He Must Meet Jesus!

And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Mark 2:3

Reading this passage what stands out is how persistent these four men were! They were convinced that Jesus could heal the man if they could just get him in front of him.

If you picture what they were attempting to do, all the while carrying dead weight, you’ve got to marvel at their ingenuity and never-say-die attitude. I can just imagine the pieces of pitch and straw raining done on Jesus and the crowd inside as he spoke, and the distraction it created.

But more importantly, I have to wonder, was it the paralytic’s faith or the four men’s that did the trick? And whose sins were forgiven, the paralyzed man or his friends? Scripturally, all were saved and forgiven on the basis of their faith, but perhaps it took the face-to-face encounter with Jesus to reach deep into the paralytic’s soul.

The four men were convinced of Jesus’ power. On the other hand, the paralytic may not have been convinced in his physical state, but they envisioned him whole. Think of the state of a lost world if all were taken to meet Jesus with this kind of motivation!

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A Touching Experience

And a leper came to Jesus, beseeching Him and falling on his knees before Him, and saying, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Moved with compassion, Jesus stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.” Mark 1:41-42

If you were Jesus’ personal handler, and you knew what he was trying to accomplish, perhaps healing a leper wasn’t the best idea, and you’d tell him that. It’s encouraging to see that Jesus’ compassion won out.

This dramatic scene was a movie maker’s dream. We should key in on the lines “if you are willing” and “I am willing.” So much of the Christian life is built off this theology. Jesus offered up similar words to his Father in the Garden (Matthew 26:39). In his case, the Father was not willing, for he eyed a higher good.

No, the Christian life is not about self-fulfillment but yielding to God’s will. In the leper’s case things went his way, and he could not contain himself. Despite Jesus’ best efforts to direct the man to follow proper channels, the now walking and talking “Exhibit A” spread the news far and wide.

Particularly irritating to the leaders was Jesus’ propensity to heal the sick and then pronounce that their sins had been forgiven (Mark 2:5). As clean as the leper now was, his faith is what healed him. The outward manifestation was smooth skin, but inwardly the true miracle occurred in the creation of a clean heart.

Follow each prayer with “if you are willing” and you will do well.

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Not on Call This Weekend

Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for. Mark 1:38

If every time we prayed we immediately got what we asked for, in no time we’d set out to remove all challenges, hindrances, pain and delays in our lives. While Jesus did heal many who were sick and exorcise many demons, his main purpose was to preach the news that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mark 1:15).

That’s why he needed to spread the word in other cities and not just set up his medical practice in Capernaum. The people and his disciples needed to learn this upfront. The Messiah was at hand but wouldn’t be taking the world by force on this house call. Perhaps this is why he gagged the demons.

So bothered was he by the shallow—but understandable—response of the people that he sought out a quiet place early in the morning to pray (Mark 1:35). But there he was “hunted down” by his new recruits with their good news, that more sick awaited his healing hand. They too did not yet grasp the magnitude or thrust of his ministry.

Realize that Jesus did not callously leave the winding line of sick in a lurch. They too had to learn he had a higher calling to preach rather than to practice medicine, that his specialty was in healing souls.

Not lost on us is the priority of prayer to refocus on God’s plan for us, and it’s the most needful while we’re still in the dark.

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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they *spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them. Mark 1:29-31

There’s an old movie called Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, a story about inter-racial relationships. Here Simon brings home Jesus for dinner, to an unprepared wife caring for her ailing mother.

Knowing women as I do, the presence of three unexpected dinner guests in the house was enough to send a wife into a panic, but how could her impetuous husband extend such an invitation knowing mother was sick? And what’s this about leaving your nets?

Jesus took matters into his own hands. It doesn’t say that Simon’s mother-in-law was sick unto death, but that she had a fever. Compared to casting out demons, this would be easy.

I think this “minor” miracle was designed to get Simon’s wife on board and no doubt, acquire the blessing of the matron of the family for the drastic changes that were coming.

