When Jesus speaks, people listen
(Mark 2: 1-12)
We should all be wearing helmets. Why? Because we are being bombarded daily. We are being bombarded with information. Every day between 4,000 and 10,000 advertisements rain down on us. The average person sends 94 text messages every day. And then there are audible messages.
Incidentally, men and women differ here. Working males average 2,000-3,000, females from 10,000-20,000 words per day. However, both average about 500 -700 words of actual value.
Everywhere Jesus went he taught. And when people heard that Jesus was in their vicinity, they dropped what they were doing to find him. Once they found him what did they do? They hung on every word he said. When Jesus spoke, people listened.
Then and now, the words of Jesus are weighty with significance, clarity, and importance. But, are we listening? How do we know we have listened? That’s easy, we obey.
(Read the text)
1. The Uniqueness of Jesus’ teaching
At the end of Matthew’s account of the sermon on the Mount we read the following: “When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, not as their teachers of the law.” (Matt 7:28).
1. Jesus taught with authority
„But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . he said to the paralytic . . .I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
When Jesus spoke, people listened. The paralytic listened and indeed stood up, took his mat and when home. The man obeyed because he listened. Why did he do that? Because he knew Jesus spoke with authority.
There is a fine distinction between authority and power. Power is the exercise of force. Both a policeman and a thug exercise power. They force people to do what they do not want to do. But the difference between the policeman and the thug lies in their authority to do what they do. The policeman exercises force because he is under authority, and the thug has no authority to do what he does. Authority is the legal validity to exercise power.
The word for authority in Greek is exousia and literally means “out of being”. That is the authority that Jesus had resided in who he was. Remember in chapter one we saw that he was the king of the kingdom of God. He had in his person the authority to command people into action. Does his authority move us to obey?
2. Jesus taught „the Word” (of the kingdom of God)
In his authority, what did Jesus teach? Our text says, “the preached the word to them” (2:2). “The word” refers back to what we looked at in chapter one. It was the gospel, the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus said the kingdom was near. What he meant was, the kingdom was here. He was the embodiment of the reign of God. What he was inviting his hearers to do, was to access the kingdom of God where they were.
Listen. Don’t wait for heaven. Enter heaven now! The good news of the kingdom of God is that the rule of God, which is heaven, is yours now – where you are.
3. Jesus taught divinely
What Jesus taught was always connected to who he was. Who was Jesus? He was God. The scribes who listened to Jesus, opposed him. When Jesus pronounced to the paralytic that his sins were forgiven, the scribes thought to themselves, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
In Jewish culture even the Messiah could not forgive sins. The only one who could do that was God. Here Jesus is, rightly, stating what only God could say – your sins are remitted.
But what is sin? Sin is rebellion against God, it is having ourselves at the center of our ethics, it is lawlessness. Sins are what we produce, and those sins stand up and accuse us before a holy God. What I need, what you need is forgiveness of sin. Who can forgive? The government cannot forgive you, your company cannot forgive you, you cannot forgive yourself. Only God can forgive us of our sin. And here Jesus is saying, “I am God. I can forgive. I want to forgive you of your sin.”
Forgiveness means that we are pure in the eyes of God. This is of course mediated purity. Only God is truly pure, without stain. His pureness is then mediated or applied to us when we ask him to forgive us.
4. Jesus taught holistically
Then Jesus, in his teaching actually healed the paralytic. In the 1970s the renowned Psychiatrist, Dr. Karl Menninger, wrote a slim book with the title “Whatever became of Sin?” Life Magazine named Menninger one of the most important Americans in the 20th century. Menninger revolutionized the study of mental health and how we treat those with such issues. But in his little volume “Whatever happened to Sin?” he made the following astounding statement: “If we could adequately address the issue of personal guilt brought on by sin, we could clear out half of all hospital beds in America.”
In front of Jesus, while he was teaching, there was let down a man on a mat who was paralyzed. You would think that this man’s greatest need was most apparent – he could not walk. He had to be carried everywhere by his four friends.
Then, seeing their faith, Jesus says something completely counterintuitive: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The man’s greatest need was someone who would forgive his sins.
What are sins? They are our own personal creations of rebellion against God: deceiving information to make us look good, flattery that manipulates people, words meant to hurt and to sting. These are against both other people as well as the God who made them.
What is your greatest need? It is to be forgiven of your sins!
Your greatest need is not a better job. It is not health. It is not more money. Your greatest need is not more vacation. What is your greatest need? It is forgiveness of sin. And only Jesus, who is God, can forgive. Are you listening?
2. Responses to Jesus‘ teaching
We see in our passage of scripture two kinds of people before Jesus; those who accepted his teaching and those who rejected it. It is the same today.
Rejection of Jesus’ teaching is a sign that people are not listening to him. All rejection of Jesus is an issue of pride. The Scribes thought themselves to be above needing forgiveness. Rejection of Jesus is judgment of Jesus. Rejecting Jesus is a form of sinning; it is rebelling against the God who made us.
But then there were people who listened to Jesus and acted on what he said. They accepted him and his teaching. Faith is a sign that we have listened to him.
Before there was a physical healing and a forgiveness of sins, there was faith. What is faith? It is putting our hope in Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
And this kind of faith is always visible. Look at our text. We read, “When Jesus saw their faith”, he said to the paralytic, “your sins are forgiven.” Faith works.
We never totally live up to our profession of faith, but we always live up to our beliefs. Beliefs are always seen in the way we behave.
A man came home in the early hours of the morning stone drunk. He was so drunk that he did not know that he threw up in the bathroom. He had no idea how he even got into his bed. The next morning he woke up to two realities: a massive headache and the smell of his favorite breakfast. He stumbled into the kitchen only to find his wife cooking his favorite meal, full of cheer.
He told her how sorry he was about coming home drunk. But why all this kindness? His wife said, when I heard to get in this morning and heard you throw up, I knew you were drunk. I was so mad you. But all of that changed when I started to undress you. Trying to get your cloths off all of a sudden you blurted out, “No! Don’t do it. I’m married. I have a wife and two children at home.”
The way we behave is one of the best indicators of what we believe.
Hearing Jesus teach and seeing him heal the paralytic did something to his hearers. We read, “This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, We have never seen anything like this!” (2:12).
When Jesus spoke, people listened. He is still speaking. Are you listening?
If you are listening then two things will happen: you will be amazed and this amazement will lead to praising God, and you will align your life along his will.
We need head gear – protection from the myriads of messages bombarding us daily. But when we open the Bible, when we pray, when we listen to God, then we need to take off our helmets; take in what God is saying, place our faith in the One who speaks, and then go out and do what he has said we should do. Because when Jesus speaks, we want to listen. Amen.
Silent prayer – Ask God – what has he just said to you.
Lord Jesus, you speak into our lives words of truth and life. Forgive us for tuning you out, listening to our own hearts. Give us the gift of attentiveness – listening to you and what you are saying. Help us to put what we hear into action. Amen.