Monday, April 16, 2012

How Men React

A sermon preached at Holy Trinity, Nailsea last night. Part one of two on reactions to the resurrection. Do males react differently to females?

The Resurrection changes everything

1. Jesus Appears to the Men

Readings: Mark 16:9-20 and 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

'Is the response to the resurrection different for men and women?

'The central pillar of the Christian story is that Jesus rose from the dead. In the evening services we spent the first part of the year following Mark's Gospel. We return to it for the last time and ask in what way did Jesus appear to the men of his small group of remaining disciples. What did he do/say? How did he address them? How did they react? Was there anything specific about the way Jesus dealt with men?

'Is there a clue here in how men react today? What transforms a man? Is there some help in how we reach men now with the good news of the risen Christ?'

That was the brief. Not so brief really. Here goes.

As I embark on this sermon I offer a warning that there will be some generalisations to save time. In life there are different reactions to different circumstances and many are predictable by gender, to some extent. To some extent. Women are generally better at reading emotions than men but that doesn't mean you won't find a man who is good at it or a woman who is poor. Men are better at spatial awareness than women but that doesn't mean all women can't pack the dishwasher properly.

'Male' reactions are not just found in men and vice-versa.

Wise person once said the world divides into two types of people - those who divide the world into two types of people and those who don't.

We like to. Mars and Venus. Simon Baron-Cohen.

Is there a difference in how the men and women in the group of disciples reacted to meeting the risen Jesus?

That was the introduction. For the systematising men here who want to know where we are at any given time, there will be 2 bits of research to tell you about, then 3 key Bible passages and finally 5 conclusions and it will take about another 20 minutes.

Two bits of research:

1. Men research. I had breakfast with a group of seven guys yesterday. All white aged 45-75. I told them what I was preaching on today and asked their advice. I will now tell you what they said, in order, without edit:
  • Today people tend to question everything they are told
  • Conspiracy theories are always men
  • Women more prone to door-to-door sales
  • Men like doing rather than sitting down, thinking or confronting. When we finish our breakfast we all get stuck into cleaning up and get the jobs done without talking about it.
  • In international politics the advice of women is not usually taken in the middle-east or Afghanistan
  • In the Bible women proved themselves by always being there at the difficult times (is that why Jesus revealed himself to them?)
  • Men not so good at picking up vibes
  • I don't like being in a room full of strangers but my wife is fine at that
  • Where I work women in the 'fast-stream' are far more amenable than the blokes who are always annoying
  • Men less willing to admit ignorance, ask directions, question something going on we don't understand. We tend to say we understand before we do
  • Did Jesus reveal himself to women by design or by accident?
Now that is just to give you a flavour, especially the women here, of the way a male mind tends to tackle the question. It's not right or wrong.

Notice something. That wasn't a conversation. A group of guys starting a conversation will all tend to have some sort of opening gambit and eventually settle down on one thing worth discussing. Notice how those statements all wandered around the question, getting nearer and nearer, before actually beginning to answer it.

2. Bible research. I'm going to list the pieces of evidence about the resurrection we have in our Bibles then call in at three of them. If you want to flick through your Bibles and follow me at this point that would be fine.

Matthew 28:1-10 (Women at the tomb)

Matthew 28:11-15 (Guards told to say the disciples stole the body)

Mark 16:1-8 (Women, terrified, silent)

Mark 1: 9-20 (more later)

Luke 24:1-12 (Women. Peter runs to the tomb)

Luke 24:13-35 (Road to Emmaus. Gender of one of the two disciples not known)

Luke 24:36-48 (Jesus appears to all the disciples. Eats. Touch)

Luke 24:50-53 (Ascension)

John 20:1-9 (Mary Magdalene tells others tomb is empty)

John 20:10-18 (Mary Magdalene)

John 20:19-23 (Disciples in locked room)

John 20:24-31 (Thomas)

John 21:1-14 (Disciples and 153 fish)

John 21:15-25 (Peter's reinstatement)

Acts 9:1-9 (Saul)

1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (A list of those including 500)

Let's look at a few male reactions to the resurrection in our Bibles - I'm going to call in at three places, but let's remember this. Most scribes in those days were male. Males were better educated and got the best jobs. So all our verses about the resurrection, male or female witnesses, have probably been through a male filter. All of them.

