The tragic massacre in Roseburg, Oregon, US has raised a lot of questions. Some news articles are claiming that one of the motives of the shooter may have been hatred of religion in general, or Christians in particular. Were the victims of the shootings martyrs? What is a martyr?
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What is a Christian Response to Terrorism?
The news these days is full of stories about the terrible things ISIL is doing in the name of their religion. What should the Christian response to these acts of terrorism be?
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“He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? 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. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.” (Mark 6:1-6)
Jesus Goes Home
There have been a huge amount of miracles in the past couple chapters. Jesus has been going back and forth from crisis to crisis, performing amazing miracles, even raising the dead! But now it’s time for Jesus to make a stop at home. If we look back to Mark 3:31-35 we read about Jesus’ family coming to try to get Him to come home, so He might be returning at the request of his mother and siblings. And after coming into his hometown, hanging out with his mother, brothers and sisters…. as is the custom in the Synagogue… Jesus the traveling teacher is asked to give the reading and the message during the Sabbath service.
Now, he’s already gained quite the reputation in the area. The parallel account of this event in Luke 4:16-29 gives us a bit more detail as to what was happening there.
“And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.” (vs 16-20)
You can already see the parallels between Mark and Luke. Jesus is asked to give the reading and message, but instead of keeping with the lectionary and reading whatever passage was supposed to be read that day, it seems that Jesus grabbed the scroll of Isaiah and opens it to a very specific passage outlining the mission of the coming messiah to inaugurate the Kingdom of God, preach repentance and salvation, heal people physically and spiritually, and free people from their oppressors. Then, as is the tradition of the day, he sits down to give the sermon.
Jesus Gives a Sermon About Jesus
Keep reading in verse 21:
“And he began to say to them, ‘Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”
Luke only gives us the title of Jesus’ sermon, but we can tell that there was a lot more explaining done by Jesus about what this passage meant and how it would be fulfilled.
Can you imagine getting a sermon from Jesus Himself? Can you imagine sitting in church and having Jesus Christ Himself sit down in front of you, open the prophet Isaiah, and explain to you about all the things that came before, how the prophets spoke of His coming, and then to explain His mission and what He would do? What an amazing sermon that would be.
It reminds me of what happened to the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Jesus had died, had rose again, and these two disciples were walking down the road, talking together, trying to figure out what had just happened in Jerusalem, when Jesus comes up behind them (though they didn’t know it was Him at first), calls them dumb for not being able to figure out what had just happened, and then teaches them (again!) about the mission and methods of the Messiah.
After Jesus leaves them they look at one another and say, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (Luke 24:32)
We would imagine that’s what it would be like to sit and listen to a sermon by Jesus Himself, right? Who wouldn’t repent and become a Christian if Jesus Christ Himself explained the whole Bible to them?!? So here is Jesus giving a sermon explaining Jesus to everyone. That should be a done deal!
Well, let’s keep reading at the end of verse 22:
“And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’”
Mark gives us a bit more of what they were saying:
“Where did this man get these things? 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?” (Mark 6:2-3)
They are absolutely blown away by His powerful teaching, and also His claim to be the Messiah! Now, this passage can be read two ways, right? It can either be”
“Wow! Isn’t this Joseph’s son?! Amazing! What a wonderful young man! How delightful to see Him grow up into the Messiah!”
“Wait, Isn’t this Joseph’s son? Where does He get off claiming to be somebody? What tricks does He have up His sleeve? This guy is a carpenter, not a preacher. He should stick to woodwork because He sounds crazy!”
It’s more likely the second one because look what comes right after in Mark 6:3, “And they took offense at Him.”
That word, “offense” is an important word because it comes up a lot in scripture. It’s the word SKANDALIZO which is where we get the English word “scandal”. A scandal, by definition, is “an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.” Outraged. Why is this word so important? Because it can also be translated “stumble”. And it is that word that describes why these people turned on Jesus and why people hate Christians today.
The Stumbling Stones
In Romans 9:30-33 we read,
“Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.’”
