THE MIRACLE ANNOUNCED BY CHRIST

church sign, 4/17/22

THE MIRACLE ANNOUNCED BY CHRIST

John 2:19-22; Mark 9:9-10

The resurrection was not a surprise. Jesus knew that he would be woken up from the dead and come out of his tomb on the first Easter morning. It was all part of God’s plan. He had to go to the cross, and he had to die there. He had to be buried in that borrowed tomb. Not one aspect of the life of Jesus was left to chance. It was all part of the plan.

Since it was part of the plan, we would expect Jesus to mention the fact that he would be dead for a few days, and then be raised. But Jesus didn’t spend a whole lot of time talking about that. He did let the cat out of the bag at least two times, however. We are going to look at those incidents this morning. The two passages of scripture just illustrate what I have been saying: that the resurrection was not a surprise. It was part of the plan.

Early in his public ministry, the Lord predicted his resurrection (John 2:19-22).

19 Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” 20 Then the Jewish leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” 21 But Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body. 22 So after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the saying that Jesus had spoken.

Jesus and his disciples were fresh from Galilee, where he had just performed his first public miracle. In Cana, at a wedding feast, he turned the water into wine. That miracle revealed his glory, and it strengthened his disciples’ faith in him. After a few days with family in Capernaum, Jesus went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.

Has going to church ever made you mad? That’s what happened to Jesus. He went into the temple courts and he saw all the buying and selling of birds and beasts and the people making money by exchanging this coin for that. It made him mad. It made him violently mad. He was insulted by what he saw, and he felt like slapping them.

He made a weapon out of cords — a whip. He proceeded to chase every one of those bankers and merchants out of his Father’s house. He said “Take these things away from here! Do not make my Father’s house a marketplace!”

All this time his disciples were watching. They were learning. When he had made the water into wine, it revealed something about him — lots of things. The disciples had learned from that incident that Jesus had compassion for the master of the party. They learned that he cared about his mother, and wanted to give her what she was asking for. They learned that he cared about the couple being married, and he wanted them to have a happy wedding. Oh, and they learned that he had the power to convert ordinary water into wine — without it having to go through a long process of squashing grapes and letting them ferment!

Now, the time is different and the place is different. Now Jesus is in Jerusalem, at God’s temple. What are they learning about him here and now? John tells us that the disciples “remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will devour me.” You can tell a lot about a person by what makes him mad. Abuse of God’s temple just ate Jesus up. He was obsessed with anger over the disrespect he saw in the temple courts. For all those bankers and merchants, it was just business as usual. But for Jesus, it was an insult to the presence of God.

There is a time and a place for buying and selling. Jesus walked by merchants and bankers all the time. They didn’t enrage him when they did what they did at the right time and in the right place. But God’s house is God’s house. It has to be shown consideration and respect.

So the disciples are watching Jesus, and they are watching him get mad. And it wouldn’t be the last time. They would see Jesus get angry in a synagogue when there is a man with a withered hand, and people were watching to see if he would violate the laws against working on the Sabbath by healing him. That kind of legalism made Jesus mad.

Anger is an emotion, and as an emotion given to us by God when he created us, it has a legitimate place. Jesus was not controlled by his anger, and he taught us not to be controlled by our anger as well. But there is such a thing as righteous indignation.

But there were some Jewish leaders in the temple that day, and they didn’t think Jesus had the right to display his anger. They were just fine with those merchants and money-changers and birds and beasts. They wanted to defend the status quo. So, they asked Jesus “What sign can you show us, since you are doing these things?” They were looking for him to perform another miracle in defense of his outbreak.

Here we see the amazing self-control of our Lord. These Jewish leaders have just demanded that Jesus show them that he had the authority to force a change in their religious practice.

If I had been Jesus, I would have said “You want a sign, Okay, here’s your sign” and I would have unleashed all the power and wrath of God on them.

Folks, we need to remember that God is a God of wrath. His wrath sent the flood to destroy the world, saving only a handful in the ark. His wrath sent the plagues to Egypt. His wrath swallowed up Korah and his rebels. His wrath sent armies to serve his purposes by destroying his enemies. His wrath will one day be unleashed on all the unbelievers and rebellious in Gehenna hell, where Jesus tells us he will destroy soul and body.

It is a stupid and dangerous thing to ask the Son of God for a sign when he is angry. Fortunately for those religious leaders, Jesus chose to do something else besides annihilating them that day. Instead, he told them to “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.”

Now, that got them thinking. They were not about to destroy their temple. They were proud of that temple. It had been under construction for about fifty years — so they doubted very much that Jesus would be able to reconstruct it in just three days.

Now, here is where John comes in with an editorial comment in his Gospel. He explains what Jesus meant. He says “Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body.

So after he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the scripture and the saying that Jesus had spoken.”

So, this was the first incident in which Jesus slipped in a little hint of his coming resurrection. It probably went over the heads of those religious leaders that day. It probably went over the heads of John and the other disciples that day too. They didn’t want to think about it. Resurrection requires a death, and they were certainly not prepared to think about Jesus’ death that day.

But the words that Jesus said that day stayed in their memories. Those words bounced around in their minds, and now and again something else that Jesus would say would cause them to remember those words again.

