01.30.11 Going to Church, Going to Jesus, Mark 2:1-12, Sermon Summary
- Jesus’ growing popularity and conflict
- God’s Word comes to the eager
- God’s Word comes to us at home
- Jesus attracts the needy
- We are the friends who carry others to Jesus
- Jesus’ greatest miracle is already ours
This passage from Mark 2 demonstrates Jesus’ popularity but also the beginning of conflict. He is so popular because of his authoritative teaching, but more so because of his miracle working (1:27-8). And while Jesus tries to keep things quiet, it doesn’t work. The Gospel of Mark is trying to keep a secret, it is building suspense. The reason is that the first half of Mark wants us to ask the question, “Who is this Jesus?”
Even though Jesus is popular in Galilee, he isn’t in “Jerusalem.” Jerusalem represents the ruling religious elite. “Jerusalem” doesn’t like Jesus because his disciples are ordinary folks, sinners, and “ragamuffins” (see Brennan Manning’s wonderful book The Ragamuffin Gospel, also
2:13ff). They don’t like him because his authority comes from demonstrations of power, not credentials (1:27). They don’t like him because Jesus and his disciples don’t fast (2:18ff), or observe Sabbath rituals (2.23ff), and because Jesus even heals on the Sabbath (3.1ff). And so enters, by Mark 3:1-6, a dark cloud, as “Jerusalem” plots against Jesus.
So we turn to Mark 2:1-12 to discover what it says to us concerning what it means to be a disciple and how we are to worship God. In this passage, note that Jesus preaches the Word to the eager. So many townspeople came to see him that they were pouring out the door. It begs the question, Why do we come to church? There are lots of reasons to come—the music, the friendships, or the prayers. But the main reason the church exists is to hear the Word of God proclaimed in Scripture, Sermon, and Sacrament. And if we are to get out of church what God wants to give us, we have to come eager to hear God’s Word. Our Prayer of Illumination before reading Scripture, for example, is an expression of our eagerness to hear God’s Word.
Note also that Jesus preaches at a home. He went to Synagogue, and he even preached and taught there. But most of his time, like most of our time, is spent somewhere else. He might be on a hillside or next to the lake. In this instance he’s at someone’s home. Here’s the point: Jesus proclaims God’s Word to you Monday through Saturday also, only at your home.
Another observation is that Jesus attracts those in need. I can think of at least four groups our church attracts that exhibits our faithfulness to Christ’s mission. (1) Parents who want their kids to be in a multi-generational community and to learn about God. (2) The homeless who are in transition to responsible work and housing. (3) Those who are “unchurched” or otherwise need some basic Christian education. (4) The financially needy who are ministered especially through our Deacons. Our church has to continually ask, “What are the needs around us, and how can we fill them” if we hope to be faithful to Christ.
A fourth thing to realize is that WE are the friends who carry the “paralyzed.” Just as the fifth paralyzed friend was carried to Jesus by his four friends, so it is with us. We all know people who are paralyzed by fear or regret or guilt or ambition. These are the friends God is calling us to begin praying for in preparation for bringing them to Christ and the church for God’s Word and healing.
And lastly, let us not overlook the miracle that applies to us all in this passage. Jesus answers his critics with the question, “Which is easier to say to the paralytic—your sins are forgiven, or get up and walk?” Obviously the one about sins is easier, because it can’t be verified. A healed paralytic can be tested, and no one wants to speak healing and be found a fake. But from Jesus’ perspective, the harder miracle is forgiveness, and yet this is exactly what the Bible says we have been given in Christ. Whatever else you may be praying for—healing, deliverance, peace, etc.—God may or may not answer as such. But the greater miracle God has already provided in Christ, it is forgiveness for sin.
Thoughts for Further Reflection
While you are at home this week, read Mark with the following things in mind. Notice how many times, especially in the first seven chapters, Mark asks the question, “Who is Jesus?” As Mark unfolds his story, who are Jesus’ opponents? Where do they come from? What are the battle lines? And pay attention for surprises!
Think about the needs of those around us. How can our church better meet those needs? Bring this up to a leader in the church.
Think about a friend you have who is “paralyzed.” Do you love this person enough, and trust Christ enough, to bring him/her to church?
Here’s a tough one: in what ways would Jesus come into conflict with our “Jerusalem”—the leaders in our religion or in our church?