What is “the stumbling stone”? Thinking that salvation is about works. Thinking that we can work our way to heaven. We stumble when we believe that our relationship with Jesus is all about the physical and not the spiritual. Jesus was preaching that salvation was found by faith in Him.
There’s a lot of ways that people stumble over Jesus’ message and methods, getting worldly ways mixed up with His. People love the idea of Jesus saving them and giving them abundant life, and joy, and love, and peace – all the benefits of being a Christian, but they stumble over how He does it.
Let’s turn back to the scripture in Luke 4:18-19 where Jesus tells us about Himself and His mission, and see how many ways people stumble over Jesus.
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Stumbling over Exclusivity
He says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”. Their first stumbling block is Jesus’ exclusivity. That Jesus is the “the way, the truth, and the life, [and that] no one comes to the Father except through [Him].” (John 14:6)
When He said “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing”, He was saying, “I’m here. I’m the Messiah. Salvation is found in a relationship with me as your Lord and your Saviour. Follow me, trust me, put me in charge. I’m your God, you’re my people. I’m Creator, you’re creation. I’m God, you’re not. I have been ‘anointed’, chosen, set apart, and am uniquely equipped to accomplish what I have come to do. There is no other God besides My Father. There is ‘there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’ (Acts 4:12)”
People today really struggle with this claim. They might like Jesus, but they also want to be able to set their own path. And therefore, when Jesus claims to be the only way, they react the same way as the people of Nazareth did. They “take offence” at him. They want a God of their own design and a Saviour of their own choosing. They want to have the assurance that their good works earned them something. They want to know that their wealth, or creativity, or sacrifice makes them better than others – more worthy of God’s attention.
They like parts of other religions and want to mix them into Christianity. They disagree with some of the tough things that the Bible says about sin so they want to be able to pick and choose what is right and wrong. Though they want to go to heaven and get all the benefits of knowing Jesus, they are not willing to conform their concept of God to who Jesus revealed Himself to be.
Many people are so offended by His exclusivity that they create a different Jesus. One they like better. A nicer Jesus. A more politically correct Jesus. A less offensive, less divisive, less demanding Jesus. They cut the parts out of His Word that they don’t like and write in their own. They make arguments about how Jesus would have moved on from His archaic thinking and would be more like them today. They invent a new Jesus because the real Jesus is too hard to get over. They stumble over the real Jesus.
Stumbling over Humility
The next thing Jesus says is that He has come “to proclaim good news to the poor.”
Just like the original hearers, many people perk up when Jesus says this! The payoff! Jesus wants to make poor people rich! He just said so, right? That’s “good news”! What better news could there be then that Jesus would make us all economically secure. Money equals happiness, right?
People really stumble over this. False teachers twist and turn the scriptures so that they say exactly the opposite of what Jesus means. A lot of people come to Jesus because of this reason – they want wealth and financial security. But that’s not what Jesus promised.
The good news of salvation is not merely for the financially poor, but for those who are “poor in spirit”. Jesus says in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 5:3)
Jesus cares for the poor, but He does not save them by making them economically happy. Instead, Jesus saves people who understand that they are spiritually poor and have nothing can offer God. Another word for that is Humility. “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) He’s not looking for people who think they can save themselves, or believe that God cares about how rich they are. Jesus saves people who know they are sinners, completely spiritually bankrupt, and who are desperately in need of His help to be saved and forgiven.
This is such a stumbling block for people because people hate the idea of being humiliated and love the idea of being exalted. So when Jesus lays out the path of salvation as one that happens on your knees, they are offended. Praying a salvation prayer like David did in Psalm 51 is a remarkable act of humiliation:
“Have mercy on me, O God,… Purge me… wash me… create in me a clean heart… Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, O God of my salvation… For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51)
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is true… as long as your realize that the “wonderful plan” God has for you includes discipline, suffering, sacrifice and humiliation. Most people wouldn’t call that a wonderful plan – but then most people don’t see things the way Jesus does.
A lot of Christians still stumble in this.
