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Weekly Word

Tuesday
Mar192019

Obstacles to Reaching Jesus

Mark 2:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 17, 2019.

Although we will look at a story where Jesus heals somebody, this story is not so much about healing as it begs the question, What is our greatest need?  It positions a physical healing opposite the forgiveness of sins and questions if we would work so hard to be rid of our sins as we would to be rid of sickness or disease.

I could have entitled this as, “Obstacles to being Healed,” but that is not the true emphasis of the story.  Jesus is asking us to think about why we might come to Him and what really is our greatest need.  If we see Jesus only as a means to an end, then He simply becomes a gumball machine from which we get our gumball and then walk away.  However, Jesus has not left this option open to us.  Even being free of sins can become a means to an end if we are only seeking to assuage our guilt and avoid judgment.  We need more than physical healing and we need more than spiritual forgiveness of sins. 

Ultimately, we need a relationship with Jesus, who is the Lord of all those things and more.  Jesus is not a means to an end.  He is the end or goal for which we must desire and strive.

He had a physical obstacle

We do not know how long this man has been paralyzed nor how he came to be in that condition.  However, it would pose a problem to finding Jesus and asking for a healer.  At least the leper in the previous story could track down Jesus and catch Him on the road, but this man is debilitated to the point that he cannot do this. 

Yet, this man has friends who are willing to help him.  It is important in life that we have people who care about us enough that they will help us when we need them.  Of course, we too should be a friend back towards them, but friendship should not be about an equation of help. 

In this life it is easy to let differences and hurts lead us into isolation from the world, but we still need others.  We need others because we are not enough by ourselves and God desires others to help us.  He created us to be social creatures who work together for the good.  No one person has all the gifts, regardless of how talented they may be.  Eventually they will need others around them.  It is true that there are some people from whom we may be better off dissociating ourselves.  Yet, hurt can cause us to dissociate from people who don’t deserve it and to our own detriment. 

Still, no number of friends can replace Jesus in your life.  Thus, the best kind of friends are those who will help you to come to Jesus for all the needs in your life, not just healing.   Four friends determined to carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus so that he could be healed.

The crowds around Jesus were too large

When the paralyzed man and his friends get to Jesus, there is a problem.  There are too many people surrounding Jesus and they cannot get close enough to ask for help.  We are going to see later in the story that not all of these people are believers in Jesus.  These crowds are themselves a physical barrier, and yet they can also be psychological barrier to people who do not like crowds.  Some people are not interested in Churches and crowds of Christians.  Yet, they still need Jesus. 

In His humanity Jesus was often surrounded by crowds, but in His divinity, He is always accessible to those who will reach out to Him in faith, whether by themselves are with the help of a friend.  Don’t just limit yourself to inviting people to Church to hear the Gospel.  Learn to share Christ with people one on one, or in smaller groups of friends.

Notice that these friends are not easily daunted.  They don’t quit just because they run into an obstacle and it gets hard.  Instead, they devise a way around the obstacle, which involved tearing through the roof and lowering the man down in front of Jesus by ropes.  Their faith or belief that Jesus would heal the man stirred up a determination within them that wouldn’t quit.

Sometimes, whether individually or as a group, we can lose heart because we run into barriers.  If getting people to Jesus was easy then they would already be with Him.  No, this is a difficult job that is full of obstacles.  Am I determined to help my friends get to Jesus?  Of course, in our lives today the answer will not be tearing a whole in a roof.  However, may God help us to see the true barriers that keep our friends and family at a distance from Jesus.  Let’s continue reading at verse 5.

The man is a sinner

This story takes a turn with the response of Jesus.  Here is a man on his sick bed, lowered down by ropes in front of Him.  Yet, Jesus chooses to tell the man that his sins are forgiven.  This is important because it changes the story.  To the man and his friends, his greatest need was to have his paralysis healed.  To Jesus, the man’s greatest need was to be free from his sins.

Now, it is easy to let this story become cluttered with the intellectual trappings of healing.  We are not told if the paralysis was due to his sin.  So, we should be careful of making this about the need to have your sins forgiven before you are healed.  Jesus will go on to heal the man, but not because he now has his sins forgiven.  Jesus himself states that he healed the man to prove to them that He had power to forgive sins on earth.

There are many things that we need in life, some of which we only think we need.  However, they all pale next to the need to have our sins forgiven.  Our sins separate us from God and cause us to be guilty before Him.  We do not deserve His grace or His benefits.  We only deserve His wrath and judgment.

The statement of forgiveness in verse 5 is connected to the statement of Jesus in verse 10.  Jesus has the power (both authority and capability) to forgive sins.  As believers we can assist our Lord in helping people to be free from their sins.  This is their greatest need, whether they understand it or not.  What does it profit a man to be healed in this life, but not have their sins forgiven?  Yes, you would think that it would always be good to have both, but one is immensely more important than the other.

