Mark 2 starts out with a pretty familiar story. I remember hearing it a lot when I was little.
So… everybody heard Jesus had come home, so they filled the place. There wasn’t any room left, not even outside the door. Some men show up bring a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they couldn’t get inside, they made a hole in the roof above Jesus and lowered the mat the man was lying on. Jesus healed the paralytic and he dances away. That’s about all I remember. Sadly, I am just now beginning to understand the story… just now, as in, after I started typing the first sentence of this post…
These men make every effort to get their friend to Jesus… and they do. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'” This is the first thing Jesus said to the paralytic (Is that even why the man or his friends were there?). So, the teachers of the law freak out thinking, “He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 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.” I have to be honest and say that is not an easy question. I mean, being in that situation, neither of those options would seem “easier” than the other. But Jesus makes it very clear He has authority over it all when the paralytic is seen walking out the door… But I believe the answer to His question is in the end of verse 12: “This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!'” These people just witnessed a healing like they had never seen. This man was just forgiven of his sins… and healed of his paralysis. I don’t know that they fully comprehended what just happened, but let me continue (so I can hopefully reach my point).
Moving along in Mark 2… Jesus calls Levi, “Follow me.” Levi gets up and follows Jesus. Where does he follow Him? Well they end up eating dinner at Levi’s house… “with many tax collectors and sinners” (You must really be bad if Scripture lumps you together and just calls you “sinners”). So here come the Pharisees again and they see Jesus eating with the “sinners and tax collectors.” So they ask Jesus’ disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” I think they are genuinely curious as to why He does this. “On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”
Jesus just busted up into the Pharisaic party with the not-so-cool guy. And Jesus has busted up into my party.
In church, we always talk about reaching the lost. Bring your friend to church. Tell someone about Jesus. So I walked around with Jesus. We’d go serve people, do some manual labor… we went to church regularly… led Bible studies… Jesus shirts and Jesus bracelets… but I didn’t know Jesus.
Thankfully, only by God’s grace, God continued to pursue me in my perseverance to figure out Jesus. It’s funny, because when Jesus shows up, strange things happen. Jesus took me to the hood. He took me to Turkey. He took me to Haiti. While I like to think I did these things in obedience to Him, I’m starting to see how He staged these steps to get me to the understanding He’s giving me now. He’s slowly showing me who the BIBLE says He is… not the church… not culture… not myself.
The Gospel. Thank You, Jesus, for everyone in the last few weeks that has shown me Christians don’t… can’t… won’t get over the Gospel… They stand in it every. single. day.
Now I’m getting to my point (let me attempt to tie all of this together).
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, “Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.” Paul is reminding his brothers and sisters that have already received and taken a stand on the gospel…. the gospel. We will not understand the gospel until we understand the greatness, holiness, and righteousness of God and our wretchedness, foolishness, and sinfulness (I reallly want to chase some rabbits!) The gospel is life. It is our hope and what we stand on. Yet, we so often move past the gospel. “Congratulations on accepting the gospel. You may now advance to Step 2.” Then it’s church attendance, memory verses, mission trips, abstinence, new friends, clean language, dedication, devotion, K-Love, Bible studies, lead a Bible study, help some needy folks….. ALL good things… but they are NOT Jesus. When we certify ourselves based on our church attendance or the fact that we picked up somebody else’s trash over the blood of Jesus covering an undeserving sinner deserving of Hell… we have a [sarcasm]small[/sarcasm] issue. Jesus came for the sick. He didn’t come to call the righteous. If you think you’re righteous, well, then I guess you’re already taken care of.
I have been given the privilege to serve in a Bible study at a local drug rehab. God also dropped in front of me a Jesus follower from the hood that doesn’t see a problem with marijuana or doing illegal things. If you think you can take your “Christianity” to a drug rehab and offer people hope and life… you’re mistaken. Looking people in the eye and telling them, “You have to become like me before you become a Christian” does not work (well, I can’t say I’ve tried it, but my brain can recognize the fallacy). When you’re talking to a guy that likes his marijuana, telling him to dress up, come to church (in his car with K-Love and a fish sticker), memorize John 3:16, and join a small group won’t do much good. Looking him in the eye and offering him the pure, gospel truth that Jesus came for the sick and not for the righteous… that Jesus came for him as sick and filthy as he is, just the way he is, because He is the doctor and He loves the sick. He doesn’t need any of the other crap we tie into the gospel… He just needs Jesus.
I have NEVER heard anything sweeter than a twenty-three year old dude locked in drug rehab say, “I read about Jesus and He was a pretty f***ing cool dude.”
How dare we decide who gets to hear the gospel. How dare we tell people to clean themselves up before they come to Jesus. How dare we tell people to wipe their shoes at the door of Jesus’ church. Jesus wasn’t up in His fancy church building discussing with the Pharisees next month’s budget. He was the one with the guy in the gutter that you told to get a job. He was with the folks that you tell your kids to avoid. Oh, Jesus, please let us all see how undeserving we are of Your grace and mercy… And in light of that let us see how deserving those around us are to hear, and see, and feel Your grace and mercy through us.
With the Wind at our backs,
And in the strength of the Lord,
We will rise on the wings of the dawn,
We’re gonna take back all the enemy has stolen.
It’s in the Blood of the One Who’s Worthy,
I know God has not forgotten all that’s lost and broken,
So come and see the turning of the tides,
Come and see His sons and daughters rise,
For how could He who did not spare His own Son,
Not freely give us victory against the darkest of nights?
We’re gonna take back all the enemy has stolen,
We’re going to plunder the pits of hell,
It’s in the Blood of the One who’s Worthy!
Take Back – Will Reagan & United Pursuit
[Insert asterisk here. Church, memorizing verses, and K-Love aren’t bad and would do a lot of people a lot of good… but hopefully you see the point 🙂 ]