- Every time we come to Jesus with an ultimatum, we are making the same mistake as the people of Nazareth, and the Israelites that Paul was condemning.
- Whenever we say, “If it’s God’s will, then the doors will open and the path will be easy.” we are making the same mistake.
- Whenever we look at our church or our ministries and say, “God, your job is to make this grow financially and numerically or we’ll quit.” then we are falling into the same error.
- When we come to Jesus and say, “Ok, I’ll give you my heart, as long as you heal my family member, take away all my addictions, give me a good job, and make my life easier…” we are showing that we are stumbling over humility.
A Christian prayer says, “Our Father in Heaven, we worship and hold your name up high. You are the king, we are part of your kingdom, we put ourselves under your Lordship. We also put ourselves under your provision and ask for our daily bread. We will not fight, or steal, or hoard, or go into debt to get it… we’ll trust you to provide for our needs. We come to you to for forgiveness because we cannot forgive ourselves. Salvation is found in you alone. We choose to forgive those who have wronged us because their debt to us is nothing in comparison to our debt to you. (Matthew 18:21-35) And we come to you for spiritual protection because you are Lord of everything – the created world and the spiritual. We are nothing without you. We have nothing without you. We will be humble because you have told us to be and showed us how.”
Think of the words of Philippians 2:1-8 which say,
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Stumbling over Lordship
Next Jesus read that “He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives…to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” Jesus did miraculous healings and dramatic exorcisms to prove His Lordship over Satan. And He proclaimed people forgiven by God to show his ability to release people from the bondage of sin.
The people listening thought that Jesus would deliver them the way that God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt or Babylon, but He showed that the proclamation of “liberty to the captives” was not about political prisoners who were captive to human oppressors (which the Jewish people really wanted) but about releasing people from the greater captors of sin and Satan.
But those He was talking to, and many people today, are to short sighted to see that. They stumble over the idea of switching their masters. Jesus said in John 8:34-36,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Master and Slave is the language the New Testament uses to describe people’s spiritual condition. People want to be free from their sin, but they don’t want to admit that they are enslaved by it. And they especially don’t like the idea of submitting to Jesus as Lord. Jesus doesn’t allow for half measures though. This life isn’t about being either a slave or a free person, but about which Master you will serve. Jesus comes to “proclaim liberty to captives” by saying, “I’ve saved you and now you are mine!”
In Romans 6:16-19 says it this way,
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.”
You can’t be a citizen of both the Kingdom of God and the World. This ties into what we’ve already been talking about. It’s about Jesus’ exclusive claim to be the only way. It’s about humbling ourselves and making Jesus our Lord.
Yes, we believe that salvation is a free gift from God. Our salvation has been purchased by the shed blood of Jesus on the cross, and we can do nothing to add to that. Our faith in the saving work of Jesus is what allows the Great Exchange of our sin for Jesus righteousness to happen. But along with faith in Jesus as our way of salvation is the belief that He is God and worthy of being Lord of our Life.
People today hate this whole idea. They hate the idea of admitting that they are slaves to sin. They hate the idea of having to come under the Lordship of Jesus.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” We were captives of the kingdom of death, sin and Satan, and Jesus purchased us with His blood. Now we’re His property.
A slave can’t have two masters and doesn’t get to make their own choices. Christians don’t say, “No, Lord, I won’t.” Christians can’t worship God and idols. We can’t trust God and at the same time put ourselves into debt. We can’t go to someone else for provision. We are not our own highest authority. Jesus Christ is.
My body isn’t mine to do with as I want – it’s God’s. It was destined to burn in Hell and Jesus traded His blood for me, and now I’m His – Heart, Soul, Mind and Body. Instead we “Submit ourselves to God.” (James 4:7) because we believe what the rest of the Philippians 2 passage says:
“God has highly exalted [Jesus] and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)
Christians are the ones who bow first – knowing that at some point, ever other knee will bow too. People hate to bow. So they hate Jesus.