Jesus would later tell Nicodemus “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” Maybe his disciples stopped to think about what it meant for Jesus to be lifted up. Maybe a stray thought led them to imagine a cross. That would be an unpleasant thought — their master hanging on a cross. If they thought about it, they probably did not allow the thought to linger.

Jesus would tell his disciples that if they didn’t carry their cross and follow him that they cannot be his disciple. There was that cross again. What a bad thought it is. What a shameful, humiliating way to die. Surely our master is not going to die like that.

Thoughts like this keep coming back and bouncing around in their brains.

Two years later, the Lord predicted his resurrection again (Mark 9:9-10).

9 As they were coming down from the mountain, he gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept this statement to themselves, discussing what this rising from the dead meant.

Jesus had taken three of his disciples for a little mountain climbing. They hiked up a high mountain for a private show. When they got to the summit, they watched Jesus, and he “was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiantly white, more so than any launderer in the world could bleach them. Then Elijah appeared before them along with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. So Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three shelters — one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ (For they were afraid, and he did not know what to say.) Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came from the cloud, “This is my one dear Son. Listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more except Jesus.”

What was the purpose of this day trip to the summit of a mountain? Jesus was going to show them who he really is. He would undergo a metamorphosis and they would see Jesus in all his divine glory. They would learn from this experience as well. They would learn that Jesus was not to be compared to any of the great men and women who have ever lived. Not even Moses — the great law-giver, nor Elijah, the powerful miracle-working prophet can be compared to him. Jesus is the one. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the one-and-only Son of God.

They saw Jesus as he really is. Now, as soon as they saw this amazing vision happen, all of a sudden it is over, and things are back to normal. Jesus tells them not to tell anybody else what they saw. What? I have just seen the Son of God in all his glory, and I have to keep silent? But Lord, people have to know who you really are! Okay, says Jesus. You can tell them, but wait “until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.”

There he goes again. Lord, I don’t want you to have a resurrection. That would mean you would have to die. I don’t want you to have to die.

In the third year, Jesus would have a little Supper with his disciples. He would break some bread and give it to them. He would tell them that the bread represents his body — broken for them. He would raise a glass for them to drink. This is my blood, shed for many, for the forgiveness of sins.

There he is again, talking about his death. But in the back of their minds, there are these nagging words: “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again”; Don’t “tell anyone what you have seen until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Just some stray thoughts.

They come for Jesus — for his trial and crucifixion. He dies on the cross. The disciples hide. Then, Sunday morning, the ladies come with a story. They say they have seen him. They say he’s alive!

Then they see him themselves. Look, they destroyed the temple, and he raised it again! The Son of Man has risen from the dead!

Remember what they demanded of Jesus that day in the temple? They asked him for a sign — a miracle to prove that he had the right to interfere in their business. He gave them this answer. He challenged them to destroy the temple of his own body. Go ahead he says. I dare you to kill me. You can nail me to a cross if you want to, and I know you do. It doesn’t matter. Death cannot hold me. In three days, I will rise again. Do all you can on Good Friday, because Easter is my holiday. I’m going to come out of that tomb.

“Aint no grave gonna keep my body down.”

Brother — sister — you might be asking the same thing today. You might be wondering what the fuss is about this Jesus. You might wonder what right he has to interfere with your life — to demand that you believe him — to require that you obey him. You might want to just do your business, but he’s making up a whip and is gonna drive you out of God’s house.

If you dare to ask Jesus what right he has to interfere with your life, his answer to you will be the same he gave those religious leaders that day in Jerusalem. His resurrection proves that he has the right. The resurrection proves that he is who he says he is. Rejoice this Easter Day because Jesus lives. But remember that the miracle he announced — the miracle of his resurrection — demands that every one of us acknowledges him.

THE MIRACLE ANNOUNCED BY CHRIST.mp3

THE GOSPEL PAUL PREACHED

Isaiah 53:10-12; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

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10 Though the LORD desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him. 11 Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins. 12 So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”

1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you — unless you believed in vain. 3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received — that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.

At Easter, we focus on some historical events that took place over two thousand years ago. None of us lived during that time. Like other events in history, we only know about them because someone teaches us about them, and explains their significance. From today’s text, we learn what those events are from the apostle Paul. They are “that Christ died for our sins …and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day.”

These three events that Paul mentions are the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. From verse 1 Corinthians 15:1 we learn that Paul is making clear to the Corinthians what the gospel is — the gospel that he preached to them. From verse 3 we learn that these three historical events are “of first importance” to that gospel message.

Note also in verses 3-4 the phrase “according to the scriptures” — which appears twice. Paul is emphasizing not only that these things happened, but that they had been predicted in the Old Testament. I have added a passage from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah to today’s lesson. I didn’t have to go to Isaiah. I could have picked any number of Old Testament texts. The Old Testament predicts the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus in many places. That’s why Paul said that Jesus died, was buried, and was raised from the dead “according to the scriptures.”