There was an unbelieving, religious community there

It is important to recognize that not all who surround Jesus, then and today, truly believe in Him.  You either believe or you don’t.  However, there is a tendency within us as humans to give up faith while attempting to keep remnants of religion.  It can be a security blanket, sentimentality, or even crass opportunism.  Without faith in Jesus, religion is dead and cannot help us, but with faith, religion can be pure and full of life. 

These religious unbelievers think that Jesus is blaspheming because only God can forgive sins.  However, they willfully forget that God had set up a whole system of priests whose job it was to perform rituals through which they could declare that people’s sin was now forgiven.  This delegation of forgiving was not blasphemy.  It was merely obeying what God had sent them to do.  They just weren’t used to seeing this outside of the temple compound and the priests.  Surely, Jesus must be blaspheming.  Yet, the priests over the centuries had been pointing people to the Lamb of God that would one day come in order to take away our sins, once and for all.  Jesus stood as the ultimate High Priest and declares that this man is forgiven.

This leads to a challenge from Jesus.  He asks them which is easier to say to the paralyzed man, Your sins are forgiven, or Arise, take up your bed and walk?  “Your sins are forgiven” is easier in the sense that it can’t be verified.  How can you know it actually happened?  It is not like you get a certificate in the mail stating that God has forgiven your sins.  Yet, “take up your bed and walk” is easier in the sense of actually doing it. 

Do we really understand that healing people is easier for God then forgiving their sins?  Healing is so easy that humans themselves are figuring out ways to get the cells and DNA to do what they are supposed to do in some situations.  I doubt we will ever get to a place where we have conquered all disease.  However, no man on earth has any power to forgive someone’s sin outside of Christ.  The obstacles to being set free from sin are legion: We can be paralyzed to even try and come to Jesus, We can fight with and reject those friends who try to bring us to Him, We can give up when we run into obstacles that make it hard, and We can even believe that our sins are too great to be forgiven.

I pray that today you will see the truth of this passage.  Sin is our biggest issue, and not just getting rid of it.  Sin itself is a barrier to the relationship that God intended for us to have with Him.  There is nothing more important in life than to have Christ declare over us that our sins are forgiven.  If you do not know Christ or you have friends that do not know Christ, I pray that you will not let any of the obstacles of this life and your own heart keep you from coming to Christ.  He will receive you with open arms if you will turn from your sins and run to Him.

Obstacles Audio

Tuesday
Mar122019

Touching the Untouchable

Mark 1:40-45.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 10, 2019.

Today’s passage deals with a man who has leprosy.  In the Bible leprosy can be connected to a similar disease today called Hansen’s Disease.  However, it is clear that the Bible uses this term for far more than what would be considered Hansen’s Disease.  It was more of an umbrella term that was used to describe a range of skin problems, and even molds and mildew on stone or wood.  The man in our story appears to have a skin problem.  How bad his case is and how long he has had it we do not know.  This much we do know.  In the ancient world, the only answer for leprosy was a miracle.  Short of a miracle, a person was doomed to a life of being ostracized from society.  Lepers had to live outside and away from the dwelling places of the uninfected and they had to warn people if they approached.

This in and of itself would be bad enough, but then we must add the human element.  Humans added to the difficulty of lepers by showing little to no compassion.  Self-preservation was the order of the day and it was often laced with a derogatory hostility.  They were often seen as deserving of a punishment from God.  It is true that the Bible records some situations where a person who was rebelling against God came down with leprosy as a punishment.  However, this does not mean that every case is the result of judgment.  In general sin is in the world because humanity is fallen.  It is a result of the general sinful condition of mankind.  Though God can direct disease as a primary force, He typically allows proximity, DNA, and chance take its course.  Though we may wish God would protect everyone, or at least children and the helpless, etc., He has a plan to make us like Him.  If we are protected from the results of our fallen nature then we will never grow to become like Him.  The first reaction of Christians to disease should be the same compassion that we see in Jesus in this passage and the attempt to do for them what we can, both physically and spiritually.

An Untouchable approaches Jesus

The event begins in verse 40 and happens somewhere outside of a city because none is mentioned and lepers were very limited in where they could go.  In Matthew this same story is recorded right after the sermon on the mount, which happens near Jerusalem on the Mt. of Olives.  Therefore, it is likely that Jesus is outside Jerusalem, but we cannot know for sure.

People who had contracted leprosy were supposed to keep their distance and shout “Unclean! Unclean!” as a warning to people.  However, this man knows the reputation of Jesus as a healer and breaks protocol.

He kneels down and implores Jesus to heal him.  Now, kneeling for a person with leprosy can be a dangerous thing.  These diseases typically are caused by bacteria that attack the nerve endings and work their way to the core of the central nervous system.  The lack of feeling is as much responsible for their wounds as any cellular deterioration.  Yet, this is a desperate man.  He pleads with Jesus for help. 

