No Faith. No Fruit.

18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.

20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” 

23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” –  Matthew 21:18-27 ESV

FigOne of the reasons it is important to read each of the gospels simultaneously and in what is called a “harmony” is that it provides you with a much more accurate timeline of the events. And when reading about Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree and His subsequent statements in the temple, it is extremely important to get a 3D view of those events from the three synoptic gospels: Matthew, Mark and Luke.

Mark tells us that, after entering Jerusalem on Monday to the shouts of Hosanna and the seeming acceptance of the crowds, Jesus went to the Temple and, “after looking around carefully at everything, he left because it was late in the afternoon. Then he returned to Bethany with the twelve disciples” (Mark 11:11 NLT). Bethany would be their home base during what is called the Passion Week. They would return there each evening and spend the night. Then each morning they would make their way back to the eastern gate of the city of Jerusalem, passing through the Mount of Olives along the way. It would have been about at two-mile walk.

On Tuesday morning Jesus and the disciples returned to Jerusalem and along the way they passed a fig tree. Jesus “noticed a fig tree in full leaf and little way off, so the went over to see if he could find any figs. But there were only leave because it was too early in the season for fruit. Then Jesus said to the tree, ‘May no one eat your fruit again!’ And the disciples heard him say it” (Mark 11:12-14 NLT).  This sequence of events is important if we are to understand what Jesus does next. Jesus curses the fig tree first. Then He and the disciples made their way to the Temple where He “entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling animals for sacrifice. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the Temple as a marketplace” (Mark 11:15-16 NLT). If you take these two events out of order or try to deal with them independently, they become difficult to understand. The cursing of the fig tree makes sense only if you keep in mind what Jesus did next.

When Jesus arrived in Jerusalem that Monday and took a look around the Temple grounds, He saw what had become of His Father’s house. He assessed the situation and then left for the day. On the way back in the next morning, He sees the barren fig tree and curses it. Matthew tells us that Jesus was hungry and when He goes to find fruit on the tree, there is none. But His cursing of the tree is not done out of anger or vindictiveness. This was not some petty power display done on Jesus’ part. This was a visible lesson being taught to the disciples. One of the important points in the story is that the tree was in full bloom. It was a healthy, visibly vibrant tree that had all the appearances of fruitfulness. But there was none. Think back on what John the Baptist had to say to the Jewish religious leaders, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit in keeping with repentance’” (Matthew 3:7-8 ESV).

Now we could do a lengthy study on the fruit-bearing properties of the Middle Eastern fig tree, but that is not the point of the story. There are commentators who try to explain that the fig tree in that part of the world has fruit on it year found. Others say that, if it was in leaf, it should have had fruit. But all we know from the gospel accounts is that IT HAD NO FRUIT. Mark tells us it was not the season for fruit, and yet, Jesus hungered for fruit. He came expecting to see and enjoy fruit. BUT THE TREE WAS EMPTY OF FRUIT. It was appealing to the eye, but failed to meet Jesus’ expectations. As usual, this event had much to do with Jesus’ perception of the religious leaders of His day. Jesus had accused the Pharisees of doing everything for show. “They do all their deeds to be seen by others” (Matthew 23:5 ESV). But this problem had become a national epidemic. To all appearances, the nation of Israel had all the trappings of religious fervor and faith. They had a place of worship – the Temple. They practiced the religious requirements as handed down by God – Passover, Pentecost, Feast of Tabernacles, the Law, etc. They had a priesthood. They made regular sacrifices to atone for their sins. In his book, The Words and Works of Jesus, J. Dwight Pentecost writes, “Like the leafy tree, they had given external evidence of being fruitful but on examination they were seen to be barren and fruitless. Therefore judgment had to come on that generation.”

Mark tells us that it was the next morning, as they passed by the fig tree again, that the disciples noticed it was withered from the roots up. “Peter remembered what Jesus had said to the tree on the previous day and exclaimed, ‘Look, Rabbi! The fig tree you cursed has withered and died!’” (Mark 11:20-21 NLT). So what’s the point? The cursing of the fig tree was a statement against the spiritual hypocrisy and religious formalism of the Pharisees. The fig tree had all that was required for fruitfulness, but no fruit. Jesus uses the moment to teach the disciples an important lesson on faith, and He makes the main point right at the outset: “Have faith in God” (Mark 11:22 NLT).

No faith. No Fruit.

It was the lack of faith in God that resulted in Israel’s barrenness. They were not experiencing the power of God in their lives (Mark 11:23). They were not enjoying answered prayers from God (Mark 11:24). Their prayers were hindered by hatred and unforgiveness (Mark 11:25). Over in the book of John we read the words of Jesus, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in my, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father” (John 15:5-8 NLT). Fruitfulness and faith go hand in hand.

