THE PROMISE TO DAVID

THE PROMISE TO DAVID

Psalm 16:10-11, Isaiah 55:3 & Acts 13:34-35 NET

Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

Last year, I spent a few weeks on the subject of the hope of a resurrection. I shared Job’s hope that even after he had died and decomposed in the dust that his Redeemer would come and he would see God in his flesh (Job 19).

Isaiah told the Israelites that their dead will live — that their dead bodies will rise (26:19). He told those dwelling in the dust to wake up and sing. Isaiah reminded them that their God does not fail. They could trust in the resurrection because it was something God was going to do for them.

Daniel sees a vision of the future, but he is also told that he will not live to see that time. Instead, he is told that he will rest in the dust as Job did and that one day he would rise from the dead and receive his allotted inheritance (12:1-3,13).

For this year’s Easter messages, I want to start by talking about another Old Testament saint who put his hope in a future resurrection.

God’s promise to David was life instead of death

Psalm 16:10-11 You will not abandon me to Sheol; you will not allow your faithful follower to see the Pit. You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight.

Psalm 16 is interesting. In it, David prays for God’s protection, stability, prosperity, joy, and long life. He promises God that he will remain faithful to God alone, and not follow the other leaders of Israel in their hypocrisy and idolatry. But toward the end of the psalm, David says something that sounds ridiculous. He says that God will not abandon him to Sheol.

But the Bible teaches that everyone eventually dies, and when we die, we all go to Sheol. When our bodies go down to the grave, we go down to Sheol. The first time the term occurs in the Bible is when Jacob is told that his son Joseph has been killed. Jacob thought that Joseph had died and gone down to Sheol, and he refused to be comforted. He said he would die mourning and join Joseph there (Genesis 37:35).

The Bible uses the word Sheol as a synonym for death. The two terms go together. Lots of people think of Sheol as a location where disembodied souls go at death, but it is something different. It is the condition of being dead. The location for the dead (at least those who are buried) is the grave. Their condition is Sheol.

When the Bible compares Sheol with heaven, heaven is always the highest place, and Sheol is the lowest. You cannot get any higher than the place where God lives. You cannot get any lower than the place where the dead are. The death state is never synonymous with heaven. It is the exact opposite. This is true for believers and unbelievers alike. Nobody wants to die and go to Sheol. David didn’t want that. God promised him that he would not abandon him to Sheol.

Sheol is a place of silence where God is not praised. The dead go down to Sheol in silence. When Hezekiah was very sick, he prayed to God for healing because he would not be able to praise God in Sheol. David said the same thing. He said, “For no one remembers you in the realm of death, In Sheol who gives you thanks?” (Psalm 6:5). He described those who are dead as sitting in darkness (Psalm 143:3).

In Sheol people don’t sing, they don’t praise, they don’t play golden harps. Their bodies rot, and they sleep with their fathers. Sheol is a silent, dark state or condition in which everyone exists at death, and can only live again by a resurrection from the LORD. It is always contrasted with heaven, and never equated with it. It is not the hope of the saints; rescue from it is the hope of the saints. That is the Old Testament consensus.

When this psalm was made into a rhyming song for the Church of Scotland in 1883, verse 10 sounded like this: “Because my soul in grave to dwell, Shall not be left by thee; Nor wilt thou give thine holy one Corruption e’er to see.” 1 David does not say that he expects to avoid Sheol. He says that he will not be abandoned to Sheol. He will not be left there. In other words, God promised David a resurrection.

And he’s not the only recipient of that promise.

God’s promise to all who come to him is the same promise

Isaiah 55:3 Pay attention and come to me! Listen, so you can live! Then I will make an unconditional covenantal promise to you, just like the reliable covenantal promises I made to David.

Isaiah’s words are an invitation from the LORD to everyone hungry and thirsty to come to him for a banquet — and it is all free. David has been appointed a witness to the nations, calling on all the wicked to abandon their lifestyle, and sinful people to abandon their plans and seek the LORD while he is making himself available. “They should return to the LORD, and he will show mercy to them, and to their God, for he will freely forgive them” (Isaiah 55:7).

