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Uncommon Jesus

Date: Apr. 19, 2014

Author: Jimmy Mei

Matthew 

Key Verse: Matthew 

Good morning to all of you and welcome to our 2014 Easter Conference! As you can see, the title of our retreat this year is “Uncommon.” According to google, uncommon means ‘rare’ or ‘very great.’ One example of how you many use this word is: it would uncommon for Cubs to win a world series. Or it would be uncommon to win the Mega Millions Jackpot by playing the lottery. Now, I realize, those are very worldly and materialistic examples I just gave. The unfortunate truth is that spirituality has become more and more uncommon in our lives. We tend to busy ourselves with things we have to deal with in this world: going to work, doing my projects, studying for exams, paying bills, buying groceries, etc. Yet, our eternity rests in the spiritual realm, so we really should not be neglecting ourselves from seeking God. Therefore, my hope is that together, over this weekend, we can return to and be reminded of the spiritual side of things. Let us examine Christian life and Christianity itself a little deeper and begin to see why it may be considered uncommon. Let’s pray.

I thought we might start with examining the centerpiece of our faith: Jesus Christ. I know that many of us have heard about Jesus before and we all have our own perception of who he is. Many of us know the correct answer when we are asked who Jesus is: he is the Son of God, he is my Savior, he died on the cross for my sins, etc. We hear so much about Jesus it hardly brings any wonder to hearts anymore; we forget about the uncommonality of Christ. Think about it for yourself. Close your eyes, picture Jesus in your mind. What do you see? Is it some guy with long hair in a white robe, wearing sandals? That’s what most paintings depict him as. But this image doesn’t really capture how amazing Jesus was. So, please join me in painting a composite picture of Christ, using four different vignettes, of just how uncommon, how great, and, in fact, unique Jesus was.

Join me? You don’t even know who I am yet. Apologies for not introducing myself earlier. My name is Jimmy Mei and I stand before as a sinner that knows the uncommon grace of Jesus. He healed a heart that broken by my parent’s divorce and deaths in my family. God showed his love for me through many of his servants here and I’ve been here in this ministry since I was in high school. I left for a few years during my collegiate years at Ohio State and returned to Chicago to start my medical training at UIC. Therefore, it shouldn’t be too far a stretch of the imagination for me to tell you that the first thing that came to my mind when I meditated on what makes Jesus uncommon is his healing power. We have all heard of to some extent of the miracles of Jesus, and if not, you will soon enough when you start studying his life. If doctors today could do what Jesus did back then, we would all soon cure our way out of a job.

But picture this. You’re in first century Judea. You’re sick. You have few options. There were two types of “physicians” back in those days: the more “professional physicians” who trained at Greco-Romans or Alexandrian schools and the “charismatic folk healer” who would do apprenticeships under an existing healer. While professionals used herbal concoctions and tools for rudimentary surgery, folk healers would use incantations, prayers, and magic. Generally, the poor would see the folk healers because they would be unable to pay much and so in turn, the rich would hire “professional physicians” to heal their sick. We have made leaps and bounds in our discoveries in medicine in the 2000 or so years since that time and yet there are still diseases and afflictions that we can’t cure. So you can imagine, the life span and prognosis for the sick back then was not great. Yet, Jesus could cure afflictions that doctors neither of that time nor this time could cure. Let’s take a look at an example in Mark 5:25-29:

25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.

This woman gave everything she had and suffered a great deal, yet, she was could not be healed for 12 years. Think about what kind of life she must have lived. Always bleeding, getting it smeared into her clothing, leaving the stench of dried blood around her all times. Who would want to live like this? No one would want to be around you. You would feel uncomfortable in the presence of other people and she must have had a lot of anxiety about it. And with all that blood loss, she must have been anemic and fatigued. Yet, at the mere touch of Jesus’ cloak (not that Jesus touched her or even that she touched Jesus, but that she touched Jesus’ cloak), she was healed from her twelve years of suffering. What amazing, uncommon healing power Jesus has.

