Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Ultimate Start-Up


His Own Holy Desire
(Mark 3:13-21, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, September 16, 2018)

[13] And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. [14] And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach [15] and have authority to cast out demons. [16] He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); [17] James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); [18] Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, [19] and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

[20] Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. [21] And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Jesus

As Jesus appoints the men who will be leaders in His church, we are left with no doubt that His will is supreme in the kingdom that He is establishing (Ephesians 1:10). He is the one who chooses them and calls them to Himself. We are told that these are the people “whom He desired” (literally those “He wanted”) and they came to Him.

He will have twelve apostles – men who would be sent out by Him on a mission that will ultimately change the entire world. They will be “with Him,” not to stay secure in their ease but to be sent out. Their ministry will be like His: they will be “sent out to preach” and they will also have “authority to cast out demons.” Everything that they have will be an extension of who their Master is. As He would later say, He would be the vine and those He would send out would be the branches (John 15:4-5, 20:21).

The Twelve

Most striking about these twelve men is that they were very unlikely candidates for the job. They did not have obvious qualities that recommended them for this historic role. Some of them we still know very little about. The unfathomable fact is that one in their number would be a betrayer.

All in all, the key requirement that set the twelve apart from their contemporaries was their chosenness. And what were they chosen for? Not a life of ease, but one of uncommon suffering in service of a Man who died on a cross and rose from the dead.

His Family

As we have considered before, the ministry of Jesus, one that the twelve will share with Him (Ephesians 2:20) together with other prophetic leaders in the first century church, attracted enormous attention. Normal life became nearly impossibly for this group of men. We are told that “they could not even eat” in peace because so many people wanted access to them, and especially to Jesus.

All this attention was very unnerving to His natural born family. When they heard about what was happening, they decided to stage some kind of intervention. “They went out to seize Him.” Why? They had come to the conclusion that their brother was “out of His mind.”

Who can doubt that it would have been challenging for sinful and envious men to grow up in the same family as Jesus of Nazareth? Let's look at the evidence. From the moment when Mary conceived the Christ, her life together with that of Joseph was thrown into disorder, almost resulting in the end of their relationship before it even began (Matthew 1:19). We may think of angel visitation as a great idea, but if we consider the evidence more carefully we must acknowledge that this way of being directed by God was exceptionally unsettling (Matthew 2:13-23). The messages coming from those with prophetic gifts were also troubling since they pointed to upheaval and emotional agony (Luke 2:34-35).

What about the relationships with the extended family that can be such a blessing in any family desiring a stable home life? When Jesus was 12 and traveled with the large group of family and friends up to Jerusalem, he stayed behind and did not tell anyone. His mother was beside herself, and His response to her “distress” would not have been all that reassuring (Luke 2:49).

What about His adult brothers when Jesus began His whirlwind public ministry? They did not believe in Him, and He points out the painful fact that they lived their lives with a different worldview than He had (John 7:1-9). This was no small matter because Jesus' way of speaking and living ended up putting Himself and anyone around Him in the middle of a gigantic controversy that might get violent at any time, and His brothers were right in the middle of it, and not by their choice (John 7:10-13 and the rest of John's gospel).

There is no indication that His brothers believed in Him until after His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:7). Two of them would enter the ranks of New Testament writers, James and Jude. We learn of the new life that these men had from the opening words of their letters (James 1:1, Jude 1). All of this helps us to think more deliberately about this earlier assessment of their brother that we read in Mark 3:21, “They were saying, 'He is out of his mind.'”

What is God revealing to us here? Jesus was and is in charge. A real man in a world of danger, He was also truly the second person of the Godhead – How uncomfortable! God was with people. In the words of Isaiah 5:8-9, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” He has His own goals, His own way to achieve them, and His own will.

He does not need the best and the brightest to succeed. It is our privilege to be on His side. We are not doing Him a needed favor by believing in Him and serving Him.

Finally, the resurrection does not come to earth because we say so. The final verdict on Jesus and the gospel was never ultimately a matter of human opinion. He is the Sovereign Lord over heaven and earth.

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 75 – It is I

New Testament Reading—Hebrews 4 Draw near the throne of grace

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Seeing the Real Jesus


Son of God and Healer of the World
(Mark 3:7-12, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, September 9, 2018)

[7] Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great crowd followed, from Galilee and Judea [8] and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from around Tyre and Sidon. When the great crowd heard all that he was doing, they came to him. [9] And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they crush him, [10] for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around him to touch him. [11] And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” [12] And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

A Great Crowd from Where?

Why did Jesus “withdraw” with his disciples? The previous passage ended with a dire threat involving hostile spiritual and political authorities. “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against Him, how to destroy Him.” Jesus and His disciples were in danger.

Many other people would have been aware of the risks. Why then did a “great crowd” follow Him? The answer is obvious. They “heard all that He was doing” and so “they came to Him.” In other words, they knew their needs, and they heard a credible report that Jesus would be able to give them a new chapter in their impossibly difficult lives. We need to be able to relate to that impulse.

What was the significance of the geography revealed here? Desperate people were coming from everywhere where the news was spreading about the works of Jesus. North, south, east, and west. Here was a healer for the whole world.

A Boat

This mass of needy humanity was quite dangerous. Not only would the crowds have attracted the attention and envy of the enemies mentioned in the previous passage, our text emphasizes the obvious physical danger faced by the Man Jesus. Why did He ask His disciples to “have a boat ready for Him?” We are told very plainly that it was “because of the crowd, lest they crush Him, for He had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed around Him to touch Him.”

Why does God want us to know about the danger that Jesus was facing? It would be easy for us to imagine that no one could have crushed the Son of God, but we would be wrong. He was not only fully God but also fully man. Mark has recorded a true testimony, a revelation of Jesus' actual humanity and therefore His weakness. We need to see this incident as a step toward where this entire book is headed—a real death.

The people “pressed around Him,” literally “fell on Him.” (See Luke 1:12, 15:20, Acts 10:44.) Wherever Jesus went, people were falling all over Him. Look at Romans 15:3, quoting the Old Testament prophecy from Psalm 69:9. Paul writes that “Christ did not please Himself, but as it is written, 'The reproaches of those who reproached You fell on me.'” The idea in the psalm is that someone will come who will face the criticism, shame, and scorn that people directed at God. Their animus against the Almighty will fall on a man. People were falling on Jesus, but soon our sins would fall on Him.

For now, He needed a boat at the ready, just so His human body would not be crushed. Soon He would fulfill the words of Isaiah 53:5
… He was pierced for our transgressions;
He was crushed for our iniquities;
upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with His wounds we are healed.

Diseases and Unclean Spirits

Why is there disease in this world? Why are there unclean spirits harassing human beings? This is a very deep question that is answered very plainly in the first three chapters of the Bible. Mankind has rebelled against God and are under His wrath and curse. That has led to much misery. That's why Jesus needed a boat.

But we must not start or stop with the question of misery. God did not start the Bible with Genesis 3, but with Genesis 1. Every damaged human being has been created in God's image. Though that image has been marred, we need to be drawn to the most important question at the very center of the Bible. Why the Man in the boat? Why Jesus? He came that we might have life, and have it abundantly (John 10:10). Do the unclean spirits understand? They know Him, but they do not love Him. Therefore they must be silenced, since they would seek to undo the order of God's good plan of salvation. They would draw attention to the crown of “the Son of God,” but they have no real appreciation for the cross on which a real Man will die for our sins.

More important than the question of what unclean spirits know and love is this all important inquiry. Do you know Him? Do you love Him? Will you trust the Man who would soon be crushed for you and for me, the Man who not only died on the cross, but also conquered death and rose to life that you might live forever.

What is God teaching us with this plain episode about a vulnerable human Messiah who came to save a lost and sin-sick humanity? 1. He knows our weakness and sympathizes with us (Hebrews 4:15), and 2. He takes our hit.

The leader of a new resurrection world was assaulted by the troubles of the present order. This is what happened when the Son of God came into Adam's lost world. No one but the Messiah understood what it would take to fulfill God's larger plan. What was almost unknown in Jesus' day has now been plainly revealed to us. The Jesus I proclaim to you today must be truly appreciated, honored, and worshiped for who He really is.

To more fully enjoy Jesus and the life to come, we must 1. see the present crushing burden of decay and evil as it really is, but we must do more than this. We must 2. go back and see humanity in a better light – a Genesis 1 image of God light. Then we must 3. see Jesus as the One and Only who could ever bring about this perfect plan of Almighty God. We must know Him, trust Him, and love Him. People from all over were falling on Jesus when He was there in person at the Sea of Galilee. Now He is the Resurrection Man in heaven. Are you desperate enough to throw yourself at Him?

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 74 – Make haste to help me!

New Testament Reading—Hebrews 3 What Moses could never have done...

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sabbath...


SABBATH: REPLENISHING THE DRAINED

Mark 2:23-28
August 26, 2018
Bruce R. Johnson

Mark 2:23-28 -- One Sabbath he was going through the grainfields, and as they made their way, his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24And the Pharisees were saying to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?”

25And he said to them, ”Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, in the time of Abiathar the high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?”

27And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28So the Son of Man is lord even of the Sabbath.”

I. Jesus makes another outrageous claim: He is lord even of the Sabbath

A. Disciples were not stealing because . . .
1. Lev. 23:22 mandates that some of harvest/gleanings be left for the poor and the sojourner.
2. Deut. 23:25 allows plucking ears of standing grain by hand
3. But . . . GOTCHA . . . Ex. 34:21: “In plowing time and in harvest you shall rest [on the seventh day].”

B. Audience specifically identified as Pharisees
1. Recall “greater than” language of Hebrews
a. Pharisees still don’t know who Jesus is
b. Right here and now they see Him as a threat to their power and position
2. Judgmental language
a. “Look” or “See here.” Contemporary English idioms, complete with inflections
b. Another translation: What they are doing . . . is not allowed. (Not a question.)
c. Either way: What are you going to do about it?

C. Messianic rebuke: Have you not read?
1. The David story emphasizes that the Pharisees’ application of the law fails to take need into account.
2. Not an excuse
3. Since need can be taken into account, something beyond mere mechanical application of Ex. 34.21 is involved/required
4. That something is the “inverted” purpose of the sabbath -- for man and not the reverse

D. Jesus’ words as a “ruling”
1. The principle is similar to the ruling regarding wine and wineskins
2. As wine must conform to wineskins, so must the law confirm human flourishing

E. The power -- and the command -- of “So”
1. Command first: A stop-and-think word, like “therefore,” “because,” “for”
2. “I can tell what the law means because I am LORD of both law and Sabbath.”
3. Avoiding both legalism and antinomianism
a. Legalism: Law as autonomous revelation replacing person of God
b. Antinomianism: Jesus not a free agent who could overthrow the revealed will of God
c. Righteous purpose of God as manifested in Torah can be recovered and fulfilled only in relation to Jesus, who is its LORD.

F. “Son of Man” worth barrels of ink and whole forests of paper
Not unlike Messianic secret in that it “was ambiguous in meaning to the current popular imagination. This enabled him to claim to be the Messiah with little danger of the current erroneous views being read into it before he had” the chance to act out the full meaning of the messianic task outlined in the OT. (FOOTNOTE)

II. The work underneath our work drives us to the restless refuge of religion

A. Two radically different spiritual paradigms at work here
1. “Religion” -- primarily advice
2. Gospel of Jesus Christ, which begins and ends with news

B. Common belief: If there is a God, you relate to him by being good.
1. Nationalistic religions
2. Spiritualistic religions
3. Legalistic religions
4. Common logic: If I obey, I am accepted.

C. Gospel of Jesus: I’m fully accepted in Jesus Christ, and therefore I obey.

D. Addiction to salvation by works
1. Concern with details of the law: Mishnah lists 39 classes of activities which violate the Sabbath.
2. Walking more than 1,999 paces on a single journey forbidden

III. The cross of Christ is the place of our deep rest.
A. Law of God functions differently from law in “religion”
1. Still binding
2. Shows you the life of love you want to live before the face of God
3. God’s law takes you out of self-absorption and shows how to serve God and others
B. Jesus dismantles religious paradigm by pointing to His identity
1. Not just “I am LORD over the Sabbath.”
2. “I am LORD of the Sabbath.”
C. In saying, “I am the LORD of the Sabbath,” Jesus means that He is the Sabbath.
1. The source of the deep rest we need
2. Genesis 1: God Himself rested after creation
a. He doesn’t get tired, so how could He rest?
i. “I’m so satisfied with my work that I can leave it.”
ii. “I’m so satisfied with what Christ has done for me . . .”
b. Self-justification: The work underneath our work that we really need rest from

D. “It is finished” -- Those who rely on Jesus’ finished work know that God is satisfied with them.

FOOTNOTE:
Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, page 215; language after quotation marks paraphrases the original.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Classic Mismatches


Mark 2:18-22
August 19, 2018
Bruce R. Johnson

I. The setting
A. Imagine you’re a “common” person
1. Raised under Judaism

2. Seen this “John movement” come in and start to grow
a. He’s baptizing Jews as if they were unclean
b. He baptizes even Jesus, though protesting that the roles should be
reversed
c. Confusion over John’s identity while in Judean wilderness (John 1.19-
28)

3. Jesus moves His ministry from Judea to Galilee (G-S-J-I west of Jordan River
-- Mark 3.8; September 9)
a. Heals and drives out demons
b. “A new teaching with authority!” (Mark 1.27b)

B. Searching for a standard of comparison
1. Disorientation . . . mismatch

2. Academy students compelled to attend worship for religion class
a. “What did you think of the service?”
b. “In our church we serve wafers at communion”

3. Fasting traditions
a. John’s disciples (He’s been “visible” for only 2 years or so)
b. Pharisees

C. Leaving OT times and entering NT times
1. Only Jesus knows that
2. Patience -- Messianic secret
3. He shifts the comparison from wafers/fasting to weddings

II. The wedding
A. First mismatch: Weddings and fasting
B. Jesus’ mission as a wedding
C. Knowing when it’s time to fast

III. The stretching
A. Old garment/new patch
B. Old wineskin/new wine
C. Jesus the new patch and the new wine

IV. Sermon point: Jesus cannot be contained by the “structures” of mere religion
A. Schedules as old, shrunken cloth
B. New life in Christ bursts the old wineskins of our own itineraries
C. Messianic secret revealed in the gospel
D. New creations in Christ

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Can we all be the I-AM? Sanity, Delusion, and Jesus


Followers of the Great Physician
(Mark 2:13-17, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, August 12, 2018)

[13] He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. [14] And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.

[15] And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. [16] And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” [17] And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Introduction

Last Sunday we considered together the remarkable account of the friends of a paralytic healed by Jesus. Their faith made a difference for the one they were carrying. Before Jesus healed the man's legs, He surprised everyone by saying, “Your sins are forgiven.” Some took offense, but we are not in their number. We know that we have sin, and even after we have come to Christ, we are on a journey of faith where we would like to have friends who would be willing to carry us to Jesus that we might be more like Him.

While we are impressed with the friends of the man who was healed that day, of course our attention must rightly focus on the Healer. Who is this Man? That is the question that the crowd was asking, and it is also the point of Peter's later preaching and of Mark's record of that proclamation in the gospel that bears his name.

Levi/Matthew's Story

The next stop in that fast-paced story involves a man called here Levi. He has another more familiar name, Matthew, and becomes an apostle and the author of the opening book of the New Testament.

Jesus was teaching a crowd of people by the sea, and “as he passed by” a tax booth that was part of the Roman system of collecting tribute from a subjugated people, He saw a particular man and not just someone who fit into a group. This man was a tax collector. He would have been working within a chain of command that eventually led to the emperor in Rome, but he was a Jew. Such men were hated by the people and considered by observant Jews to be unclean. If someone were looking for the most godly group of followers, this would not have been the place to start.

But here is the amazing Jesus, and He speaks with authority and certainty. He said to Levi, “Follow Me.” As we have seen in an earlier passage when some fishermen were called, the response of Levi must be a testimony to the power of the One who calls him. We are simply told that “he rose and followed Him.”

The Pharisees' Question

Jesus went to Levi's house for a meal according to the customs of their day (reclining) but not according to the acceptable religious practices of observant Jews. One tax collector was bad enough, but Levi had many friends who were also guests at his table that day. Jesus was eating with these Jewish collaborators connected to Roman Gentile overlords and many others who are just called “sinners.” What does that word mean here? It refers to the assessment of the Pharisees that the people around that table were not followers of the ceremonial Law of the Jews together with the traditions of the rabbis. Everything about that meal screamed “UNCLEAN” to the people who were scrupulous in their attention to Jewish religious practices. The problem was obvious to them, so they had to ask His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

Jesus's Answer

To understand Jesus' answer, we need to understand that all people were created by God to be amazed. We should be amazed by Jesus (see Colossians 1:15-20), but many Jews at that time were amazed by something else: their own careful attention to ceremonial rules.

Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way.” The world has always taken offense at that idea. Calvin said, “If any man turn aside from Christ, he will do nothing but go astray; if any man do not rest on Him, he will feed elsewhere on nothing but wind and vanity; if any man, not satisfied with Him alone, wishes to go farther, he will find death instead of life.”

God has a Name for Himself: “I-AM.” The “I-AM” delusion of the world is that each of us is the “I-AM.” The only sanity is to see the Son of God for who He actually is as the true “I-AM” in the flesh who came to live and die for us. This real Jehovah God in person was eating with sinners.

He said to those who were scandalized, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Back to the paralytic from Mark 2:1-12: Are you willing to be the person on the mat, the one who needs forgiveness? Are you willing to be amazed about Jesus, about who He is and what He has done, and let other people care for you in such a way that brings you closer to the One you were created to have as as your sincere focus of greatest amazement and worship?

What are you amazed about?

Are you willing to keep that amazement to yourself?

The story of Levi the tax collector went beyond his own experience of Jesus and into the lives of many other regular people within his circle of influence. Those who thought of themselves as covenant keepers considered it odd that Jesus would share a meal with people like Matthew and his friends. Our Lord understood that contact with lost and troubled children of God was part of His mission. They had to hear His call.

Sermon Point: Disciples are brought to the great Physician for healing. Those who imagine themselves as beyond such a need are kidding themselves. But what can we do if people are sure that they are amazing and are not amazed by Jesus? Help us, O God!

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 70 – Make haste to help me!

New Testament Reading—2 Peter 2 There will be false teachers among you.

Sunday, August 05, 2018

He Rose!


We never saw anything like this!
(Mark 2:1-12, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, August 5, 2018)

[1] 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!”

Jesus preaching the Word

Jesus had set up a temporary residence in the village of Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee. He had most recently been traveling throughout the area, but now “it was reported that he was at home.” When last He had been there such amazing miracles had been accomplished, so that whatever anonymity he once had was now entirely lost.

We are told that his house was far from a place of solitude. Many “gathered together, so that there was no more room” as the residents of the town and surely many from the surrounding region came to Him for help. We should not miss that “He was preaching the Word to them.” It was the miracles that were very interesting to desperate crowds of people, but they heard the preaching of the kingdom. Did they understand that there would be a way for them to know that their sins were forgiven?

A paralytic carried by four men

We are told a very memorable account of “four men” who brought to Jesus a man who could not get to Him on his own power. He was a “paralytic.” Even if had been able to walk, it was difficult to get access to Jesus. The man's friends were essential. Think of what kind of character was necessary in order to do their part? Strength, courage, willingness to suffer disgrace or rejection... All of these qualities were important.

I recently saw an unusual Crossfit event (Rescue Randy Drag) that mirrors the work of a soldier carrying a wounded or deceased comrade to safety. Think of those bearing their friend to the only Man who could possibly help him.

Who would you be willing to carry this way to Jesus? Who would carry you?

Amazingly, they “removed the roof” above the Lord. In order to do this they had to climb up on top of the house carefully carrying their friend. Then they had to take out sections in the rustic ceiling, dismantling a portion big enough for them to “let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.”

Wow! Even Jesus was impressed. He “saw their faith”—not the faith of the needy man, but that of His companions—and then He said to the one these men loved, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Some of the scribes

This was already a very powerful happening, yet the man was still paralyzed. His sins were forgiven, but his legs did not work. Even so, I am sure it was impressive in a way that Jesus, who had performed many miracles very recently in Capernaam, was speaking so definitively about this greatest need of mankind.

Yet some people were again upset. “Some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts.” What was the problem? Jesus' teaching. He pronounced that the man's sins were forgiven, and they found that very offensive. They were not just curious about Jesus: “Why does this man speak like that?” It was more than that. They were accusatory. “He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Blasphemy is an attack against God Himself or His sacred institutions. The point is that the scribes knew that it was God who had to be satisfied concerning the offensiveness of sin. Who was Jesus to say that the man's sins were forgiven?

The Son of Man and the forgiveness of sins

Jesus did not ignore their grumbling and inner accusations. He proved His “authority” as the “Son of Man” to “forgive sins” by healing his infirmity. He said, “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And “he rose.” In front of everybody! “They were all amazed.” Far from starting an anti-God, blasphemous movement, the results of Jesus' words were that the large crowd “glorified God.” As they said, “We never saw anything like this!”

Jesus' question in the verbal sparring that day was, “Which is easier?” A liar could declare the man's sins forgiven, but who could know whether the deed had been accomplished. What the liar could not do was heal the paralytic. By doing the harder work (in terms of proof), Jesus had proven Himself reliable in all that He asserted.

Yet there is another question: “Which is more impressive, forgiving sins, or healing legs.” If a man is truly able to forgive sins, He has done the ultimate healing. Do we have the faith to believe that Jesus has that authority, and that the church that He founded has the right to declare the forgiveness of sins according to His Word (John 20:23)?

How do we know that Jesus is right about sin? The miracles displayed His divine authority, but no work of the Messiah was more to the point than His own resurrection. It was as if the Lord said, “That you may know that I forgive sin, here I am alive again.”

Jesus healed a paralytic brought to Him by four friends who had faith in Jesus' power to restore the broken. Those who saw with their own eyes what happened that day were shocked. Yet what took place in unseen realms was more significant. The Son of Man came to bring about the forgiveness of sins, and the full impact of that will not be visible until we see Him face to face.

Sermon Point: The unseen works of Jesus are even more amazing than His visible miracles.

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 69 – You Know My Reproach

New Testament Reading—2 Peter 1:16-21 The Word

Sunday, July 29, 2018

A Solution for Sin that is More than Skin Deep


Willing and Able
(Mark 1:40-45, Preaching: Pastor Stephen Magee, July 29, 2018)

[40] And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” [41] Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” [42] And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. [43] And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, [44] and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” [45] But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.

If you will, you can make me clean.

And a leper came to him...” Since sin entered into the world, death and the diseases that lead to death have plagued humanity. Whether Mark was referring to Hansen's disease or some other skin malady, the “leper” had external manifestations of biology gone bad and internal hidden enemies that may have been the root cause of severe neurological damage. More importantly, according to Old Testament ceremonial law, the leper had a social problem since his trouble made him ceremonially unclean in a way that was religiously communicable to anyone who touched him. What a vivid picture of the damage that came to mankind through the rebellion of our first parents!

... imploring him, and kneeling ...” This man took a desperate and dangerous risk in coming near Jesus because he had no other hope. He said to Him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” What would the Lord do with this statement of faith–not necessarily a statement of trust in Jesus as the one who would heal humanity's sin problem, but at least the courage to see this Rabbi as the miracle worker who could heal his leprosy.

Be clean.

Notice that Jesus was “moved with pity.” Here we have a glimpse into the inner holiness of right emotions that filled the perfect soul of the Son of God. When we become hardened to the pain and sorrow of others, we need to see that we have a problem inside us that has outer manifestations in our words, the looks on our faces, and the activity or inactivity of our lives. Too often, our first sin is that we just don't care. Who could ever fix that disease within us?

Jesus did care, and so He did the unthinkable in that Jewish culture governed by lots of biblical and extra-biblical regulations concerning clean and unclean: “He stretched out His hand and touched him.” He added to the wonder of His inner life of perfect caring, the calming impact of just the right words. Proverbs 25:11 says that “a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in setting of silver.” Words make a difference. We are creatures that have the divine ability to speak. Jesus had perfect speech. In this case, the man had said “if you will, you can make me clean.” Jesus said to him, “I will; be clean.” What could be better? Maybe it is just what you needed to hear today, even if nothing else makes sense.

Sometimes we would like to say the right thing, and it comes to us the next day. Occasionally we know what to say, and we may even say it well, but then we don't have the power to bring about what we might desire. With Jesus, His Word was always full of strength. Concerning creation, the Apostle John writes, “In the beginning was the Word.” With the leper, we see that Jesus' willingness was combined with amazing divine power. “And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.” This was an astounding miracle. It may have included the elimination of massive numbers of unseen bacteria combined with the healing of nerve damage and all the externally visible losses. Jesus' touch and His words were part of a merciful deliverance that would change the life expectancy, daily existence, and social and religious isolation of this needy petitioner. Praise God! Who could do such a thing? Jesus could, was willing, and did!

Now what?

When we read Mark we need to realize the historical facts of this book. Mark's gospel is very likely the written record of Peter's teaching. Peter would certainly have begun to bring his message to people geographically and temporally near the time and place it was alleged to have happened, certainly within five years time and five days walk. With all the controversy that Jesus brought to Judaism in those days, if this had all been a fake, it would have been easy to dismantle. But there was no one in Jesus' day who denied that He worked miracles like this. To view this account as mythological is over-skeptical, like doubting if you exist. (Dubito, ergo cogito, ergo sum → No way to live.)

So this really happened. Now what? The passage tells us: “Jesus sternly charged him
and sent him away at once, and said to him, 'See that you say nothing to anyone.'” This was a regular pattern for the Lord. What was it that Jesus sought to avoid? He was not demanding that this miracle never be known. The Scriptures included laws about how a man might give testimony to the rest of Israel about divine healing from the socially isolating disease of leprosy. Jesus said, “Go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” The man did not do Leviticus 14. His excited report, which did not really go through proper channels, was undeniable to everyone, and most inconvenient for Jesus' ministry of teaching. Because the man “spread the news” the normal way one would, “Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” Shouldn't we do ministry Jesus' way—the way the Bible directs?

Jesus was willing and able to heal a leper. Why was this significant? What difference should it make in our lives? Take the story forward to the ultimate fulfillment of the plan of God: Jesus will heal all visible and invisible manifestations of sin in our lives.

Applications:

1. What do we want? Health, happiness, prosperity OR to be crucified and risen followers of our Savior? Ouch. Who can heal that leprosy of worldly religion? Jesus.

2. A Spurgeon devotion this week referred to a man who would enter a leper colony and sleep there with the deepest natural revulsion, given the “horrible corruption” in such a place. This dying world is a leper colony. Do we have the heart, the words, and the power of Christ to do what He did or at least to minister in His way? Will we love the offensive with truth or do one of two errors: i) Be disgusted and run away, or ii) Pretend that sin is not sin just to grow? Heal us O Lord! Make us like Your Son (Luke 15).

Again, Jesus will heal all visible and invisible manifestations of sin in our lives. This is our sure destiny. Let's do ministry God's way now. Truth. Love. Obedience.

Old Testament Reading—Psalm 68 – Your Procession, O God

New Testament Reading—2 Peter 1:1-15 Confirming your calling and election