If leprosy symbolizes sin then we should recognize that this man’s knowledge of his own condition, his own helplessness, and just who could help him, is symbolic of the answer to sin.  Only God could help this man wracked by the ravages of a disease.  Only Jesus had given him the hope that something could be done about his condition.  The same is true for us and our own sinful condition.  Without Jesus, we are at the mercy of sin and our selfish flesh.  They drive a wedge between us and the relationships in our lives, making us numb to life, and eventually destroying all hope.  We cannot approach Jesus with proud demands, but if we approach in brokenness and humility, we will find Him gracious and willing to help us.

Let’s analyze the statement the man makes.  First, he states the conditional, “If you are willing.”  This is enlightening.  He knows that God can heal him, but up to this point it hasn’t happened.  When he hears about Jesus, he has hope again, but still doesn’t know if Jesus is anymore willing to heal him.  There are some today who answer this question by saying Jesus is always willing.  If you are sick and come to Jesus, you should always get healed.  If not, then there is something wrong with you not Jesus.  Let’s lay this larger issue aside for a second and recognize in this moment how critical that question is to an individual.  It is often the result of countless hours of beating yourself up with the hopelessness of your situation and the idea that God doesn’t care about you.  Jesus was probably the first time that this man felt any hope that it could happen, but it hinges on the willingness of Jesus.

The second part of his statement is this.  “You can make me clean.”  It states an unwavering belief (faith) that Jesus had the power to heal him.  Of this, he seems to have no doubt.  Now, we have no indication that Jesus has healed other lepers up to this point.  He is the first recorded in the gospels.  However, it is possible because of all the blanket statements that say that Jesus healed all who were brought to him (at a particular instance).  Regardless, he believes.

The word clean is used because biblically the person with leprosy was declared “unclean.”  This was a ceremonial declaration that they could not participate in any temple rituals, whether to offer sacrifice or whatever.  Also, those who were ritually clean could not touch them at risk of becoming ritually impure themselves (note: mere touch could only cause temporary uncleanness, but contracting the disease would create a permanent uncleanness without healing).  So, the use of the term has two meanings.  The man could not be declared clean by the priests unless he was first healed from the disease.  He wants Jesus to heal him so that he can then be declared clean. Once he is clean, he can take his part in the heritage of Israel and go to the temple for worship and sacrifice.  It would open the door of access for him. 

The same is true for us today.  Without Christ, we are still in our sins and shut out from God’s heavenly temple.  Only Jesus can clean us from our sins.  However, even more than that, only Jesus can restore us to a position in which we can participate in the heritage that God has for His people today, that heritage that will take us into eternity, and the new heavens and the new earth.  Christ has not come just to rid us of the bad, but also to restore us to that good thing that we have been missing in our life.  Fellowship with God the Father and the Power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to image the Father to this broken and lost world.

Jesus responds to him

So, let’s look at the response of Jesus to such an approach.  Does Jesus respond with fear and calling for the stoning of such brazen audacity and wanton disregard for scriptural protocol?  I am not exaggerating, because historically certain rabbis have gone on record of responding with such reactions towards those with leprosy.  Of course, Jesus does no such thing.  Verses 41-42 show us a powerful scene of compassion.  We must be careful of brushing over such moments in the Scripture too quickly.  We are told that Jesus is moved with compassion.  The word for compassion speaks of a very deep emotion that comes from the guts.  We often have compassion on people, but typically it is for those who are very close to us, or the compassion is not very deeply felt.  Here is a man who has no connection to Jesus other than to be a fellow Israelite.  Yet, Jesus is moved with deep emotion for this man and his condition.

Do you believe that God is deeply moved by compassion when He looks at the world and its bondage to sin?  We only need to look at the cross and see the suffering of Jesus in order to know that He is deeply touched by our sin.  He does care.  He hasn’t abandoned you.  Put your trust in Him and He will never fail you.  He won’t do everything you tell Him to do, but He will be faithful to you to the very end.

We also see that Jesus was not afraid to touch the man.  There is great significance in this touch because Jesus did not have to touch him in order to affect a healing.  He is powerful enough to just think it and it will happen.  On top of this a person with leprosy were basically like a dead person.  If you touched a person you would be ritually unclean, and even worse, you could contract the disease.  In the case of a dead person, someone from the family has to bury the body.  However, Jesus didn’t have to touch the leper and yet He does.  Put yourself in the sandals of this man.  No one had touched him for years and here is a powerful prophet touching you in the name of Father God.  It must have been powerful.

Here is a brain bender.  Is Jesus ritually impure when He touches the man?  He would be technically.  However, the guy is made clean by the touch.  So, shouldn’t that disqualify the touch as making Jesus unclean?  Of course, I am treating this a problem for priests who are trying to follow the Law of Moses.  It is clear that when the Holy One, the Clean One of God, touches a person, the impurity of the person does not affect Him, but His purity affects the impurity.  That is how powerful the life of Christ is.  For us as humans, we cannot conquer someone else’s disease with our own health.  We can only hope to fight off the disease that they may have and could still succumb to the disease, no matter how healthy we are.  With Christ, this is not so.  The power of Jesus disintegrates the bacteria in every cell that is ravaging this man.  Jesus shows the true purpose of the purity laws.  They are not about walling us off from each other and from God, but rather about turning our eyes towards and connecting with the only One who can truly make us clean!

