FOR AUDIO VERSION CLICK HERE.This is a common myth among those of us who are so fed up with the damages of organized Christianity. It's so easy to identify the culprit in leading us away from Jesus' message as the artificial Christianization of Emperor Constantine, the atrocious Crusades, the corruption of the Roman Catholic Church or the divisiveness of the more than 35,000 sects within Christianity since the Protestant Reformation. However, to think that missing the message of Jesus began with these organizational travesties is to buy into a major myth and miss the point of what it is that goes wrong when the message of Jesus is ignored.
No, the organized Church is not where missing the message of Jesus began. It began from the very beginning with the early disciples of Jesus. There seems to be a natural tendency, no matter how much we have seen and heard, to become distracted away from the simplicity of Jesus plus nothing.
I want to walk you through one of my favorite passages that illustrates this truth unmistakably and you will also see yourself as we take a quick glimpse of what happened to the disciples. In the 9th chapter of Luke Jesus does a most unusual thing. He sends His disciples out, empowered to drive out demons, to cure diseases, to proclaim the message of the Kingdom and to heal the sick. What makes this most incredible is that Jesus sends out these disciples who aren't really believers yet nor do they yet believe Jesus is the Son of God. So they went out into many villages and performed their mission as prescribed by Jesus. Think of it! They are brand new followers of Jesus and they have already been sent on a mission to perform incredible miracles among the people! What an experience this must have been!
Next Jesus took them with Him to a nearby fishing village in Galilee where great crowds followed them. After speaking to the crowds about the Kingdom of God and healing many of them, Jesus knew they needed to eat something so He fed over 5000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus performed this spectacular miracle by using the disciples to distribute the food to the masses of people. What a thrill that must have been for these disciples!
About eight days after telling His disciples that His Messianic mission included the necessity of dying, Jesus then takes Peter, John and James with Him up on a mountain to pray. While praying Jesus revealed His glory and brilliance as the visible presence of God right in front of them-the Shekinah glory. Moses and Elijah supernaturally appear with them and then the voice of God pronounces Jesus as the Son of God. Again, this must have been an amazing experience for these three disciples.
When they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met them. A man was concerned for his son who was afflicted with seizures and convulsions and complained to Jesus that the other nine disciples were unable to heal him. Jesus moves into gear and heals this man's son right away. Everyone, including the disciples was amazed at this sight!
These disciples have just been sent out to perform miracles in the villages, participated in the feeding of the 5000, three of them saw Jesus in all His glory, and they all saw Jesus heal this desperate little boy. What a ride! What a miraculous adventure watching Jesus do His thing and actually working alongside Him.
NOW, note what happens in the next three scenes with the disciples. They royally miss the preeminence of Jesus and His message. FIRST-An argument breaks out among the disciples: An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For whoever is least among you all is the greatest." What's this all about? After all of this demonstration that Jesus is the preeminent One, they have already missed the point. Jesus is the point, not them and their comparative greatness!
SECOND-The disciples become jealous over seeing another person doing things in the name of Jesus: "Master," said John, "we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." Now, the disciples are caught up in comparison again. This time the problem is that there is a person doing things in the name of Jesus. Now note this! John says the problem with this person is that he is not one of us. Do you get it? This guy who is doing terrific things in the name of Jesus just doesn't match up, because he is not a member of their little group. Ever heard or seen that attitude? Again, they are missing the preeminence of Jesus. Their little group has become more important than Jesus, Himself.
THIRD-There is a problem with the response of the Samaritans: As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them. Now, it's getting worse! The disciples are now so miffed at the Samaritan's response that they are actually suggesting that they must be destroyed. Note, it's more serious than this. They aren't asking Jesus to call down fire from heaven; they are thinking that they might have the power in themselves to call the fire down to destroy the Samaritans-"Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" Are you kidding me? These guys have not only missed the preeminence of Jesus; they are taking on a little personal preeminence for themselves.
Missing the message of Jesus did not begin in the organized Church; that's a myth. It began with the earliest disciples of Jesus; even before the Jesus movement was officially launched! They missed it within a period of a few days in which they experienced the most miraculous adventure anyone could have ever imagined.
Who's the greatest? This guy is not one of us! Let's destroy these Samaritans who aren't receptive to our message! None of these responses by the disciples is on-message with what they have experienced in their walk with Jesus. They completely missed the point. JESUS IS THE POINT OF IT ALL! Do you see it that way or are you missing the point in your life?