I want you to note also that Paul admits he did make up this gospel message that he preached. Not only did he say that the events had been predicted in the Old Testament scriptures, but he also said that he had received them (verse 3). That is, someone had revealed them to him. Paul was not present at the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. He did not observe any of these events personally. The first time Paul met Jesus, it was on the road to Damascus, where he was blinded, and only heard the voice of Jesus. Jesus not only revealed to Paul who he is, but he also apparently explained the significance of his death, burial, and resurrection.

From that time on, Paul had a career change. He had been focused on destroying the church and silencing the gospel. But now he set his sights on building the church and preaching the gospel. One of the places where Paul had preached the gospel was Corinth. In today’s text, Paul said that he had already “passed on” this information to them (verse 3). But he writes to them now to make it clear to them (verse 1). The Corinthians had already received the gospel as Paul did. Paul calls it “the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand” (verse 1).

So, Paul’s purpose in explaining the gospel to the Corinthians was not to evangelize them. But he felt it important to go back over the facts of the gospel once again. One of the reasons this is true is that it was possible even for some of the Corinthians who had already received and believed to still wind up rejecting the gospel and not be saved by it. Notice how Paul puts this in verse 2: “you are being saved if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you — unless you believed in vain.”

Now, if Paul thought it necessary to go over the gospel one more time with the Corinthians — just to be sure that they believed it — then I don’t apologize for sharing the gospel with you today. I’m not going to say “stop me if you’ve heard this” because I’m pretty sure you have. But especially during the Easter season, it is a healthy thing for us to remind ourselves of the basic elements of the gospel that we have received, and on which we stand.

The first element of the gospel Paul preached is … Christ willingly died for our sins (Isaiah 53:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3).

Isaiah predicted a coming Messiah who would willingly submit to death. Isaiah said ironically that this Messiah would “be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted” (52:13). But then he goes on to explain what he means by that. He said “he was so disfigured he no longer looked like a man; his form was so marred he no longer looked human — so now he will startle many nations. Kings will be shocked by his exaltation, for they will witness something unannounced to them, and they will understand something they had not heard about” (52:14b-15). What Isaiah is talking about is the cross.

Jesus knew that the cross was in God’s plan for him. God’s wonderful plan for his life included getting beaten half to death, the nailed to a cross to die. Isaiah says that Jesus willingly submitted to that plan.

Jesus himself said that “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15). He said, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32).

There’s a chorus that goes “Lift Jesus Higher, Lift Jesus Higher, Lift Him up for the world to see — he said if I be lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men unto me.” I used to sing that chorus, but I don’t anymore. It takes John 12:32 out of context. John 12:33 says “(Now he said this to indicate clearly what kind of death he was going to die.)” The people who lifted Jesus on that cross were not believers, and they were not worshipping him. They were his executioners.

The good news of the gospel is that Jesus willingly submitted to this death. He did it because God was offering him as the sacrifice “for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). Isaiah says “he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels” (53:12). This is the language of sacrifice. Under the Old Testament sacrificial system, a sacrifice of atonement required the lifting up of an unblemished animal, and the death of that animal to represent the destruction of the sin he represented.

When Jesus volunteered to willingly die on the cross, he knew that he was going to serve as a substitute for our sins.

The second element of the gospel Paul preached is …Christ accomplished the purpose of God by his death (Isaiah 53:10; 1 Corinthians 15:2-3).

Isaiah said “the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him (53:10). He was talking about the eternal plan of the LORD to redeem humankind from the bondage to sin, decay, and death. God had a purpose, and only Christ as the Son of God could fulfill that purpose.

Jesus did the hard part. He died for our sins according to the scriptures. But Paul reminded the Corinthians that they had a part to play in this divine purpose as well. They had the responsibility to receive this message by faith and hold firmly to it by faith.

The simple fact that Jesus died does not save anyone. The simple fact that Jesus rose from the dead does not save anyone. We celebrate Easter not because Jesus did everything but because he did for us what we could not do. Even if we got ourselves nailed to a cross and died, that death would not pay for the sins of the world. It would not even pay for our own sins. It would be a catch 22. Only a sinless sacrifice will do, and all of us are sinners. We needed Jesus, not to serve as our example, but to be our Savior.

Paul told the elders from Ephesus that he did not hold back from announcing to them the whole purpose of God (Acts 20:27). I need to do the same thing. It was God’s purpose for Jesus to die on the cross. It is God’s purpose for you and me to believe it.

It is also God’s purpose for you and me to hold firmly to it — to not believe in vain. The Greek word for “in vain” is εἰκῇ. Godet mentions a classical expression that contains that word. The saying is εἰκῇ βάλλειν — to shoot an arrow that does not hit. 1

We need to believe what Jesus did because God wants us to apply what he did to our own lives. We cannot afford for Christ’s death to be merely a theological truth we affirm. It has to be for God’s purpose of cleansing us from sin. We have to respond to the cross by repentance and faith in the gospel.

The third element of the gospel Paul preached is … Christ demonstrated his victory by being raised from the dead (Isaiah 53:12; 1 Corinthians 15:4).

Isaiah says that the Messiah will divide the spoils of victory which means that he will be victorious. He will not only accomplish God’s purpose, but he will overcome in battle. That means that the Messiah’s death will not be the last phase of the battle; it will be the first.