The man is instantly healed

Jesus was willing to heal the man, O, happy Day!  How those words must have washed over the man.  We are told that the man is instantly healed, which is saying a lot for a disease that would have been ravaging his whole body.  There would not only be destruction of the invading bacteria, but also reconstruction of destroyed cellular tissue. What a powerful healing.  So, what happens next?

Jesus warns the man not to tell anyone.  Of course, the man is extremely excited.  Why would Jesus give such a command?  Doesn’t this run counter to our duty to tell the whole world about Jesus?  Jesus is trying to minister somewhat under the radar of the religious authorities.  He knows that if He “pokes the bear” too much and too quickly then their attempts to kill Him would begin too soon.  God had a particular timing and purpose for the ministry of Jesus.  It is now clear that He needed to minister for 3 ½ years before He was to be killed.

Of course, today we are not under such a command from Jesus, although people sometimes act as if they are.  Jesus continually told His disciples that His death and resurrection would be the turning point for them to go public, declaring Him as the Messiah and Savior of the world.

Jesus also tells him to go and show himself to the priest as a testimony to them.  This was the requirement of the Law of Moses for anyone cured of leprosy.  They had to present themselves to the priests and go through several protocols that would determine whether they were truly healed or not.  Can you imagine what it must have been like at the temple that day?  Keep in mind that it is highly doubtful that the priests had ever had to perform this ritual.  There was probably a frantic scrambling around of priests trying to figure out what to do.  Yet, all of this was to be a testimony to them.  God was moving and there was a God in Israel who was making lepers clean.  Who had ever heard of such a thing (only a couple of times in the Old Testament)?  It was very rare.  The greatest testimony to the world of the power of Jesus is your own life transformed from sin and cleansed to be like Jesus.  None of us are perfect, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, we can walk in truth and righteousness before the world, and yet, also be compassionate and life-giving.  We don’t have to fear anything, even incurable diseases.  Sure, some people reject the testimony, but some are shocked and believe.  Others may tuck it in the back of their mind and it comes to fruit later.  Regardless, may we be a true testimony of Jesus Christ.

Next, we see that the man didn’t listen to Jesus and tells everybody what He did.  Here we see that even a good thing can be a bad thing if it is not exercised in wisdom.  Thus, we must learn to trust the wisdom of Christ and His representatives, the Apostles, rather than our own mind.  He knows better than us.

I said earlier that they are most likely outside of Jerusalem.  Thus, it is most likely the city that He couldn’t openly enter.  The passage tells us that Jesus goes north to minister in the Galilee region again.

Here we have a story about our broken and rotten condition without God meeting the compassion of God in Jesus.  If you are a believer today then I encourage you to remember that you were such a spiritual leper, being ravaged by sin, before you met Jesus.  He had the compassion to touch you!  He loves you.  However, we must also see ourselves in the place of Jesus.  Ask Christ to build such a deep compassion in you for those who are broken around you, whether they deserve their situation or not.  Pray that you may have such an impact upon the lost.

If you are not a believer in Jesus, then I encourage you to search your heart and see your true condition with Jesus.  You are being ravaged by a spiritual disease of sin that has deeply infected you to the core.  It will isolate you from everyone that you love, and destroy your life one cell at a time, until you are completely destroyed.  However, Jesus loves you and wants to touch you too.  If you will only fall down before Him and ask for His healing touch.  Lord, Jesus heal me of all my sin and make me clean that I may take my place in the heritage that belongs to God’s people, instead of being shut out and excluded.

Untouchables audio

Tuesday
Mar052019

The Power of Jesus II

Mark 1:29-39.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 03, 2019.

Last week we looked at two aspects of the power of Jesus: his powerful teaching, and his power over evil spirits.  Today we will see the healing power of Jesus highlighted.

Of course, the more you think about healing, you will quickly realize that there are many different kinds of healing and a physical healing is not always the most important.  Imagine a traumatized person who is emotionally and mentally broken, yet has had all their physical wounds healed.  There may be nothing physically wrong with them, but they can still be a shell of a person, unable to deal with the world around them.

It is interesting that even today in 2019, while experiencing all that modern, medical technology has to offer us, we have not vanquished sickness.  Should the Lord tarry, it is looking increasingly like we will not have all sickness conquered even in a hundred years (I mean definitely and not just for a period in which viruses mutate etc.).    We still do not have the kind of power over sickness that Jesus displayed throughout His time on earth.

The Scriptures make it clear that the main purpose of Jesus was not to physically heal all maladies on the earth.  When He later sends out His apostles, His instructions clearly highlight the focus and it is not on physical healing.  Rather, Jesus ministered physical healing because it is tied together to emotional, mental, and most especially spiritual healing.  People gave Jesus a true hearing about spiritual healing because of what they saw in the natural.  Yet, no amount of physical healing can heal the sin-sick soul. 

Today, as we meditate on this passage, let us come to Jesus and recognize that in His mercy He can heal us, but in His wisdom, He knows what truly ails us.