Three key passages:

1. Mark. Mention earliest and most reliable manuscripts. 9-20 a summary of other sources. Men find that little note interesting and like the idea of digging into it to find out what it means.

Someone looking for harmony and consistency between accounts. v8 is a better ending for Mark's piece of literature because of Messianic secret. That appeals to people with a sense of order. Do men have a better sense of order than women?

It is important that he appeared to women first. In those days women's evidence was deemed unreliable. It took the witness of two women to successfully counter the argument of one man in court. If one were inventing a story about resurrection why would one make the first witnesses female?

Almost certainly a person making up such a tale would not invent a woman as the first witness. And as you can see from the text, they weren't believed.

So Jesus delivers a telling-off to the disciples for not believing the women, or the two on the road. Then he does the most man-friendly thing in the whole gospel. He explains that if people go into the world and preach the gospel it will work. And here's how you will know. Stuff will happen (v17 -signs). Men like things that work. The last verse of Mark's Gospel tells us 'It worked.'

2. Doubting Thomas (twin). John 20:24-31. I want evidence. A woman says 'It is absolutely impossible to get the car boot shut; it's broken.' What does a man say? A male reaction to anything impossible, unusual or exciting is 'Let me see.' 'Let me check.' 'I don't believe it.'

John tells us that his gospel is written for men (20:31). You want to see the nail marks. This is written for those of you who can't handle the nail marks.

3. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Is he writing to men when he says - here are some people you can check with.

What can we learn for today about telling men and women about the glorious news of the resurrection?

1. Men will want to enquire, check out, be curious, take apart. A Bible study where the resurrection accounts are laid side-by-side and studied for discrepancies will appeal to a man. A person giving their testimony and then being quizzed will appeal to a man. A chance to live it out, give it a go and see if it works will also appeal.

Dare we invite men to become Christians, full-on, for ten weeks - the 10 week challenge - and see if it makes a difference.

2. Once convinced men will be loyal supporters and followers. They may tag along when unconvinced but if nothing grabs their interest or imagination they will drift away. If convinced they will probably convince their family.

3. Men like all-male company more than women like all female. As an evangelistic strategy if a church only has the energy to run a men's group or a women's group it should run a men's group.

4. People will make men curious if they are interesting. But most men will get to know you by telling you things about themselves, whether you like it or not. Asking men questions about themselves and listening to the answers will usually bear fruit.

5. One of the things many women find hard to learn when first involved in a partner relationship with a man is this. I make no apologies for it and try hard to change but it is a gut thing. You can tell me what to do; you can't tell me how to do it.

I am quite prepared to take responsibility for whole areas of domestic life as long as I can invent my own way of doing it. If my wife wants things done her way then she can do them.

If I am like that and am not atypical then telling a man to devote his life may not be as problematic as we think it is, as long as we don't tell him how to do it.

Become the loyal servant and follower of God and work out the implications for yourself. Don't ask for directions.

Wouldn't that be fun?

Wouldn't that be risky.

Hang on. Mark 16:15. 'Go into the world and peach the good news...'

And the men didn't reply. 'Jesus wait. Wait. There's no instruction manual. You've forgotten to tell us how...'


Rich R said...

by "men", do you mean "white middle aged middle class men from the south of england"? Not sure I recognise too many fellas I know there really.

St said...

No. Do say more Rich. I have lived north, south and middle but my group of men quoted over breakfast are locals to me here in the south-west. Not all middle-class. No landed gentry. What would your group have said?