Mark 3: Perception is Reality

Sunday morning worship, April 22, 2018



One research report says, “We’ve all heard about the importance of first impressions and how hard it is to change them later. In fact, research tells us it only takes the duration of an eye blink to size up another person in terms of attractiveness and trustworthiness. Over the next three seconds, we form a more “complete” conclusion about a new acquaintance relating to their presumed personality and competence. Obviously, in that short a period of time, we have not really gotten to know the other person. Rather, we have used our cognitive biases and filters to form a “snap judgment” about someone, just as they have about us. Those judgments may or may not be accurate, but they endure. And if the judgment made is a negative one, the difficulty in shifting someone’s opinion is extremely high.”1


Another research report says, “You have exactly one opportunity to make a dynamic first impression. In the first forty-five seconds of meeting you for the first time, people will make up to eleven assumptions about you including your level of expertise, success, education and knowledge. Most people start making these assumptions before you utter a single word. They process the visual information and quickly form judgments. Your attire, appearance, posture, and facial expressions will affect these judgments.”2 A third report makes this summary statement: “To sum up: first impressions can alter visual perception, behavior attribution, memory, and even other people’s behavior. In turn, these influences reinforce the first impression and make it even harder to resist.”3


The Pharisees we meet in Mark 3 had already concluded Jesus was a liar, a blasphemer, and a Sabbath/Law of Moses breaker. They had formed their initial impressions of Jesus not only in the first minutes of their meeting but now “had come down from Jerusalem” (3:22) to validate their conclusions.  Jesus continued ministering in the same way that “the crowds” had concluded Jesus was worth traveling from “Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon” to be healed. These polar opposites of opinions met face-to-face when Jesus was once again confronted on the Sabbath by “a man with a shriveled hand” (3:1).Think of yourself as being in a room being interviewed for a very high level job by eight different people. Four junior managers have already concluded you are God’s gift to the company and want you promoted immediately. The four from upper management have already concluded you are the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to the company and are willing to do everything possible to keep you from getting the job, but they have to maintain appearances.  The facts, according to Mark 1 & 2, on your resume are these:

·         The beloved by both groups, John the Baptist, has give you an absolutely sterling recommendation;

·         Many in the company are willing to give up their lives to follow you wherever you take them;

·         Everyone whose lives you have touched personally have been healed physically or emotionally;

·         People you’ve met for just a moment have left everything to follow you, often giving from their wealth to help others less fortunate;

·         You make regular people happy, even like they are enjoying a grand wedding feast; but then

·         The entitled, old-way-of-thinking leadership despises the changes you would bring to the company.


Deadlocked, they devise a test: this man with the shriveled hand in the crowded, public synagogue, on the Sabbath—“How will you handle this test?”  The traditional answer, the answer upper management wants is to wait until a later date, even tomorrow, in a quiet, out-of-the-way setting, when this man can make an appointment and can be dealt with in the traditional ways. The other four are tired of the rules, the paperwork and the regimentation.  They want action.  They are tired of waiting until the out-of-touch die off to get their chance to lead. There you stand, on trial: “Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.” The decision you make next determines your entire future. The stage is set; it’s your time to act.


Jesus/ you didn’t/don’t back down.  He didn’t cower under the pressure.  He didn’t ask for time to think about how to handle the situation. He/you didn’t look for a way out. “Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, ‘Stand up in front of everyone’” (3:3). Jesus next took charge of the situation.  Jesus understood what was really at stake.  Jesus understood the deeper meaning of what was happening. “Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ But they remained silent” (3:4). Jesus knew the four against Him were cowards. If Jesus became the company’s leader, they would soon be phased out, pushed to side, and a new group of leaders would soon take their place. They stood to lose everything.  They had played the game. They had conformed to the rules.  They had lost their compassion as they rose to the top by climbing over everyone on their way up. Those on your side were praying you would act, but they, too, were afraid you would fail.  If you failed, their courage would fade again and they would retreat, heads down, beaten, but needing their lower-level jobs to survive.  They would have to live the rest of their lives knowing putting their faith in you had cost them any chance of advancement and maybe even losing what they had so-far gained. The question once again, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” Which direction is our company going to go?


Jesus “looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, ‘Stretch our your hand.’ He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored” (3:5) Jesus had proved that the answer to His own question was, “It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  It is lawful to save lives on the Sabbath.” “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (2:27-28). Jesus’ public demonstration of the validity of His position should have won the interview for Him.  The entrenched leadership should have stepped aside and made way for the new culture. Instead, “Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” (3:6). Not only wouldn’t Jesus get the job, Jesus would be crucified, publicly, shamefully, in disgrace, and in utter beaten-down rejection. The four who were in favor of Him—what became of them? “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons” (3:13-15).


Sometimes living for Christ is a win-lose situation: we can win the battle for truth, but we lose relationships or opportunities along the way. Our faith can cost us dearly. It wasn’t enough that the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus.  We also read in this chapter that, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (3:21). We say opinions are like noses, “everybody has one.”  Edgar Allan Poe is credited with saying, “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” Even the crowds who appeared to be on Jesus’ side came only for the selfish reason of wanting something personally from Jesus, usually to be healed.  For the most part, they didn’t come because they loved Him.  They didn’t come to be workers in His harvest field. They didn’t come to be disciples; Jesus had to choose and train His disciples. Even those He healed usually just returned home rejoicing and praising God (Luke 5:25 among others) having gotten from Jesus what they selfishly wanted. Jesus was looking for people who were willing to do God’s will every day of their lives. Jesus was looking for disciples who would follow Him, proclaim His message of the offer of forgiveness of sins in return for serving His Father for the rest of their lives.  Jesus wasn’t about Himself.  Jesus was about glorifying His Father in all He did.  Jesus was looking for like-minded people.


We now live in a world of almost omnipresent media, if we understand media in its widest context. Advertisers bombarded us with information in short segments creating and re-creating brands until they win our approval.  We are constantly forced to quickly change our minds and habits, or we and/or our companies will get left behind. The same may or may not be true of church cultures. To help people make positive decisions for Christ, we have to make positive first impressions; negative first impressions are notoriously difficult to overcome without continued social contacts. Bad first impressions usually prohibit second chances, even if we are unfairly judged.  As individuals and as a church we can’t be all things to all people.  Jesus made people choose.  Some worshiped Him, some crucified Him. Some followed Him, some walked away. We need to know what Christ has to offer and what we as individuals and as a church have to offer. We can’t lie or falsely represent our Savior or ourselves. But we can be attractive because Jesus offers what the world needs most. The real question is whether or not we have truly accepted what Jesus offers and are offering that to others or whether we are just another group of people getting what we want and returning home. Jesus said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:2-3).  If the harvest is plentiful, we need to consider the fact that we aren’t reaping may have something to do with our not going.



Observed Feature or Behavior

Likely First Impression

Physical beauty

Healthy, better than me

Dressing “smartly”


Appearing smart and wealthy


More eye contact


Speaking faster

More competent

Easy, effortless gait

More adventurous, extroverted, trustworthy

“Baby face” (rounded, large eyes, small nose and chin)

More trustworthy, naive

Straight posture

More competent, focused

Multiple facial piercings

More creative but less intelligent

Multiple tattoos

More promiscuous, less reliable

More makeup

More feminine, more attractive

Practical/affordable shoes

More agreeable

Stylish shoes

More wealthy

New/highly polished shoes

More anxious/needing to belong