Pastor Max Sternjacob

The Amazing Offensiveness of Jesus

Mark 6:1-13

In this passage we see three aspects of Jesus: we have reason to be amazed by his power, Jesus was offensive to those around him, and we do not want Jesus to be amazed by us.

Be Amazed by Jesus

Leading up to chapter six in the Gospel of Mark there have been quite a few instances that reveal why we should be amazed by Jesus:

-Jesus heals Peter’s mother in law

-Leper is healed

-Paralytic man healed after being lowered to Jesus from the roof

-Man with deformed hand

-Jesus commands the storm to cease

-Jesus heals the demon possessed man

-Jesus heals a woman who had bled for 12 years

-Jesus raises Jairus’ daughter


At this point in Mark it is easy to see why people were amazed by Jesus’ power. However, when Jesus returns to his home town he is met with perplexing questions as to what his true identity is and whether the rumors of his amazing abilities were actually valid. When Jesus returns to Nazareth, the town questions the origin of Jesus’ power because they are obsessed with the source rather than the content of his ability. Second, they wonder where Jesus could have received the wisdom he displays since it was reserved for religious leaders. Wisdom was seen as a divine blessing given by God. The crowd even questions how he could possibly perform such miracles with his hands due to his low status as a carpenter. Lastly, they question Jesus’ ability because he is perceived as the illegitimate son of Mary.

The underlying message is that they cannot fathom how God would use someone with such an inauspicious pedigree in order to do His work. Even though Jesus returns home as a Rabbi with disciples, authority, a deep knowledge of the scriptures,  and performing miracles his hometown refuses to see him as a Rabbi. They refuse to acknowledge Jesus’ amazing power. 


“Underneath all of these questions is the assumption that the people of Nazareth knew who Jesus was and how God was going to bring in His Kingdom.”



Be Offended by Jesus

The people of Nazareth were offended by the claims of Jesus because he was nothing more than an illegitimate child. They were scandalized by the claim that Jesus was the Messiah. However, there is an important distinction between taking offense and giving offense

Taking offense:someone who wants to be offended and will find a reason to be

Giving Offense: Someone who purposefully makes it difficult to be heard

It is an important distinction because Jesus never gave offense to others. Jesus always spoke truth with compassion and wisdom. Jesus seeks the truth with grace not shame. Even still people were offended by him yet they all wanted to be around him. Christians should not measure their success by how much they offend people but by whether or not we are capable of compassionately explaining where we stand with people in a way that they still want to stick around even when they’re offended. Jesus will offend us because he calls us to repentance in the areas of our lives that he is not King. 

“We cannot control whether or not people will actually take offense. But we do not have the luxury of changing the message to make it less offensive.” 

Don’t be Amazing to Jesus

The people who should have known Jesus the most, his hometown, failed to respond to his authority even though they were amazed. Mark tells us that Jesus is actually astonished by the town of Nazareth because of their lack of trust. How is it that the people who knew Jesus and even saw his miracles reject him? Faithfulness to Jesus is not just about proximity to his miracles, but it is about our posture towards Christ. We must remember that unbelief is not simply a matter of a lack of information. Sin causes a rebellious sickness that refuses to give up control. It takes more than a few miracles or knowledge to change our sinfulness. Rather, we need a heart transplant that can only be given to us by Jesus. 

“We need to allow Jesus to reign and speak deeply into our lives even if it offends us.”


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Parables of the Kingdom

Mark 4:1-20

Jesus is well known for teaching in parables that can often be confusing. The first parable that Jesus uses in the Gospel of Mark is one that gives us insight to why parables were used for teaching. When the apostles asked Jesus why he teaches in parables he responds with a quote from Isaiah expressing the purpose of parables is to open the eyes of those within the fold while those outside the fold will be able to see but unable to perceive. In one sense the parables are meant to help differentiate between followers of Jesus and those who see but are unable to perceive. Jesus is mimicking what God was saying for Isaiah's ministry revealing that the gospel  will stir faith in some, but many will be hardened to the message causing them to turn away.

 The Disturbance of the Parable

Jesus included teachings in his parables that were often shocking to his audience because they went against the normal conventions of the day. Jesus purposefully used shocking language as a way to elicit a response from his listeners. Jesus taught his audience in a way that forces people to stick around to gain understanding or to write him off. 


Jesus understood a crucial element of teaching a crowd which is: if you do not force your pupils to think deeply about what you are conveying they will not learn it. In our modern day we take for granted the depth of knowledge that exists at our fingertips. Too often people today do not remember what they have been taught because they have access to answers on the internet which means there is little reason to commit what one is learning to memory. By using parables mixed with shocking language Jesus is forcing his audience to think deeply about what it means to follow him and the nature of the Kingdom. Jesus knew that gaining knowledge was a slow, cumbersome, and tedious work that builds upon itself in order to grow in sustainable understanding. 


