“Was Jesus’ Ministry Hijacked?

Sermon Delivered By Rev. Dick Stetler – February 4, 2018

Centenary United Methodist Church

Isaiah 40:21-31; Mark 1:29-39

    This morning we are going to discuss something that complicated Jesus' ministry during his three years of teaching and preaching.  Our lesson opens with Jesus, James and John going to the home of Peter and Andrew.  When they arrived, Jesus found that Peter's mother-in-law had the flu. He helped her to get out of bed.  As he was doing so, her fever broke, and she was able to serve a meal to the men.

    Word spread that Jesus had healed the woman, and before long, all the villagers came to Peter's home bringing their sick with them.  Jesus began ministering to them by healing many of the sick. 

    Early the next morning while it was still dark, Jesus left Peter's home and went into the wilderness to be alone. He had to think through what had just happened that past evening.  He felt called to teach and preach the Good News that living in the Kingdom of God was possible now while they are alive.

    It did not take long for Jesus to realize that what people wanted more than his preaching was the touch of the master's hand. Jesus began to lose control over what he felt called to do.  He became extremely popular as a healer rather than a teacher. 

    There was a time when Jesus was teaching and healing five thousand men plus their wives and children.  (Matthew 13:14f) People could not possibly hear his words but their eyes could see someone who was lame that miraculously got up and began to walk. The curiosity of people increased as word of Jesus' healing ability spread like a wild fire.  

    His skill as a healer almost became a curse.  There were times when Jesus became completely overwhelmed by his healing ministry to a point where family and friends thought he was losing his mind. (Mark 3:20f) Jesus had to become frustrated because his ability to heal was not why he entered into ministry. (Mark 1:38)

    Everyone that Jesus healed experienced a temporary fix for their bodies.  Inevitably they would become sick again as each made their way to the finish line of their days in their world. This is true for us today in spite of the skills of the medical community.  A high percentage of people would prefer to have their health restored than to be taught about an inner world that would always remain invisible to their senses.  

    Jesus attracted very few people with a message that would heal their spirits and give them the ability to live in eternity now.  In fact, his message was often so different from anything his listeners had heard, that he once aroused the passions of people to the point where they tried to throw Jesus off a cliff. (Luke 4:29)

    When Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus, became gravely ill, they sent for Jesus to come immediately.  Jesus was delayed in his coming.  When he arrived, both of the sisters at different times voiced their intense disappointment when he did not come during a moment of their greatest need.  (John 11:21) Jesus wept when he heard the news. (John 11:35) Had his friends placed his role as a healer above everything else that he had previously meant to them? 

    Try to imagine what recently happened to Shane Missler who lives in Port Richey, Florida. Never in his wildest imagination did he realize how his life was about to change in a very dramatic way.  He purchased a lottery ticket and he became the fourth largest winner of the Mega Millions lottery on January 5 of this year.  The happy-go-lucky 20-year old won 451 million dollars of which his take-home winnings came to 282 million after the taxes were taken. 

    While we can fantasize how wonderful it would be to have no more financial worries, we cannot possibly understand how isolated he may become as a result of needy people and a universe of very worthy charities that will come seeking his healing touch by being recipients of some of his wealth.

    There are a lot of people who want to be rich and famous, but in their achieving their goal, they quickly learn that surrendering their privacy and their invisibility also has hijacked their freedom.  They long for the days when they were able to come and go without people wanting to take their picture with them. 

    It was wonderful that Jesus could heal others, but at what cost to his ministry and his message?  After being healed, most people responded like the ten lepers that went on with their lives.  While all of them were healed, only one returned to express his appreciation to Jesus. (Luke 17:11f) 

    In spite of his gratitude, the Scriptures are silent as to whether or not he drew nearer to Jesus' message or even cared that living in the Kingdom of God was a possibility for him. All that Jesus said to him was, "Your faith has made you well."

    The same could be said about the woman that was healed who had hemorrhaged for twelve years. Her healing was so memorable that it was mentioned in three of the Gospels.  She approached Jesus secretly from behind him so she could touch the hem of his garment. Jesus felt his energy-flow leave his body and he knew there had been a healing. Instantly, her bleeding stopped. (Matthew 9:20f) All that Jesus said to her was, "Your faith has made you well." 

    What does all this commentary about the influence of Jesus' healing people mean for us today?  Has Jesus' message been hijacked in our modern day? I want you to give this some serious thought because of what is happening all around us.

    Increasingly, the Pope has ventured into commenting on social and political conditions with which he disagrees.  Recently, our bishop wrote a letter to all the pastors in our annual conference addressing the alleged racist comments made by President Trump regarding nations in Africa.  What people say is always heard through the filters of the listener.

    Many of us may agree that this is their role in the world. What makes their support for a particular point of view suspect is that Jesus never once spoke out against Rome or the high taxes levied on his people.  Rather Jesus' message was how his listeners could respond in the most loving manner to unpleasant realities in their lives.