When Jesus cleansed the Temple, He shouted, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned it into a den of thieves’” (Mark 11:17 NLT). They were stealing glory from God. They were abusing the people of God. They were more obsessed about financial gain than holiness. They were more interested in fleecing the people than faithfulness. But God’s house was for all people. Jesus had come for all men. Salvation was for all who would believe. They had taken the court of the Gentiles, the only place non-Jews could worship, and had turned it into a three-ring circus. It was here they had set up their system of graft and greed, disguised as religion. But at the end of the day, Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple was all about obedience and faithfulness. It was about commitment to the Lord and not religiosity and ritual. Jesus compared them to their rebellious ancestors and concludes that NOTHING HAD CHANGED! The Temple was not going to save them. It was the God of the Temple who was their only hope. It was the people who God had called to His Temple who were important.

Over in his letter to the Corinthian believers, Paul reminds us, “Don’t you realize that all of you together are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God lives in you? God will destroy anyone who destroys this temple. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17 NLT). Jesus is still looking for fruitfulness from His people. That fruitfulness is only possible through faith in God. But those who have faith in God and believe in the Son of God will experience the fruit of the Spirit and the power of God in their lives.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
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Day 114 – Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13

My Time Has Come.

Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13

“As you go into the city,” he told them, “you will see a certain man. Tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My time has come, and I will eat the Passover meal with my disciples at your house.’” – Matthew 26:18-20 NLT

The timing of Jesus’ triumphal entry, betrayal, trial and crucifixion was no fluke. The fact that this all happened during the celebration of Passover was no coincidence. This was the high holy week for all Jews and the city of Jerusalem would have been filled to capacity with pilgrims coming from all over the known world at that time. Luke tells us in Acts that there were “Parthians, Medes, Elamites, people from Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus, the province of Asia, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, and the areas of Libya around Cyrene, visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism), Cretans and Arabs” (Acts 2:9-11 NLT). The city would have been a melting pot of different nationalities, consisting of all those who had converted to Judaism. Passover was a seven-day celebration that was followed 50 days later with the celebration of Pentecost, which commemorated the giving of the Law on Sinai. The energy level within the city would have been at an all-time high. People were everywhere. It was a festival and celebration, that would have had a holiday feel about it, much like Christmas does for us.

As the day for the celebration of the Passover meal approached, the disciples went to Jesus and asked Him where He wanted them to prepare the meal. This would not have been the first time they had celebrated Passover together. Ever since Jesus chose them as His followers, they would have made their way to Jerusalem each year, and eaten this meal together, much like a family, with Jesus as the head of the household. What the disciples didn’t know was that this particular Passover meal was going to be a radical departure from all those they had participated in before – all the way back to their childhoods. The entire last week of Jesus’ life, commonly referred to as Passion Week, was filled with significant allusions to the Old Testament celebration of Passover, most of which would have escaped the notice of the disciples. In Jesus’ instructions to His disciples, he said, “My time has come…” Jesus fully grasped the significance of what was about to happen and what it had to do with the Passover. He knew He was about to play the part of the innocent lamb, sacrificing His life in order that men might escape the grasp of death – just as in the days of the original Passover in Egypt.

His time had come. The climax of His earthly life was fast approaching. And as He sent the two disciples to make preparations for what would be His last Passover meal, His mind had to be swimming with thoughts regarding what was about to take place in the days ahead. Meanwhile the disciples who had been tasked with the preparations for the meal would have had their hands full. In reading the different accounts of this story in the Gospels, it appears as if all they had to do was procure a room. But there were extensive rituals to be performed. There was an unblemished lamb to purchase, sacrifice and prepare. In fact, these two disciples would have been the ones to actually take the life of the lamb they had chosen. There in the Temple grounds, along with thousands of other pilgrims, they would have watched as the life blood of their lamb was drained into a vessel, and then poured out at the foot of the altar. Then the lamb was “skinned, and cut open, the fat, the kidney’s, and liver, set apart for the altar; the rest wrapped in the skin, and carried home from the Temple.… As the new day approached, at sunset, the carcass was trussed for roasting, with two skewers of pomegranate wood, so that they formed a cross in the lamb. It was then put in an earthen oven of a special kind, resting, without bottom, on the ground, and was roasted in the earth” (J. Dwight Pentecost, The Words and Works of Jesus Christ).

