I spent this past weekend in Howell, New Jersey, where we held an Expositors Collective training weekend at Cornerstone Calvary Chapel. My wife came with me, which was fun. It was only our second time taking a trip without our kids, and we got to spend time serving together, visiting friends, and going to the beach at the glorious Jersey shore!
During our time in Howell, we heard a great message on Mark 6:1-6 from our friend David Guzik, who is part of the Expositors Collective team.
If you haven’t heard of David before, check out his website: enduringword.com. Part of David’s life-work has been the creation of a great resource, a free online commentary of the whole Bible, which is now being translated into many languages. His ministry Enduring Word also provides audio messages, podcasts, videos, and books to help equip people with an understanding of God’s Word.
“Many who heard him were impressed”
In Mark 6, we read about how Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, where his mother and (half)siblings still lived, and preached in the synagogue there. It says there in verse that “many who heard him were impressed”.
Think about that for a second… These people got to see Jesus himself open up the Scriptures and teach. His words were the very words of God! What an absolutely epic experience!
You would assume that EVERYONE who heard him teach would have been impressed, their lives irreversibly changed as a result. And yet, it says that ”MANY” were impressed; in other words, SOME people were not impressed! Some people heard Jesus teach, and were like, “Meh.” 🤷♂️
As a preacher, I find it strangely comforting to know that there were people who heard Jesus preach, who weren’t impressed. I shouldn’t be surprised; it is well within our human nature to be cynical and critical of even the most beautiful, true, and life-giving words.
May we who speak and teach God’s Word never do so out of an insecure, desperate need for human accolades and approval, but out of a love for God and love for people that leads us to lovingly present the truth of God’s words for them.
They thought they knew him, but they didn’t
Many were surprised because they thought they knew Jesus, and they were realizing that, in fact, they didn’t actually know him.
In verses 2-3, we are told that the people said: ‘What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.”
The people of Nazareth thought they knew who Jesus was. They saw him growing up. They knew him as the carpenter. But they were coming to realize that although they thought they knew who Jesus was, they did not in fact know him.
The reality is that there are many people, even today, who are in this same situation; they assume that they know who Jesus is and what he is all about, while in fact they do not really know him. I came to a similar realization as a young man: through the help of a friend, I came to realize that I did not actually know Jesus, though I thought I had it all pegged.
It is a good day in a person’s life when they come to realize that Jesus is much more than they ever thought him to be previously. If that hasn’t happened for you yet, I pray it will; that you will see him for who he fully is, and respond appropriately.
The Expositors Collective is a growing network of pastors, leaders, and laypeople which exists to equip, encourage, and mentor the next generation of Christ-centered preachers through two-day interactive training seminars, a weekly podcast, and ongoing mentoring relationships.
If you can’t make it to Howell in September, considering joining us at one of our events in 2020:
February 21-22, 2020 – Las Vegas, Nevada
May 8-9, 2020 – Seattle, Washington
October 2020 – Honolulu, Hawaii
These 2-day interactive seminars are for young men and women ages 18-34 who feel called to teach God’s Word and would like to receive instruction and ongoing mentorship in this area. If that’s you, then you won’t want to miss this – or if you know someone else who would benefit from this, send them our way!
For more information and to sign up, go to: expositorscollective.com
On the website you can see a list of some of the Bible teachers who will be coming to the event to serve as group leaders and speakers.
Have you ever noticed that many of the stories that you love, all have the same core elements?
This is a reality which played a major role in CS Lewis’ conversion from atheism to Christianity, as he discussed it with his friend JRR Tolkien. I told that story in this post, called Addison’s Walk.
Lewis later articulated this concept in Mere Christianity, in which he described how the gospel story of Jesus Christ is the “true myth,” and the fundamental myth, which is written on the human heart, and to which all other myths point.
Joseph Campbell and the Monomyth
It isn’t only Christians who have observed this phenomenon. Joseph Campbell, an American professor of literature who researched comparative mythology, wrote a book titled, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he showed how there is a common structure in the mythological stories told in all human cultures of an archetypal hero. This structure has come to be known as the “monomyth.”
This podcast episode gives a very engaging description of the monomyth theory and how Hollywood has now begun to use it as a formula for writing stories that people want to watch: Imaginary Worlds, The Hero’s Journey: Endgame
Why Do People Like to Read These Kinds of Stories?
Interestingly, when Joseph Campbell was asked why he thought it was stories contain these common elements, which are all present in the biblical narrative, his response was that the reason people write in this way, is because it is what other people like to read. However, in that response he fails to answer the question and get to the root of the issue, which is: Why do people like to read these kinds of stories?
As Christians, we would agree with Tolkien and Lewis, that the reason for this is because we are created by God, and this story is the true story of the world, which we intuitively know because God has placed it in our minds and put it in our hearts.
This same theme was identified by Don Richardson, a missionary to Papua New Guinea who discovered that there are common virtues and mythologies held in all cultures in the world, and that these shared stories create a basis by which the gospel can be shared cross-culturally, even to people who have never been exposed to the gospel before. He documents and explains this in his books Peace Childand Eternity in Their Hearts.
In our interview, Mike mentions a clip from the Simpsons in which Homer says something profound about the Bible: “Everybody in this book is a sinner… except for THIS GUY!” Here’s the clip:
I recently found out that at the end of the series, J K Rowling revealed that Christianity inspired Harry Potter. In an interview, she stated how she always thought that the influence of the biblical narrative was so obvious that every reader should have noticed it, and that the Bible verses on Harry’s parents’ gravestones “sum up and epitomize the entire story.”
What does all this mean for us?
It means that when you read a story that compels you, when you watch a movie that makes you cry, when you read a news story about heroism that touches your heart, there is a very profound reason for that: that story resonates with and reflects the true story of the world, the gospel story of Jesus Christ – the true story of the ultimate problem, the ultimate peril, the ultimate act of sacrificial love, the ultimate story of good overcoming evil, and the ultimate hero.
If you follow the ladder all the way to the top, it will lead you to Jesus. As you enjoy these stories, don’t fail to recognize that what you truly long for in your heart of hearts is nothing less than Jesus himself and the redemption that is found in him!
The message was on the topic of homiletics, which is the art of preaching well.
In the talk I described why it is that someone can present a message which is accurate and true, and yet so crushingly boring that it makes you want to cry. I also give some instruction on how not to do that, and how to teach and preach well by tapping into the power of narrative. Finally I give a few very practical tips about structure, illustrations and preparation.