    Our Conference has built a university in Zimbabwe called African University.  The Methodist Church has established 118 colleges and universities, among them American, Duke and Syracuse. The number of major hospitals established by Methodists is in the thousands world-wide.  When we add soup kitchens, women's shelters, child care facilities and state-of-the-art Continuing Care Retirement Communities, the Methodist Church is one of the denominational leaders in the world for being in service to all levels of humanity. 

    When we look at all the remarkable work being done by the Church, do we ever hear anything about the mystical side of Jesus' teaching that had connected him to the divine source of Creation?  Have all the Christians who engage in mission work recognized that their inspiration and motivation for doing so have resulted from their living in eternity now?  Each individual must answer this question for themselves.

    Has Jesus' message to us mutated into improving the quality of people's lives in our physical world and in the process has his message lost traction in guiding us to improve the loving spirit by which we live? Maybe a more accurate question needs to be asked, "What separates the Church's mission from a sophisticated, well funded, and carefully managed social agency?" 

    Can we point to sources where our spiritual development is being nourished, where our emotions are being tamed and where our lives are no longer being influenced by certain political points-of-view?  The Church in all its forms has performed exceedingly well in enhancing the quality of the physical lives of people. Why is it that so many of us still find loving others a major log blocking our vision? 

    It is very difficult for us to imagine that once on seven occasions the Church sponsored and sanctioned the Crusades that caused Christians to march off in wars against the Muslims.  Who can imagine that once the Ku Klux Klan in the United States was initially made up of white Christians and leaders in their communities.  Yet, they chose to hide their personal identities from public view under white hooded customs.  What was the relevance of Jesus' message to such people as these?

    The brainwashing of our material world continues to influence all of us.  In spite of our religious training, we have also been trained to take sides, to point fingers of blame, and to have our consciousness purified by our politics. 

    Who is training us to remain anchored to a level of consciousness that helps us to understand that most of what we stand for in this life has no meaning or relevance in the Kingdom of God?  Jesus was teaching his listeners that when we transition from this life, we take nothing but a record of the choices we have made concerning the spirit by which we lived.  (John 14:2)

    It is a sheer miracle that any of Jesus' teachings about our spiritual nature have survived. There is little question that we have his verbal message, but have we incorporated those teachings to become the source of our spiritual musculature and the cornerstones by which we live?

    Are we aware that Jesus' politics was totally about living in the Kingdom of God?  He taught how to extend life’s energies in all the various forms of understanding, of peace, of patience, of compassion, of kindness, of humility, and of honest love remaining at the core of our continued emotional development. 

    All of these qualities and others in our constellation of spiritual skills will be with us when we leave the physical world.  While alive in our world, these qualities heal and enhance our humble desire to make the Kingdom of God visible through the politics of being an angel-in-the-flesh. 

    In our numerous endeavors, we forget that Jesus never had a permanent address where he lived.  He did not have an expensive, well-respected attorney to represent him when he was falsely accused.  He died hanging on a cross between two convicted felons in one of the most obscure parts of the world. How did anything he taught survive?

    There were no social media outlets like Facebook or YouTube, no mainstream media coverage, no in-depth interviews and no advocates lobbying for him.  Would his mystical message ever be looked upon in the future as vital information that has the power to neutralize all the causes that bitterly divide people?  It is interesting that with everything that stood against Jesus, the light of his message never went out.

    We must willfully decide against allowing the cares and tensions of this world from hijacking our true identities as spirit-beings.  It is one thing to build marvelous sandcastles like universities and hospitals, but quite another to become a source that brings the light of eternity to shine in our world.  During Lent, we will have time to consider which world is more attractive to us, the one we experience or the one dominated by loving attitudes that come from us.



Merciful and loving God, the more we become spiritually alive, the more joy we are able to radiate to others.  As we learn about your will, we discover how easy it is to become peaceful, kind, and generous of spirit. Yet there are times when we become discouraged and frustrated because of change. There are moments when it becomes easy to deny how unhappy we are when our world is not the way we want it.  When these moments come, help us to recognize that we have allowed the world to control our attitudes. By trusting you for the outcome of all things, we become the ones who influence our world.  Amen.


Ever faithful and loving God, when we pause to recognize how our lives are filled with so many remarkable treasures, how easy it would be to express the light that is within us if such skills were all that we possessed. 

Yet we confess that our treasure trove of gifts is surrounded by clouds from our physical world that interrupt the clarity of our vision.  We cannot travel anywhere, listen to, or read the news without experiencing words and images that disturb and preoccupy our minds. There was a day when global information was not so readily available, but our world has grown smaller because of the acceleration of change in how news travels.  We become exposed to what produces fear and uncertainty when we need to give equal time to reflecting our blessings as well as the countless opportunities that surround us.

Inspire us during the coming days of Lent, to purify our thoughts and emotions.  We have the power to allow our treasure trove of hope, generosity, peace, and joy to become more visible.  We have the ability to reflect what living in your Kingdom looks like even though countless other people do not understand what Jesus came to teach us.

Help us to choose our emotional responses thoughtfully when faced with circumstances that could easily create resentment.  Heal our ancient hurts.  Help us to stop holding on to the thoughts and emotions that do not glow in the dark.  We pray these thoughts through the spirit of Jesus, who taught us to say when we pray . . . .