Why Dealing with your Sin is more important than your Desperate Wishes (Mark 2:1-12)

Mark 2:1-12 ESV  And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  (2)  And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.  (3)  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  (4)  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.  (5)  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  (6)  Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,  (7)  “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  (8)  And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?  (9)  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?  (10)  But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the paralytic–  (11)  “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”  (12)  And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

The Desperate Wish (1-4)

The first thing we notice in this story is that there is a man here with a desperate wish. He wants to be healed! It’s unspoken, but seemingly obvious. He is paralyzed. He can’t much move on his own…not in the same way that everyone around him can. He has to dependent on four of his friends to carry him to Jesus.

Just for a moment, I want you to visualize what it would be like to be paralyzed in Palestine during this time. There are no wheelchairs, no ramps, no building codes, no privacy stalls in the restroom. You can’t work. You either depend on the charity of your family or the generosity of strangers as you lay out by the street.

You don’t get to look people in the eye, that’s a luxury not afforded to those who can’t stand on their own. Everyone looks down on you whether they mean to or not. And you lay there on the dirty floor. You recognize people not by their faces but by their feet. All day long you see them. You see other people using their legs, their feet, their toes. You look at your own and wonder, why don’t they work? 

There is no doctor to tell you it’s an issue with your spine, your muscles or a birth defect… it is a mystery. There is no surgery or hope of a surgery that can give you back some of your mobility. There is no physical therapist who will painfully manipulate your legs and offer you a hope, painful hope, but hope that maybe you can walk again, or shuffle yourself from one bed to the next, or not have to depend one someone to take you to the restroom. No one in your life can offer you any real sense of hope that you will regain or obtain your mobility.

Then one day you hear the news. Jesus is in town. He has healed people. He cured leprosy (the cancer of the day). He had healed the blind. Maybe he can work on motionless limbs too? All of the sudden, there is hope. So you get a plan. You have to go see Jesus. You have four friends or cousins or friends of friends who also see the hope and they are willing to carry you to see this Jesus. This healer.

You try and hold your emotions in check. Something in you knows that this man can heal you, at the same time you don’t want to get your hopes up. Street magicians have come through town before. Charlatans, fakes, frauds who gather the ill around them, perform miracles and yet somehow the same numbers of people leave on their beds as were carried in. But this Jesus seems different.

You are discouraged when you get there. You see the crowd packed around the house. There is no way that you can even get in, but that doesn’t stop your friends. They run around back of the house where there is an external staircase and they carry you up. One of them listens intently to find out Jesus is in the house and then he starts to claw and pry at the dirt, sticks, and straw that makes up the roof. Then they begin to lower you… and for perhaps the first time ever you are looking down on people, not in a mean way, but for a moment you see them as they have seen you your whole life. You strain your eyeballs to see their expressions.

Then you see Him. You see Jesus. You don’t know what he looks like, but this must be him. He is sitting there in the teacher’s position. Your eyes meet. You don’t say a word, but look with earnest expectation. Finally as your body hits the dirt floor and you find yourself in front of a large crowd staring out at their feet again you wonder what it will be like when you are healed…will it be sudden or will it be slow. So you look up with longing and expectation. Now trapped on the floor, your friends who brought you here didn’t travel with you on this journey. They only came to the roof. You alone descended into now silent shadows of the house. You alone lay helpless before the crowd. You lay helpless before Jesus… Silent and expecting.

And you can see that he is moved by what you and your friends have done. He is smiling. He recognizes your faith in Him. You can see it in his eyes. And as he speaks the first word is so tender, He call’s you “son”. A tear is forming in the corner of your eye, partly out of expectation of what Jesus is about to do and partly because you are so vulnerable. Your weakness is on display for everyone. You can’t crawl away from this. Your deepest wish is either about to be granted or you are to be rejected.

