Becoming Famous

‘Jesus’ fame began to spread’

Actually,  we see that ‘At once Jesus’ fame began to spread.’ In fact, the greek words used by the writer are ‘euthys’ (U-uh-theme-ik), meaning ‘immediately,’ and, ‘pantachou’ (pont – uh – khugh) meaning everywhere. So, if I am to be so bold, an even more accurate transliteration is ‘Immediately, Jesus’ fame began to spread, everywhere!’ Exclamation point is mine.

This took place after Jesus said after exiting the wilderness, ‘That is enough!’ This Exclamation point is mine as well. Jesus had been in the wilderness for an extended period of time time in prayer as well as head to head temptation, he had been brow to brow with the source of evil, and then as he stepped out of the wilderness, he was nose to nose with the impact of that evil on humanity.  This was not something new, God’s son had been living on the earth, and in the flesh, for 30 years.  This however, was a stark reminder of a reality he was already fully aware of.  It was a moment when definitely, it was time, time for him to officially step out and step into his role of deliverer. 

Now, to understand the significance of this moment, we look back to another deliverer who also, after experiencing life fully, this prophet stepped into his role of deliverer. We look at Moses. Part of Moses’ experience had already involved stepping into his calling.  Moses had appeared before God and stepped into his calling ‘to’ be the agent of deliverance of the Hebrews out of slavery.  And, he had also already experienced God’s affirmation as he found himself worshipping  God alongside of those he had delivered as God had promised.  Now, as we see in Deuteronomy 18 he was to step into not just a title or a job, this step would land him into life long purpose, it would never be over, it would go with him to birth.

We have a friend who, up until a couple of years ago, had held an international position with the US government.  It was a position that required an incredibly high security clearance.  When she decided it was time to exit from that job, that position, that role, she found that it was much more difficult than just handing in a letter of resignation.  While she may have walked away from the work of that job, it was a much more involved process of exiting the essence of who she was, and who she is, due to that clearance.  Getting rid of that security clearance became an issue, even after leaving the job, it bound her to where she could live, with whom she could associate, and with where she could work.  She found that she was not alone, others had experienced the same weight restraining them from moving on.  Many have to hire lawyers who focused just on helping people rid themself of this designation.

Such was the weight of what Moses, and Jesus, were to step into.  It was a ‘for life’ thing, it would never end.

For Moses it began at Mount Sinai as the people proclaimed that they did not want to talk directly to God, nor did they want God to talk directly to them.  God rolled Moses into the role of being the ‘go between’.  Moses would speak from and to God. This was a role that would never change, it was a role that held the highest security and accountability designation, it was a role that would never go away. He was now the prophet to a people who would not talk to God as well as being a prophet for a God who still needed to communicate with that people.

So, as Jesus stepped out of the wilderness, he faced the same pivotal moment in his life that Moses faced when he descended from Mount Sinai.  Jesus had said yes to God’s perspective as he had stepped into the waters of John the Baptizer’s baptism, now he was stepping into the life long position of prophet, of deliverer, of the sacrifice for a people whom God So Loved.

‘Jesus and his disciples went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught. They, the religious leaders and others present, were astounded at Jesus’ teaching, for he taught them as one that held authority, and not like the scribes. As Jesus was teaching and interacting in the synagogue on that Sabbath day, a man with an unclean spirit, he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Jesus rebuked the man, saying to the demon, “Be silent, and come out of him!” And the demon, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him. Everyone was amazed, and they kept on asking one another, “What is this? A new teaching—with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, the demons, and they obey him.” Immediately, Jesus’ fame began to spread, everywhere!’

Mark 1:21-28

So, let’s recap this first official public appearance. Jesus entered the holiest building in the community of Capernaum, on the holiest day of the week, and there found himself nose to nose with a demon. In the synagogue Jesus had captured the attention of the religious leaders for the confident and knowledgable manner in which he taught and carried himself. He had also caught the attention of the demon who left the man whom he had possessed, in turn, news of what happed on that Sabbath day, in that insignificant community, traveled throughout the community and across the countryside. Jesus was instantly famous a good thing, and a troublesome thing.

