By Pastor Raul Granillo
It seems to be a common thing for people to assume that the problems we face today are much different than the problems people faced yesterday. After all, our world is much more complex and pluralistic than it has ever been. The latter idea may be true, but the former…not so much.
During the days of Jesus, the Jews shared many of the same concerns that people have today. They worried about employment, they worried about health, they worried about potentially having freedoms taken from them, they worried about war, they worried about their children’s future, they worried about many of the same things that everyone of us worry about today. They worried, and very often, they prayed that the leadership in their world would help to alleviate their fears. This is not a new thing.
When a new high priest was brought in, the Jews wondered if he would be conservative or liberal in his interpretation of the law. When a new tetrarch was appointed by Rome, the people hoped for a tetrarch who would not oppress them or exploit their already limited resources. When a new governor was appointed, the people hoped for a governor that would defend their rights and protect their freedoms better than the last one had. When a new Caesar was announced, the people wondered if the change would be for better or for worse. They consistently placed their hopes in the hands of people, and so the people often lived in fear that often led to hatred.
In Mark 4:14-22 you will find the account of Jesus preaching in the synagogue. He read the words of Isaiah the prophet:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (4:18-19 NIV).
Jesus read this and began his commentary with, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (v 21).
Those who would have been in the synagogue were regular, everyday Jews, who faced everyday common fears, just like us. They listened to Jesus speak and every one of them had an opinion about the politics that surrounded and affected their everyday life.
Jesus read a passage that the Jews would have recognized as a promise for the coming Messiah and the kingdom of God, a kingdom in which God’s people would be priests who would give witness to the life-giving grace of God (Is. 61). Jesus, as the rightful King, would inspire His people to “rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated” and “renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations” (Is. 61:4 NIV). He shared this message with them and then made it clear that He was the fulfillment of this, that He was the King who would provide and protect the people. They had only to obey Him and become the people who would inspire the world to recognize Jesus as the source of light, hope, and transformation into righteousness.
Mark says that after He had finished, the people asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (4:22) The people were so engrained with the idea that their hopes needed to be in a person, that they questioned Jesus’ ability, as a common person, to help them. They called themselves the people of God, they worshipped God, they may have even obeyed God, at least technically, but they still looked to others to save them.
Let us not miss what Jesus said, and still holds true: Jesus is the Lord who offers life, hope, joy, and peace. These things can only come from Him. It is unfair to expect any other entity in the universe to offer the same—they are simply not capable of it. Our response to this should simply be to seek holiness for the sake of others. How are you giving witness to the life-giving grace and love of God? In that alone will fear be destroyed.
Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet Sundays at 9 a.m., for Sunday school and 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!