Sermon Summary (May 14, 2017)
Mark 6:1-29 • Pastor Tim Tseng
Be a stepping stone, not a stumbling block.
Mark 6:1-29 describe two types of people who knew Jesus: stumbling blocks and stepping stones.
v. 3 “And they took offense at him.” The people in Jesus’ hometown had watched Jesus grow up and could not imagine that he could be someone more than what they knew of him when he was younger – Mary and Joseph’s boy – a carpenter. So when he returned with authority and power, they could not see him as anything else and were offended by him.
v. 4 “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” And the really strange thing in verses 5-6 is that Jesus could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at the lack of faith. In contrast, Jairus’ daughter and the bleeding woman from the previous chapter experienced healing because of faith. This lack of faith is a stumbling block to God’s work.
Today, let’s call this lack of faith the stuck-stack syndrome, where we remain stuck with a Veggie-tales version of Jesus (Jesus 1.0). As we grow up and face difficult challenges and questions about our faith, instead of moving forward, we keep piling rocks on Jesus 1.0. What do you think will happen if we keep making this stack of rocks higher and higher? It’ll come crashing down because only a more mature understanding of Jesus can respond to today’s challenges. But why do people get stuck-stack faith? Maybe fear of change? And even if the stack doesn’t fall down, it can become a stumbling block and trip up other people – especially our children as they grow intellectually.
The worst thing that moms or parents can do is become a stumbling block to their children’s spiritual growth. How? I believe there are two ways:
1. Teaching our kids that life is about stacking up achievements. Jesus 1.0 is just the first rock that we stack other achievements on top of. And when our children learn the truth about the gospel of grace and mercy, they will turn around and accuse parents (and our church) of hypocrisy and Pharisaism.
2. When moms and parents themselves don’t continue to grow their faith. Spiritually stunted parents will lead to immature kids will either lose their faith or accuse us of not really caring about Christian faith.
I propose that our moms start a fellowship called Mothers Against Stumbling Blocks (MASB). This fellowship will vow to avoid gossiping (before sharing about people ask “is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?), comparing, bullying, shaming, over-controlling. Also MASB will vow to grow personally (i.e., to go deeper into the bible and theology) so that we can help our children grow. In the end, MASB vow to become stepping stones into the Kingdom of God for our children and new Christians.
The author of Hebrews says in chapter 6, verse 1, “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God.”
If we want to not be a stumbling block, it is urgent that we move forward to Jesus 2.0 and not be stuck in Jesus 1.0. We must be stepping stones to help others move forward with Jesus. What is needed? Not just humility, but a genuine desire to learn and grow.
This desire to move forward and grow has always been a part of my faith. When I was invited to provide some historical background about Asian American Christian engagement into social justice at the Asian American alum conference at my seminary in New York City a few weeks ago, it forced me to study and teach. Two Saturdays ago at Menlo Church, I was part of a panel to talk about discipleship in today’s political climate. These speaking engagements give me the opportunity to help others deepen their faith.
I put effort into these endeavors because I want to be a stepping stone for Canaan and other Christians to become mature Kingdom-minded believers. I continue to grow to help create paths for our church members to follow me and also grow.
So, in the next part of Mark 6, Jesus send out his disciples two by two, preaching repentance and gave them authority over impure spirits. In short, Jesus’ disciples were to become stepping stones, not stumbling blocks, for others to God’s Kingdom.
The most important quality that the disciples are to embody is fearlessness.
1. Fearless disciples allow their lives demonstrate dependency on God (vv 8-10) “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town.” Jesus wants his disciples to be on the road and travel light. They should not invest in too many things. They shouldn’t buy homes, rather they should depend on the hospitality of others. Jesus encourages us to this most radical type of discipleship. But most of us cannot live this way.
But we can cultivate this mindset: “I will not settle for and depend on the things of this life, especially if they prevent me from bearing witness to Jesus and his kingdom. I want people to see in my life that I really make Jesus and his kingdom my priority.”
2. Okay with rejection (v. 11): “And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” Sometimes we cling so tightly to our families and friends, we cannot let them go. Well, what happens if they don’t welcome or listen to us when we talk to them about Jesus and his Kingdom? Should we abandon them and move on? Yes, sort of. Our purpose in life is to share Jesus with people who have not heard. So I think we should encourage those who reject Jesus to reduce their footprint in our lives so that others can use us as stepping stones to Jesus. This is a big sacrifice, but it requires a fearless trust that God is sovereign over our relationships.
3. John the Baptist was a shiny example of a stepping stone to Jesus (vv. 14-29) King Herod beheaded him; he gave up his life so that Jesus could shine. He was not the Messiah, but a messenger who helped others go to Jesus. Let’s look to him as our example.
CONCLUSION: Be a stepping stone, not a stumbling block.
God is inviting us to metanoia (repentance). Let us change our thoughts and behavior that cause our children, friends, neighbors, and enemies to stumble. Let’s let go of Jesus 1.0. Let’s break down our stuck-stack. Let’s repent of our lack of desire to grow closer to Jesus and deeper in our knowledge of our faith. Let’s repent of times when we are resistant to change.
Instead, let us become fearless stepping stones for the gospel of God’s Kingdom! Let us disciple our children, friends, neighbors and enemies to grow closer to the Savior and to mature their character and faith. Let us grow in grace and mercy, and truth and love.