He now had Gravitas. An ancient Roman virtues that denoted “seriousness”. Gravitas means to carry an influential weight, to walk with an identifiable dignity, to effortlessly present an air of importance wile acting with restraint and moral rigor. It also come with a heavy responsibility and commitment to the calling.

Jesus, now on this first official public appearance, was noticed and acclaimed. Jesus, the one who noticed everyone – began this public ministry by serendipitously being noticed by everyone.

Being famous is a multifaceted beast.  It can be good, for some, it provides attention that brings in work and money to be used for good, however, it can also be equally beneficial for someone who is doing works of selfishness. 

Think about the current work of our government and health experts as they attempt to gain trust in their expertise of preventing the spread of Covid as well as the acceptability of the vaccines.  They have had to overcome conspiracies and lies, the more fame they have achieved, the more they have been able to counter the lies and convince people to take the vaccine, however, the fame has also made them all bigger targets from those who are determined to stop them.

I find Jesus’ introduction to fame a very interesting moment.  He went to a holy building, on a holy day, he read from and taught holy truth, and in the midst of that, he encountered evil.  It was all behind the closed doors of the synagogue but the news and impact of it all burst out of a building, grew beyond that 24 hour period, it held a truth that had existed since before time; Jesus again confronted evil nose to nose. Jesus calling was to proclaim and act out of truth, it is not easy to rise above, and lead people to live above the lies and deceit of the world.

Before Jesus exited the wilderness, scripture tells us that Satan left Jesus until another opportune moment – this was one of those moments – it was far less showy than the wilderness experience, it was probably easily missed by many witnesses. On this opportune times’ – Satan attempt to turn Jesus away from God, am unseen Satan altered his strategy.  This, was not a temptation for Jesus to act out of, but this was to plant a seed that would grow a beast that had proven successful to Satan throughout history.

Fame – power, recognition, public affirmation and acceptance, a sense of worth, an enticing acclaim, a following; a potential to be loved, to be a force for good however, it could also be a force for an ultimate destruction.

We could probably make a very long list right now if we were to try to account for all the famous people who have found fame to be destructive in their lives.  Our list would include movie, television, and stage stars, it would include politicians, authors, speakers, and the powerful, it would include those that are famous through their own efforts just to be famous, there would be those who would be famous through their infamy, and there would be a bunch of preachers and other religious leaders.

But fame can also be good, it can spread the news, it can call an entire city such as Ninevah to repentance, everyone in the city and beyond, in just a day’s time.  Jesus was now becoming famous, people had heard and were now paying attention, they would listen to the good news and respond.  He now had Gravitas!

The powerful thing in this moment on the Sabbath was that the demon wasn’t even using deceit or lies, he told truth, he accurately proclaimed who Jesus was as he said, ‘I know who you are, you are the Holy One of God!’

However, Jesus response was revealing, he spoke directly to the demon saying, ‘Be silent!”.  Jesus responded to this being who was accurately proclaiming the truth about Jesus by telling him to ‘shut up’.  Before he even ordered the demon to leave this man he first tells him to quit talking.

This was actually the hidden seed that was meant to provide the same result as Satan’s 3rd temptation in the wilderness had attempted, the temptation of fame and worship. I think rather lazily, Satan took Jesus to the top of a mountain and offered him the power over everything Jesus could see. That had been an effort to change Jesus perspective immediately, it was a failed attempt to quickly eliminate this ‘Jesus problem’ but it didn’t work, Jesus recognized what was going on as he recounted God’s truth in his resistance.  Now, Satan was taking a much more subtle route, he was attempting to plant a seed – he was subtly giving Jesus quick fame so Jesus could effectively communicate the good news with a greater efficacy.  It could have seemed to be a win-win. However, Jesus noticed what was going on. just as he was on that mountain in the wilderness.