Prior to this, they would have had to prepare the house in which they would be taking their meal together. They would have had to have removed all leaven, fermented grain or liquid, and anything that might defile the house. All the vessels to be used in preparation of the meal had to be painstakingly cleansed. This would have been an all-day affair. A blast from the silver trumpets in the Temple would have announced to all Jerusalem that the Passover had arrived. The time had come, just as it had over the years. But this time it was going to be different. This time there would be a new Lamb. This would be the final Passover. Once this week ended, there would never be a need for another lamb to ever be sacrificed again. No more blood would need to be shed. No more sacrifices would need to be made. A new covenant was going to be instituted. And while all of this escaped the notice of the disciples, Jesus was fully aware of what was going on and the eternal significance of the role He was about to play. It was for this moment He had come and the time had come for Him to do what only He could do.

Father, it is difficult to understand what these final days would have been like for Your Son. It is impossible to grasp what was going through His mind and heart as He drew closer to those final moments of His life. What He did, He did willingly. He was not forced or coerced. He was not made to die in our place. He did it gladly and out of love for us – in spite of our unlovableness. Thank You for sending Him to die in my place. Jesus, thank You for being willing to be obedient, even unto death – just for me. I know I didn’t deserve. I know I had done nothing to earn it. But You did it anyway. And I am eternally grateful. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Seven Days to Sunday – Week 4

7daystillsunday_screenThis is the fourth week in our series on the final week of Jesus’ life. It deals with two very interesting events that are typically disconnected from one another, but that should be taken together to understand their meaning. The cursing of the fig tree and the cleansing of the Temple are not two isolated events, but are meant to be taken together and provide us with one primary lesson.

SevenDaysWk4Notes

Seven Days To Sunday – Week 3

7daystillsunday_screenThis is week three in the 8-part series, “Seven Days To Sunday: A Week That Changed the World.” It is a study on the last seven days of Jesus’ earthly life, leading all the way up to His death, burial, and resurrection. You can listen to the audio and download a copy of the handout. Enjoy!

SevenDaysWk3Notes

Seven Days To Sunday – Week 2

7daystillsunday_screenHere is week two in the series. In this one we take a look at the growing controversy surrounding Jesus as He makes His way to Jerusalem during the final days of His life on earth. The closer He gets, the more intense the anger of the religious leaders becomes.

SevenDaysWk2Notes

Day 41 – Luke 11:24-26, 29-36

How’s Your Eyesight?

Luke 11:24-26, 29-36

“Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness.” – Luke 11:35 NLT

There were times when Jesus seemed to talk in riddles. Of course, when He used parables, they could be very confusing and difficult to understand, but that was His intent. He was actually hiding truth from those who refused to believe in Him. But there were other times when He just seemed to be teaching or speaking and the analogies or metaphors He used seemed somewhat obscure and their meanings were not exactly clear. The passage for today is a perfect example. Luke records that right after Jesus talked about “the sign of Jonah” and the refusal of the people of Israel to believe in Him, Jesus broke into a short discussion on the lamp and the eye. He makes that very familiar statement, “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts in under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house” (Luke 11:33 NLT). I can’t tell you how many sermons I have heard on this verse that have tried to make it all about sharing your faith. I am not against us sharing our faith, but I don’t think that is what this verse is about. I don’t believe that was the message Jesus was trying to convey. Because He goes on and describes the eye as a lamp that provides light to the body. What is He talking about? What’s the point of this message?

I think the key to understanding this passage can be found in the original language in which these words were recorded. In the New Living Translation, the eye is described as being either “good” or “bad.” Those two words can mean a lot of different things in English. But in the Greek, the word translated “good” is a word that means “whole.” In other words, it is complete, healthy and able to do its job well. A whole eye is a fully functioning eye, doing what it was intended to do, without any flaws or defects. But a bad eye is literally a “diseased” eye. In an ethical sense, it is blind and unable to do what it was intended to do. It is no longer whole or healthy. It may appear to be a fully functioning eye, but it is incapable of providing light to the rest of the body. So what’s the point? What is Jesus trying to say? If we keep the context in mind, Jesus has been addressing the unbelief of the Pharisees. Rather than see all the signs and miracles that Jesus had performed as evidence of His claim to be the Messiah, they chose to write it off as the result of Satan. When Jesus refers to a light that is placed on a stand where everyone can see it, He is most likely referring to Himself. He elsewhere refers to Himself as the Light of the world. “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12 NLT). Earlier in his gospel, John speaks of Jesus in these same terms. “The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it” (John 1:4-5 NLT). Jesus is the Light sent from God, like a light set on a stand where it can be seen by all. Jesus words and works were clearly visible for all to see. The problem was not with Jesus, but in the ability of the people to SEE Him clearly. In verse 34, Jesus makes a transition and describes the eyes of the people like a lamp that provides light to their body. A good or healthy eye will allow light in so that the entire body can benefit from it. But a diseased or partially blind eye will fail to recognize the light, and instead, will tend to mistake partial darkness for light. Which is why Jesus says, “Make sure the light you think you have is not actually darkness” (Luke 11:35 NLT). The Pharisees were guilty of failing to see Jesus as the light. They refused to acknowledge Him as the Messiah. Instead, they mistook the darkness in their own lives – their feeble attempts at self-righteousness – as light. And as a result, the Light of Christ was not able to penetrate their lives and expose the dark, sin-filled recesses.

