Title: An Empty Shell
Text: Mark 2.1-12
Introduction: Henry, thank you for reading Scripture this morning; Our story this morning is the 1st in a string of stories that reflect the religious leaders’ animosity toward Christ and his growing popularity. Let me show you how we got to chapter two.
- The opening section (1.1-15) gives us the witnesses to who Jesus really is:
- God – The Holy Spirit, the Father: here we see the Trinity
- Satan, Angels
- Last week we looked at the 2nd set of stories which emphasizes the start of his ministry – and his popularity growing so quickly that he is forced out to the desolate places away from people. The people then go out looking for him to meet their needs. It appears to me that Mark’s aim in this 2nd section is to present Christ’s growing popularity and the authority he demonstrates through preaching, teaching, and healing – something not seen in the religious leaders.
- In chapter 2 and into chapter 3, we’ll see the religious leaders begin to question him about what he’s doing and by what authority he preaches and teaches and even heals. This angst within the religious leaders climaxes with their plot to destroy him in 3.6: 6 The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.
So, this story is the first of a few stories that involve the religious leaders and their growing resentment and animosity toward Jesus. Here’s how I’ll break it down today:
- The Setting: Jesus is back ‘at home’ preaching the Word (1-2)
- The Conflict:
- The Men w/ the Crowd: a paralyzed man and his four friends of faith tear through the roof to get their friend into the presence of Jesus. (3-4)
- The Scribes w/ their theology: Jesus rewards the faith of the man’s friends by forgiving the man his sins. The religious authorities couldn’t believe their ears and in their hearts, they accuse Jesus of blasphemy. (5-7)
- The Climax: Jesus, in order to demonstrate his authority to forgive sins, heals the man of his paralysis. (8-11)
- The Resolution: the man is healed and demonstrates it by getting up, taking up his mat and walking out the door. The people are truly amazed and God is glorified. (12)
Transition: Let’s look at each of these steps in order:
The Setting (1-2)
exp.: Jesus is back ‘at home’ preaching the Word (1-2); Capernaum: City of Nahum; the 1st HQ of the Christians; Capernaum was the nearest village to the river Jordan on the NW shores of the Sea of Galilee; Word gets out – ἀκούω; it was heard NASB; lit.: it was heard that he is in the house. Rd v 2; so they come; Boy, do they come; So thick are they, no one can get in the house. And what do we find Jesus doing? lit.: he was speaking to them the word. He’s preaching, he’s teaching.
app.: if you go back to 1.38, you’ll see that Jesus is doing exactly what he came to do: 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.
t.s.: this lays a foundation – it gives us the setting for the storyline. And we see this in…
The Conflict (3-7)
exp.: actually, there are two; rd v 3; And they came – this is great story telling; who came? 4 men, carrying a paralytic. And here is the 1st conflict: rd v 4a;
- They couldn’t get in the door! 4 men who’ve come to bring their friend to see Jesus in hopes that he would do what they’ve been hearing about – that he would heal their friend – but they can’t get in the door; the Gk is more colorful – lit.: and not being able to offer to him; same word in Mt 2.11 where the wise men offered their gifts to the child; and in 23 where Jesus says 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. See what I mean by more colorful?
exp: they need to get their friend to Jesus – Mark could have used a different word to describe being carried. They’re not just carrying their friend around – they’re bringing him to Jesus. And look what Mark says to explain their thinking; rd 4; 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, – and when they couldn’t offer him to Jesus because of the crowd… they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
ill.: can you imagine the conversation of these guys with their buddy? Do you know of someone who needs Jesus this bad? Maybe he or she isn’t suffering this kind of paralysis, but maybe a different kind of illness, need, and struggle? What lengths would you go to get them to him? Response: Man, you can’t just go and tear open the man’s roof. Oh, yeah, just watch me!
ill.: Have you seen Miracles from Heaven with Jennifer Gardner? There is a scene where she is in the hospital ER for like the 4th time and the doctor says she has acid reflux. Jennifer, this little girl’s momma just looses it! the Dr. starts walking away and She grabs him by the collar, as if to say: don’t you walk away from me. We aren’t done here! Either find what’s wrong with my little girl or go get another doctor, but the status quo isn’t going to cut it. Something is wrong with my daughter and I want answers!