This is the gospel folks! Come to the LORD, repent of your sins, and he will forgive you. But that’s not all. The God who forgave David also promised him a resurrection. God made him an unconditional covenantal promise. Isaiah tells the rest of us the good news that we too can claim that promise. We will die and go to Sheol, but God is not going to abandon us there. He’s going to bring us back to life.

Jesus “has pledged Himself to accomplish for all who trust in Him a victory similar to His own.” 2

From that Old Testament prophet, we go now to a New Testament apostle. Paul explains that…

Jesus is the first to receive that promise. We are next.

Acts 13:34-35 But regarding the fact that he has raised Jesus from the dead, never again to be in a state of decay, God has spoken in this way: ‘I will give you the holy and trustworthy promises made to David.’ Therefore he also says in another psalm, ‘You will not permit your Holy One to experience decay.

Paul knew his Bible. He had read David’s last words as recorded in 2 Samuel 23. He read David’s dying charge to his son Solomon in 1 Kings 2. He said to his son that he was about to die and that Solomon would be king after him. He also told him that the LORD would fulfill his promise to him.

Paul boldly stood in a synagogue in Pisidian Antioch and told his fellow Jews that “David, after he had served God’s purpose in his own generation, died, was buried with his ancestors, and experienced decay, but the one whom God raised up did not experience decay. Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you” (Acts 13:36-39).

Here is the gospel sequence. God promises David a resurrection. David dies. David waits. Jesus comes and dies. But he is not abandoned to Sheol. He is raised to life. All those who put their trust in him will be raised to a new, permanent life as well.

Peter, at Pentecost, had also talked about David. He said “Brothers, I can speak confidently to you about our forefather David, that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. So then, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, David by foreseeing this spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did his body experience decay. This Jesus God raised up, and we are all witnesses of it. So then, exalted to the right hand of God, and having received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he has poured out what you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”‘ (Acts 2:29-35).

Peter mentions two tombs. David’s tomb was there, and Jesus’ tomb was also there. The difference was that David was still in his tomb. Jesus’ tomb was empty. That is the message of Easter.

David knew that he was not going to be the first to be raised from the dead. He heard the Father talking to the Son. The Father will raise the Son, empower the believers in the Son with the Holy Spirit, defeat all the enemies of the Son, and then raise all the believers to permanent life. That’s the gospel sequence.

God did not promise David that he would survive death. He said he would not be abandoned to Sheol. As a minister of the gospel, I am responsible to God not to tell you what you might want to hear, but to tell you what God’s word says. God’s word to you is that death is real, and if Jesus does not return in your lifetime, you are going to go to Sheol. You are going to sleep with your ancestors. God’s good news about those who are asleep is that Jesus is going to come back to wake them up. David will be in that number. God’s good news to us is the same good news he promised David. You will die, but you will not be left dead.

The same power that raised our Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise from the dead all who are currently asleep in him. The same love that refused to abandon David has also refused to abandon us. That love is unconditional covenantal love and it has given us an unconditional covenantal promise.

Paul told the Thessalonian believers “Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians. For we tell you this by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will surely not go ahead of those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a shout of command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be suddenly caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

Our encouragement comes from the faithfulness of God to fulfill his promise to David. Our encouragement reminds us that we have hope that the rest of the world does not have. That hope is not based on our ability to survive death. That hope is based on the fact that Jesus died and rose again.

Easter is a time for us to reflect on that hope. Our Lord triumphed over death, not by surviving it, but by being raised to life again. His resurrection is proof that God’s promise to David will be fulfilled. His resurrection is the source of our comfort. The empty tomb is the promise that our tombs will be emptied as well one day.

Jesus told his followers that his resurrection was just the beginning. He said “Because I live, you will live too” (John 14:19 CSB).

Easter is special for us because Jesus was raised from the dead. It is also special because every time we think of his resurrection, we are reminded of the biblical hope of our resurrection.

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1 Church of Scotland, and David McLaren. The Book of Psalms in Metre: According to the Version Approved by the Church of Scotland. Edinburgh: D. Douglas, 1883. p. 23.

