Mark 2: The Red Thread Stories – Story 1
2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 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. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 5 “Son, your sins are forgiven…
…and he [Jesus] said to them, 8 Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Get up, take your mat and walk? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. So he said to the man, 11 I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home…
I’ve been reading Mark in a “red letter” version of the Bible. Mark seems to be more a journalist than a philosopher. He documents these events about Jesus with concise information. That made me wonder if there’s a connection to be made with that “red” thread throughout the chapter. I think it’s going to be evidence of the power of Jesus over both the visible and the invisible.
Story One: Jesus speaks to forgive the sins of the paralyzed man knowing the cultural belief is that sin is responsible for his condition. The Pharisees reaction hasn’t escaped him. They consider the words he’s spoken as blasphemy. The man’s condition is visible for all to see but the first word Jesus speaks address only the invisible sin. Jesus speaks again to prove his authority over the invisible with words that reveal visible power and visible results; pick up your mat and go home.
Mark 1:12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him. 14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!” [NLT]
I couldn’t avoid the red letters of verse 15 in this very familiar story. This chapter is filled with truths I think I know but I know for sure there are still new kingdom things to ponder. Those things turned out to be the few verses that preceded Jesus’ own words combined with this quote from a commentary on Mark .
“Life would be very different if, instead of yearning for some distant and at present unattainable goal, we did all that we could to bring that goal nearer.” [Barclay]
Forty days of temptation plus a dear friend and cousin who’s been arrested don’t bring to mind a neon GO sign do they? Don’t forget the fact that Jesus was fully human and he’d just endured a long period of Satan making sure he knew that. Jesus was experiencing humanity at it’s lowest point but it became his confirmation that “The time promised by God has come at last!”
There’s another compelling thing to remember: he was fully God. That’s even more important because it’s our evidence that his eyes were wide open to just what his “unattainable” goal was – he would not avoid the cross. That was his painful reality and he still chose to do all he could to bring that goal nearer.
That’s the example Jesus gave us to follow: holiness that defies humanity.
Matthew 15:15 Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” 16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.”
Par·a·ble: a simple story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson, as told by Jesus in the Gospels.
“The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” is a red-letter Biblical truth from Jesus. We need to believe it and let it change us. Without a doubt we’ve all spoken words and done things that defiled us. Is that flaw part of the muscle memory stored in all hearts since Adam and Eve decided they should figure out the difference between good and evil for themselves? Was that where we began to depend on “rules” to erase what defiled us?
Long before medical science had proof of how central the heart is to the healthy functioning of the body Jesus knew the heart he’d helped create. The muscle memory of God was still there and could be remembered, renewed and redeemed by his truth.
2 Peter 3:3 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4 They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.” 5 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water.
My life has been bookmarked by a long span of relative security and safety. There’s been the comfort of stability that I’ve been able to depend on. I like that. It’s no wonder I’m shocked to discover “that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires”…but God can even use the distress of current events for good. He can still change hearts, even mine. I’m beginning to see how important praying “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” really is.
Peter’s words have reminded me those “last days” probably began way back on that 8th day after creation. God has chosen to fill every “last day” of all that time between then and now with opportunity for his creation: a new day, a new beginning. The keywords of Peter’s message are “they deliberately forget.” They “deliberately forget” it’s God who’s created this kingdom we’re living in “by the word of his command.” It’s God who’s given them the privilege of every one of these “last days” and longs for them to come to their senses and remember his voice.
“Most importantly” all of us who live by faith need to “deliberately” remember when we pray “thy kingdom come, thy will be done” it’s much more than just words or wishes. We are agreeing with God’s longing for the hearts and minds of those scoffers to recognize his truly secure, safe and stable kingdom IS NOT of their own making.
2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—
9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment.
17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them.
19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.”
Once again our nation has been rocked by the violence that happened in Charlottesville, VA. Last Sunday our pastor gave us this heartbreaking reminder; “hate is LOUD and love, by it’s very nature is soft. We’ve come to be a society that responds more to rebellion and violence than we do to the Good News of the Gospel.” His words were not a condemnation for others but a challenge to us that we need to love loudly.
That made it hard to read this chapter about the destruction of those who’s doctrine is hate and deception and discover my hope was for the judgment God has reserved for them. Hate IS loud. But…I swear by God’s name, rather than enjoy Peter’s words that God will wipe them off the face of the earth, I will not let the circumstances of broken people in a broken world make my faith unproductive and ineffective!
I am going to follow Jesus’ teaching from Luke 11. “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.”
“Shameless udacity” in prayer is the only way I can LOVE LOUDLY.
