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Center Stage

Jesus: A Year of Popularity

Jesus in the Spotlight

Just like a social media personality going viral, Jesus eventually became a “must see” figure for all of Israel. His ministry was slower to start out, but he quickly became a celebrity of sorts. This largest season of his ministry, often referred to as Jesus’ year of popularity, would see him surrounded by masses of people seeking to hear him teach and see him perform miracles. Of course, anybody that became as popular as Jesus did, delivering a message that stood in contrast to the traditional religious message of the day, was also going to attract the attention of the influential and powerful. Jesus’ popularity would bring people of every sort to interact with him, consider his message, and respond accordingly.

Messages

Sept 22–Green Room (Luke 5:27-39)—The Gospels spend a great deal of time talking about Jesus and food. He multiplies loaves and fishes, changes water into wine, has dinner with Zacchaeus, and shares a last supper with his disciples, just to name a few. Food was a primary place where people gathered, and so for Jesus was a tool for connecting with people who needed to hear his message and experience God’s love through him. In addition, the earthly way that people gather around a table to celebrate was, for him, a window through which one could see what eternity would be like: God’s eternal heavenly banquet. In these two accounts in Luke the reader can see early examples of both points. 

Sept 15–Who’s Tearing Up the Props??? (Luke 5:17-21)— The story of the friends who ripped apart a roof in order to lower their crippled friend to Jesus is well-known because of the great persistence of the friends. But to the religious leaders, the account was scandalous for a different reason: Jesus presumed to forgive that man of his sins! This language falls on modern ears with ease. Christians are so used to Jesus and the forgiveness of sins going together. But in Jesus’s own time, this was a radical statement indeed. Both ancient and modern worlds suggest many ways that one can be right with God, but the Christian religion follows this encounter with Jesus in believing that He really did have, and does have, the authority to forgive sins in the eyes of God.

Sept 8–What’s This Play All About Anyways? (Luke 4:16-30)— Early on in his ministry, Jesus shared with people what the theme of his work would be: the coming of God’s Kingdom, and its inclusion of ALL peoples. This was clearly not a popular message in many settings of that day, as is evidenced by the reaction of the audience on this first sermon in Nazareth. People then, as now, wanted to create their messiah with their own ideas and prejudices built-in. But Jesus was not the peoples’ messiah; He was God’s messiah. And God’s Kingdom would exist to redeem people from every walk of life.  

Previous Series: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

Sept 1-Paradoxes of the Christian Life—Labor Day is a funny holiday in that we celebrate work and workers by taking a day off! This may not qualify as a complete paradox, but it does offer a simple connecting point to looking at some of the paradoxes that make the Christian life peculiar. The Bible tells us that God's ways are not our ways, and sometimes living the Christian life can seem very counter-intuitive. But the history of our faith and, often times, experiences in our own lives show that these characteristics of discipleship really are true.

Aug 25– Absolute Chaos (Judges 17-21)—The ending to the book of Judges is dark indeed; among the darkest passages in all of the Bible. The religion of the people had become chaos, which led to the morality of the people slipping into a chasm of depravity. This book, which has had the people of God battling with outsiders, comes to end as they end up fighting amongst themselves. The applications for our current time are many. Our role as the people of God in a rapidly changing country has always been imperative. For when everyone does as they each see fit, God is not worshipped and chaos reigns.

Aug 18–One Thing Leads To Another (Judges 14-15)—The list of vices in Samson’s narrative is easy to compile: greed, anger, dishonesty, disrespect of parents, lust, and vengeance just to name a few. Most readers are well aware of how Samson’s character issues led to his own losses and suffering, but we should also take note how those same issues had adverse effects on his family and community. Active consequences on others are visible and missed blessings for Israel are easy to imagine. Our successes and failures don’t happen in a vacuum. Our obedience toward God leads to blessings not only for ourselves, but also for others. And in the same vein, our failures effect not only ourselves, but have consequences for those around us.

Aug 11–Birth of a Maverick (Judges 13)—Samson’s story begins with a birth narrative, something unexpected in this rough world of the Judges. The birth narrative, however, speaks to God’s preemptive plan to deliver Israel through a leader that could potentially surpass all the others. The problem was that the family into which Samson would be born were generally apathetic to and ignorant of God. This environment would not be healthy for the parents, and certainly did not pave the way for Samson to achieve his full potential in God’s plan.