Paul says that Jesus “was raised on the third day according to the scriptures.” Paul says that Jesus “was given over because of our transgressions and was raised for the sake of our justification” (Romans 4:25). He died to pay the price for our sins. He was raised to demonstrate that we are now justified in God’s sight.

Now friends, if you believe that Jesus died, that’s good. But that is not enough. If you believe that Jesus died for your sins, that is good because that is true. But that also is not enough. Paul told the Romans that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). The Christ of the Bible is no longer on the cross. The Christ of the Bible walked away from an empty tomb. The Christ of the Bible is victorious. The gospel of the Bible is not a gospel of defeat, but a gospel of victory.

We need the message of Good Friday, but we cannot stay there. The message of Easter Sunday is necessary. Without it, there is no victory, and without victory, we do not have the whole purpose of God. Without victory, we are preaching another gospel.

The ultimate victory Jesus experienced for himself was that he conquered death and was raised immortal, ascended to heaven, and returned to his Father. The immediate victory he experienced for us on the cross was the forgiveness of sins. But there is an ultimate victory that Jesus accomplished for us as well. He said “because I live, you will live too” (John 14:19).

Easter is the sneak preview of our permanent destiny. Each will be raised in order. Christ — the first fruits — was raised on Easter Sunday. We — the remainder of the harvest — will be raised by him when he returns. That’s the whole gospel that Paul preached, and it is the gospel that we preach too!

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1 Godet, Frederic Louis, and A. Cusin. Commentary on St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. v. 2. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1889. p. 328.

THE GOSPEL PAUL PREACHED.mp3

HE’S ABLE TO FORGIVE

HE’S ABLE TO FORGIVE

Mark 2:1-12 NET

1 Now after some days, when he returned to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home. 2 So many gathered that there was no longer any room, not even by the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some people came bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 When they were not able to bring him in because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Jesus. Then, after tearing it out, they lowered the stretcher the paralytic was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the experts in the law were sitting there, turning these things over in their minds: 7 “Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Now immediately, when Jesus realized in his spirit that they were contemplating such thoughts, he said to them, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, take your stretcher, and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” — he said to the paralytic – 11 “I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” 12 And immediately the man stood up, took his stretcher, and went out in front of them all. They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Last week, I showed from Psalm 130 that our God is willing to forgive. This week we will see that Jesus has the authority to forgive us.

We can see that in the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12. First, we see that…

The crowds had gathered because they believed Jesus was able to heal (1-2).

Jesus was returning to Capernaum after an absence. He came back to preach, but he always found time to heal people as a demonstration of the veracity of his message. The people knew that. They were looking forward to seeing the miracles happen again.

Maclaren describes the scene by pointing out “the crowd flocking to the humble home, overflowing its modest capacity, blocking the doorway, and clustering round it outside as far as they could hear Christ’s voice. ‘He was speaking the word to them,’ proclaiming His mission, as He had done in their synagogue when He was interrupted by the events which follow, no doubt to the gratification of some of His hearers, who wanted something more exciting than “teaching” (Maclaren, 48).

That is understandable. We need demonstrations of God’s power in our lives. The world around us is looking for the reality of our faith. We should not discourage the seeking of miracles. The miracles God allows us to experience can be how he demonstrates the veracity of our faith and our God.

The story includes the fact that…

The paralytic and his four friends sought Jesus for healing (4-5).

Alexander writes that these four friends “would not have gone so far in their endeavor to reach Jesus if they had not believed in his capacity and willingness to do what they desired” (35). They were not just carrying their friend around in the hopes of possibly coming by a doctor. They sought Jesus for healing. When they found him, they would not be impeded by the obstacle of the crowded house. They would get their friend to Jesus if they had to tear the roof off the house.

They were determined to do this because they had faith in Christ to heal their friend. Maclaren points this out by saying “We can fancy the blank looks of the four bearers, and the disappoint-ment on the sick man’s thin face and weary eyes, as they got to the edge of the crowd, and saw that there was no hope of forcing a passage. Had they been less certain of a cure, and less eager, they would have shouldered their burden and carried him home again” (Maclaren, 49).

The passage says that Jesus saw their faith. Of course, he saw everything else as well. He saw their persistence and love for their friend. He saw the paralytic’s patience in enduring the humility of being carried around. But Jesus looked beyond these surface realities and noted their cause. All five of these men had faith. They sought Jesus because they believed in him.

He saw their faith. But how did he see their faith? He saw their faith by their works! That is the only way to demonstrate faith. Goodwin says that the faith of these four men “was precisely the kind of faith which God loves, a faith which could be seen because it was a faith which showed itself in works. Even the pulling of tiles from the roof of a house may be a holy action, and replete with blessing; the commonest acts may be sanctified by the spirit which dictates them” (Goodwin, 32).

If we want our neighbors to know that we have faith in Jesus, we need to be bringing them to Jesus. We need to be praying over their problems and ours. We need to demonstrate that the kingdom of God is important to us. These four friends of the paralytic did that by seeking Jesus to heal their friend.

Mark’s story also reveals that…

Jesus knew he was also able to forgive the paralytic (5).

