Summary: We often get carried away by the performance, but is the message being proclaimed clearly. Are we speaking the gospel in every situation we find ourselves in? Are we offering forgiveness and mercy. Are we engaged in the main game or just the side show?
Have you noticed how mobile phones are now an essential accessory for so many people? It seems like no matter where you are you’re likely to find yourself standing next to someone who’s having a conversation on their phone. And if you’re like me you probably find yourself listening in, wondering what they’re talking about. Mind you, that just leaves you frustrated because the next thing you know they’ve moved away and you don’t know how the conversation finishes up.
Well if you find it frustrating only hearing a snippet of a conversation, you’ll understand why here at St Thomas’ we choose to follow whole books in our sermon series rather than following a lectionary. I guess a lectionary is useful because you don’t have to think about what to read each week - someone else has thought it out for you, but often all you get are snippets with bits left out here and there.
Well, today we’re starting out on a new series following the Gospel of Mark. We actually looked at the first chapter of Mark in January so today we’re going to start with Mark ch2. But before we begin let me encourage you, if you haven’t done it lately, to read all the way through Mark in a single sitting. It’ll only take you about an hour. Or if that’s too hard try reading it a few chapters at a time. I did this while I was away and it’s interesting how you pick up some connections as you move from chapter to chapter that you might miss if you just read a small section as we often do on a Sunday.
Mark’s Gospel appears to be divided into two halves: the first half asks the question: “Who is this Man?” and the second half asks “Why did he come?”
In Chapter 1 Mark begins to answer the first question as he describes Jesus teaching with authority, casting out evil spirits and healing the sick, with the result that everyone is amazed. They ask what is this, a new teaching - with authority - who is this man?
As we read on we discover three things about this man Jesus: his purpose, his practice and his power.
Jesus purpose comes out clearly in today’s reading but we first discover it in ch1 where we read that Jesus withdraws, very early in the morning, to a quiet place to pray. He needs God’s power and guidance to sustain him in his ministry. But then we read that the disciples come looking for him: “35In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." 38He answered, ‘Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.’” Simon and the others think they’re on a good thing with Jesus. Everyone wants to see him, so they urge him to come back to town to reinforce his popularity. But his focus is on something else. He doesn’t want celebrity or power or popularity. He’s come to do just one thing - that’s to preach the gospel, and in the end to fulfill it.
At the dinner with Ben Kwashi last Monday he pointed out that in Matthew 9 we read a similar account to this, of Jesus going through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues. This was one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry practice. He went to where the people were to tell them the gospel. And as he did it, people would come up to him with their particular needs, mostly for healing of one sort or another, and he’d respond with compassion and heal them.
That’s what’s happening here in Mark 2. They’ve come to Capernaum, he’s staying in someone’s house, and people come to hear him preach God’s word to them. And there are so many people you can’t even get near the door.
As we read the account of what happened here we discover different characters are involved each with different motivations and different responses to Jesus.
As has happened before some men bring their sick friend to Jesus. He’s paralysed, lying on a stretcher so when they get to the house they find there’s no way they’ll ever get him to Jesus. But like the heroes of an epic story, the impossible isn’t going to stop them. They manage to climb onto the roof, they remove the roof tiles, or clods of earth that cover the roof and they lower him down into the room in front of Jesus.