Let’s pull out of the story for a moment because some of you have been here. You have been to this point with Jesus. You have a strong felt need or desire in your life. You are running on empty. You are longing for something to fill you. You know that if you just had that one thing you would be happy. Some days it’s just having a car that would run without breaking down. Some of you seek it in relationships. You bounce from one to another hoping to be filled. Some of you it’s landing the dream job, graduating school, it’s finding reconciliation with a loved one, it’s getting that house. You know that if you just had that one thing that life would be better. It has been the subject of your prayers for nights on end….

so because this man’s one thing is so obvious and you share a desire for God to grant you your One thing, that Jesus says next confuses you…

Jesus says to this man…, “Your sins are forgiven.”… Not “your body is healed” and it looks like Jesus missed the obvious

 

 

The Deeper Issue (5)

Jesus saw what this man didn’t see. He saw the deeper issue of sin. He could heal this man, but he would really just be empty again. It would be just a few short months and he would find something else in his life that would cause him to feel empty. The matter of needing to be healed was a surface issue. It was apparent to everyone that the man came there that day hoping to walk, skip, or at least limp out of there. But Jesus wasn’t as interested in the surface issue as he was the deeper issue.

You see God does have the power to grant all of those requests we see as pressing issues. God has the power to grant us our desperate wishes. But sometimes they would be no favor to us at all.  Jesus is looking at this man and saying I see the deeper issue here and I am going to reward your faith in me by going deeper than you thought I could go. I’m going to the very heart level and I’m going to forgive your sin. I’m going to get to the root of the issue here.

So Jesus doesn’t say, “Be Healed.” He says, “Your sins are forgiven.” And the crowd around him begins to react. There are two issues at stake here that we might miss if we are unaware of the historical context.

One: The people of that day commonly thought that sin and hardship went together. If your car just slung a piston rod, well it’s because you are sinful. If your child is born blind, well, it’s because you did something very bad. So when Jesus here addresses sin, they don’t necessarily see it as an unrelated issue in the minds of the people. And the truth be told, sometimes bad things do happen because of sin but alot of bad things happen because of other peoples sin or they just happen.

Sometimes bad things happen because of our sin and our deepest wish is to undo the hurt we have done to ourselves. Sometimes bad things happen because of other people’s sin, and our deepest wish is to remove the hurt from their actions in our life. And sometimes bad things just happen and our deepest desire is that we wouldn’t have to face this kind faultless adversity.

The second thing we don’t need to miss is that the people in Jesus’ day knew that only God could ultimately forgive sin. Up until this time Jesus was loved by most everyone. He’s a likable guy. People are coming out to see Him perform miracles. They want to be there when a blind guy gets healed. They want to tell everyone what they saw. They listen to his teaching and marvel because it’s unlike anything they have heard before.

But now he just forgave a man’s sin and that is something only God can do. The religious leaders on the edge of the crowd are processing what he just said. They are contemplating that perhaps Jesus just committed blaspheme.  They were mulling over the difference in claiming to be God and claiming to do what only God can do in their minds. They were ready to see the healing, but reluctant to accept that He could forgive sin.  

This leads Jesus to ask a Difficult Question…

 

The Difficult Question (6-12)

Which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven or to tell the man to walk? Think about that question for just a moment. What does this paralyzed man want to hear? What is the desire of his heart? What has he come all the way here carried by four friends, and lowered through a roof for? He has come for healing and so if Jesus just merely wants to please this man all he has to do is tell Him to get up and he’s got a fan.  I bet if Jesus went around answering your desperate wishes that you would be his fan too!

But Jesus isn’t looking for a fan, he is looking to bring real healing into this man’s life a healing that is deeper than this man even knows to look. He has come to heal the rift in his soul. He has come to forgive his sins and reconcile him to God!

Look again for a moment. What does it cost to heal this man? Seemingly it’s just a few words upon the divine lips and this man is restored to health? What does it take to forgive this man of his sin? The story of the gospel of Mark is not over. This pronouncement sets Jesus on a course for the cross. To forgive this man’s sin, he must be obedient where we weren’t. He will be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. No my friends. To purchase the forgiveness of sins was not an easy thing to do, but it was a necessary thing to reconcile us to God!

 But what is Jesus doing here by answering the crowd? They haven’t asked a question? They are just thinking in their hearts… you see. Jesus knows our hearts. He didn’t just come to grant our desperate wishes. While He has no problem healing broken bodies, it isn’t just the sick and the lame that need to come to Jesus. It’s everyone who has sinned against a holy and righteous God… and that is all of us! For this moment, Jesus looks over this broken man and in the silence is asking, why aren’t you coming too?

You will rip open roof’s and labor to carry your friend to the feet of Jesus in hopes that his desperate wish will be fulfilled, but will you do that for the sake of your own soul? Will you do that for the sake of your friends and neighbors or even for those on the other side of the world?