Show the trailer…
App.: that is these friends! I don’t care if there’s a crowd… I don’t care if there is a roof… I’ve got to get my friend Jesus and the crowd isn’t letting us in! So off with the roof it is!
Exp.: so they lower their friend down through the roof to the feet of Jesus. Mission accomplished! Rd v 5; 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” I don’t know about you, but that wasn’t the response from Jesus I was expecting. But nonetheless, that is the healing Jesus offers. My guess is that is what the man’s needs the most. So that is what Jesus gives.
But that brings us to the 2nd conflict:
- The Scribes hear something that doesn’t sound quite right to them. I was going to say their conflict is with Jesus. But something just doesn’t feel right about that. If you have a problem with Jesus, then the problem is yours! So let me say that these religious leaders have a problem with their theology. Rd v 6-7; basically, they’re saying: who does this man think he is? God?
exp.: I’ve got a problem with this, too. Not the same one they do. I know he’s God. That’s Mark’s point. Look closely at v 5; he forgives this man’s sins, because of their faith. Ok – so, what is happening here is that I’m in conflict with this theology. I’m like the religious leaders here. I’m on their side.
app.: if you’re on the side of the religious leaders – your on the wrong side! Here’s another app.: Jesus ain’t never wrong! Bad English – good theology. If you’re like me, on the wrong side of the argument, then we gotta make this right. Here are a few principles I’ve learned about what Jesus says in Scripture:
- Jesus says what that person (or people) needs to hear. That’s important. He knows their heart. We don’t He knows their struggles, their weaknesses. We think we know what is going on – but not really. He knows what to say to hit them where they live. He says what that person needs to hear.
- What I think needs to happen isn’t necessarily what is best. Jesus knows what needs to happen. He sees a much larger picture than I take in. Time and again, we’re faced with what seems to be good answers and good solutions to our problems and the problems of others. God is probably up to something a lot bigger than the minor, insignificant thing in front of us.
- God isn’t interested in my glory as much as he is his own glory. Isaiah 48 is a beautiful passage where God tells his people that he is doing things he said he would do long ago, so that no one could say my idol did this for me. Furthermore, he says there are things going to happen soon that will blow you away. Also, so you know that it only could have come from God. Then he says this: 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. God isn’t interested in my glory as much as he is his own glory. We’ll see this when we finish up today.
t.s.: So here are these two conflicts: the men and their friend not being able to get to Jesus because of the crowd and, the religious leaders not getting their theology to align w/ what Jesus is doing. Now, we reach the climax of the story.
The Climax (8-11)
exp.: v 8 tells us that Jesus perceived their thoughts and then questioned them. This is an easy one for me.
ill.: my mother-in-law has this problem with letting others know how she feels without saying a word. It’s her eye brows. I’ve learned to read her thoughts of displeasure with me by noting the height her eyebrows reach. Let me show you what I mean. (raise my eyebrows in displeasure).
ill.: Now, my wife does this with me. I don’t know how, but she does this almost daily. She perceives my thoughts – without using my eyebrows. There is this intuitive nature about her.
app.: Can I just say that, this is not what Mark is telling us; Jn 2.25; 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.
app.: So, the problem is with them – not Jesus. Remember: He knows what that person needs to hear; He knows the whole story; and he’s most interested in glorifying his father, not them.
t.s.: So, he asks them a question – … – knowing just what they need to hear;
exp.: rd v 9; let me ask you – which is easier to say? My guess is that these guys couldn’t say either! Oh, they could say rise up. But, that doesn’t mean it’s gonna happen any quicker than them forgiving a man his sins and making him pure. So, to be clear, Jesus tells them; rd v 10; 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”; Something incredible is happening here!