The crowds were expecting Jesus to say “be healed” or “be restored” or something to that effect. But Jesus told him that his sins are forgiven. Jesus knew that he was able to do both. So, this healing was designed to be a demonstration of his ability to do more than heal.

Bennett observes “To a modern audience, and probably to many of those then present, these words would sound like an evasion of the demand for a miracle. The carnal mind would think that an offer of forgiveness to such a sufferer was mere mockery; but Jesus placed in the forefront that which was most important to Him, and also, doubtless to the sufferer. His inspired insight had discerned that the paralytic craved healing for his soul as well as for his body” (Bennett, 28).

Jesus could have merely healed this man, and that would have been a miracle. But Jesus wanted to do more than a miracle. There are some today who only seek Jesus when they need a miracle. Oh, Christian, don’t limit our Savior to that. He is more than a substitute doctor. He is the Great Physician!

Mark’s story also reveals some antagonists at work.

The experts in the law rejected Jesus’ authority to forgive (6-8).

There were some spies in the crowd that day. They were there not because they believed in Jesus, but because they did not believe in him. Some people go to church for the same reason. They don’t come to be blessed by the gospel but to find something to condemn in the service. I’ve known of people who have stayed away from church for years because they never found one they can approve of. Those who come to criticize and those who stay away because they can’t find the right church are doing the same thing these experts in the law did. They are rejecting Jesus.

You see, there is no Jesus who is just a healer or miracle worker. That Jesus doesn’t exist. The real Jesus is more than a good teacher or miracle worker. The real Jesus is God’s only Son with every right to forgive sins.

These experts in the law were rejecting Jesus by questioning his authority. They were his enemies because they rejected his words. Any time we doubt the words of Christ, we put ourselves in their place. We don’t even have to voice our doubts. They didn’t. They were “turning these things over in their minds.”

Despite that opposition, however, …

Jesus healed the paralytic to demonstrate his authority to forgive (9-12).

The Gospel authors do not always give us the reason why Jesus heals. Sometimes we are told that he has compassion on the crowds, but rarely are we told Jesus’ specific reason for healing an individual. This is an exception. Here Jesus explains that this particular healing is a visual demonstration that he has the authority to forgive sins. He is the one who can restore on a level higher than the physical.

The next time Jesus would tangle with the religious leaders – they would criticize him for hanging out with the riffraff. He would explain that as a doctor he needed to be around sick people. But he wouldn’t be in a hospital when he said that. He would be in Levi’s house – and he would not be healing at the time. He would be treating sinners who needed forgiveness.

Jesus is a doctor who can treat more than diseases or injuries. He can dig down deep to find problems that do not show up on an x-ray. Jesus asked the question about which is easier. He meant ‘which is easier to claim?’ It’s easier to claim to forgive. But he healed the paralytic that day to prove that he can forgive sins.

But as he was healing him, he asked the paralytic to demonstrate his faith for the healing. As Heil puts it “no longer dependent upon the four men to carry him, the paralytic may now ‘rise’ by himself and ‘take up’ the pallet he was forced by his illness to lie upon'” (Heil, 61). Christ has the authority, but we have to put our faith in him.

Why Does Jesus refer to himself as the Son of Man here? This title “marked him off from all other teachers, and claimed for him a special position of his own” (Bennett, 30). Read Daniel chapter 7. It describes beasts, who represent four human empires. One after another, these empires emerge in history, and each is given authority on earth for a time. They were given that authority by God, who is called “the Ancient of Days.” But then someone else appears “with the clouds of the sky.” He is called “one like a son of man.” Daniel writes “To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).

So, from Daniel 7, we learn that Jesus’ authority is permanent. He does not have temporary authority, like President Biden, or Vladimir Putin.

From today’s text, we learn something more about Jesus’ authority. His authority goes beyond the physical and political. He has authority on earth to do what his Father does in heaven. He can forgive.

When Jesus commissioned his church to share the gospel with all nations, he included the fact that he can forgive. We are commanded by our Savior to proclaim that truth. In Luke’s version of the great commission, we are told that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:17).

In every community just like ours all around the world, people need something money cannot buy. They need forgiveness. They need forgiveness more than they need to walk. They need forgiveness more than they need a car or a house or a job. Only Jesus can give them what they need. He has called us to pick these people up and bring them to him.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY

Alexander, Joseph A. The Gospel According to Mark Explained. New York: A.D.F. Randolph, 1858. pp. 33-39.

Allen, W. C. The Gospel According to St. Mark. London: Rivingtons, 1915. pp. 65-67.

Bennett, William Henry. The Life of Christ According to St. Mark. 1907. pp. 27-30.

Branscomb, B. Harvie. The Gospel of Mark. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1967. pp. 41-48.

Ford, James. The Gospel of S. Mark: Illustrated (Chiefly in the Doctrinal and Moral Sense) from Ancient and Modern Authors. London: J. Masters, 1849. pp. 36-43.

Goodwin, Harvey. A Commentary on the Gospel of S. Mark. Cambridge [Eng.]: Deighton, Bell, 1860. pp. 29-34.

