BASIC TRAINING-ONLY JESUS CAN HELP
Dear Christian friends,
Not every sermon that a pastor writes is necessarily a winner. There are weeks when the juices just don’t seem to be there. The important points don’t seem to connect. There are times when the pastor wants to just go home and take a shower and wash all traces away. Maybe the congregation does too. Once in a while it is good for a pastor to have that experience because it is God’s way of teaching humility. Finally, the conversion of a heart is the work of the Holy Spirit.
But a sermon that is not worth listening to is the one that doesn’t mention Jesus. A couple I know once said they attended a worship service at a church (member of a mainline church) and not once was Jesus mentioned. They said the service was about outreach. When I think of outreach I think of reaching out and sharing the good news of Jesus life and death and resurrection – all that he did to forgive our sin and give us life of the eternal kind. That’s the purpose of His Church. Go and make disciples, followers of Jesus, of every nation by baptizing and teaching. The couple said their outreach consisted of helping the poor, offering childcare and a food bank! Very noble causes but not much good if people don’t know the way to heaven! No one gets to heaven without Jesus. That’s part of Basic Training. When it comes to where we spend eternity “Only Jesus Can Help.” Today we are we reminded 1) Why He can help; 2) Why He must help.
We go back in time to Jesus’ ministry. He was traveling around Galilee just as Isaiah had predicted 700 years earlier bring light to the people who were living in the darkness of unbelief. He returned to Capernaum, his adopted home, but the press of people was relentless. “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.” Jesus was a rock star preacher and certainly deserved that title.
What happened in that house in Capernaum was proof why. “Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.” It’s fascinating that the Bible speaks of a miracle done on someone but doesn’t mention their name. It makes me smile to think in heaven we are going to find out someone’s name and they might identify themselves as one of the shepherds outside Bethlehem when the angels appeared the night Jesus was born. Or as in this story – I was the paralyzed man on the mat. So you’re the one!
Mark mentions five people here, four carrying the man on the mat and the one on the mat. Were they relatives, good friends, or neighbors of the helpless man? We will know that when we get to heaven. But what is most important is the faith of these men. They didn’t give up in getting to see Jesus. The crowds were overwhelming. They filled the house, but they carried the paralyzed friend and dug through the roof to be able to lower him in front of Jesus.
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”Isn’t it interesting how Jesus began? Maybe it’s just me, but I would have thought that Jesus would have begun by healing him. He began by announcing “Your sins are forgiven.” There are two explanations I can think of.
Every difficulty we go through in life can be traced to Eden when our just and righteous God cursed sin. After the first sin, God told Eve, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” To Adam he said,“Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” Whether it is paralysis, dialysis or the psychoanalysis, sin brought them about. Perfection was ruined. It will be found again only in heaven.
When you go to a doctor for the first time, you are asked to fill out a health profile. They ask what diseases your parents might have had along with siblings. Often they run along family lines - diabetes, heart problems, types of cancer! There is a block that ought to be there to check, but it isn’t because it is too obvious – sin. It runs in the family, every family. Paralysis is the result of living in a sinful world and the product of our first parents. So are arthritis and headaches and every other problem we might have. Everyone needs to hear from Jesus, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Perhaps there is another reason. Maybe the paralytic man is like a lot of us are. We don’t know why he was paralyzed – whether a birth problem or an accident or disease. We know what we do when we undergo problems. “Why me, Lord?” “God, are you punishing me?” Maybe there was a specific sin that was bothering him. Remember, Jesus can read our hearts. Perhaps that’s why he assured the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” To hear Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven” is something we can use anywhere and anytime.
Getting back to the story! The enemies of Jesus were upset when Jesus said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.” “Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves,“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming!” Forgiving sin is something that only God can do. They were right except when he also authorizes people to do so as he does to his church. He does do that. “Whosoever sins you forgive, they are forgiven.” God authorizes his church to do exactly that.
Here is the part of this story that just makes us smile. Jesus rebuts those false teachers, “Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man,“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.” To forgive sin and to heal diseases is the work of God. Guess what? Jesus forgave the man his sin and healed the man from the paralysis. The man got up and walked. No evidence of sea legs or muscle atrophy! He got up and walked on home. Says something about who Jesus is, doesn’t it? Just like Thomas who saw the crucified Jesus alive and said, My Lord and my God!” every one of those skeptics should have been saying exactly the same thing, “My Lord and my God!” That’s why can help us because of who he is – “My Lord and my God!”
Three and four centuries after Jesus ascended into heaven, there were many who questioned who Jesus was within the Christian church. Satan won’t allow the church to live in peace. Church leaders were anything but unanimous about what they believed about the Triune God and the person of Jesus Christ. Two of the creeds of the Christian Church, the Nicene Creed (we use it with communion services) and the Athanasian Creed (the creed we say on Trinity Sunday pages 132-133 in our hymnal) came about to address in a direct way to tell us what the Bible says about God and Jesus. God is Triune – one God but three persons Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus, God the Son, came to this earth and took on human flesh. He is God eternal and powerful as the Father and the Holy Spirit, but also man conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
Let’s look at a couple of passages about Jesus - Romans 9:5. Listen carefully. The apostle Paul wrote about the Jewish nation when he said, “Theirs are the patriarchs” (meaning the great fathers of the faith, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, David and others were part of the Hebrew nation), “and from them is traced the human ancestry of Messiah (the Savior of the nations – Jesus) “who is God over all, forever praised! Jesus with human ancestry is also God over all.
How about John 5:23? Jesus urged “that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” Divine honor is to be given to Jesus just like the Father. If you don’t, you aren’t honoring the Father or the Son. You aren’t honoring God. The Son is God as the Father is God. Not two gods or three gods if you add the Holy Spirit but one God.
Yet he was human in every sense of the word except for sin. On Jesus way back to Nazareth at the age of twelve when he visited Jerusalem, the Bible says, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” It is hard to imagine that to be said about God that he grew in wisdom and stature. Growing in wisdom and stature is his humanness. He was man too. He even called himself the Son of Man. God and man in one
Why? Why did this have to be the case? God makes this demand of all: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” No one is, but that’s why the world needed him. He was born of woman – human; born under the law. He was to keep the commandments that we fail at so miserably. He kept them perfectly…for us. He lived a perfect human life for us.
He did more. God says “the wages of sin is death.” Even though he was the perfect human he died the death that paid for sins fully. That’s why he was human.
Why God? The psalmist says something interesting in Psalm 49, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them—the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough.” No mere human can die for another and expect to save the other. No life is precious enough, except if that life is the life of the God-man, Jesus. Only God can provide an all-sufficient price. That’s who Jesus was and is – God.
And only God can provide a righteousness, a perfection, that will save all people. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Only his obedience could cover the sins of the world.
During the third and fourth centuries, the church was infected with a lot of false teaching just as it is today. Many followed the false teachers. The faithful were persecuted. Among them was a man by the name of Gregory of Nazianz. He was one of three brothers, called the Cappadocian brothers, who fought for their faith and influenced the church to stay on the straight and narrow. Gregory wrote these interesting paradoxes about Jesus:
Jesus began His ministry by being hungry, yet He is the Bread of Life.
Jesus ended His earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet He is the Living Water.
Jesus was weary, yet He is our rest.
Jesus paid tribute, yet He is the King.
Jesus was accused of having a demon, yet He cast out demons.
Jesus wept, yet He wipes away our tears.
Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeemed the world.
Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd.
Jesus died, yet by His death He destroyed the power of death.
The very last words from our Scripture are these words, “This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” You know what? No one will. Give us the eyes of faith, Lord, to see Jesus as our only help.