Thursday, August 18, 2011

Sermon preview--Why Doesn't Everyone Believe?

The movie Back to the Future came out when I was a teenager. I read recently that Bob Gale, the screenwriter, came up with the idea of the movie when he found his father’s old High School yearbook, and it made him wonder if he would have been friends with his dad if he could have gone back in time to when his dad was a teenager. In the movie, the main character is Marty McFly, and his dad George is sort of the classic loser. From all present indications, Marty is headed down the same road. Marty is a musician, and his girlfriend urges him to send in an audition tape of his music so that he can be “discovered.” But he says, “Well, what if I take the tape in and they don't like it, what if they say I'm no good, what if they say "Get out of here kid. You've got no future." I just don't think I can handle that kind of rejection.” Later, Marty goes back 30 years into the past and meets a teenaged version of his father. He learns things about his dad he never knew, like the fact that George McFly likes to write science fiction stories. Marty urges his dad to send those stories to a publisher, but then blushes in shame as he hears his own dad say, “What if they don’t like it? What if I’m no good? I just don’t think I could handle that kind of rejection.”

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:1-23) is about a very different kind of rejection. As we return to our year-long look at the parables of Jesus, we’re going to focus these next few weeks on parables of the Kingdom, stories that talk about our part in helping God’s Kingdom spread on Earth. When Jesus told this one, His disciples were beginning to get discouraged. They had left everything to follow this man who they were convinced was the Messiah. And for a while, thousands of Israelites seemed to agree. Jesus was cheered by crowds, mobbed by curious onlookers, and swamped with requests for healing, which He always honored. He was the most famous man in Israel. For the disciples, this must have been very exciting; they were in on the ground floor of something really big. Someday soon, He would be king, and since they were part of the original entourage, surely they would receive hefty rewards. But even more, they looked forward to all the good this man would do when one day everyone bowed before Him. All the enticing prophecies of the Scriptures were about to come true…wolves would lie down with lambs, the evil would be punished, and Israel would be blessed. Then things started to change. The religious leaders made it clear that they thought Jesus was a heretic at best; He might even be a demon in human disguise. People started to fall away. The crowds melted like ice cream on a summer sidewalk. Jesus knew His disciples were discouraged; but He also knew it was going to get worse before it got better. The cross was coming, and afterwards, those disciples would face persecution and martyrdom. So He told this parable to explain why some people don’t believe.

We live two thousand years after these events, but we Christians feel the same sort of discouragement. It’s well known that Christianity’s influence in our culture is growing smaller by the day. More and more, people in America see Jesus as a great and admirable historical figure, but one who has no real relevance on their lives. There is no end to the books and sermons and blog posts that try to explain why this is. But we have Christ’s words on the subject right here. So why do some people reject the Good News about Jesus? Why doesn’t everyone believe? That's what we'll talk about this Sunday.

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