They came asking for a sign. Yet Jesus had come like a light clearly displayed on a lamp stand for all to see. The problem was not with the Light, but with their capacity to see.

Father, there are countless millions of people today who still fail to see the Light of the world, Your Son, even though He shines clearly in the lives of those whose lives He has transformed through His redemptive work on the cross. These people are blinded by their own self-righteousness. They are attempting to earn favor with You based on their own merit. But the light they think they have is actually darkness. Open their eyes Lord so that they may see the truth and experience the life-transforming light of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Day 26 – Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39

New Wine.

Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39

“New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” – Luke 5:38-39 NLT

When it comes to reading, studying and understanding the Scriptures, context is everything. In other words, it is critical that we always look for what is going on in and around a particular passage. Lifting verses out of context is a recipe for disaster. It allows us to twist and manipulate the intended meaning to fit our own preconceived notions. So discovering the immediate context of a passage is essential to understanding what the author intended. And the greatest context we must always keep in mind when approaching the Word of God is that of God’s holiness and man’s sinfulness. From beginning to end, the Bible records for us this tension and how mankind has attempted to resolve it. The Bible makes it clear that God is holy and that man is completely sinful. And yet God commands man to be holy as He is holy. He even provides mankind with a set of divine rules and regulations that clearly articulate His expectations. But man is sinful and incapable of living righteously and holy as God demands. And the penalty for man’s unrighteousness? Death. That is the context of Scripture. God is a holy God and He has holy expectations of man. Man is unholy and he has a serious problem. So as we read through the Scriptures, we see men attempting to find ways to somehow solve their problem and satisfy the just demands of a holy God.

When Jesus appears on the scene, the context is no different. In fact, it had only worsened with time. And it was particularly bad among the Israelites, who He had chosen as His own people. He had hand picked them and then given them His Law to keep. Their keeping of His law would have set them apart from all the other nations. But they had failed. They were still trying when Jesus came along, but there track record was not exactly stellar. So when the disciples of John approach Jesus and ask why His disciples didn’t fast in the same way they and the Pharisees did, Jesus gives them an interesting and somewhat confusing answer – unless we remember the context. The fact that these men ask, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?” (Mark 2:18 NLT), reveals that this fasting was ritualistic in nature and tied to one of the many man-made laws that had been added to the Law of God. The fasting was tied to a form of righteousness based on human effort. Their fasting was performance-based and designed to bring them into good standing with God. So they can’t understand why Jesus’ disciples (and Jesus as well) are not doing the same thing. Didn’t they want to keep God happy and satisfied. Were they “too good” to do what even the Pharisees did to stay right with God?

But Jesus, knowing the greater context, tells them that they are missing the point. And He does so by using some very interesting metaphors. He compares the activities of His disciples to those of wedding guests celebrating with the groom at his wedding. That’s not a time for fasting, but for feasting and festivities. Jesus’ very arrival on to the scene in Israel had changed the rules of the game. The groom had come. This was not a time for fasting. It was a time of celebration. He then uses the imagery of a new patch being sewed on to a piece of old clothing. Once washed, the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old clothing, leaving it destroyed and useless. Jesus is trying to convey that He had come to bring a new way of solving man’s age-old problem of his sinfulness and God’s holiness. But this new way wasn’t going to be an add-on to the old way of doing things. It wasn’t going to be based on merit, earning, performance, or rule-keeping anymore. Fasting as a form of self-righteousness was not the way to a right relationship with God. Jesus came to bring something completely new. It wasn’t going to be about works or self-effort anymore, because that way didn’t work.

Jesus’ last metaphor seals the deal. He says, “no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins” (Luke 5:37 NLT). Jesus came to do something new. He came to present a new way to righteousness and a restored relationship with God. And that new way was not going to play well with the old way. The Pharisees, like old wineskins, were rigid and set in their ways. They couldn’t handle the new way Jesus came to offer. His message of grace, mercy, and repentance didn’t set well with them. They were satisfied with the old way, the old wine. They didn’t want what Jesus came to offer. “‘The old is just fine,’ they say.” (Luke 5:39 NLT). So Jesus says, “New wine must be stored in new wineskins” (Luke 5:38 NLT). In other words, His new message was going to require new hearts, and new lives transformed by the power of God. This was not going to be more of the same old thing, but something new altogether. Jesus was doing away with the old works-righteousness methodology and replacing it with something completely new that was going to work. Paul described it this way, “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:21-24 NLT). New wine in new wineskins. The work of God, not man.