 Jesus heals those who are sick

Jesus is still in the city of Capernaum on the Sea of Galilee.  It is still the same Sabbath day on which He cast the unclean spirit out of a man in the synagogue.  After the service, Jesus goes to Simon and Andrew’s house.  It so happens that Simon’s mother-in-law is sick with a fever.  Now, Luke further describes this as a great fever, meaning that it was a serious sickness that could end in death.  They immediately make Jesus aware of her condition.  So, what does Jesus do?

We are told that Jesus took her by the hand and lifted her up.  The fever instantly leaves her, even without a word from Jesus.  Notice that there is no sense of a ritual, magic, or a crude, barbaric understanding of sickness.  Jesus simply lifts her up and she is healed.  Neither is there a modern sense of scientific knowledge or medical technology.  Both methods are left with their mouths open, as Jesus simply helps her up.  Is this coincidence?  Please.  Anyone who has had a very serious fever break knows that you don’t instantly feel good enough to get out of bed and serve everyone in the room.  We see here the kind of power that Jesus has over sickness.  He simply heals her with the thought. 

Now we could turn this into a mind science, but the Scriptures do not open that door to us.  We are never instructed to work on our mind power.  Even the instructions to believe and have faith are all focused on believing Jesus and having faith in Jesus.  It is not faith in our ability to wield faith like a medical instrument.  Rather, it is faith in the One who has power over all sickness.

It often bothers us that God allows sickness on the earth.  However, remember that God has a goal that is greater than humans not having any suffering.  What would it profit us to live lives free from sickness and yet be spiritually like the devil, to go into eternity lost?  God created us to be like Him, to dwell with Him, and to work with Him.  Thus, sin is a huge barrier to all that happening.  We want God to heal everything, but let us live anyway we want.  Even when ailments are the result of sinful choices, we still want God to protect us from the consequences and yet not expect anything from us.  This attitude is sinful.

So, we want healing and have turned to all manner of things throughout the years.  There is something wrong with attempting spiritual or religious cures outside of Christ.  We are warned in Scripture that only the Holy Spirit and the ways of Christ can be trusted.  The many spiritual cures that exist are only the teachings of evil spirit that want to get permission to attach themselves to our lives.

However, there is nothing wrong with medicine and doctors helping us heal.  The same God who can heal at will has also put things on the earth with which we can make medicine.  Either way, He is the source of the healing.  When our bodies naturally heal themselves, where did they get this ability?  It was not the luck of Natural Selection.  Rather, it was the design of a benevolent Creator.  Yet, we must realize that medicine and medical technology is always limited and cannot take the place of God.  This is why I think that we will have to deal with sickness until the resurrection occurs.

What amazing power that can will sickness away, even without a word.  Christians do not need the proper prayer, or the proper verses to quote, or the proper mix of Christian “spell casting.”  Rather, we simply need to be connected to Jesus and believe upon Him.

At evening time, we are told that a crowd gathers outside of the door where Jesus is staying.  Word has spread about the exorcism done during the synagogue service and perhaps also about Simon’s mother-in-law’s healing.  They show up at evening because all the Sabbath restrictions would now be over.  Although Jesus had cast out the evil spirit on the Sabbath, there was no issue made of it.  Most likely because they were all in shock and amazed.  This was a new thing.  Later, the religious would have time to realize that they should be offended and that Jesus was technically breaking their Sabbath laws.

Regardless, at this point in time it is technically Sunday in our reckoning, and we are told that many who were sick and others who were demon-possessed were healed by Jesus.  This was an incredible day in the city of Capernaum.

If we hit pause on the scene, perhaps we should take some time to mentally digest what the Bible is presenting to us.  Israel had been waiting for God’s Anointed One to come and fix everything in Israel and the world.  The covenant that God made with Israel had many physical blessings.  If they were loyal to God then He would bless their crops, their wives would be fertile, and the diseases of the Egyptians and the Canaanites would not come upon them.  God’s people of Israel had the Creator’s word that He would keep them healthy and they would not need fear any evil spirits of the nations around them.  However, when the Anointed One comes, Israel is filled with people who are sick and even demon possessed.  The great people of God have not been loyal and faithful.  They are a plundered people who have been taken captive by their spiritual enemies even more than by their natural enemies.

Let’s take some time to contrast this with the New Covenant that Christ makes with whosoever will believe in Him.  The Mosaic Covenant was heavy on physical blessings and had some spiritual blessings.  However, the New Covenant was heavy on spiritual blessings and had some physical blessings.  We have no nation on this earth, are not guaranteed crops and fertility, and are not even guaranteed defense against physical enemies.  Yet, we have something greater.  We are guaranteed spiritual fruitfulness, and spiritual offspring.  We even have the Spirit of God Himself dwelling within us.  Yet, if Jesus were to walk among the churches of today, what would He find?  Would he not find a multitude who are still spiritually bound and not walking in the fullness that God has for us?  On one hand we fall far short of the intentions of God and His Savior, Jesus.  On the other hand, we see Jesus, loving us, and touching us in order to set us free from what binds us.  We need to come to Christ and seek to be free from those things that hold us back from walking in faith and trust in Him.  We need to find the leading of the Holy Spirit in our life and trust Him.

