Thursday, March 16, 2006

Risky Things to Do and Say

I said that I’d occasionally put up bits of a sermon. And here is my first.

I explored Mark 2:1-12 on Sunday. Take a read.

I noted that Jesus does not deny this man’s ‘felt need’ [to walk], but he does not restrict him to his ‘felt need’ either [he needs his sins forgiven]. There was obviously more that I said than that, for the story is ultimately a conflict story leading to two opposing groups plotting this Son of Man's death in Mark 3:6. But here is a part of the talk:

“Question! Which one of these two statements is easier to say to a man in a wheelchair? Is it easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven’ or ‘stand up, fold your wheelchair, and walk out this door?’

What a Question!

Both are tantalising possibilities.
Both are potentially cruel.
Both are risky things to do and say.
One seems presumptuous, the other preposterous.
Actually, they both seem presumptuous and preposterous.
But if either could happen, it would be a beautiful miracle.

So what’s the answer?

  • It could be: Neither is easier [and neither is harder]: In fact you could say both very easily. I said it just now when I read it. I did not find either particularly difficult to say.
  • It could be: Saying “your sins are forgiven” is much easier because no one can know right then if it has or has not been achieved - whereas everyone will know you are a fake within seconds if the man is not healed. More seems at stake saying to a paralytic, ‘stand up’.
  • It could be: Both are impossible to do. In fact, on your own, you have as much chance of being forgiven as a paralytic does in walking out the door that day.

While you are battling with your head to answer the question, Jesus undercuts all your brain power with an astonishing display of grace and power:

10 But so 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, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’

However you answered his question, Jesus is powerfully and graciously demonstrating: I can do both.”


Love, Justin.


chelsea said...

That is very cool Justin!
You know why? Cos we have pretty much no power to do either - regardless of saying it - but Jesus can and will do both. Thats pretty massive is it not?!
Now I know thats bascially what you have already said - but that power is huge! Its one of those indescribable things though i reckon - or at least over this little comment its hard to see what kind of response people have to that - but it definately requires a response, does it not!?!!
A response that perhaps lies somewhere along the lines of awe of the one with this power, and comfort from what it offers, but also a type of fear i think too!
hmm ok now I'm rambling again...hope some of that makes sense...i could potentially keep going all day...
But thanks for sharing your thoughts and sermon Justin!!

Justin said...

Ramble away, Chels. I love it.

The response of the people that day was interesting :

"12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

You are on the money, Chels...

Jim said...

There is so much Grace in this passage.

The man gets a double hit of grace. He gets his sins forgiven, and he gets healed.

2 gifts of grace which show God's power.

Its nice to know the people watching 'praised God'.


Justin said...



jodi mclaren said...

i think He's demonstrating "i can do both" but i think that the undercurrent question is "which do you want more?"
(and i hope NYC is realising how blessed they are having you you all there!)

Bean said...

I think the second question is harder to say: i've always had trouble with the word 'wheelchair', i never know whether i should pronounce the 'h' in wheel or not. And if so, how?

Nick W. said...

Hey Justin!

It's Nick W, Katy's husband, saying "howdy".

Great post, and great to see you blogging!

Grace is it. Grace is the antidote to our fears, our suffering, our obsession for control of our lives. Grace counsels everything and heals everything through Christ. Yet only God, through the Holy Spirit, can make it "real" to our hearts!! Will we ever really understand the miracle that God allows through the grace of regeneration??

I think Romans 9 gives us the beginning glimpses of the enormity of the gift of grace:

15For he says to Moses, "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion." 16So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth." 18So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.

Then down to 19..

You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?" 20But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?" 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.

Talk about putting you in the right position to relate to God!! It's his sovereign choice, his sovereign mercy. He didn't have to choose any of us - yet He has.

Just like Paul, down in verse 33, we're left to say:

33Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!

34"For who has known the mind of the Lord,
or who has been his counselor?"
35"Or who has given a gift to him
that he might be repaid?"

Every time we take a shower, sit on a cramped bus, spill coffee on ourselves, lose our wallet, kiss someone we love or understand something in the Bible, every breath we take, in fact, is a gift of grace. Where would be without it?

Hell, I guess.

Hail to the King!

God Bless,

Justin said...

Indeed Nick.

Welcome to my blog.

In grace, Justin.

tiddy said...

After doing Scott P's sermon skills course thingy, In gave a sermon on this passage in senior high late last year. Isn't it a brilliant passage? Did a quiet time on it again a few weeks ago, and was struck all over again by the sheer drama of the scene.

Andyway, despite the fact that most of SH core seemed to disagree with me, I still think I had the right answer to that question. I'd type out my explanation, but I'm meant to be leaving home in five minutes, so with J-Man's permission I'll use good old fashioned copy and paste ;-)

What I think Jesus is saying is this:
anyone can say to someone “Your sins are forgiven.”
And anyone can say:“Arise and Walk”

The Difference is in the results
If I say to someone, “Your sins are forgiven”
You can’t tell if they are or not
There’s no black mark that disappears
You look just the same
So, easy to say. [editorial note: note that I didn't say easy to do, as in it's easy to heal sins. Just that "Your sins are forgiven" is easy to SAY. To me, that's the key point]

But if I say “Arise and walk.”
It’s pretty obvious if it works or not.
Either the guy rises and walks, or he doesn’t
So, it’s harder to say.

Do you see where Jesus is going with this?
It’s easy for him to say “Your sins are forgiven.”
But a lot harder to say “Arise and walk”
So if he heals the dude, it does more than make the guy happy and well
It proves something
By doing the harder thing, Jesus proves he can do the easier thing

Just my little theory. Denigrate at your peril ;-)

Pete said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Pete said...

That little theory of Tiddy's got a run at Campus Bible Study last week from the equivalent Matthew Passage (Ch9).

Another theory was the Engineers theory that the "pick up you mat" statement was shorter in matthew, with less syllables, so must be easier to say.

Such a joyful passage, and such wonder that God would forgive our sins.

Previous comment deleted to fix up the link.