“They Were Astounded, He Was Amazed”                                             July 8, 2012

II Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 & Mark 6:1-13                                           Stephens City UMC


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.


I.                   It was almost 1,900 years after Jesus that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned these words to come from the mouth of Sherlock Holmes, “I am somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?” (The Adventure of the Dying Detective)

A.    The great sleuth Sherlock Holmes was driven to combat crime but it was tiring work, especially when he felt that others who were suppose to work with him were non-responsive.

1.     For Holmes it was frustrating to expend so much energy and nothing good come out of it because of the lack of commitment or effort or even faith in him by others.

2.     It had the effect that no mighty work was done.

B.     In our New Testament lesson for today Jesus expressed amazement over the fact that the people for whom he had come to help were so lacking in faith that the result was that he was able to manifest very little power.

1.     It was like the residents of Nazareth were non-conductors.

2.     Jesus had all the power in heaven and earth but nothing flowed from him through their community because of their unbelief.

C.     This passage has an interesting contrast.

1.     Mark informs us that after Jesus began to teach in his hometown synagogue that many were astounded because he just came across as incredibly wise and they had heard stories about the deeds of great power that had been done by his hands.

2.     Now, I’ll want to say more about why they were astounded, but the fact is that they were impressed by what they had heard about Jesus and what they heard from Jesus.

3.     It was like, “wow,” that’s really something what he is saying and doing.

4.     The contrast comes in verses 5 and 6 in this sixth chapter of Mark as we are informed that “(Jesus) could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.”

5.     The people were astounded by the reports of what Jesus had done in other places and by what they heard from his mouth, yet that did not engender faith in them so that he was amazed at their unbelief because their lack of faith frustrated the accomplishment of holy work.

6.     What is going on here?

II.                 Well, the people of Nazareth were astounded because they just couldn’t believe that their hometown boy was capable of all they were hearing and seeing.

A.    After all, he was only a carpenter.

1.     They knew him.

2.     They knew his family.

3.     They could recall stories from him growing up with them and their kids.

4.     He had been their neighbor.

5.     All the evidence supported that he was an ordinary guy.

6.     Nothing special about him.

B.     Today there are people who would still say that there is nothing special about Jesus and they would point to him being a carpenter as a way of saying “He was probably a nice guy but he was just an ordinary Joe.”

1.     They’d take the position that Jesus was a blue collar worker and of course in our society it’s not the blue collar workers but the technology people who are considered to have the power.

2.     These doubters in Jesus might turn to some ancient writings and scripture itself to support their belief.

3.     In the second century, the Greek philosopher Celsus ridiculed Christianity for claiming that Jesus was the Son of God because Jesus was “a carpenter by trade (“Origen against Celsus” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers in Eerdmans reprint, 1979, Volume IV, 589).”

4.     It was Celsus’ opinion that if God had wanted to come in human form that He would have come as a philosopher but certainly not as an ordinary carpenter.

5.     Philosophers made power flow through ideas and theories, but carpenters weren’t intellectually savvy so they just worked with their hands.

6.     By no means were carpenters leadership material or worthy of being called Lord.

7.     Carpentry work is OK as long as there isn’t anything else one can do in life.

C.     But there are two fallacies to this line of thinking by the Greek philosophers.

1.     The first, as many before me have observed, is that “if a society thinks that philosophers are superior to plumbers, neither its pipes nor its theories hold water (Proclaim, p. 2, July 8, 2012).”

2.     The Greeks were deep and profound thinkers, skilled in mathematics and science who contemplated how the world functioned.

3.     But they didn’t get their hands dirty in doing plumbing or carpentry so they had plenty of theories but they never built anything to do the experiments needed to test those theories.

4.     To the Greeks the defining and understanding of the flow of power belonged to the educated philosophers but that left those deep thinkers void of the power to do more than speculate about the world and how it functioned.

5.     It would be centuries before such experiments would be conducted and the philosophers’ theories tested all because they wouldn’t use their hands.

D.    The second fallacy for the philosophers was that they didn’t understand the true meaning of technology.

1.     What I learned in researching this passage to preach today is that the Greek word of carpenter is “tekton” and guess what word comes from tekton – it’s the word “technology.”

2.     Tekton can be applied to those who work with wood as well as with stone or metal.

3.     Therefore this mere “carpenter” worked with more than just wood but with a lot of things to get his work done.

4.     Jesus worked with a lot of things because his job was more than building tables and chairs.

5.     His job was to repair and to restore humanity and the entire creation and that required a lot of energy to flow.

6.     The philosophers failed to recognize that Jesus pushed technology in the broad sense of the word further than it had ever been pushed before and even further than all our technological accomplishments in our modern day and age.

7.     The technology of computers and sending a space shuttle into outer space and returning it are impressive but none of that equals the technological work in which Jesus is engaged which is the repair and restoration of humanity and the entire creation.

8.     For that technology to be successful Jesus more than philosophical theories but instead used his hands, the evidence of which is the cross.

III.              And here’s what our scripture passage for today helps us to realize and that is that Jesus expects us to put our hands to this work.

A.    That’s really an astounding thing to be asked to do such tekton sort of work but Jesus is amazing and from his perspective he’s amazed that we don’t leap to the opportunity.

1.     He’s sort of like my high school Geometry teacher.

2.     Mr. Moore would do anything to help you learn and to master geometry.

3.     If you couldn’t do a homework problem you were to call him at home at night and he’d help you.

4.     I called him a lot.

5.     One night the text book had an additional assignment beyond the solving of the five problems.

6.     The additional assignment was to use drinking straws to create some geometric figure and it would have taken an additional hour to create this figure.

7.     That was an unusual amount of time for a homework assignment plus it meant using our hands instead of just thinking and scribbling a short answer on a piece of paper so none of us did it.

8.     The next day we went over the homework and then Mr. Moore asked to see our drinking straw creations.

9.     We were astounded that he expected us to do that work and he was amazed that we hadn’t.

10.             It was awfully quiet in the classroom when the reality set in that no mighty deed had been done because we had been unwilling to use our hands.

11.             I guess it was too much technology for us.

12.             Even today I can remember his disappointment and the disappointment I still feel in myself over missing that opportunity and in letting him down.

IV.              So let me offer two final observations and the first is to beware of the temptation that befell the people of Nazareth.

A.    The way that could play out for you would be for you to say to yourself “Oh Jesus. Yes, I’ve known him for many years, since I was a child” and then you can actually allow that familiarity to weaken his impact on your life to the point that you become like a non-conductor for doing the will of God.

B.     And the second observation is that I think being in mission with Jesus such as our friends from Simsburg UMC are on their way to do and Diantha Hodges who is speaking tonight about her mission work in the Sudan and the Voices of Youth who will be singing here Wednesday night and offering testimony about working in Joplin, Missouri, and in August when John Elmore speaks about his mission work in Chile and when we hear reports about our Food Pantry and so much more, that’s when we allow the relationship with Jesus to be empowering and productive because we join him in doing the work of a tekton.

C.     So how about just like I learned a lesson in life from my Geometry teacher because I failed to put my hands to the work, let us learn from the failure of the people of Nazareth to put their hands to the work?

1.     Let us not drain Jesus of energy like Sherlock Holmes’ friends and associates did when he felt like he was pouring energy into a non-conductor.

2.     Instead let us become tektons so that we do what Jesus is asking of us and that is to help him in accomplishing the mighty technological work of repairing humanity and restoring the creation.