JESUS, DEAR FRIEND, GIVE THESE HATEFUL, DECEPTIVE PEOPLE BREAD THAT CAN CHANGE THEIR HEARTS AND MINDS SO THEY CAN BE SAVED AND BE BLESSED…too! Can you hear me Lord?
2 Peter 1:1-12 Read these verses first in your favorite Bible. Today’s post is from the [SCV] Shirle’s Condensed Version. “Quotes” are from the NIV.
FYI: You have received a faith as precious as that of a disciple. It came with a core of knowledge about God and Jesus that promises abundant grace and peace as you learn to live it daily. What you’ve already received is everything needed for a godly life but there’s more to learn of Jesus’ glory and goodness that will protect you from “corruption in the world caused by evil desires.”
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith” these qualities: goodness, knowledge, self control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection and finally love. Your faith doesn’t need anything more but these qualities help you learn to live what you know about Jesus and make you effective and productive, right here and now. Don’t be nearsighted, remember how your past sins have been wiped away? How you live your life of faith confirms that.
Live to learn all that God has yet to teach you even though you’re “firmly established in the truth you now have.” That’s what ties every day of this life to the “rich welcome” of the forever ahead.
I Peter 5:8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
There it is again…”Be alert and of sober mind.”
1. So you may pray AND
2. Because your enemy the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour and you don’t want to be a target.
While the words of the Lord’s Prayer are familiar it’s much more difficult to plug my personal prayers into it than I would have thought. It’s going to take some practice and thought. Practice makes perfect.
I. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…
A. Your name is a holy and spoken prayer in itself. You have chosen to intervene in the life of your creation…my life.
1. I’m grateful for your persuasion
2. I’m thankful for your instruction
3. I’m aware of your blessing
II. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven…
A. I have one foot in each of the two kingdoms you’ve created but I live in this one right now. Give me evidence of your will being done on earth to encourage me to keep heaven in sight.
1. Remember the evidence
III. Give us this day our daily bread…
A. Give me the desire to prepare a healthy spiritual diet that’s well balanced with truth AND wisdom.
1. Remember today’s bread
a. Is it just another serving of manna or a full-course meal?
b. Is it nourishment or just food?
IV. Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others…
A. My only understanding of the relationship between deserving and forgiveness is what I know you’ve given me.
1. Don’t let my flawed mind and unforgiving heart create a barrier between us.
2. Teach me to forgive in a way that is not limited by my own understanding.
V. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil:
A. Lead us and deliver us, Lord, from the traps of our own making the devil has lined up for us.
1. What are the traps?
VI. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever…
A. This may not be heaven but it is your kingdom
1. Help me find your glory in it.
B. Your Word has power
1. Strengthen my prayers
C. Unite my today with your forever.
A. May it come to pass every day and all tomorrows Lord.
“I Peter 4:7b Therefore be alert and of sober mind so that you may pray.”
This book of I Peter and my absorption with current events have made it clear I really need to pray for our country and our government. There IS a constructive purpose to being “alert and of sober mind” than goes beyond consuming information…”so you may pray.” Sometimes praying is complicated and information doesn’t always make things clearer when it evokes so much emotion.
Recently our pastor has spoken about how he deals with the complexity of who, what and how to pray by using the familiar words of the Lord’s Prayer as his basic outline to filter the events and emotions of his own life. That’s certainly what I need.
OK, OK, OK…to I Peter, to the Pastor…and to practicing what Jesus preached in Matthew 6 when he said “This, then, is how you should pray…” I’ve got information, now I need basic application.
Thanks to Brad Boydston for these prayer ideas he’s made available so what Jesus taught can become a personal reality.
I Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. 10 For, “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep their tongue from evil and their lips from deceitful speech. 11 They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. 12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”
I wish I was writing about something else today. I read this chapter over and over looking for something other than this passage but it was stuck in my mind in light of current events. The airways and print media are filled this week with reports of the very public loss of the ability to keep the “tongue from evil” and “lips from deceitful speech.” It’s impossible to watch, listen and read about them and believe there are “good days” ahead.
These scripture verses are obvious and absolute truths that seem so contrary to those events that all I could think was “They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it. ” That’s absolutely true but they don’t care, and I can’t change them. The shocker is with all my highly sensitized awareness of a truth that’s so needed for “them,” I haven’t been willing to do the one thing the Lord’s watching and listening for from me that can help.
“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer…”
Current events make our country seem like an x-rated, made-for-TV production but God promises a something very different if we will watch, listen AND pray for his reality.