“… but I liked Jesus before he was popular.”


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 88; 148, 2 Samuel 5:1-12, Acts 17:1-15, Mark 7:24-37

There’s a feeling you get when you’re in on something special before it really takes off. Like an amazing band who still plays venues small enough for its members to linger over a beer or two with fans after the show. There’s a tension between wanting to share it with the world so it can get the attention and success it deserves,  and relishing the intimate experience of enjoying it with the secret club of people who appreciate it right now.

As a narrative, the Gospel of Mark races. Jesus goes from novelty act to cult favorite to budding superstar rather quickly. By the time he travels through Sidon and heals a man of deafness and a speech impediment, he’s finding it almost impossible to make time for himself. He still has his inner circle, but spends most of his time among the crowds who flock to him. It’s under these circumstances that he asks the man not to speak of the healing, but like everyone else this man who couldn’t speak suddenly couldn’t shut up about Jesus.

When something becomes popular, some early fans inevitably grow resentful. They mock later fans, imply the quality has declined, and start tossing around ideas like “selling out.” Some of that may be true – no one is prepared for the difference between hoping to cover the cost of traveling to a gig and selling out stadiums, and it has an effect. But by Good Friday, the chants of fans devolved into calls for an execution without so much as a farewell tour.

Sometimes the core of what we love stays the same, and it’s our perception that’s changed by all the hype and backlash. The core message of the Gospel is both personal and universal. We share it because we love it. When people use it to make a ton of money and move a lot of merch, we may become disillusioned – or we may be caught up in the frenzy – but that’s not the Gospel. Every once in a while, we need to unplug to rediscover the basics which originally moved us.

Additional Reading:
For more thoughts on today’s passage from Mark, see Whom do you Trust, The Truth About Crumbs and Dogs, and Generosity and Grace.

Comfort: When pop-culture-Christianity drags you down, you can always revisit the original material for renewal.

Challenge: Talk with some friends about what elements of modern Christian culture seem authentic to the Gospel, and which seem more about marketing it.

Prayer: Hear my prayer, O LORD; give ear to my supplications in your faithfulness; answer me in your righteousness. (Psalm 143:1)

Discussion: What’s something you liked before it was popular?

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