Back in Capernaum, there are now 100’s of people who have witnessed the power of Jesus.  Think of the countless numbers of people through the years who can give testimony to the power of Jesus in their life.  Instead of walling ourselves off from God in unbelief, we must learn to hear the testimonies about Him and learn to walk in faith.  Jesus can be trusted, even when I don’t get exactly what I want.  However, He still works powerfully in our lives today, and we need to be good witnesses of it to others.

Jesus seeks out a place of prayer

It had been a busy day.  Yet, the next morning, Jesus gets up before dawn and seeks out a “solitary” place to pray.  The pressure and busyness would no doubt begin anew that Sunday morning.  It is typical for us as humans to allow the times of pressure and busyness to squeeze out spending time with God the Father in prayer and seeking His understanding and purpose for our day.  Here Jesus in the busiest of times, takes time to meet with His Father.

It is good to pray in public.  However, if we do not have times of secret prayer then our public prayers are hollow and empty of any real meaning and power.  Jesus was powerful in these other areas because He also had a strong and powerful relationship with God the Father through prayer.   He is unique in His Sonship, but He is not unique in having a relationship with God that is both private and public.  We must follow His example.  It is secret prayer that makes public prayer meaningful and powerful. 

Jesus has many more people to heal and set free from evil spirits.  However, He also needs to keep focused on God the Father and His plan.  When people are desperate and see you as their answer, they will take hold of your life and set the agenda for you, if you let them.  We must always guard against letting others set the agenda for our life.  Take time to seek God about His agenda for your life each day.  That can only happen in times of secret prayer and on days other than church day.

So, we see Jesus who is not “going it alone.”  He is doing what He does with the Father.  You too were never intended to be alone in what you are doing.  Jesus is up before dawn because those hours are more spiritual.  He is up that early because everyone else is asleep.  Carving out time is not just about one time a day for a certain amount of time.  It is about finding a way to get alone and talk with God.  This should not be the first thing we sacrifice when we are busy, but the last thing.

Meanwhile, the disciples wake up and realize that Jesus is not in the house.  While they begin looking, people are showing up at the door hoping to find Jesus.  This gives us a picture of Christ that we must not miss.  Jesus is not always where you think He will be and is not always in an easy place for us to find Him.  Jesus offers Himself to the world, to whosoever will, but He also has His own agenda.  If we are always thinking that Jesus is in the noisy, loud, public places (perhaps even a church service), we can miss this intimate side of Jesus.  Sometimes we need to get to the solitary place and there we will find Him.  Yes, we need Church and Fellowship with other believers, and Jesus is truly there.  However, He is also in the solitary place with the Father that we can only go to by faith and through prayer in our own secret place.  You do not have to travel all over the world to find Jesus.  He is right here, right now, wherever you are.

Everyone is looking for Jesus because they all want a piece of Jesus.  Yet, Jesus has received instructions from the Father.  He explains God’s purpose.  He must go to other towns and do the same thing.  His purpose is about reduplicating what just happened in Capernaum in the other towns of the Galilee.  Blessed Capernaum would keep slurping up the blessing as long as they could.  If they were allowed to set the agenda and purpose then a huge compound would be built in Capernaum where Jesus would stay and all the world would come in order to be healed and set free, but that is not the plan.  The emphasis is not on such plans.  Rather, Jesus is going out to the people wherever they are.  In fact, you actually have both things happening.  Wherever Jesus went He was seeking people to touch and people were coming from far and wide to find Him.  So, we have this beautiful sense that while we are seeking for God, He is seeking for us.  By the grace of God, we shall meet up!  He cares about you and He wants you to find Him.

Even then, Israel’s greatest need, our greatest need, is not physical healing.  What a tragedy it would be to be healed physically by God, but not to be healed spiritually.  The miracles that Jesus did were not the main thing.  They served the purpose to get people’s attention, but the teaching of Jesus pointed people to a spiritual healing from sin and a healing of our relationship with God the Father.

If you truly believe in Jesus as your savior today then you truly are a Child of God.  And, if you truly are a Child of God then God has a purpose for everything that you are going through today and went through yesterday.  He has a present and a future for you.  That knowledge should become the foundation of our relationship with the Father through prayer.

We live in a desperate world, but in its desperation, it is grabbing on to all the wrong things, things that cannot save.  Humanity cannot heal itself.  We must humble ourselves and come to Christ so that He will heal us as only He can.  We cannot tell Him how to heal us, but must humble ourselves and allow the good physician to apply the balm according to His knowledge, not ours.

Power of Jesus II Audio

Tuesday
Feb262019

The Power of Jesus

Mark 1:21-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 24, 2019.