Father, mankind has suffered from the same old problem for centuries. And our solution has always been the same. We just keep trying to do good and live our lives in such a way that we might somehow please You enough to satisfy You and make You happy with us. But that was the old way and it never worked and it never will. So You came up with a new way, make possible through Your Son. You didn’t change the context, You just came up with a new solution to the same old problem. Thank You! Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

 

Day 24 – Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

We Have Seen Amazing Things!

Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26

“And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, ‘We have seen amazing things today!’” – Luke 5:25 NLT

The scene is the village of Capernaum, on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. This rural village had become Jesus’ unofficial hometown during the early days of His ministry. Jesus had recently arrived back in town, and His growing reputation had preceded Him. News of His arrival resulted in a crowd showing up at the house where He was staying. They filled the room to the rafters and more people stacked up outside the doors, hoping to catch a glimpse of Jesus. Luke tells us, “the Lord’s healing power was strongly on Jesus” (Luke 5:17 NLT). So there were plenty of people crowding into the house in an effort to get a moment with the one who they heard could do miraculous healings.

Outside, watching warily, were the Pharisees and teachers of religious law. A group of them seemed to have been assigned the task of keeping an eye on Jesus, following Him wherever He went. As the crowds gathered, anticipating that something miraculous was going to happen, the Pharisees were looking for evidence to use against Jesus. Two different expectations filled the atmosphere that day. The scene was electric as everyone waited to see what would happen. And they were not to be disappointed. The Gospel writers record an encounter that brought Jesus into contact with a paralyzed man who had been brought to Jesus by his friends. They went to a great deal of effort to arrange this meeting, even removing tiles from the roof of the home in which Jesus sat, and using ropes to lower their friend into the room. What happened next was going to have a significant impact on everyone present.

Upon seeing the man on the mat descend from the roof into the room, Jesus can’t help but notice the men on the roof, laboriously lowering their friend. Luke tells us that Jesus “saw” their faith. What everyone saw was a man being lowered by ropes from the roof of a house. Not something you see every day. But Jesus saw something more. He saw faith revealed in the efforts of these men. They believed Jesus could do something to help their friend and they were willing to step out and put that belief into action, going through a great deal of effort to so.

But what Jesus says next is the most important thing in this story. He simply replies, “Young man, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20 NLT). In that day, sickness was usually associated with sin. Diseases and infirmities were typically blamed on the presence of sin in the individual sufferer’s life. Their sickness was viewed as a punishment from God for some act of unrighteousness or disobedience. So Jesus addresses the elephant in the room and forgives the man’s sin. This simple statement gets the attention of the Pharisees and they immediately begin to salivate, thinking they have Jesus right where they want Him. This was blasphemy. Jesus was clearly claiming to be God, because only God can forgive sin. Jesus knows what they’re thinking and addresses their concerns head on, and He uses an interesting form of logic by asking a question. “Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!'” (Mark 2:9 NLT). Of course, it would be easy to tell someone their sins are forgiven. The results would be hard to prove. So Jesus does the harder thing to prove He has the authority both to heal and forgive sins. He commands the young man to get up, pick up his mat and walk home under his own power. And he does.

And as amazing as it was that this paralyzed man regained his ability to walk, the more significant issue is that he received forgiveness for his sins. Not through some priest, or by making some kind of sacrifice in the Temple. His sins were completely absolved by a word spoken from the lips of Jesus. And while being able to walk was great, being able to live with forgiveness was even better. Spiritual healing trumps physical healing every time. Restoration of our relationship with God is far better than restoration of sight or the ability to walk. Whether this man’s paralysis was related to his sins was not the point. Because every single one of us suffers as a result of our sins. We are all sick, spiritually lame, blind, and dying from the disease of our own sinfulness. What we need is forgiveness. We need release from the very thing that is causing our problem – our sin. And Jesus offers us permanent and complete forgiveness from sin and restoration to a right relationship with God – forever. That is indeed an amazing thing, like nothing mankind has ever seen before.

Father, i can’t thank you enough for healing me from the disease that was destroying me and condemning me to death. My sin had me paralyzed, helpless and hopeless, unable to save myself. But because of what Your Son has done, I have had all my sins forgiven – once and for all!  Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org