicodemus to live in the light of God’s kingdom. Their talk changed Nicodemus (cf. John 7:45-52; John 19:38-42). Since you met Jesus, how has God brought you from the darkness into the light?

Lord Jesus, you were (and are) so much more than just “the carpenter.” Give me more of your willingness to connect even with people like Nicodemus who might at first seem like “enemies.” Amen.

GPS Insights

Picture of Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory

Janelle Gregory serves on the Resurrection staff as Human Resources Lead Director. Janelle finds that her heart is constantly wrestling with the truth that she needs a Savior, and the times when she's at her very best are when she's just too tired to put up a fight.

In a previous career, I managed an adult day care program at a senior center. A good portion of the participants in the program had some form of dementia. If you know of someone with dementia, you know what a cruel disease it can be. It robs you of your memories and plays havoc with your relationships. In the midst of the darkness and dreadfulness, there are bits of light. Someone with dementia is able to experience joyful moments over and over again, as if experiencing them for the first time. I remember one Halloween; I came to work dressed as a jester. As each participant arrived, their face lit up with amusement. “Oh, my goodness! Look at you! Aren’t you something?!” they’d say, grinning ear to ear. Later that morning, I left to go to a meeting. Upon my return, I walked into a room that erupted full of laughter. “Oh, my goodness! Look at you! Aren’t you something?!” The moment was new to them, and they were loving every second of it.
Every once in a while, I crave that same ability to experience joy and surprise over and over again. Familiarity is wonderful, but it comes at the price of losing that first moment of elation, of being taken aback in astonishment. I think about this when it comes to my understanding of who Jesus is. I grew up in church, and so I was introduced to Jesus very early on. Stories of his teachings and miracles were shared through puppets and felt boards. I grew up singing the songs and reading the Bible. I love that I was able to know Jesus and his love for me even as a child.
But with that familiarity comes the loss of being astonished by who he truly is. He walked on water, he healed the sick, he calmed the storms, and he even rose from the dead! Any one of those individually is astonishing! But because I’ve heard them over and over, they have lost a bit of their “wow” factor. If I’m not intentional, I become apathetic to the power of Christ and take it for granted. I hate to admit this, but my guess is that in sharing it, it helps some of you relate. My hope and prayer is that we can step back from the familiar from time to time, that we’ll be able to experience Jesus afresh–to be struck by his power, to feel his compassion, and to be overwhelmed by his uncompromising grace.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Mark for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone) (p. 65). SPCK. Kindle Edition.