Heil, John Paul. The Gospel of Mark As Model for Action: A Reader-Response Commentary. Eugene, OR.: Wipf & Stock, 1992. pp. 58-62.

Maclaren, Alexander. The Gospel of St. Mark. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1893. pp. 47-60.

Rowlandson, W. H. The Gospel according to St. Mark, with prolegomena. 1869. pp. 10-11.

HE’S ABLE TO FORGIVE.mp3

WHO WOULD HAVE BELIEVED?

WHO WOULD HAVE BELIEVED?

Jefferson Vann preaches about biblical faith from Isaiah 53:1-12 NET

This month we are talking about repentance and faith. We are looking at the Old Testament to fill in some or the gaps about what repentance and faith entails. Last week, we looked at Hosea 14 for a description of biblical repentance. This week we are looking at Isaiah 53 for a description of biblical faith.

Isaiah predicted a Messiah who was hard to believe (1-3).

1 Who would have believed what we just heard? When was the LORD’s power revealed through him?
2 He sprouted up like a twig before God, like a root out of parched soil; he had no stately form or majesty that might catch our attention, no special appearance that we should want to follow him.
3 He was despised and rejected by people, one who experienced pain and was acquainted with illness; people hid their faces from him; he was despised, and we considered him insignificant.

Isaiah’s people were a despised lot. No one would have expected the Son of God to make his appearance among men as one of the Israelites. But that is exactly what Isaiah predicts. And just to show that God rejects all our deceptive assumptions, Isaiah predicts that when the Messiah does show himself, he will be despised and rejected by those same people. He will appear weak, struck down and afflicted. But this beating he would take would be as a substitute for the transgressions of the world.

Before we run off with this idea as it relates to Christ, and his suffering on the cross, we need to see the message from Isaiah’s standpoint. He was speaking to a group of people who had deceptive assumptions about themselves. He was trying to encourage them to stop believing those lies. The truth is, God did want to work though them. Example: the Messiah himself would be seen as a beaten, condemned criminal. But God would work in that reality to save us all.

Isaiah asks the question “who would have believed what we just heard? God has a plan, but it is going to show up way out in left field. God is not going to use a mighty warrior to accomplish his purpose. He’s going to use a root out of parched soil. Roots don’t grow well in parched soil. Mostly dry soil just stays dry soil. When the rain comes — if the rain comes — then we can expect something to happen.

My series of sermons this month is on repentance and faith. This passage tells us something about the faith that reaches God. It is a faith that dares to see him doing what no one would expect. The focal point of that faith is Jesus Christ.

The world doesn’t really mind it if we have faith. But the world has a fit when we dare to tell everyone that we have put our faith in Jesus Christ. There is no saving faith outside of Jesus Christ.

Acts 4:12 “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”

Isaiah predicted that when Jesus appeared there would be no significant evidence that he was the one the universe needed. It would have to be taken on faith.

Yes, the crowds folllowed hm, but before long the crowds were shouting “crucify him.” They wanted someone to overthrow Rome, not someone who would be executed as a criminal by Rome.

Isaiah predicted a ministry that was hard to believe (4-6)

4 But he lifted up our illnesses, he carried our pain; even though we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.
5 He was wounded because of our rebellious deeds, crushed because of our sins; he endured punishment that made us well; because of his wounds we have been healed.
6 All of us had wandered off like sheep; each of us had strayed off on his own path, but the LORD caused the sin of all of us to attack him.

We know all about that ministry today because we have had two thousand years to ponder the significance of the cross. We call it the docrtrine of substitutionary atonement. It involves four particular things that Jesus did for us by dying on the cross.

By dying on the cross, Jesus purchased forgiveness for sinners so that we can be justified — decalred righteous in God’s sight.

By dying on the cross, Jesus reconciled us to God, so that we could become his friends instead of his enemies.

By dying on the cross, Jesus served as our substitute, taking upon himself the penalty of death that we deserve.

2 Corinthians 5:21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

1 John 4:10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

By dying on the cross, Jesus absorbed the full wrath of God for all those who put their faith in his finished work. That does not keep any of us from dying the first death, but it will prevent us from experiencing the second death.

Isaiah also mentions in this amazing section that the Messiah would do this while people looked on, thinking that he was suffering for his own sins. Verse 4 say “we thought he was being punished, attacked by God, and afflicted for something he had done.” The cross was for criminals — but here is the sinless Son of God walking the via dolorosa and getting nailed to the cross — not for a real crime but as a sacrifice to purchase deliverance for us.

Isaiah predicted a faithfulness that was hard to believe (7-9)

7 He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth.
8 He was led away after an unjust trial — but who even cared? Indeed, he was cut off from the land of the living; because of the rebellion of his own people he was wounded.
9 They intended to bury him with criminals, but he ended up in a rich man’s tomb, because he had committed no violent deeds, nor had he spoken deceitfully.

Note the silence of Jesus before his accusers and judges during his trials. Note his refusal to lash out at them or those taunting him.

Matthew 26:62-63 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Matthew 27:13-14 Then Pilate said to him, “Don’t you hear how many charges they are bringing against you?” But he did not answer even one accusation, so that the governor was quite amazed.