Having introduced us to Jesus, Mark goes on to give evidence of the powerful things that Jesus did while he ministered on this earth.  This is important because we need to recognize that, though Jesus was smart and spoke in a way that amazed people, the biblical authors highlighted his power over his talk.  Paul references the effect of this reality in 1 Corinthians 4:20, when he says, “The Kingdom of God is not a matter of talk, but of power.” (NIV) 

If we only have fine sounding words to offer people then we might as well hang up our hat now.  At some point, they will come to realize that they need real power.  Yes, knowledge is power, but not all knowledge can set you free from the bondage of sin and hurts that so easily entangles us.  Even knowing the Scriptures is not enough to break the bondage of sin.  We must have a living relationship with Jesus, who alone has power to break every fetter!

Jesus teaches in Capernaum

Jesus focuses his ministry in the northern part of Israel for several reasons.  The more he ministered in Jerusalem the quicker the authorities would want to kill Him, and God had a particular timing about all of this.  Another reason is that it was symbolic of God’s care and heart for those who need help.    Jerusalem represented the best of Israel in the natural.  All the political and religious leaders were there.  Compared to Jerusalem, Capernaum represented the country bumpkins.  Jerusalem represented riches and knowledge, whereas Capernaum was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee and would not have the greatest teachers in the land.  Those who know they are poor are quicker to receive than those who think they already have everything.

So Jesus goes into the synagogue of Capernaum on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath was the day of rest, which corresponds to Friday evening to Saturday evening.  The people of Israel had developed the habit of gathering in buildings in order to worship God, to hear the Word of God read and to have it explained.  The concept of a synagogue developed at some point after Israel’s exile into Babylon and subsequent return to the land.  Before this time, their religious life was mainly at the Temple, where they worshipped God and offered sacrifices.  With the temple destroyed in 586 B.C., they had to wrestle with continuing to worship.  Thus the concept of synagogues that focused on teaching was born.  In fact, early Jewish Christians called their gatherings synagogues as well.  However, the term “Church,” that had been used by Jesus, later became the main word to describe Christian gatherings.  So this is much like a Jewish Church service in its function. 

The fact that the leaders of the synagogue let Jesus teach says something.  He was not a rabbi who had learned under the rabbis of the day.  Normally this would preclude him from being able to teach.  Yet, the prophet, John the Baptist, had gone on record that Jesus was God’s anointed one, the Messiah.  Thus the talk had preceded Christ and the people were eager to hear from Him. 

We are told that the people were astonished because he taught “as one with authority.”  It may be easy to read into these words that Jesus was cocky and arrogant.  However, the emphasis is the contrast between how Jesus taught and how the scribes taught (who were men trained in the religion of Israel).  The scribes normally taught by referring to different views of the great rabbis from the past and the present.  They basically were relaying what others had said and those great rabbis often disagreed with each other.  Though we do not have a text of this teaching, it is safe to say that Jesus did not quote any authorities to substantiate his interpretation of the text.  Jesus is “acting as if” He is the authority on the subject.  Of course, that is because He actually is.  Knowing who Jesus is, we can recognize that He is the most qualified man of all history who could give authoritative understanding on what passages of the Bible meant and what God intended us to understand from it.

Today, we need to be careful that we do not make either of two mistakes.  One, we can forget that we have received authoritative understanding on what passages of the Bible meant and why the Law of Moses was given.  These were given by the true author of the Bible, God Himself, and those who He personally trained.  Two, we can use the authority of Jesus in order to teach things that He and His apostles did not teach.  Confidence is not good if it is placed in the wrong thing, but when it is placed upon the right thing, or right person, then it is a good thing.  We can confidently proclaim the teachings of Christ and His Apostles, but we should never become arrogant and take to ourselves a confidence that sees the authority of Jesus as something that has been handed down to us.  Jesus is still the authority.  Paul Himself said in Galatians 1:8 that even if the apostles were to teach a gospel that was other than what was originally given, they should be considered cursed by God and rejected.   We must never forget this truth.

Jesus casts out an unclean spirit

At some point in the teaching of Jesus a man with an unclean spirit cries out and interrupts the meeting.  It doesn’t seem that he had been brought to the meeting in order to be delivered, but it is possible.  Sometimes a person who is demon possessed may retain their faculties most of the time.  Depending on the situation these demons will “manifest” or show their presence from time to time.  The Gadarene demoniac seems to have been under constant “manifestation.”  He was never in his right mind and people could not interact with his human psyche.  Whereas others have demonstrated varying amounts of self control with times in which the spirit takes control, or manifests.