And now only to heal the physically sick, but the spiritually sick as well: in Luke 8:26-39, we see him healing two demon-possessed men:

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes,which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

What does this show us? It means that with Jesus, both physical and spiritual healing are one and the same. If you didn’t notice the first time around, look again: there are two parts to each healing story: he heals the man from his demon possession, which physically meant no more seizures, no more foaming of the mouth, and being well-groomed. But at the end of the story, Jesus also tells him to return home and tell how much God has done for you, and he did. Jesus healed his broken, lonely spirit and transformed it into a joyful one. Ah, but what about the first story, when Jesus healed the bleeding woman. That one is my bad, there’s actually a second part to that story. In Mark 5:30-34, it says:

30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”

31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”

32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

In the Greek translation, the Greek word, ‘sozo’ was both to describe her being healed and her been freed from suffering, or in other words, saved. Sozo means both ‘to heal’ and ‘to save,’ which put in another way means ‘to make whole.’ Therefore, when Jesus heals us, when he ‘sozo’ us, he makes us whole both heals us physically and saves us spiritually. So this woman, whom he physically healed and stopped her bleeding, Jesus did not let her get away. He stopped her and spoke to her about her faith; he wanted to heal her spiritually too. He wanted to make her whole. Because when Jesus heals us, he heals us wholly. Why do I go on and on about Jesus as an uncommon healer? Because I want you to see that he can heal even that which is uncommonly healed; he can heal things that we thought could never be healed. And what we tend to forget is that Jesus wants to heal us. This brings us to John 5:1-9:

Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

“Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

So to recap, again, we see how Jesus healed this man wholly. Jesus healed this man’s physical paralyzed condition that could not be cured medically. But he also restored this man’s helpless and hopeless spirit and enabled him. Honestly, we all have our own personal problems to deal with and some seem to be insurmountable, uncontrollable, unsolvable. But nothing is such with Jesus. Is there a physical need that you have? Maybe you’ve been wounded and you’re undergoing rehab. Jesus can help you. Do you have an emotional need? Maybe you’re haunted by your past and there are things that you resent or regret. Jesus can help you. Do you have a relationship need? Maybe you feel lonely, misunderstood, separated from the people you love. Jesus can help you. Do you have an intellectual need? Maybe you struggle with fear, doubt, or purposeless in your life. Jesus can help you too! I believe that like the invalid at the pool of Bethesda in John 5:6, Jesus asks us, “Do you want to get well?” Reach out to Christ for healing. Or maybe you think you don’t need healing right now; maybe your life is fine and great and you don’t need any help. Well, we all envy you. But think about it: what causes you distress, what robs of peace, what do you struggle with, what do you want to be forgiven of? And when you’re ready, just know that Jesus is there, asking you, do you want to get well, ready to do some wholly uncommon healing.

I told you earlier that Christ healed my broken heart and filled me with hope. Perhaps that’s why I chose to go into medicine, so I could heal others as well. But, if I didn’t end up in medical school, I would have pursued a career in education and become a teacher. Now, it turns out that Jesus is an uncommon teacher as well. In those days, young Jewish boys started formal education at the age of 5, and begin to learn the Jewish law at age 10. Formal education was completed by age 18. If one wished to pursue the highest education, they would go to a great or renowned teacher and ask to be their disciple. Sounds like our system now, right? Start kindergarten at age 5, middle school around age 10, finish high school by 18, and if you want higher learning, apply to the college or university you want to attend.

So how does this make Jesus an uncommon teacher? Well, for one we expect our teachers to have some sort of degree, training, certificate, or qualification that gives them the authority to teach. Jesus didn’t really possess that worldly authority; never did finish his degree in education. In fact, a carpenter, so people always did question his authority. We know this because in Mark 6:3 and Mark 11:27-28, it says:

Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”

Then, to make himself even more uncommon, he went and chose his own disciples. On top of that, even the disciples he chose were uncommon because he chose fisherman and tax collectors. Nobody would think a fisherman could become a great spiritual leader. Yet, Jesus, because he was an uncommon teacher, he had an uncommon vision for even common people to become great people. Jesus doesn’t need us to have a doctorate of theology to be able to use us. He can use engineers, waiters, architects, IT people and help us do great things, which gives me hope. I mean who am I? I am nobody great; I am a common sinner. Yet, even now, God gives me the spirit to stand here and do something that I never thought I would ever do when I was younger. And if you give Jesus a chance and learn from him, I absolutely believe he will show you greater things than even you could have imagined.

So, fine Jesus is an uncommon teacher. So what? There are plenty of teachers in this world. Why should I listen to this one? Especially since I just told you that Jesus didn’t have degree, never served as a disciple of a distinguished Pharisee, and didn’t possess any worldly qualification as a teacher. Well, it’s because he speaks the truth and speaks it with the greatest authority. Let’s look at Matthew 7:28-29 and John 8:14.