Isaiah predicted a victory that is hard to believe (10-12)

10 Though the LORD desired to crush him and make him ill, once restitution is made, he will see descendants and enjoy long life, and the LORD’s purpose will be accomplished through him.
11 Having suffered, he will reflect on his work, he will be satisfied when he understands what he has done. “My servant will acquit many, for he carried their sins.
12 So I will assign him a portion with the multitudes, he will divide the spoils of victory with the powerful, because he willingly submitted to death and was numbered with the rebels, when he lifted up the sin of many and intervened on behalf of the rebels.”

Now Isaiah predicts a victory that assumes two things. First, he predicts that the suffering servant will accomplish restitution.

But verse 10 says something that is not quite made clear in the NET translation. The phrase “once restitution is made” is actually im tasim asam nafsho (‎אִם־תָּשִׂ֤ים אָשָׁם֙ נַפְשׁ֔וֹ) in Hebrew. The WEB (World English Bible) translates that phrase more literally, “When you make his soul an offering for sin.” Christ’s whole being died, not just his body. He did not appear to die. He died — completely. When Jesus said “it is finished” that is what was finished. He accomplished the purpose for which he came into the world. That is the first part of the victory. His resurrection was the proof of this accomplishment.

The second thing that Isaiah predicts is a profound exaltation. Isaiah says the Messaiah “will see descendants and enjoy long life” which is a bit of understatement. All of the saved of all time will enjoy eternal life with him — as a result of his victory for them. With victory will also come the spoils of victory. Ultimately, the prophet is talking about eternity in the new universe. The king of kings and lord of lords is going to take his throne. Under him will be every other king and every other lord. He will have gone from the lowest of the low to the highest of the high.

The Servant shall be high and lifted up and exalted.

Isaiah 52:13 “Look, my servant will succeed! He will be elevated, lifted high, and greatly exalted.”

But first he will be despised and rejected by men.

Kings will be shocked by his exaltation (52:15).

But first he must go to the cross with his own mouth shut, like a lamb led to the slaughter (53:7).

He will know eternal life and prosperity , but first he must allow God’s will to happen, which means he will be crushed (53:10). He will make many to be accounted righteous (53:11), but first he must pour out his soul to death, and be numbered with the transgressors (53:12).

Who would have believed such a thing? This was God’s plan. Yet there is something still more unbelievable. God has done all this for us through Christ, yet there are still people who say they don’t believe. There are still some who refuse to put their faith in Christ.

Repentance is half of the foundation. Faith is the other half. We must turn to God, ready to tell him all the things we have done against him. But then we must also turn to God in faith.

LORD, thank you for the ultimate sacrifice: infinite purity made into a sin offering to rescue us from our own defilement. We choose to believe in Jesus Christ the one you sent.

JONAH’S GRATEFUL PRAYER

JONAH’S GRATEFUL PRAYER

Jonah 1:17-2:10 NET

1:17 The Lord sent a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.

2:1 Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish

2 and said, “I called out to the LORD from my distress, and he answered me; from the belly of Sheol I cried out for help, and you heard my prayer.

3 You threw me into the deep waters, into the middle of the sea; the ocean current engulfed me; all the mighty waves you sent swept over me.

4 I thought I had been banished from your sight, that I would never again see your holy temple!

5 Water engulfed me up to my neck; the deep ocean surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.

6 I went down to the very bottoms of the mountains; the gates of the netherworld barred me in forever; but you brought me up from the Pit, O LORD, my God.

7 When my life was ebbing away, I called out to the LORD, and my prayer came to your holy temple.

8 Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs.

9 But as for me, I promise to offer a sacrifice to you with a public declaration of praise; I will surely do what I have promised. Salvation belongs to the LORD!”

10 Then the LORD commanded the fish and it disgorged Jonah on dry land.

This month’s theme is God’s heart for the nations – piggybacking on the message Penny shared on October 31st from Matthew 24:14. God’s heart is to redeem the lost from all the nations, so Jesus commissioned us to go to all the nations and preach the gospel to them. We have a job to do, and nothing should distract us from it – not even our expectation that we are at the end of the age. In fact, the closer we come to the end, the more evangelizing we must be doing.

Jonah had a job to do. He was sent to the capital city of the nation of Assyria – Nineveh. He didn’t want to do it, so he boarded a ship going far away from Nineveh. But as we saw last week, God has ways of getting us back on track when we decide to go the wrong way. Jonah wound up being thrown overboard, and God provided alternate transportation to get him to Nineveh: he was swallowed by a big fish.

Jonah prayed from the stomach of the fish (1-2).

I used to think that Jonah’s prayer from the stomach of the fish was a prayer of repentance. I now realize that I was wrong.

I made a mistake in my interpretation of this text. I want to share with you today the fact that I was wrong and had to change my interpretation. But I also want to trace the process that I used to come to the wrong interpretation. We need to be honest with each other about our fallibility. God’s word is infallible, but we are not. His word is inerrant, but we are going to make errors when we interpret it. We need to be honest about that.

So, here is the process I went through when I first read Jonah 2 – and came up with a wrong interpretation. The first thing I noticed was how Jonah said that he had prayed from the belly of Sheol.