2 Bertram, R. A., and Alfred Tucker. A Homiletical Commentary on the Prophecies of Isaiah. London: Dickinson, 1884. p. 121.

THE PROMISE TO DAVID.mp3
THE PROMISE TO DAVID.mp4

HE WANTS TO FORGIVE

HE WANTS TO FORGIVE

Ephesians 1 3-14 NET

We learned from Psalm 130 that when we are in the depths of guilt and shame we can cry out to God because he is willing to forgive us. We learned from Mark 2 that Jesus has authority on earth to do what the Father is doing in heaven. We Christians should be like those four friends of the paralytic – always seeking ways to get our friends to Jesus.

But God’s message of forgiveness is not just for unbelievers. The fact that Jesus can forgive sins is a truth that we believers will have to come back to over and over again as we seek to live our lives today. The devil is going to work overtime finding ways to destroy our confidence. He wants to make us believe that God can forgive, but make us doubt that God wants to.

No one understood this more clearly than the apostle Paul. Paul had begun his life as a persecutor of Christians. He believed that God hated followers of Jesus, and felt it his obligation to destroy them and stop their gospel. Then he met Jesus on the Damascus road. Soon, this former hater of the church was proclaiming the same message that Peter proclaimed — forgiveness of sins through the name of Christ.

Peter: “About him, all the prophets testify, that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10:43).

Paul: “Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by this one, everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you” (Acts 13:38-39).

One God. One Christ. One gospel — and at the heart of that one gospel is the offer of forgiveness. Paul preached that gospel to unbelievers. But Paul also emphasizes forgiveness as one of the major truths by which believers live their lives.

Paul left us a treasury of biblical and theological truth in his letters to the churches that we find in the New Testament. Today we are going to look at a section of one of those letters. The title that has come down to us is “Ephesians.” The letter itself was probably sent by Paul and his team to several churches. It expresses two main themes: God offers forgiveness to the world through Christ, and God has established one church in Christ.

Given those two main themes, we would expect this first chapter of Ephesians to give us some teaching about God’s forgiveness.

God wants to forgive you because he plans to make you his holy and pure child (3-6).

3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Christ. 4 For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. 5 He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will — 6 to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.

Paul told the Ephesians that forgiveness is not the end of the story. Forgiveness is just the first stage in the plan. God plans to adopt new children into his family. Forgiveness is essential in that plan because God is holy and pure, and he cannot have children who are defiled and corrupt. He cannot even choose a defiled and corrupt being to be part of his sacred family.

The problem is — as we all know — he does not have any holy and pure individuals to adopt. Paul taught the Romans that both Jews and Greeks alike are all under sin. “There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

So, what is God going to do? He wants to adopt children into his family. It is a tremendous privilege to be part of God’s family. His children will experience eternity as he will. But he went to the adoption agency and filled out all the paperwork — and waited. He never got a call. None of the children in all his creation qualified to be a part of his eternal family.

God had only one Son who was holy and blameless like him. This Son did not need to be adopted because he had always been part of the eternal family.

So, the Father and the Son got together and they devised a plan. Since sin kept all human beings from becoming adopted into God’s family, the Son was going to atone for that sin by sacrificing his life on the cross. Then, the Father would be able to adopt children into his family as long as they identified with Christ.

Because of what Jesus did, we are now blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms IN CHRIST. He chose us IN CHRIST before the foundation of the world. He predestined us to be adopted as his sons THROUGH CHRIST. He has bestowed his glory and grace on us IN HIS DEARLY LOVED SON.

God wants to forgive you because he plans to make you his holy and pure child. Christ came to this earth for that. Christ died on the cross for that. The adoption papers will come through not because you are a good person. The adoption papers will come through because you have been redeemed by the blood of Christ!

God wants to forgive you because he has already bought your redemption (7-8).

7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he lavished on us in all wisdom and insight.

Your redemption is IN HIM – that it, in Christ. It is THROUGH HIS BLOOD. His death on the cross bought forgiveness of your trespasses.