Think about your neighbors and coworkers for a moment. The people you see every day. Think of the folks who don’t know the Lord. They may be healthy. They probably smile and wave in the drive way. They probably seem like they have everything together. What if I were to place a picture of them up here and then were to place a picture of a poverty stricken  Hindu mother half a world away and say to you, “Which one has the greatest need?

You know the answer. They both need the forgiveness of their sins. The Hindu mother has physical need that you might be able to take care of, but both have a need to be forgiven and that only comes from Jesus.

 

 

Observations:

 

Some people seek Jesus for desperate wishes and end up receiving far more than they had ever imagined in a relationship with Him.

Some people are brought to Jesus because they can’t get there on their own.

The only real power to overcome sin in my life,is not found in what I can do, but in what Jesus Christ has already done for me.

Philippians 3:9-11 (Devotional Thought)

and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith– that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:9-11 ESV)

We live in a day and age that tries to redefine the word faith. Some folks use the word faith to mean to believe in something that is not true. So that when they say that if you have enough faith, something that is not true now, will be true later. You kind of “wish” it into existence. For example an individual may be sick or have a physical handicap and these folks will say that if you just have enough “faith” you will get better. This is NOT what the bible teaches when it talks about faith.

Other people try to make the word faith something more like blindly accepting something to be true without checking the facts or thinking about what your doing. They think of faith as something like an assumption. This is also NOT what the bible teaches about faith.

Still other people think of faith more like a feeling. They would say that it doesn’t matter what it true, it matters how you feel and so they would say that faith is a feeling you have when you pray or at a worship service or something like that. Again, this is NOT what the bible teaches us about faith.

The kind of faith found in the Bible can be described as a belief that moves you to action. Or maybe put more simply, “Active trust.” So when you have faith you believe something based on good evidence and then act on it. Like ridding on a school bus. You look carefully to see which bus has the markings that is supposed to take you to your bus stop. You also look for your bus driver and maybe the other kids you know who are on your bus. When you see all of these things coming together on one bus you get on the bus, in good faith, because this bus will take you to your bus stop.

Paul says that real righteousness (being good in God’s eyes) comes from faith. We know that Jesus paid the penalty for our sins on the cross, was buried and rose again from the dead and then we act in faith by asking God to forgive us of our sin and for Jesus to be Lord (leader) of our lives. Where we act to embrace what Jesus has done is where faith is… its like knowing that’s your bus number, your bus driver, and all the people with whom you ride the bus , you still need to get on the bus in order for it to take you to your bus stop. Just knowing it was the right bus isn’t enough. In the same way saving faith requires us to not just know these things about Jesus but to act on them.

Have you done that? Have you responded to God and asked him to forgive you of your sins and asked JESUS to be the Lord (Leader) of your life? YOU can do that right now. Tell someone if you do.

Paul is so confident that he has been made right with God through what Jesus has done that he is willing to die for his faith in Christ. He knows that just like Jesus was raised from the dead, so he too will be raised from the dead one day as well. He doesn’t know when He’ll die, or what method, that’s why he says “by any means possible” but he’s confident of one thing, He will be raised from the dead in the resurrection.

Acts 3: The Generosity of God

The book of Acts is record of how the apostles bore witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The emphasis of the first three chapters is on the power of the Holy Spirit to complete that mission. In chapter one the apostles are told to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit (1:4). In chapter two the Holy Spirit comes in Power and three thousand souls are added to the church (2:41). Now in chapter three, through the power of the Holy Spirit a lame man is healed.

This story is really amazing because it testifies to the generosity of God! Here there is a man who was born lame is sitting as close to the temple as he can get (lame men weren’t permitted inside the temple). He has no source of income, no disability check, no food stamps. He simply depends on the generosity of others. He’s no fool. He sits by the temple at the time of prayer where people will be coming in and out. He’s also situated close to where the  money changers would be doing business and as a result strangers would have a few more lose coins than normal. He begs to survive… to get by. He doesn’t have a lot of money… He’s a beggar with no hope of ever improving his situation.

But then he sees Peter and John and they don’t have any money to give him. Instead they lock eyes with him and offer them what they do have… The generous power of God to heal a beggar! Do you get it? Do you see the irony. The Beggar doesn’t have any money. That’s why he begs. He’s poor. He’s destitute. He can’t even walk. All he can do is beg. All he can do is ask for help and on this day GOD answers.

