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02.07.16 Faith That Shares Mark 2:1-19 Sermon Summary

by on February 22, 2016

If I was asked to summarize Jesus’ message in one word, I think I know what it would be.

Summary Points

  • The popular idea of sharing faith
  • The principle of Jubilee
  • The Jubilee of Jesus: Forgiveness
  • The Jubilee of Jesus: Why he heals us
  • The Jubilee of Jesus: A time of feasting
  • Questions for discussion and reflection

The popular idea of sharing faith evokes the kind of statements we find in First John. It’s a “speaking of the word” which testifies, “This is what we have heard: Jesus is light; Jesus is the sacrifice for our sins.” There. Faith shared.

Jesus did “speak the word.” But when he did it, it had more to do with action, than words or beliefs. The “word” Jesus spoke was “Jubilee.”

In the Older Testament, the Jubilee year occurred every fifty years. It is most likely a reflection of the Jubilee principle applied every seventh year. That principle is that land and people belong to God. So every seventh year, debts paid for by transferring land or entering slavery were forgiven. In other words, the land was returned to its original owners, and slaves were set free. The Bible doesn’t allow for perpetual ownership, because everything belongs to God.

To put it another way, people, especially the poor, get to start over in Jubilee. Jubilee was redemption and deliverance. It included forgiveness, and it engendered thanksgiving, because everything was seen as belonging to and coming from God.

And Jubilee is Jesus’ message in a word. Here are three points related to this.

First, the point of forgiveness. When the faithful friends bring the paralyzed man to Jesus, lowering him on the mat, Jesus sees their faith and says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Three groups of people are annoyed by this. First is the homeowner: What right has Jesus to forgive the sin of his home being destroyed? Second is the group of friends: They wanted physical healing, not spiritual forgiveness! Third is the Scribes: they assume the man’s paralysis is the result of sin, and so they prefer his disability as evidence of God’s holiness and justice.

The Scribes prefer the Temple as the dispensary of God’s forgiveness. They prefer the institutional religion, supervised by the professionals, as the means of forgiveness. Jesus can’t circumvent these—he can’t forgive, and he can’t heal.

But forgiveness and healing is Jesus’ mission, his message. He is Jubilee. He is forgiveness of debt, and restoration of a displaced humanity. “Son,” he says, “your sins are forgiven. Stand, take up your mat, and go home.”

Second, the reason Jesus forgives and heals us: It is to help us feel accepted. God is love, but we don’t feel loved. We don’t feel loved because we know our sin. So we think to ourselves, “If I’m not loved, I’m not accepted.” We think we don’t have fellowship with God. We conclude that God is not with us.

Jesus removes sin, forgives us, and heals us so that such thinking can’t keep us from God. Consider Levi. He is a tax-collector, and apparently friends with many sinners. Jesus calls him right at his tax collection booth, then shares a meal with him and all his tax-collector, sinner buddies.

Here again the religious professionals see these actions as disqualifying Jesus. A holy God would never do this. God only fellowships with good people, holy people, upright people, people of faith. They had forgotten the Jubilee, when forgiveness and restoration are decreed so that all could enjoy fellowship with God, regardless of whether they were free or slave, rich or poor, religious or sinner.

Levi and his friends weren’t deluded by their religion. They weren’t deluded into self-righteousness. They had nothing of their own to commend themselves, nothing to bargain with God for his fellowship, no church attendance, no Bible study, no prayers or sacrifices. They were renowned for being tax-collectors and sinners. The only fellowship they had with God was through Jesus who called them and ate with them—Jesus who calls not the righteous, but sinners. Such is the nature of Jubilee.

Third, the point about feasting. Being forgiven, healed, and accepted is cause for celebration. It is the reconciliation between God and humanity. It is the joining—the wedding—of God and humanity. It isn’t the time for fasting, but feasting!

The Pharisees didn’t get this. Not even John’s disciples got it. They criticized Jesus and his disciples for not fasting. This is because neither the Pharisees nor John’s disciples recognized Jesus as the bridegroom. They were too distracted by Levi’s sin and by the sin of those with whom Jesus spent time. In reality, as is the case with all who are preoccupied with the sins of others, they were distracted by their own sin.

This is why sin separates us from God. It’s not that God runs away from sinners. But that sinners focus upon their sin instead of the fact that Jesus brings God right into our sin so that we aren’t alone with it. God has come in Jesus; the shepherd has entered the wilderness where the sheep is lost.

Isaiah 62:4-5 describes it this way: “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her, and your land Married; for the Lord delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”

The bridegroom has arrived in Jesus Christ. The feast is at hand. If you recognize this, you cannot fast, Jesus says. The year of Jubilee has come.

Jesus indeed spoke the word. The word was Jubilee. This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Questions for Discussion and Reflection

  • Have you ever shared your faith? How has the way you’ve shared your faith changed over your life? How will you share faith differently as a result of this message?
  • The Jubilee that comes with Jesus includes forgiveness of sins. In what ways have you looked to other means of forgiveness—from religion activities to other people to denial, etc.? What would it look like for you to find forgiveness in Christ?
  • What do you think about the idea that Jesus forgives and heals us to overcome our wrong idea that God doesn’t accept us? How does your inability to “accept God’s acceptance” (Paul Tillich) who up in your life?
  • Are you more of a feaster or a faster when it comes to your relationship with God? Do you let sin separate you from God and others by focusing on it? Or do you rejoice in forgiveness, healing, and acceptance and feast in the presence of the bridegroom?

 

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