‘Be Silent!’  It was a forceful order we will hear him say often as he heals and delivers countless people over the course of his ministry.  ‘Do not tell anyone’ he says after a healing, ‘Go and sin no more’ he orders after a deliverance. This was a full on example that our lives are not lived just to get to a destination, but they are to live to lives in a manner which is remembered and honored at the destination.  A calling to run the race of life so that our focus throughout the race is honorable and honoring.

As the apostle Paul later exclaimed to the believers in the city of Corinth focusing on the race they were running. He implored them to always focus on truth in their own choices, actions, and circumstances –  but to also recognize what is seen along the way – to remember in the race that others are running as well. ‘If an action is not a sin, but those around me are stuck in a former religiosity and think the action is, then don’t do the action,’ Paul tells the believers, ‘Make a sacrifice for others! It will help them get to the destination.’

The  Vendée Globe, a nonstop, round-the-world 24,000 miles single person sailing race which begins in France one every four years. This year, 22 days into the race, Kevin Escoffier’s boat was overwhelmed by a 15-foot wave, his boat was folded in half, and he was adrift in his rapidly sinking boat nearly a thousand miles off the tip of South Africa. It only took seconds for his 60  foot boat to fill with seawater. He managed to get out a ‘Mayday’ text, before all of his communications and cries for help were cut off.  He understandably went from focusing on a race to grasping for survival. After a brutal 16 hours of waiting, competitor Jean Le Cam turned up.  Le Cam, in his less advanced boat as surprising race officials by his third place position, Le Cam detoured from the race, and his position, and was later joined by other competitors who sacrificed their competitive positions to help a Escoffier who recounted his first interaction with Le Cam at the rescue, ‘We hugged each other and I said, I have spoiled your race. You were doing so well.’ Le Cam’s response later was ‘It’s part of the job of a sailor to go to the aid of another. Above and beyond — it’s human nature to go to people in need and help them. It’s part of life, physically or psychologically, to help another human. I am just part of that.’  Later the racers that detoured the race sacrificing their spots for the rescue were awarded a time allowance.

‘It’s part of the job, to go to the aid of another. It’s human nature to go to people in need and help them.  It’s part of life, physically or psychologically, to help another human.  I am just a part of that.’

‘I am just a part of that.’  What a proclamation, what a realization!

That was Jesus’ calling, ‘to be a part of a humanity, teaching that very principal through his life.  ‘To help another human being.’  It is a calling of mercy, compassion, and sacrifice.  It was the manner in which Jesus lived, it was the reason he eschewed the fame, it was the purpose of his encounters and relationships.  It was what he did, it was his part.

As I have performed funerals, and as I have visited the terminally ill, the one thing that loved ones have had in common is their unstoppable pursuit to make sure the ill or passed loved one is known, that the fame in their inner circles of this person is recognized.  Through tears and laughter, stories are told and the impact is proclaimed.  There is a human need to ‘not be silent’ but to proclaim the impact that this person had on them personally. It is not because of distant stories of others but of personal things that had meant so much.  I will always remember those stories because the impact on those people is always so pronounce.  One such occasion occurred outside after I had met with a family, a very quiet and demure inlaw, approached me as I opened my car door to make sure that I heard her story. It was a story of acceptance and inclusion for this young lady, an acceptance and inclusion that could have easily and justifiably been denied due to the scandalous reason for her entrance into the family. Whereas she could have easily been rejected by this person, instead, she was welcomed, loved, and instantly a part of this family.  For this individual, the passed family member would always be the most famous person in her life – not because of how many knew her but because she had known this individual that could have been unnoticed.

Jesus knew the gain of fame but also knew the price of fame, therefore he watched it and did not permit him to forget the why of his race rather than the destination of his race.

What are you doing with your fame? The fame of your presence among those God has blessed you with.  Are you seeing this as ‘your part’ to help them along in the race? Are you sacrificing what you can do, and have a right to do, in order to assist them to the destination?  What is your part in your moment of celebrity?

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