Doubt- S1E5 by John Stapleton’s Weekly Bible Lab. Be sure to subscribe to John Stapleton’s channel by clicking on the icon on the YouTube video below. Also, if you’re on the go or in the car, click on the podcast play button to listen to the audio just below the YouTube video.

Doubt 

BIG IDEA: Familiarity breeds contempt. Based on Mark 6. 

THE STORY: Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 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.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith. (6:1-6)

1. Crowd’s reaction: Amazed.

The people in the crowd grew up with Jesus. He was one of the carpenter’s many children. He was blue-collar and ordinary. They couldn’t fathom how the boy living down the street could be God, teaching with force (1:22), healing (2:12), and bossing demons around (1:23-27; 5:8). They didn’t want to believe, so they used their familiarity with Jesus as a defense. When they reviewed all the ways Jesus was like them, “they took offense at him” (6:3). 

2. Jesus’ reaction: Amazed.

After they get offended, Jesus let’s them know that he expected their rejection. Since when did anyone ever appreciate a true prophet? Then Mark records, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.  He was amazed at their lack of faith” (6:5-6). 

The point of miracles is belief (John 4:48). Why perform a miracle if people will “be ever seeing but never perceiving” (4:12)? Also, if anyone is suppose to have admirable faith, it would be Israel. Its surprising that those who demonstrate great faith are the ones we would not expect:

  • The paraylitic’s friends (2:5).
  • The hemoraging woman (5:27-28, 34).
  • The Syrophoenician woman (7:26).
  • Children (10:15).
  • The widow (12:42-44).

There are twice as many stories like these in the other gospels. Israel often hesitates to believe in him while the Gentiles often are the first to display bold faith. This is what amazes Jesus. They wouldn’t believe him and he couldn’t believe their stubbornness in turn. 

CONCLUSION:

People who don’t believe in Jesus consider him to be merely a good teacher. This was the issue then and it continues today. He can be a good teacher but not God. However, Jesus taught that he was God, so how could he be a good teacher? Those people who want to separate Jesus from his divinity are in bad company with Judas, his betrayer (Matthew 26:22, 25), and the rich man who couldn’t leave his money to follow Jesus (10:17). 

March 8, Q&A

1) How can Paul’s books in the Bible be trusted when he didn’t even know Jesus in person? 

First, we should notice that Paul is not ashamed to sign his name to every letter he ever wrote (we aren’t sure who wrote Hebrews). Paul isn’t trying to hide who he is. As well, he gets very personal in some of the letters. For example, when Paul thought about how he measured up to the 12 apostles who walked with Jesus, he said: “I do not think I am in the least inferior to those ‘super-apostles.’ I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge.”

Paul had some insecurity over not being “original.” 

However, Paul is credible because Jesus picked him. “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” That’s what Jesus said about Paul (Saul at the time). 

As far as the actual content of Paul’s letters, he agrees with Jesus, and often expounds on what Jesus briefly taught. This qualifies Paul. This is why he can write in another place, “by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.”

2) How were the books of the Bible chosen and what about the books that were left out? Was the Bible shaped based on some type of personal gain?

Whole books have been devoted to answering this question but I’ll give you the short answer. The Old Testament books (the law, prophets, and poetry books) were adopted into the Christian canon from Jewish tradition. The apocryphal books are left out because although they record history, they were not God’s words. The simplest test is looking at places where the writing contradicts other clear teachings in the Bible. 

(They are helpful in determining the history between the Old and New Testaments.)  

As far as the New Testament, the question is whether or not this book was written by an eyewitness – or someone who interviewed an eyewitness. Matthew and John walked with Jesus. Mark wrote his gospel based on the oral tradition of Peter. Luke interviewed eyewitnesses – who also wrote Acts. Paul is responsible for most of the rest of the New Testament. Paul was not one of the 12 apostles, but he was a trained student of the Old Testament, who met Jesus, and his writings now serve as a mentor that walks us through the Old Testament so we can find Jesus. 

When the church selected her canon, these were the factors they considered, and there are some books that simply didn’t make the cut. Everyone involved, from those who were inspired by God as they wrote, to those who selected the books of the Bible, even down later in history to those who translated the first versions of the Bible into English, had nothing to gain and everything to lose. They were tortured in a variety of inhumane ways as well as burned alive. They got no richer for it and they were not well liked. 

3) What about writings from the same time period of the early Old Testament books that contradict the Bible?

I’m not aware of any writings that contradict the Old Testament, but there is some debate around the Creation story. Basically, there are other stories that attempt to explain the creation of the world and humanity, but they don’t contradict the Old Testament when you actually read these myths. No other account claims that humanity was created because they already exist in the story. If there is a “creation,” it is not out of nothing, but man evolves from other pre-existent realities. Lastly, humanity is never created because God loved us, but because the gods got into a fight and out came humanity. I don’t see the contradictions. These are completely different narratives. 

4) Does believing in aliens contradict believing in God?

No, it doesn’t. The question behind this question is how we should interpret the Creation narrative in Genesis 1-2. People who interpret everything literally fail to realize that this is a poem and so this passage describes a true event in a poetic way. Once we realize this, this liberates us from a rigid reading of Creation. This allows us to be more open to scientific explanations, discourses on dinosaurs, and yes, entertaining the possibility of aliens. 

5) How do we know the Bible is what’s true when people can’t even agree about what a lot of it means?

What is the Bible? It’s words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, sections, and books. We need to be able read literature in general to understand the Bible. Part of the reason people disagree on what it means is because we don’t read it. The other reason is when we actually do, we disagree with it. It’s not that the Bible isn’t clear, we just don’t like what it says. (The Bible is very clear about sexuality for example, but we don’t like it. Maybe Jesus was only giving suggestions and not commands – we over complicate things when we play these silly hermeneutical games.) 

But the question is about what is true. I encourage you to look at the prophecies in the Bible that talk about Jesus. It was impossible to reverse-engineer his life to fulfill all the prophecies. He couldn’t control fulfilling the prophecies about his birth or death. Look at Isaiah 53 and you’ll see that God tells the truth. God isn’t the problem, we are. 

6) How do we know that other faiths can’t save people? Maybe they are worshipping the same God and call him a different name.

This sounds like a question, “What if there was no heaven?” This sounds like a win for everyone, but this question creates deeper theological issues. If everyone is worshipping the same God, he sure is confusing. 

To start, God in the Bible has revealed himself as one God. Can he also be many gods like other religions reveal him? God has a Son whose name is Jesus; can Islam be true as well which says he doesn’t have a son? God is loving and compassionate; can he also be mean and capricious? The Bible says that everyone lives once and then will be judged by God; can reincarnation be true? 

This creates more problems than solutions. I hope you see that we cannot possibly worship the same God. So the next question is which religion is telling the truth? Not only that, but which one works? I could give you a bunch of Josh McDowell arguments, but I’d rather address the second.

Most religions exist to instruct people how they can ascend to God.
Christianity is the only religion that preaches that God came down.

Since nobody looks for God, he came down and saved us. That’s the only thing that makes sense. If reincarnation is true, no wonder it is perpetual – you will never be able to pay your debt to God! Praise God that he decided to intervene in human history and save us through his Son Jesus. 

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