Summary: A Message from Mars (Hill)1) Non-Christians, God is near you! 2) Christians, God is revealed through you!
Eight million dollars. That’s how much is to be spent this year to operate one radio telescope, that big one in Puerto Rico. One purpose of this gigantic electronic ear is to catch the faintest whisper of extra terrestrial life…if it exists. There are thousands of radio telescopes around the world. Think of all the money going to operate those things. Why do you suppose so much is spent on that kind of research when there are many other needs closer to home? Instead of straining to hear what E.T. might have to say shouldn’t we, for example, be listening to and addressing the needs of the homeless in our midst?
I think so much money is spent on trying to detect messages from outer space because the people of this world want confirmation that they’re not alone. They even hope that if there is life out there, it can somehow help us down here. Well believe it or not, I have a message from Mars to share with you this morning. It’s a message that assures us that we’re not alone and that there is someone out there to help us. No, this message is not from the planet Mars but Mars Hill, a hill in the ancient city of Athens where, a couple thousand years ago, the Apostle Paul preached. This message is for both non-Christians and Christians. To non-Christians, Paul says: “God is near you!” And to Christians, Paul reminds: “God is revealed through you!”
Paul ended up in Athens after being run out of Thessalonica and Berea on his second missionary journey. While he waited for his sidekicks, Timothy and Silas, to catch up with him, he toured Athens and noticed that its citizens were very religious. For starters, a huge temple dedicated to Athena, the supposed goddess of wisdom and war (among other things), crowned the city. Below the Parthenon, as this temple was called, were other temples and idols scattered throughout the main marketplace. On his jaunt through town one particular idol caught Paul’s eye. The inscription under the idol read: “To An Unknown God.” Paul used that as his opportunity to tell the Athenians about the true God. He did so beginning in the synagogue, and then in the marketplace, and finally on Mars Hill, a little hill above the marketplace where people eager to hear “new” ideas gathered. Listen to Paul’s message from Mars Hill. “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. 24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:22b-31).
“God is near you!” That summarizes Paul’s message to the non-Christian Athenians. It sounds positive doesn’t it? But if someone says to you on a climb up Mt. Everest, “You’re near the top!” it means that while you’re close, you haven’t reached your goal yet and so you’d better keep climbing. The goal of the Athenians was to be liked by God for they knew that there was a higher power who governed the world and who could make or break their life. They had done everything they could think of to please this God, but according to Paul, they hadn’t quite succeeded. What these Athenians failed to realize is just how immense and powerful God is. They thought they could build stone and metal statues to accurately represent him. And they figured they could manipulate him with the right animal sacrifice. No, it’s God that does the controlling, says Paul. “…he determined the times set for [men] and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26b).