The reason Jesus’ death on the cross was sufficient to do that was that it came from a vast reservoir of grace. This passage calls it the riches of God’s grace. When I go down to the store to buy something, the clerk at the counter is not going to ask me who my parents were. The clerk is not going to ask me what church I attend. Nobody is going to ask me what political party I belong to. No, the only thing that matters when I am in that store wanting to buy something is how much money I’ve got. If I pick up something from the shelf and bring it to the counter, I’m going to need cash in my wallet, or a card from a bank. There has to be a reservoir of riches somewhere enabling me to make my purchase. If I don’t have enough, I’m going to be embarrassed, and I’m going to have to put that idem back on the shelf and shuffle on back to the house without it.

The riches of God’s grace are enough to redeem you through the blood of Christ. The riches of God’s grace are enough to forgive your trespasses. So, you can go to God’s store, pick out forgiveness from the shelf, take it to the counter, and when the clerk asks you for payment you can pull out your Ephesians 1:7 card. Forgiveness has been bought and paid for. You don’t have to work for it. You don’t have to beg for it. You don’t have to do penance for it. You can’t buy it with what’s in your wallet. But that’s okay. It has already been credited to your account. The purchase has already been made at Calvary.

God wants to forgive you because he wants you to be part of his permanent restoration of the universe (9-10).

9 He did this when he revealed to us the secret of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, 10 toward the administration of the fullness of the times, to head up all things in Christ – the things in heaven and the things on earth.

We already learned that God has a plan to adopt children into his eternal family. We already learned that he can do that because he counts the holiness and purity of Christ and applies it to everyone who puts their trust in Christ. If you are IN CHRIST you can be adopted THROUGH CHRIST.

These verses tell us that God has revealed to us a secret — the secret of his will.

Many years ago, Penny and I consulted with a lawyer and drew up a will. We were going to be working overseas as missionaries, so we were advised to write up a will explaining who would have custody of our daughters in case we died on the field. We have not revised that will, but we need to. Right now, if we were to die, our daughters would be given to a pastor and his wife down in Florida to raise. This might be a problem since they are now adults, and two of our daughters now have husbands and children of their own!

Lots of families turn against each other when they read the will. They find out the secret in the will – who gets what – and the sparks start flying. Well, God has revealed to us the secret of his will, and it should come as no surprise that Jesus gets everything. The Father and the Son have decided to renew the universe – to make all things new, and so one day everything that is will be in Christ.

That is why we plead for people to come to Christ before it is too late. The times are marching toward their fullness. When the calendar reaches the point where Jesus comes back, the time of the gospel will be over. Anyone outside of Christ when he comes again will only experience condemnation, torment, and the second death. The time to seek forgiveness is now. The time for justification by faith is now. The time for reconciliation is now. The opportunity for redemption through the blood of Christ is now.

God wants to forgive you because he has claimed you as his possession (11-12).

11 In Christ we too have been claimed as God’s own possession, since we were predestined according to the one purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will 12 so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, would be to the praise of his glory.

It’s not always clear what a person means when he uses the word “we.” Who is the “we” of these verses? Is it all believers? No, notice that Paul clarifies what he is saying in verse 12 when he says “we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ.” I think Paul’s “we” in Ephesians 1 includes all Christians alive in his time. The “we” included all the Christians who came to Christ during that first century in which the gospel was preached. Paul is speaking to all the believers alive that day and assuring them that God has claimed them as his possession.

That is what it means to be predestined. It means that if you believe in Christ today, God has claimed you for himself. If you still want to do what you want, instead of what God wants, you are not predestined. If you are God’s possession, yous sins have been forgiven, and you are free to concentrate on his purpose, his praise, and his glory.

Finally, God wants to forgive you because he has sealed you by his Holy Spirit (13-14).

13 And when you heard the word of truth (the gospel of your salvation) – when you believed in Christ – you were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory.

The God who has claimed you as his possession has invested his Holy Spirit in you to mark you as belonging to him. The God who has forgiven you has given you the ability to walk in that forgiveness. The Spiritual Gifts he gives us empower us to begin manifesting the fact that God has claimed us for his own for eternity. That means that sometimes when we say something, it is God saying it through us. Sometimes when we pray for something, God is going to grant that prayer. Sometimes when we touch someone, healing is going to happen.