“The parables of Jesus are dynamic stories that should draw us in to reflect...Jesus arouses the spiritual imagination of his hearers that they might understand the nature of the Kingdom.”


The Details of the Parable

Jesus spends the first parable in Mark discussing the details of the heart’s soil. When seeds of the gospel are planted in our hearts there are many things that are actively seeking to obstruct it before roots are set in deep enough to stick. As a church, we are called to defend one another, to preach the gospel, and help support each other in the removal of these obstructions. 


The Four types of Soil

  1. Hard soil-the seed of the gospel is vulnerable capable of being devoured by Satan

  2. Rocky ground-thwarts root growth making it impossible to stand up to times of tribulation and persecution

  3. Thorny ground-portrays the choking of the word through false teachings within the world or the deceitful security found in wealth

  4. Good Soil-This soil allows for roots to grow deep. These seeds represent the ones who hear the word and yield an unimaginable amount of fruit thanks to the good soil they grow in.


“Jesus says here that it is not about our technique or trying to change ourselves or the ground. He stops and says ‘it’s God’s providence that is on display here.”


The Depth of the Parable

Everything that we do should be geared towards planting the gospel. Our job is to plant the seeds not to determine the outcome. Even when it looks like nothing is happening it is crucial that we keep the goal of planting seeds in mind because the depth is the most important thing. We may not see the roots that are growing within the people around us, but those roots must take hold deeply first before we begin to see the growth on the surface. Too often we become obsessed with trying to take away the weeds, thorns, and rocks in people's lives, but we are not the gardner. The growth that occurs in people's lives is solely from the miraculous work of God because only He can produce growth.


“The seed of the gospel is freely and lovingly scattered to any and everyone. It is the soil that matters. God alone is the one who prepares the soil to receive the seed.”





Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript


Gospel Community

Ephesians 2:11-22

Are you prepared to do what’s necessary within God’s definition of success?

In Ephesians, Paul describes that the gauge by which we should be measuring ourselves is whether or not we are good at remembering what God has done for us. We must remember that we were once separated from Christ, but we are no longer strangers or without hope. The mature Christian is someone who is able to quickly and deeply remember who we were and where we are going. It does not do us any good if we are only good at doing “church” once a week if we do not know how to build community outside those walls.

I. Remember that we’re designed for community

Paul uses the conflict between the Jews and the Gentiles to illustrate what it means to be part of a gospel community. The intense animosity between these two groups during Paul’s time spans across generations. But, Paul uses this conflict to express what happens when gospel community enters into the hearts of people. Communities are reoriented from a diverse people because when we experience Christ, radical grace becomes the foundational event in our lives. Our history, heritage, language, or race are no longer what identifies us. When we meet someone who has also been affected by Christ’s radical grace we have immediate commonality with them. We were designed to be united within a community marked by the grace that comes through Jesus Christ.

“We are united but different. We defer to one another but there is no hierarchy. We love without fear of being rejected. We serve people’s needs without being motivated to make sure our needs are met.”

II. Remember that there are distortions to community

We can easily bring our own assumptions into our communities which can create distortions because it misses God’s fullest intention for his people. Thus, we need to be aware of common inaccuracies that rob us of true community.

1. Community is Just Connection

When we make community only about connection it becomes a social networking platform based on convenience. If our goal is simply about connection, then it all falls apart when difficulties arise. There must be something that connects us more than what we have in common other than Christ.

2. Community as Counseling

Although community should be a place where we can be vulnerable, honest, and attempting to help one another through life’s struggles, it becomes a problem when we focus so much on these aspects that we only discuss our problems and forget to implement who Christ is in our lives.

3. Community is Just a Bible Study

Of course, we should be eager to learn more about Scripture. However, when a community becomes focused on transferring information rather than being transformed it becomes an issue.

4. Community Becomes a Clique

Cliques can occur when we have developed deep and intimate relationships with the people around us. We may not recognize it at first but this can lead to communities who turn their backs on newcomers because they lack the ability to immediately push people into the same level of camaraderie. We fail to allow newcomers in because we are more comfortable with those we are familiar with. If we alienate others in our communities then we are out of step with gospel community.

It is important to recognize that we cannot have gospel community without the first three aspects. We need connection, scripture study, and to work through sin. The problem comes when we substitute one or more of these aspects with the true unity that comes from access to God.  

“Without Christ we would not know our brother nor could we come to know him because the way is blocked by our own ego”

-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

III. Remember that we are redeemed to a new community

Before Christ came to reconcile all people to God, there was a time in which Gentiles could be killed if they tried to cross the threshold into the Jewish Temple where God’s presence rested. But Christ has brought peace between these two factions by tearing down the dividing wall and inviting all into a new community. Sin separates us from God and others which means we need access that only comes through Christ so that we can be part of the new community that he brings.

“It is not enough to be brought near to God, we need to be brought in.”


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript