Wednesday, June 1, 2016

"Follow Me"...In Restoring Others

What comes to mind when you read the following names?
  • Osama Bin Laden
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Billy Graham
  • Hillary Clinton
  • The apostle Paul
  • Barack Obama
  • Judas Iscariot
  • Donald Trump
  • Andy Braams (me)
  • You
Some of those individuals may be favorable to you. Others not. But here is something we all know, yet we cannot accept. Jesus loved or loves each one of those people the same. He died for every one of them.

This past week at our church was a great reminder of that fact. It was Vacation Bible School week so we had children all over the place this week and they didn’t care about any of the items with which we usually concern ourselves. In fact, they didn’t care much about anything while they were here – anything other than Jesus, that is. As adults, we can pretend to do the same thing by putting on a certain “face” to come to worship. But that isn’t what Jesus wants. Jesus wants us. And He deserves all of us because He loves us.

But I am convinced that more than us coming, Jesus is worried about if, and how, we go. What do we take from here when we go? This week, the message is about those who are hurting. What is our response? Some people will not tell us they are hurting, but others do. How do we respond? Well, let’s look at how Jesus responded.

Jesus restores unexpectedly. (Mark 2.1-12)

Last week, the post focused on Jesus leaving Capernaum to go and preach and cast our demons around Galilee. This week, Jesus is back in Capernaum. We don’t know exactly when this was because all Mark gives us is that it was “after some days.” When Jesus left Capernaum it was because everyone sought Him as one who did miracles. Now, we find Jesus back, but teaching – not in the synagogue, but in a home – and possibly the home where He lived.

But in the midst of His teaching, something very unexpected happens. An opening appears in the roof and a man is lowered down before Jesus. Many homes in that day had an exterior staircase up to a flat roof where people could sit (much like many use a deck in their backyard). Many of these roofs were supported by beams from the inside, and made of branches and covered with mud or sod, so it would not have been too difficult to tear the roof open.

The paralyzed man had probably heard of Jesus healing others when Jesus was in Capernaum previously. Maybe the people that brought the man were part of the group that was looking for Jesus last time before He left (Mark 1.37). Maybe they were some of who had been healed (Mark 1.33-34). Regardless, these other people (“they” as recorded in Mark 2) brought this man before Jesus – and Jesus says it was their faith that saved him (more on that in a minute), but it is not too much to consider that the man asked his friends to take him to Jesus.

Anyway, all of a sudden, the roof starts opening up – pieces fall down below – onto Jesus, onto the crowd. Remember, Jesus is teaching – not healing. Healing is not the intent on this day as far as we know. But “they” wanted Jesus to heal this man and had the courage to do whatever it took. Here that courage was to tear down someone’s house! Faith will find a way. It will overcome any obstacle because of the focus and determination of the one exercising their faith. Faith is not just knowing something, it is doing something.

It was the faith “they” had which helped the man get healed. But I mentioned above that something unexpected happened. And it did. The tearing open the roof (of a neighbors house!) was unexpected, the lowering of a man was unexpected, but Jesus not healing Him physically – now that was unexpected! Jesus says to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.” To which His critics rightly say, “Who can forgive sin but God alone?” (For more about God place in forgiveness see Exodus 34.6-7; Psalm 103.3; Isaiah 43.25; Micah 7.18.)

But Jesus perceives their thoughts, so He says to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” Jesus gives the man direction, and unlike the leper last week, this man did just what Jesus commanded. Jesus had the confidence the man would be healed because Jesus has the authority. But the man had to have faith too. Mark tends to provide details and he doesn’t do so here. Mark doesn’t tell us that the man wobbled to his feet – because he didn’t. The man simply got up, bent back over to get his bed, and walked away.

But it wasn’t done as the man might have expected. Sure Jesus healed him. But can you imagine his original reaction? He was lowered down before Jesus and had no idea how Jesus, nor anyone else would react. And Jesus forgives his sins. I can imagine the man saying, “Ok, you forgave my sins, but that is not really what I came here for? See, I was hoping to walk!”

But Jesus had more in mind. We often limit our request to the known. But Jesus wants to take us beyond the known to something deeper. What we want is often far less than what God offers. But because we can’t see beyond the known, we aren’t willing to take what He gives. This man received far more than he came to get.

But it wasn’t just the man who was offered restoration. Jesus offered it to anyone there who believed. Jesus acknowledged the faith of those who brought the man. Jesus offered it to the scribes who were intrigued by the healings, but incensed at His teachings. But Jesus came to restore them as well. They just didn’t think they needed it. And that leads us to our second point.

Jesus restores us undeservedly. (Mark 2.13-17)

Do you remember the names I mentioned at the beginning of the post? Well, the names that you thought were not worthy of God’s love – that is how the Jews of Yeshua’s day felt about tax collectors. We may not like tax collectors in our day, but in Jesus’ day they were despised. First, you had to associate with Gentiles to get the job – effectively you worked for Rome. Secondly, you bid for the job. This means that you chose the job, but even more, you chose to cheat your fellow Jews out of their own money to give it to the enemy. The leper and the paralytic may have been unclean, but they didn’t choose their illness (although sin and disease was thought to be synonymous in most cases in the first century). Thus, a tax collector was more despised than a leper.

But Jesus calls Levi to join Him. To follow Him. Why? Because as the kids learned, Jesus loves us. He died for us. He died for the tax collector, the Pharisee, and anyone in between. Note that the text says Levi the son of Alphaeus. Luke 6 says that James is the son of Alphaeus, so some debate whether Levi is James or Matthew. I propose that the two were brothers. I cannot prove this, but Jesus had already called two sets of brothers (James/John and Andrew/Peter) so why not a third set. This would promote more of a family feel.

But calling Levi had to be another unexpected moment. Levi was not just any tax collector. He was a customs collector meaning that all items for trade (or sale) would be taxed by him. That would include fish which was the business of the two previous sets of brothers called by Jesus. Mark 1.20 suggests that James and John came from at least moderate wealth because they had a boat and servants. So they likely were taxed a great deal by Levi and may have despised him personally. Now, Levi is joining them as followers of Jesus.

Again, consider which person (from the beginning of the post) you would be least likely to choose to spend the next three years. That is likely how Levi may have felt as he joined James, Peter and their brothers. The moment was awkward for Levi, but he followed. And apparently, he told many friends because we find them at a meal shortly thereafter. In our culture, we eat around strangers all the time when we eat at a restaurant. We may do so without ever knowing anything about them, and we might never see them again. However, we do usually concern ourselves over who comes to our house for a meal. In Jesus’ day, the stakes for inviting people into your house was even higher – to have table fellowship with someone (and notice they were reclining – this was not a fast food meal) was to express a deep friendship.

But I want you to notice one more word in this section. In verse 15, Mark includes the word sinners. This word does not necessarily vile offenders. The term has the connotation of people who did not keep the covenant law. That means, as one commentary suggests, they may have taken God’s name in vain, they did not wash their hands when they got home from shopping, they did not go to synagogue (church) they associated with Gentiles (that is, non-believers), and they didn’t keep the Sabbath. (IVP, Mark, p61).

I would suggest that that description fits many individuals today – people in your town, your state, your country, and maybe even you! It was these individuals that Jesus chose to consider friends. Not also that the text does not say that they used to be sinners. They were sinners and there were many. One of the best insights I have ever received from a book besides the Bible was from a book written over fifty years ago called the Master Plan of Evangelism. In the book, the author (Robert Coleman) clearly shows that Jesus’ disciples did not follow because they were disciples. They learned to be disciples. That is, Jesus taught His disciples to be disciples. Specifically, Jesus took a bunch of sinners and turned them into people who would continue His ministry after He was gone.

Jesus has the power to change the lives of those who don’t deserve it. People like you and me. In Ephesians 2, verses 3 and 4, we are told all of us were children of wrath. That is, we, as sinners, deserved the wrath of God. But God, in His mercy, because of grace, through our faith, has not only spared us from the wrath we deserve, but has given us an inheritance with Christ – at least for those who follow Jesus.

Now that is unexpected, and it is certainly undeserved.

Not Just Jesus, But God

Jesus was man, but Jesus was also God. He claimed to be God elsewhere, but in this passage (specifically related to healing the paralytic) Jesus let His actions show who He truly was. Look back to verse 12. Remember the scribes were not happy thinking that Jesus had blasphemed God. But verse 12 shows that the people there (besides the Scribes) gave glory to God for this healing. This is remarkable because in Mark 1, it was Jesus fame which spread (v. 28), and people came from everywhere to be healed (vv. 32-34). But now, in Chapter 2.1-17, Jesus heals one man physically, another emotionally, and both spiritually. But the glory, as seen in verse 12, is given to God. The attention and focus was not on Jesus. It was on God.

The people could see that God was the one at work. God was working in a new way, but they saw it as God. However, the religious people of that day did not see it. In fact, in John 9, in a completely separate incident, Jesus says the leaders were blind to the truth of what God is doing. This reminds me of what Jesus told those listening in His sermon on the mountainside. In Matthew 5.16, Jesus says that we are to be salt and light in order that our good works might cause others to glorify the Father in heaven. And that leads us perfectly to our JOURNEY letter this week.


The JOURNEY letter for this week is: – Evoke.

I see a lot of Christians today who are mad at the world. We might say that they are provoked. But we are not to be provoked. We are not to blame others. We are to help them find Jesus. If we are provoked, others will be too. But we can evoke the hearts of others to find the one and only solution to all of life’s problems.

Consider what Jesus did. Jesus was far less concerned with blaming others. Rather He focused on how to save them. If that was His focus, and we claim to be followers of Jesus, should not that be our focus as well?

The friends of the paralytic took every possible measure to get their friend to Jesus. Jesus changed the man’s life. Then Jesus changed Levi’s life, as well as that of the four fishermen who would have had a tough pill to swallow in accepting this new “friend.” So, what do we do with this message?


Our opportunity this week is to consider how we might restore others as well. Restoring others means we must learn to value them. Jesus restored the ungodly, the unworthy, and the sinner – including you and I. He calls those that follow Him to do the same.

So, what about our next steps?

Learn God’s ways. What are your prejudices? We need to identify and rid of ourselves of our prejudices if we are going to better follow Jesus.

Live mercifully. To extend mercy, is to not give to someone what they deserve. Who might find some courage to continue by receiving a little mercy from you?

Love grace. Grace is getting what you don’t deserve. Learn to better appreciate the gift that God has granted you and let His grace continue to mold you.

Lead graciously. Who might find hope in the true Savior by you being gracious to them as God has been gracious to you?

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