Summary: "Jesus ripping a hole in the roof of religion"
“The time has come,” Jesus said, “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (1:15)
That was Jesus’ great announcement that is at the start of Mark’s gospel, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee.
In Mark’s gospel account, he wants to tell us three things.
One is the news that Jesus is the kingly Messiah.
Two, Counter to people’s expectation of what the Messiah would be like, Jesus as Messiah would be God’s suffering Servant.
Three, because people’s plans for the messiah are not in line with Jesus’ cross walk, Jesus keeps his identity secret until the week before his crucifixion.
In Mark’s gospel we also have three groups of people…
One: Those called to be followers/disciples who have to choose to follow, to obey, to take up their cross.
Two: Those labelled the crowd, amazed by his teaching, stunned by the healings, shocked by the exorcisms, drawn along by miraculous provisions, who will in the end individually have to choose to leave the crowd, repent, believe and follow, or join the opposition.
Three: The Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, the scribes, the authorities and supposed guardians of God’s kingdom, who time and again find themselves on the wrong side of the equation, who will have to decide what to do with this challenge to their authority, what to do about this trouble-maker who claims equality with God.
As we walk along with Jesus in Mark’s gospel, time and again we will hear the good news that Jesus is the kingly Messiah bringing God’s kingdom, and that His messiahship is in terms of the suffering servant of God. But that this announcement though open is also veiled so that His mission is not distracted or derailed by other people’s agendas. Time and again as we hear this good news we will be faced with the reactions of the crowd, the disciples and the authorities. Time and again we will be pushed to see ourselves in their shoes, time and again we will be called to give up our own agendas and authorities, step out of the safety of the crowd and follow Jesus along the road of the cross.
So, in today’s reading we have Jesus forgiving sins, healing sickness, and calling sinners to follow Him, all of which is way beyond the remit of a prophet or a teacher. And it is no surprise that we have the three groups responding…
The authorities who ask, ‘Who does he think he is?’ and, ‘Doesn’t he know who those people, those sinners, are?’
The crowd who say: ‘We have never seen anything like this!’
And then the individuals, like the paralysed man, and Levi the tax collector, who respond to the call to follow, and who rise up from sickness and sin to new life.
Now, last time we were in Mark’s gospel we spent some minutes answering the question about whether our Scriptures are corrupted and we discovered that God in His Sovereignty has worked through the frailties of human authors, human language, human transmission and even human translation, and yet, the evidence shows us that we can have confidence in God’s written word and in our modern English translations.
This week we have another issue that people often face, and that is the question, ‘Did Jesus ever say he was God?’
Now, because of this Messianic secret that Mark highlights we see that Jesus didn’t go around shouting out, ‘I’m God, I’m the Messiah, I’m the Son of God, worship me now!’ And because of this, when we are faced with this question, it is easy to pause and think, ‘Hang on, I can’t remember a time when Jesus actually said, “I am God”’.
Now, if you ever face this question, I want you to do two things. Number one, you need to point to the cross. Jesus didn’t get crucified for being a wise teacher. The Romans had to deal with His kingly claim and the religious authorities used that fact in His trial because they weren’t allowed by the Romans to stone Jesus for blasphemy and they knew the Romans weren’t interested in dealing with supposed blasphemers.
So, number one, the cross, is massive evidence that the religious authorities believed that Jesus was claiming again and again to be somehow equal to God. And that in their eyes was blasphemous, because they couldn’t see how it could possibly be true that God would clothe himself in human frailty.
Number one, point to the cross, and number two, get out your bibles and read through the gospels with the person questioning you.
And here in Mark chapter two barely a page or so into the narrative you have Jesus being charged with being a blasphemer, charged with claiming to be equal to God. Jesus says, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ And the authorities say, ‘He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’