Sheol (שְׁאוֹל) is one of the Hebrew words that the writers of the Old Testament used for the state of being dead. It’s not the only word they use for this state. Sometimes they use the word death. Sometimes they use the word destruction. Sometimes they use the word grave. Sometimes they use the word pit. But the biblical authors often use these words to express the idea that they are in danger – that they are close to dying.

When the Hebrew writers actually talk about Sheol, they describe it as a deep, dark, silent place where everyone goes when they die, and rest without any conscious awareness until they are woken by resurrection.

But often the biblical authors talk about being near Sheol as being in great danger – as being almost dead. Here are some examples of that:

“O LORD, you pulled me up from Sheol; you rescued me from among those descending into the grave” (Psalm 30:3 NET).

“The ropes of Sheol tightened around me, the snares of death trapped me” (Psalm 18:5 NET).

“But God will rescue my life from the power of Sheol; certainly he will pull me to safety” (Psalm 49:15 NET).

That is what Jonah meant when he said that he had called out to God “from the belly of Sheol.” That part I got right.

But what confused me was that the text says that Jonah prayed from the stomach of the fish that had swallowed him. I thought the stomach of the fish was the belly of Sheol. This passage actually uses two separate Hebrew words to make it clear that…

Jonah was in the belly of Sheol before he was swallowed by the fish (3-7).

In verse 3, Jonah says that God – not the pagan sailors – threw him into the deep waters, into the middle of the sea. He said the ocean current engulfed him; that all the mighty waves God sent swept over him. In other words, he had been buried at sea while still alive. He did not expect to stay alive long.

In verse 4, he said that he thought he had been banished from God’s sight, that he would never again see God’s holy temple. In other words, he did not expect to be rescued from that watery grave.

In verse 5 he said that water engulfed him up to his neck; the deep ocean surrounded him; seaweed was wrapped around his head.

The Hebrew word for “neck” is nefesh (נֶפֶשׁ). That’s the word that lots of translations render “soul.” But it’s not what people call a soul. When people think of a soul they think of something immaterial that survives the death of the body. But Jonah’s nefesh was his neck. He was nefesh-deep in the water, and the seaweed was wrapped around his head, forcing him under the water. Jonah was about to drown.

Then he went under. In verse 6, Jonah says that he went down to the very bottoms of the mountains. The NET says “the gates of the netherworld barred me in forever.” That’s not a good translation. Jonah is not talking about the netherworld. The ESV states it better: ” I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever.” Jonah is using prison language. He says that he sunk to the bottom and was being held there permanently. He was going to that watery grave. He was going to Sheol, with no hope of rescue.

Then the rescue happened. Jonah says that the LORD brought him up from the Pit. Remember that the Pit (the Hebrew word here is shachat (שַׁחַת)) is a synonym for Sheol. Jonah was in the belly of Sheol when he was drowning in the water – before he was in the stomach of the fish.

In verse 7, Jonah says that when his life was ebbing away, he called out to the LORD, and his prayer came to God’s holy temple.

Jonah’s prayer from the fish was not a prayer for help, it was a prayer of gratitude (8-10).

The fish was not Sheol. The fish was God’s gift to Jonah. It was his means of rescue from the grave. Jonah’s prayer from the fish was not a prayer for help, is was a prayer of gratitude because God spared his life.

In his prayer, he thought about those pagan sailors who had thrown him into the ocean to save their lives. He said in verse 8 that those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs. Actually, those sailors had not turned back to their pagan idols. They had offered sacrifices to Jonah’s God because of the power he displayed.

And in verse 9, Jonah promised to do the same thing. He had learned his lesson. In verse 10, we learn that the LORD commanded the fish and it disgorged Jonah on dry land. Jonah went from a grateful prayer for salvation to a grateful life of service.

That is what is supposed to happen to us as well. We are saved to serve. We are rescued to obey the great commission. The God whose heart is for the nations sends someone to our nation to preach the gospel to us. We believe in the gospel and are saved. Then, we are supposed to go to someone else, somewhere else, so that they too have the opportunity to be saved.

Now, Jonah could have prayed this prayer, and then gone back to his own life, and forgotten about the call to Nineveh. But he didn’t do that. His gratitude produced a commitment to follow his commission.

Now, I submit to you that you and I have been rescued from a worse fate than that of Jonah. He was rescued from drowning and going to Sheol – the grave. But we have been rescued from the second death – destruction in Gehenna. We have been rescued from the death from which there is no resurrection. Jonah was rescued from a temporary grave at the bottom of the sea. We have been rescued from permanent destruction.

Jonah had the good sense to high tail it to Nineveh after he got burped up on the beach. He was not perfect – he still had some lessons to learn. But the God who saved him – sent him. He was going to preach to those Ninevites.

Brothers and sisters, the God who saved us has also sent us. Jesus said, “Just as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”

” (John 20:21). It is a great thing to praise the Lord for rescuing us from hell. It is an even greater thing to show our gratitude like Jonah did – by seeing to it that other lost people get an opportunity to be saved.

LORD, make us grateful and obedient servants like Jonah.

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