The temple that possesses God’s Holy Spirit must remain pure and uncorrupted. This is a challenge for all of us to keep seeking God’s forgiveness through the blood of Christ. God has given us his Spirit, and he has not told us to take a sip. He commanded us to “be filled by the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). A sanctuary filled with God’s Spirit manifests his holiness 24/7. Forgiveness reigns in such a temple. That’s the kind of life that God wants you and me to live.

HE WANTS TO FORGIVE.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

HE’S WILLING TO FORGIVE

HE’S WILLING TO FORGIVE

Psalms 130:1-8 NET

1 From the deep water I cry out to you, O LORD. 2 O Lord, listen to me! Pay attention to my plea for mercy! 3 If you, O LORD, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you? 4 But you are willing to forgive, so that you might be honored. 5 I rely on the LORD, I rely on him with my whole being; I wait for his assuring word. 6 I yearn for the Lord, more than watchmen do for the morning, yes, more than watchmen do for the morning. 7 O Israel, hope in the LORD, for the LORD exhibits loyal love, and is more than willing to deliver. 8 He will deliver Israel from all the consequences of their sins.

I want to talk about forgiveness for a little while. When Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to ask God for forgiveness. Once he healed a man who was paralyzed, and he told that man that he was forgiven. His point was that he has the same right to release people from sins as he does to release them from physical problems (Mark 2:1-12).

Jesus also explained why God can forgive us. During the first communion celebration — the night before his crucifixion — Jesus took a cup, gave thanks for it, and then said “this is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). The shed blood of Christ is the basis of God’s forgiveness.

Also, proclaiming the possibility of forgiveness is not just a minor theological tenet of Christianity. We are commanded by our Savior to proclaim it. 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).

But the story of God’s forgiveness does not begin at Calvary or the great commission. No, just like everything else that Jesus taught, if we want to understand it, we have to spend some time reading the Bible that he read — the Old Testament. That’s why we are first going to go to Psalm 130 to understand that our God is willing to forgive.

Verse 4 says it. David says to his Lord, “You are willing to forgive.” We know for sure that David believed that. I am not here today to convince you that David believed that. The purpose of this psalm is to convince others to believe that.

Forgiveness is crucial to the gospel. If someone does not believe in forgiveness, it doesn’t matter how much they know about other things. I want to outline from today’s text some of the supposed obstacles to forgiveness. My point is that they are not obstacles because God is willing to forgive.

Verse 1 begins “From the deep water I cry out to you, O LORD.” So, the first obstacle to forgiveness is the deep water.

The deep water cannot prevent him from forgiving you (1).

Deep water signifies danger in the Bible. The particular danger that David faces at the beginning of this psalm is the danger of unforgiven sin. He is in danger of being destroyed by his guilt.

Murphy says “This Psalm describes the rise of the soul from the deep of self-condemnation to the height of hope in God.” (646). The psalm has three stages. The first stage is verses 1-2, where David is pleading for rescue.

Spurgeon says “Those that are farthest cast down, are not farthest from God, but are nearest unto him” (123). When you are at rock bottom, it is a good thing because the only direction you can look is up.

Jonah was in the deep water literally and metaphorically. He prayed to God, and God sent a fish. There is no water deep enough to obscure us from God’s vision.

In Psalm 139, David said: “Where can I go to escape your spirit? Where can I flee to escape your presence? If I were to ascend to heaven, you would be there. If I were to sprawl out in Sheol, there you would be. If I were to fly away on the wings of the dawn and settle down on the other side of the sea, even there your hand would guide me, your right hand would grab hold of me” (7-10).

God is actively seeking those he can forgive. He is willing to dig deep to find people willing to be forgiven. Even before we ask God to listen to us, he is there listening.

Verse 3 says “If you, O LORD, were to keep track of sins, O Lord, who could stand before you?”

The number of your sins cannot prevent him from forgiving you (3).

I like the way verse 3 begins with an “if.” This is not conditional “if.” It is a hypothetical “if”. David is saying that if God operated in such a way that his sins could become an obstacle to God’s forgiveness, then he would have a problem. David knows he is a sinner. But he also knows that God is a forgiver. The number of David’s sins can never prevent God from intervening in his life and rescuing him from their consequences.

I imagine some people think of their relationship with God as if God is holding a bucket. Every time they sin, God puts that sin in his bucket. When their transgressions reach critical mass, God puts the bucket down and walks away.

That may be the way some people think, but that is not the way David thought. He did not have bucket theology. He knew that God is offended by his sins, but he also knew that God had committed himself to never walk away, to always be available to forgive.

Isaiah wrote “Come, let’s consider your options,” says the LORD. “Though your sins have stained you like the color red, you can become white like snow; though they are as easy to see as the color scarlet, you can become white like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). The sins are real, but so is the potential of complete forgiveness. It doesn’t matter how dark the stain is, God’s got a detergent that can take the stain away.

Verse 4 says that God is willing to forgive, so that he might be honored.

That word “honored” is the word “fear” but we don’t usually associate forgiveness with fear. We tend to think of forgiveness as removing fear. It does remove the fear of judgment, but it replaces it with reverence and worship.

The justice of God cannot prevent him from forgiving you (4).

“God does not forgive in order that man may be in terror of him. That would be nonsense. But God would neither be worth reverence, nor would it be worthwhile to revere him, unless he were forgiving. Not worth reverence,’ because he would not be good; ‘ not worthwhile to revere, ‘ because, as sin is for us inevitable, it would be hopeless to serve him. Who would not run away from and disown an unforgiving Father? (Montefiore, 556-557).

God takes sin seriously. That is why he sent his only Son to atone for our sins. But because Jesus died for our sins, God approaches us with the reality of that atonement. His justice is not an obstacle to his forgiveness. No sin that we could ever commit could ever deplete the purifying power of the blood of Christ on the cross. As long as we keep walking in the light, the blood of Jesus keeps cleansing us from all sin.

Also, The distance between you and God cannot prevent him from forgiving you (5-7).

The text talks about the watchmen waiting for the morning to come.

Burgess explains that “The custom was that one of the Levites who watched in the temple should stand to observe the first rising of the dawn; that the morning sacrifice might be duly prepared.” (Burgess, 246). These Levites watched for the morning light because they thought that during that time before the morning sacrifice there were sins that were not yet atoned for. Without the sacrifice, there was a distance between God and his creation.

We all know how it feels when we know we have done something wrong. We are afraid of praying because we feel that distance. We are self-condemned but are reluctant to go to God because we feel that he would condemn us as well.

But we need to remember the cross. On that old rugged cross, Jesus died as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins once and for all. There is no longer a distance. Our sins are no longer an obstacle. Our God has called us to come boldly to his throne of grace to find mercy in our time of need.

Our God is like the father of the prodigal son, watching and waiting for us to come home to him. He looks out his window to see if we are making our way down the dusty road. He has the robe and ring ready. He has the fattened calf in the stall, ready to process for the celebration feast. The sinful prodigal might feel like there is a distance. He may be ready only to return to his father’s house as one of his hired servants. But the loving Father will have none of that. That is no way to treat this son of mine, who was dead, and is now alive!

Finally, The consequences of your mistakes cannot prevent him from forgiving you (8).

Verse 8 promises that God will deliver Israel from all the consequences of their sins.

The final payoff of all sin is death, but there are other consequences of failing to obey God. The wars and pandemics and unfairnesses of this life speak to us and they tell us that there are so many things that are not the way they should be.

The God who promises us forgiveness is ready to add to that blessing. He is ready to start undoing what our sins have done to us. We deserve prison, but he promises freedom. We deserve death, but he promises a renewal of life. We deserve pain, but he promises pleasure. We deserve sorrow, but he promises joy. We deserve curses, but he promises blessings.

____________________

Burgess, George. The Book of Psalms: Translated into English Verse. New York: F.J. Huntington, 1840.

Montefiore, C. G. The Book of Psalms. 1901.

Murphy, James Gracey. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Psalms. Andover: W.F. Draper, 1875.

Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. The Treasury of David: London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873.


20220313 HE’S WILLING TO FORGIVE.mp3
HE’S WILLING TO FORGIVE.mp4

LET’S GO ELSEWHERE

LET’S GO ELSEWHERE

Mark 1:35-39 NET

35 Then Jesus got up early in the morning when it was still very dark, departed, and went out to a deserted place, and there he spent time in prayer. 36 Simon and his companions searched for him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 He replied, “Let us go elsewhere, into the surrounding villages, so that I can preach there too. For that is what I came out here to do.” 39 So he went into all of Galilee preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.


Jesus has moved north from Judea and is now ministering in Galilee — the region he grew up in. He is gathering many disciples around him, including some who are being formally trained for a ministry similar to his own. They are in Capernaum, where Jesus has just finished preaching in a synagogue and has just commanded an unclean spirit to leave a man. The demon left, and everyone was amazed at Jesus’ power.

Next, Jesus goes to Peter’s home in the same city. Peter’s mother-in-law was there — bedridden with a high fever. When they told Jesus about her, he simply came to the bed where she lay, took her hand, and raised her up. The fever was gone, so she immediately began serving Jesus and the disciples.

It did not take long for the inhabitants of that village of Capernaum to get news that a healer was in town. By evening, the whole town had gathered at the door, so Jesus went about his work of healing the sick and delivering the demon-possessed.

Since he had such a busy day, you would expect Jesus to sleep in the next day. Instead, our text tells us that he got up before sunrise, went out into a deserted place, and prayed. When Peter and the others found him, he told them that he planned to go elsewhere. The question I want to address today is why did Jesus tell his disciples “let’s go elsewhere”?

Jesus did not need to go anywhere else to get close to his heavenly Father (35)

Jesus had made his relationship with his heavenly Father his priority. Prayer for him was not a chore that he tacked on to his daily life when he found time for it. No, he made time for prayer even when there was no time to spare. Since he knew that many throughout the city had learned of his presence and his healing and deliverance ministry, he had to get up early for his private devotional time first.

Glover writes “He needed to pray. Only in facing God did He find the sufficient refreshment of His Spirit. His eye grew sick and weary with the sight of sin and woe and only got back its brightness by looking upon God. Only there did He find rest. No one so enjoyed human love as He did. But He wanted a greater heart than man’s to rest on with His sorrows, cares, and toils, and He found it in the heart of God. He, as man, had to seek guidance for each day’s action, and light for each day’s teaching, and power for each day’s work; and only God could give these.”1

Sometimes our Christian lives get so busy that we have to organize retreats where we can go and rest and get back in touch with God. Sometimes in ministry, we need a rest — a sabbatical. Otherwise, our activities tend to crowd out our spiritual lives.

But Jesus did not need to go elsewhere to stay spiritually strong. He had found a way — even in the busy city of Capernaum to stay in touch with his heavenly Father — to keep himself in step with God’s will. His early morning talks with the man upstairs were all that he needed to keep the relationship strong and vital.

So, it was not for Jesus’ personal spiritual needs that he told his disciples that they were going to pack up and go elsewhere.

Also, Jesus did not need to go anywhere else to have a successful ministry (36-37)

The fact that crowds had gathered at the doorstep of Peter’s home was a good thing. It meant that news was getting out that if you have a need, there is somebody there who can fill it. Sick people want to go where they can get help. When the home remedies don’t help and the local doctors can’t help, people will go out of their way to find someone or something that will work. News had gotten out that the preacher was healing people at Peter’s house.

Our modern philosophy tells us that if we have something that is working, don’t try to change it. I can imagine Peter thinking that he was in really good shape here. He could be a part of a successful ministry without having to leave his home and family. Then he finds Jesus, and Jesus tells him that they have to go elsewhere. “Wait a minute,” Peter says. ” The crowds are here, our shelter is here, our boats and nets are nearby in case we need to eat. So, why should we leave?”

I don’t know if Peter said anything like that, but I can imagine he thought it. Logic dictated that if the crowds were still forming in Capernaum, you don’t need to pull up your tent stakes and go to the other towns and villages of Galilee.

But there is another aspect of God’s logic. That is the aspect of what God wants and when he wants it. God wants to save all people everywhere. He wants to demonstrate his love and offer his forgiveness to all people everywhere.