The phrase that is used in this passage is “unclean spirit.”  What is an unclean spirit?  Unclean is another way of saying evil or bad.  It is a reference to the spiritual defilement that sin and rebellion against God brings to a being.  Therefore this spirit is sinful and in rebellion against God.  In that sense we could say that the Devil and his angels are also unclean spirits.  This would be true technically, but the phrase never seems to be used of the Devil and his angels (fallen angels).  Much speculation and dogmatic ideas have been put forth from then to now.  However, the Bible seems to equate unclean spirits with evil spirits and demons.  There are different beings within the spirit realm and there are hierarchies within the spirit real as well.  Thus we cannot be completely sure what exact “species” (for lack of a better word) demons or evil spirits are.  They may just be lower level beings that rebelled with the devil and his angels, or they may be something else.  However, we can be confident that the Bible has told us what we need to know.  We do know that demons, or unclean spirits, appear to be restless until they are able to control a human being to some varying degree.  How do they get this control over humans?  They are not “spiritual ticks” that happen to fall on people.  Rather, they are able to get control and influence through the activity of the person who has connected to the spirit through some form of spiritual arts (divination, séance, occult rituals, and basically anything promoted by these spirits to get control).  Christians should not be enticed by t he so called knowledge that spiritists of any sort promise to give to them because these spirits cannot be trusted.  They resist God and hate mankind.

At this point, I should point out that it is easy to make the mistake of seeing all mental problems as demonic, and the opposite mistake of seeing all such problems as only a physical problem of the mind.  Unclean spirits are real, but they are not the only reason why people have ailments.

It is clear from this passage that the unclean spirit is afraid of Jesus.  This is notable because it was not common for demons to show any fear in the presence of people, quite the opposite.  Thus, this is astounding to the people watching.  The spirit is afraid and Jesus is not.  By following the text, we can see some of the fears of the spirit.  First, it wants to be left alone.  If fears that Jesus is going to interfere with its control on this human (and for good reason).  It also asks if Jesus has come “to destroy us.”  Since there is no sense that multiple spirits are involved, this seems to be the same fear that the legion of demons in the Gadarene demoniac.  The unclean, demonic spirits know that there is coming a time when they will be evicted from this earth and put in the Lake of Fire.  Thus, they are afraid of that coming destruction.  Third, it is afraid because it knows exactly who Jesus is.  It refers to Jesus as “The Holy One of God.”  It is a phrase that refers to God’s Anointed One who is beside Him in the heavens, but would come to earth one day. 

At this point, Jesus commands the spirit to be silent and to come out of the man.  We do not want to make a big deal out of the fact that the demon calls Jesus the Holy One of God because the spirit is a tainted witness.  He can’t be trusted either way.  The testimony about Jesus is an important theme in the Gospels.  They emphasize that the Father and the Spirit witnessed or testified that Jesus was the Messiah.  They also emphasize that John the Baptist, the greatest prophet of that time, had testified that Jesus was the Messiah.  Then lastly, we have the testimony of the words that Jesus spoke, the life He lived, and the powerful miracles He did.  Jesus had very strong testimony from far better sources than to let demons give testimony.  Demons are liars and as such, you cannot know when to trust what they say and when it is a lie.  If we believe Jesus is God because a demon says so, then we are on shaky ground.

In the exorcism that occurs we do not see Jesus doing any rituals or reciting a mantra, as were common in those days.  He simply commands the unclean spirit to come out of the man.  The power of Jesus is not in ritual knowledge and magical arts.  Rather, His power is in the authority of who He is and the position that He holds.  Jesus has a position that is above all beings on earth or in Heaven, save the Father.  Though this spirit had “legally” gained entry to this human, Jesus had come to set the man free.  Thus, one command from Him was enough to send the demon packing.  Even in cases where one has consciously and willingly chosen things that ail them, there is hope that Jesus will set them free.  Many people today are stuck in things that they know they chose, but Jesus has come to offer us freedom.

We are told that the unclean spirit leaves with a convulsion and a cry.  This seems to be one last fit of resistance and protest from the demon at having to leave.  Of course, the real challenge is to remain free of the spirit.  The man’s life needs to change, if he is not to fall prey to another or the same unclean spirit.

The people watching this are amazed at how easily Jesus does this.  They are flabbergasted that he could make an unclean spirit leave with a simple command.  No rabbi had demonstrated such power in all their experience. 

As believers today, Christ has given us power over the enemy as well.  Yet, we must remember the lesson of the seven sons of Sceva in Acts 19.  They attempted to cast out a demon by saying, “We cast you out by the Jesus whom Paul preaches.”  The spirit then responded, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know, but who are you?”  The authority that Jesus gives to us is not some special power that we hold in and of ourselves.  It is always His authority.  By their own testimony, the sons of Sceva did not really know Jesus.  When we really know Jesus and have a relationship with Him, then and only then should we confidently stand in opposition to such unclean spirits when they manifest.

Praise God that we need not fear any evil spirits no matter what station they hold on the other side.  It is our relationship with the All-Powerful One that protects us and gives us strength.  I pray today that you will not so easily scoff at the power of Jesus as mere tricks in an age when people were ignorant.  If Jesus were too walk into our mental institutions today and with a mere command give someone their sound mind, who would we rely upon to give an accurate description of what happened, Jesus or the psychiatrists who are often unable to do anything with schizophrenia?    Again, I am not saying all mental illness is demonic.  However, I am saying that regardless the problem, whether they need healing or freedom from an unclean spirit, Jesus has the power to set us free!

Power of Jesus Audio