You and I know that the Son of Man is a reference to Christ. But, these guys – they see it quit differently. This would be a fun discussion question for your small groups. These scribes know that this is a reference to the Messiah – the one sent from God. As far as they’re concerned, they only see a unique, really smart fellow in front of them. But when he calls himself the Son of Man – images from the O.T. must pop up in their minds. They’re scribes, remember?
They know Psalm 80 – of course they see themselves as the Son of man in that passage. They are also familiar with Daniel 7 – The one who comes to the Ancient of Days (God, the Father) is the son of man – and he has the dominion – the authority to rule and reign and pass judgment. These guys get it. That’s why they say in v 7 – He is blaspheming. They don’t see him as having the authority to forgive sins. So, Jesus tells them like it is. V 10 again – 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” Not only am I going to show you that I have the authority to forgive sins – which no man can do. I’m also going to show you that I have the authority to heal – like no one else can do. The Climax: rd v 10b-11;
I’m sure everyone held their breath as Christ demonstrates his power over all things. Here is the result…
The Resolution (12)
exp.: the man is healed, the people are amazed and God is glorified!
t.s.: remember I told you earlier that God is interested in his glory. Christ accomplished just that.
Conclusion: Did you see this article, this past week in the National Review? Professor says: if you’re reading to your kids, you’re ‘unfairly disadvantaging’ others. That’s right. Parents, you’re being unfair and putting other kids at a disadvantage if you read to your children. Kathyrn Timpf writes in her article: At one point, Professor Adam Swift even flirted with the idea of “simply abolishing the family” as a way of “solving the social justice problem” because “there would be a more level playing field” if we did…
Um, I am continually amazed at the asinine and obtuse reactions by the left-winged nuts out there. I think well, that’s about as foolish as a person could ever be – and then someone tops it…again!
app.: I wonder if the religious leaders have the same problem this professor has… what I mean by this is: For this professor, he should see that the best way to give a kid a chance is to provide him a home, a family and nurture him, but instead, this professor wants to lower the playing field for all. Get rid of the family. Why not instead, try to find a home for every child.
I wonder if the Scribes have a similar logic. They’ve got their theology in a box. It is nice and neat. They have pre-conceived ideas about sin and its effect on people. This professor, he wants ‘what is fair’ and he has his own ideas about what that means. The Scribes, they’re not thinking from the perspective that God brings, but rather they start with themselves and move out from there. They’re not approaching the problem from the right angle.
Application: What about you…from where you sit this morning? Sure, you’re probably conservative and think the professor is nuts, but, what about the Scribes in our story? Or, are you more like the 4 men who bring their friend to Christ and are willing to think outside the box to accomplish that feat?
Can I give you an easy question to answer that might give you perspective? Do you struggle with some of the things Jesus says? Like when he says to the Canaanite woman, it isn’t right to take the children’s bread and feed it to the dogs. Do you find yourself not liking certain passages because they make you uncomfortable?
I think we all do this at some level: Peter when he told Jesus not to be so negative and talk about dying. Get behind me Satan.
Here is my take-away today:
- When you come to Christ – come empty handed. What I mean by this is not to come with your theology in a box. Come empty, ready to be filled. Come ready to learn. Know it alls need not apply.
Poem by Thomas Edward Brown: He was walking along the shore and found a shell. The story goes that he picked it up and put it to his ear to listen to the sound of the sea. But something frightening happened… a crab came out of the shell. This poem was born out of that experience.
“If thou could’st empty all thyself of self,
Like to a shell dishabited,
Then might He find thee on the ocean shelf,
And say “This is not dead,”
And fill thee with Himself instead.
But thou art all replete with very thou
And hast such shrewd activity,
That when He comes He says, “This is enow
Unto itself-’twere better let it be,
It is so small and full, there is no room for Me.”
When you come to Jesus – come empty, ready to be filled…
Oh, Christ – empty us of all that hinders you from filling us. And, fill us up with you. May you find us empty of ‘self’ and ready to be filled with all things considered ‘you’…