Goodwin writes “Note, again, that the extraordinary popularity which He had attained in Capernaum was no reason with Him why He should remain there. The question was, whether He had done the work of His Father as it required to be done; and if so, He would not remain for the purpose of basking in the sunshine of friendship and kindness.” 2

Human nature wants to build a tower and a city and settle down and make something of ourselves. God’s logic looks down on that and sees human pride. The tower of Babel was an example. God had told the descendants of Noah to scatter throughout the earth. They decided to settle at Shinar.

Later in Genesis, we encounter a man named Abram whom God had decided to bless. But God was not going to bless him unless he decided to go away from his homeland and be a blessing to others. Abram — later renamed Abraham — was successful in his ministry because he was obedient to God’s mission for his life.

And, just like Abraham, Jesus needed to go elsewhere to fulfill his God-given mission (38-39)

Jesus told his disciples that they had to keep moving because he came to Galilee to reach Galilee, not just Capernaum. He came to the world to share God’s love and healing and deliverance with the whole world, not just the easy places to be.

The church of Jesus Christ needs to take hold of that truth again. We have had periods in our history where we have made great strides in fulfilling the great commission. But we have also had periods where we have gotten sidetracked from that calling by other things. There are many good things that we can do by staying and investing in the home front. But our heavenly Father sent his only Son as a manifestation of his love to the whole world. He wants us to reach the whole world.

Remember what our Lord had told those self-righteous religious leaders who objected to his associating with Matthew’s fellow tax collectors and sinners? He said that a doctor’s place is among the sick. When doctors are everywhere, then people can go to them. But when the doctors are scarce, and the sick are scattered, then the doctors need to go to the sick. If those who are the neediest cannot find a doctor, then the doctors need to find them.

Jesus cannot “confine his labors to one town as others need him also.” He had to go throughout the whole region, “not necessarily every acre or every town, but there were hundreds of towns, and this circuit of Galilee — the first of several, apparently – must have involved weeks and months of toilsome journeying and many severe trials to his loving heart.” 3

Jesus had already shown his willingness to go where he needed to go. He had gone out into the desert to be tempted. He had gone to meet a Samaritan woman at the well in Sychar. In this very text, he had gone to the home of Peter — and healed his mother-in-law there. He would later go to a ruler’s house to raise his daughter from the dead. He’d go to Bethany to raise Lazarus from the dead. He was God’s grace in the flesh, and he would go where he needed to go to manifest that grace.

He went where no one else could go. He went to the cross. Others have died on crosses for their sins, but he died on a cross for our sins. He had a mission, and he was willing to go wherever he needed to go to fulfill that mission.

It is for that reason that Jesus refuses to stay among all the friends and admirers in Capernaum who want to keep him for themselves. His hands are healing hands, not just for a few here or there, but all people everywhere. His voice drives out demons — not just in a Capernaum synagogue, but in the region of the Gerasenes, in Tyre where they were possessing the daughter of a Syrophoenician woman, and along the sea where they had made a young boy mute and gave him convulsions.

Johnny Cash sang a song about a man who had been everywhere. Jesus was like that. He traveled. He went from place to place because God has a message, and God wants his people to go into every nation and proclaim that message. Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19).

Now, the same heavenly Father who sent his Son to proclaim his gospel has also sent his people — his church — to proclaim that same gospel to that same planet. His word to us today is “let’s go elsewhere.” There are still plenty of places where there are plenty of people who need to hear the good news. Nothing should hinder our mission of going with the gospel. Even if we cannot physically travel, we should find ways of getting the gospel to those who need it — and everybody needs it. If we cannot go, we need to send someone. If we send someone, then those who stay back should be praying for and paying for those we send.

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1 Glover, Richard. A Teacher’s Commentary of the Gospel of St. Mark. London: Sunday School Union, 1884. p. 19.

2 Goodwin, Harvey. A Commentary on the Gospel of S. Mark. Cambridge [Eng.]: Deighton, Bell, 1860. p. 25.

3 Broadus, John Albert. Commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1905. p. 18.

LET’S GO ELSEWHERE.mp3