The Apostles reach out their hands and command him “Get up.” Such a harsh command for a man who cannot respond on his own, no matter how much he wills it. His body broken from birth. But something happens… he is able! God has made him able! This man who had nothing to offer. This man who has nothing to give for the miracle… gets up and walks! And he walks, no… skips right into the temple (3:8). He’s praising God. Ten minutes before, he was a lame man, but now he walks with Apostles.

How great is God that he gives to those who cannot repay Him. He is generous beyond all measure. This man who was unable to enter the temple because of his deformity is now made able by the working of the Holy Spirit. If God can heal a lame man’s body, He is most certainly able to save us all from our own spiritual bankruptcy.

A Story of Restoration and Hope for the American Family

978-1-4143-6394-3I read Road Trip to Redemption: A Disconnected Family, a Cross-Country Adventure, and an Amazing Journey of Healing and Grace a while back and was greatly encouraged.  The Author, Brad Matthias, shares a detailed story about his family’s breakdown and reconnection. The book chronicles a road trip that the author and his family took in search of healing.

I grew up in the general area where most of the road trip takes place (the North West US and Southern Canada) and I remember traveling to some of the same sights with my parents and grandparents. So I have to admit that part of me was longing to go on a similar trip just to re-live part of my childhood.

The real gold to the story though wasn’t the tale of the open road (though the Matthias family does encounter a few obstacles and victories along the way), but of how the family reconnected throughout the journey. I appreciated the insights shared by the all the family members in their journals and was blessed to be able to share in their journey in a small way. I don’t think this book was intended to be an instruction manual as much as an encouragement. The author is transparent in his struggle to illustrate that he hasn’t always been there for his family like he should, but even broken families can be restored and brought back together through the power of the gospel.

I really liked this book and highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a good non-fiction read. It’s especially good for dad’s who are looking at how to reconnect with their teenagers. It’s really not a “how to” manual, but it does provide some solid advice in the form of a story.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a copy of this book free from Tyndale House Publishers as part of their Tyndale Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Review: The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews

I was blown away when I read The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances.  Author Andy Andrews claims this is his best book to date, I can say it is indeed one of the best books that I have ever read. When I started reading the book, I couldn’t put it down and ended up reading it from cover to cover in one sitting.

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second Chances is a historical “fiction” book about war and forgiveness, love and espionage, the gulf coast and German U-Boats.  I’ve lived on the Gulf Coast for 13 years and was immediately drawn into the imagery and story painted by the author.  Even though this book is “fictional” in nature, Andy does a great job of drawing out several facets of forgiveness in this book.  The people who will benefit most from this book are those who are dealing with anger and struggling to forgive.

The story line is set on the gulf coast during world war II and involves lots of action, romance, and mystery.  I really don’t want to give away the plot, but I do want you to read the book so I included a video from the author below.  You can also go the the official website by clicking hereThere you can find all kinds of information about the book including a free PDF of the first few chapters!  (But I warn you once you start reading, you won’t want to stop.)

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Heart Mender, the retail price is $18.99 (Hardcover), and is worth every penny.  It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $12.91I gave it five stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: “Tea With Hezbollah” by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis

Tea With Hezbollah: Sitting at The Enemies’ Table, Our Journey Through The Middle East by Ted Dekker and Carl Medearis is by far one of the best books I have ever read.  The authors take the reader on a thrilling real life adventure through the Middle East to have tea and discuss what it means to love your neighbor with many of America’s greatest assumed enemies. This book is full of eye-opening encounters that show a softer side of the Middle East not often portrayed in the West.

The interviews and introspection provided in this book are key in understanding the life experiences and mindset of those who live in the Middle East.  The book is faithful to seek varied perspectives along the way.  The insight gained from this book is key and has helped me personally understand and gain an interest in Middle Eastern affairs. I would highly recommend this book to anyone even remotely interested in Middle Eastern issues.

This is a very timely and well written book that engages the reader every step of the way.   Tea With Hezbollah is a must read for 2010. The retail price is $22.99 (Hardcover) and is worth twice that. It is also available at places like Amazon.com for $15.51. I give it 5 Stars and would give it more.  It truly is a great book.

Disclaimer: This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group. There was no requirement to give it a positive review, just for me to call it like I see it.