We know elsewhere that Simon (or Peter) was taking along a believing wife (1 Corinthians 9:5). Well here’s where it all started. Behind every great man, and so forth. Peter was the kind of man who was going to need backup, and now he had it.

Incidentally, his mother-in-law did what most mother-in-laws do, instantaneously serving up a banquet meal.

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By the Authority Vested in Me

They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Mark 1:22

There’s a common understanding that one has to earn the right to speak. Who wants to listen to—much less follow—a man whose words lack authority, who’s not credible?

Here Jesus compels busy men with a word to follow him, and they do. He commands a demon to leave a man and he does. He reads scripture and he speaks as if he wrote it, and he essentially did.

The disciples cast their lots with him and no longer their nets on his command. They didn’t even know who he was. The unclean spirit knew exactly who he was and wanted nothing to do with “the Holy One of God.”

What’s Mark trying to tell us? In his inimitable fashion, waste no time responding to the Lord’s request. “Repent and believe in the gospel!” Tomorrow may not come.

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Audience of One

John the Baptist was specially chosen before birth to herald the arrival of the Christ to save the world. If he was to decrease and Jesus to increase from there on out (John 3:30), what was the purpose of his baptism and God’s announcement of his pleasure with his son? Outside of John and a few at the water’s side, who would take what they saw and run with it?

As Jesus rose from Jordan’s waters, evil was put on notice that the battle was on. The Father’s pronouncement was mainly for Satan, in whom he was not pleased. Heaven had sent its best to rid the world of the devil’s vile influence.

Thereafter, since Jesus was immediately impelled by the Spirit to go out to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, it would seem to me that this occasion had a primary audience of one, Satan.

In round one, Satan took three of his best shots and landed none. After that, we are told he left for a more “opportune time.” (Luke 4:13)

The takeaways are these.

  1. Satan cannot withstand Jesus. His losing streak simply continued even with a concerted effort on his own terms. If we’re on the Lord’s side we can’t lose either, by the way. There’s nothing that can be thrown at us that will work if we abide in the same Spirit that settled on the Son’s shoulder.
  2. Our first battle with Satan may be the hardest, like parting with likeable old friends (1 Peter 4:4), or eschewing a gripping vice, but doing so can give us some breathing room for rapid spiritual growth, as the devil may leave us for a more “opportune time.”
  3. We should learn of Satan’s ways in scripture, so that when temptation comes, we can be ready with our defenses up. His playbook never changes.
  4. If God was well pleased with his Son, so will he be with us as we stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
  5. Not to be lost in all this is the need to put the enemy and the world on notice through baptism of whose side we’re on. If this was the identification method the Lord chose, so should we.

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:27

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Role Player

Mark starts his book with no action sequence or breathtaking flyover of the Jordan River, but with a few words of narration over a tight scene of leathery-skinned hands pushing a man’s head under the rushing water.

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

Then the lens zooms out to reveal a rugged prophet baptizing an endless line of people from the country of Judaea.

As mighty a messenger as John the Baptist was, he was unworthy to untie the sandals of a man waiting in that line. He could only baptize the repentant with water. This man would baptize with the Holy Spirit. Three years later this man would die at the hands of these same countrymen and rise again to accomplish once and for all the “forgiveness of sins.”

John was merely a role player in the grand scheme of things. Unfolding was the greatest story ever told.

Stop to think. What is your role in announcing the Christ to others? Paul says, “How will they hear without a preacher?” (Romans 10:14)  At a time of extreme persecution of the church in Rome, while his memory was still fresh, Mark recorded his recollection of his mentor Peter’s verbal accounts of the words and works of Jesus.

There’s a sense of urgency in his gospel (watch for the word “immediately”) and this urgency should be ours as well. For the beleaguered believers in Rome under Nero’s thumb the end was near. It is for us as well!

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