Can you see now why listening to a sermon from Jesus resulted in Him being rejected by His hometown? It’s the same reason people hate Him today. They didn’t want Jesus the way Jesus wanted to give Himself to them. They wanted what Jesus could do. They wanted His miracles, not Him, not salvation through Him. And He wouldn’t perform for them.
Jesus knew what was on their hearts, and He knew why all these people had come to the Synagogue that day. They wanted to see Him perform. They wanted miracles. In Capernaum Jesus was presented with a paralyzed man who was lowered from the roof, right in front of Him. And Jesus, in view of everyone, proclaimed the man forgiven of his sins and then healed him so he could pick up his mat and walk out the door! Both of those are miracles. To touch someone who is paralyzed and make them walk is a miracle! And to be saved and forgiven from sin, cleansed before God and fit to live forever in His presence is also a miracle!
Guess which miracle the people wanted from Jesus?
They didn’t come to be saved. They didn’t want to hear that Jesus was the One sent by God to save them from their sins. They wanted Jesus to do miracles. They didn’t want Jesus to bring them from Satan and Death. They wanted healing from their diseases, freedom from their troubles, food for their hunger, and deliverance from their oppressors. They didn’t want to make Jesus Lord of their life, they just wanted Him to make their life better. They didn’t want Him as Master. They wanted Him to fix it so they could live without discipline, suffering, sacrifice and humiliation.
And so, we read in Luke 4:28-29,
“When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.”
That’s the reaction people have to the real person and message of Jesus. Jesus won’t play their game and be their Santa Clause, so they are offended. They fill with wrath, they drive Him and anyone who proclaims Him out of anywhere they can find Him. They harm, persecute, crush, punish, and try to drive Him and everything He says off of the nearest cliff.
That’s happening in Canada and the US. You’ve probably felt it. You can feel the noose tightening around believers in North America. It’s certainly happening in Iraq and Syria and many other places in the world. We should be outraged, saddened, and broken hearted for our brothers and sisters… but we shouldn’t be surprised.
Jesus says in John 15:18-23,
“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also.”
And 1 Peter 4:12-19 says,
“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ‘If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?’ Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”
The Recovery of Sight to the Blind
Yes, there have been a lot of people who have done some horrible, even hateful things in the name of Christianity, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about people who hate Christians who act like Christians. They hate Christians because they hate Jesus.
- They hate that He says He’s the only way.
- They hate that He calls them to humiliate themselves before Him.
- They hate that they have to admit that they are slaves to sin and Satan.
- They hate that Jesus says there is nothing they can do to save themselves.
- They hate that Jesus is God and won’t do what they want Him to do.
- They hate that Jesus doesn’t choose their kind of people.
- They hate that His salvation doesn’t equal earthly happiness.
- They hate that they have to believe they are absolutely wrong about a lot of things.
- They hate having to put themselves under God’s Word.
- They hate that Jesus forgives all kinds of sin, even the people they don’t like, even the people that hurt them.
- They hate that He doesn’t give preferential treatment to their people, race, nation, or group.
- And they hate anyone associated with Him and His ideas.
But Jesus came as the Anointed Messiah of God to “to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind…”. Jesus showed in His miracles that He could cure the physically blind – even those blind from birth – and it was a way to show that He had the power, not just over physical blindness, but spiritual blindness.
We must remember that these people who hate Jesus and His people so much are spiritually blind– just as we once were. They “walk in darkness” and are blinded by Satan (John 8:12; 1 John 1:6; Romans 1:18-32, 2 Corinthians 4:4) .
“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:18)
But Jesus can make the blind see and release the captives! That has to be our prayer. We want them to see, just as we see, and that is a miracle that God has to work. 2 Corinthians 4:6 says,
“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
And that’s the only thing that is going to help. We need Jesus to shine His light into the hearts of these people, just as He has ours. We need to love them as He has loved us. Forgive as we’ve been forgiven. To grant them mercy just as He has granted us mercy.
Let us pray this for our unsaved family members and friends, and for our enemies and those who are persecuting the church. And let us pray for ourselves, that we will continue to live in the light. Trusting in Jesus alone, humbling ourselves before Him, and making Him our Lord every day.