28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.

14 Jesus answered, “Even if I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is valid, for I know where I came from and where I am going.”

He teaches us about Heaven and about his Father God because he’s the one who’s been there. He’s seen God. How many other teachers in the world can say that? He knows where he’s been. He knows where he’s going back to. I don’t even know where I’m going for dinner later. But Jesus, the uncommon teacher, teaches with uncommon authority from an uncommon place, God himself, not a certification board or a national panel. The crowds were amazed his teaching distinctly because he did not speak like one of the teachers of the law. Nothing against the teachers of the law, but they taught the law as a set of rules to follow, and so help you God if you ever broke any of them. It was used as a way to punish and reprimand you for doing bad things. But Jesus because he came from God and so he knows what God intended the law for, came to show us that the law is there to show us that we need grace. Because we cannot follow the set of rules set before us, so we need Jesus to teach us his love and grace. Christianity was never meant to serve as merely a set of rules that you have to live by or you go to hell; it was meant to show us how much man needs God. Jesus is our uncommon teacher, who teaches us the truth of God, and the truth is that we need Jesus, who possesses the ultimate authority from God.

In order to show you how Jesus’ authority and teaching and healing are related, I want to show you Matthew 8:5-13:

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.

Jesus didn’t need to touch or even see this servant in order to heal him; so again, we see the power of Jesus’ healing being demonstrated. But more importantly, it shows us the absolute power and authority of Jesus. His words are truth, and when he said let it be done, it was done. So when Jesus opens his mouth to teach us something, we can be confident that we are hearing the truth, which is an uncommon thing in this world. Being in medicine, I see a lot of suffering, and sometimes I wish I could just say to a patient, ‘you are better now’ and have it be true. But clearly, my words do not have the same authority that the uncommon teacher Jesus did. His mere words were enough to save this man.

Speaking of saving, Jesus is an uncommon Savior as well. What is a Savior? Well, it’s supposed to be someone who rescues us, who saves us from something and back then, what did Jews want salvation from? Well, I’m sure there were some who wanted to be saved from their sin, but many wanted their Savior to rescue them from Roman dominion. They envisioned a hero. What do we want in a hero? Look no further than Marvel to find your answer. We envision someone like Robert Downey Jr. who plays Iron Man: muscular, well-defined, strong features, has lots of resources, a brilliant mind, a sense of humor, good one-liners, comes sweeping in at just the right moment in impressive fashion, and most importantly, has a way with women. So what about Jesus? Well from Isaiah 53:2, we see that:

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

 

And when Jesus came riding in to Jerusalem, he did so on a young donkey colt. Not exactly the superhero or savior most people expected. Yet, in a more subtle way, what Jesus was doing was far more impressive than a spectacular showing. As Jesus went about looking non-impressive and riding on a donkey, he was in fact, fulfilling prophecies that were made hundreds and thousands of years ago. In fact, he fulfilled all of the hundreds of prophecies that were made about his life in his time here on earth, proving that there was no other person who could be the Savior that had been predicted to come for so long. The chances of anybody’s life fulfilling all those prophecies is astronomical. Yet, Jesus did, to show us he was the Savior.

Hold on though. What do I need to be saved from? I’m not in any trouble right now. There’s no one after me and I’m not being held against my will by anyone. The truth is, like we saw in the Jesus as our uncommon healer portion, there is both a physical and spiritual dimension to life. Physical, worldly situations include, “I owe a lot of money right now and they’re coming to take away everything I have,” or “I completely didn’t study for this exam, I need something to bail me out,” or maybe you actually need bail because you committed a crime and you need to be saved. But these situations are temporary and troubles come and go. However, our spirit lives forever, and we must deal with issues of eternity when we deal with the spiritual. Therefore, our actions not only affect our physical surroundings but our spiritual situation as well. This includes our internal struggle with our sin and our sinful nature. Romans 7:15-19, which says:

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

Even a man as great as Paul struggled so deeply with his sin problem. But why should I care if I sin? It is because our sin has eternal consequences. For the wages of sin is death and if one continues to serve as a slave to the sinful nature, the only thing waiting for us in the end is a second death, eternal punishment, because our sin has cut us off from our God. But what about if I just try to be a good person. The truth is, perhaps our spirit is willing, our intentions are good, but our body is weak and our actions fall short. This is why we need saving. One of my Devotionals leaders when I was in high school told us a story concerning this very concept. The first time we sin is like walking down a street with a hole in the middle of it and we fall into it accidentally. We climb out and tell ourselves that we won’t ever be doing that again. That was pretty stupid. Then the next time we walk down that street, we know that the hole is there but we fall into again, regardless. Then, instead of going down a different street, we keep taking the same one and keep falling in the same hole, with each successive time harder and harder to get out of. That is the pattern of our sin and without someone to save us, we fall back into the same trap over and over and over again until it breaks your spirit and you come to accept that falling into holes is just a part of your life. Jesus is the uncommon Savior that comes and is able to break that cycle and rescue us from that pattern. Isaiah 53:5 says:

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

 

Jesus is able to save us from our sin, heal our broken hearts, and mend our relationship with God. He can rescue us from the punishment that would be upon us if we were to be judged for our sins. He is our Savior and whether we can admit it to ourselves or not, we all need to be saved from something. If not in this world, then spiritually, we need to be saved. Jesus is the uncommon Savior and the only one that can save us from the death that sin brings. This is why man needs God. God saves us.

Stop, you just said that Jesus is the Savior; Jesus saves us. Where did God come in? Well, Jesus is God. This makes Jesus our uncommon Savior AND an uncommon God then. How many gods have died for your personal salvation? How do we know that Jesus is God? Well, John 1 tells us:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”

 

So Jesus is God and there was a sense of eternity with Jesus. Unlike other gods who were worshipped at the time that were created or born or came of something else, our God, Jesus was there from the very beginning. He reigned on a throne in heaven and yet he gave up all his glory and majesty in Heaven to come down and be with sinners in an imperfect world. I’m taking about the Creator God, who decided to come down to his creation. All things that exist were created through Jesus; in fact, John 1:3 says:

“Through him, all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”

This is the God that out of darkness, out of nothing, created everything. The same God who holds together atomic particles and created the massive stars. The same who created all the animals and fish of the sea and the birds of the air. The one who created all the things we marvel at in nature. The bible says that God is the one that holds all things together, he holds all the stars in his hand. Yet, at the same time, this is the God that when he created us, did so in his own image, and breathed his spirit into us. Who are we that the Almighty Creator God should care about us? And I think what is most amazing is that He came as our friend. Talk about friends in high places. Almighty God wants to be MY friend? But yes, that is exactly what it says in John 15:15.

15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.

The one who God is meant to be worshipped and yet, because we are sinners and we forget about God, we choose to worship other things that we have created, instead of the one who created us. We worship money, power, fame; we worship leaders, ideas, false idols. We listen to false teachers, we deny God’s existence, and we live only for ourselves. We have denied God his glory and replaced God with lesser things. And yet, despite all this, because he is an uncommon God, he wants to save us.

How many carved idols can you hold and call it, “my friend”? Maybe you’re talking to Siri on your iPhone, but does Siri know and call you her friend? How many of the idols do we worship in today’s world can we call friends, or would call us friends? There are a lot of things that can be said about Jesus as an uncommon God, but God as my friend is my personal favorite and this gets to the heart of my final point.

We just saw how Jesus is an uncommon healer who wants to make us whole. We saw Jesus as an uncommon teacher who wants to teach us the truth. We saw Jesus as an uncommon Savior who died to redeem us from the death we deserve because of our sins. Finally, we saw Jesus as an uncommon God who calls his us, ‘his friends.’ Why does all this matter? Because all these things are an expression of his uncommon love. A love that cannot be found anywhere else in this world. A love so perfect, so unconditional, so unique that only through Jesus can we know such love. He wants to heal us because he loves us. He wants to teach us the truth because he loves us. He wants to save us because he loves us. He wants to be your God because he loves you. We are reminded every Easter of his love and grace for us by dying on the cross for our sins. And not only do we experience God’s love; we then show God’s love for those around us. Do not forget Jesus words from John 15:12:

12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

In all these things, Jesus has demonstrated his uncommon love for us. And as recipients of such love, we therefore love others as Christ has loved us. So as you reflect on the uncommon Jesus and his uncommon love for us, let me give you one more verse from John 15:13.

13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

And that’s exactly what Jesus did.

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