Second Sunday after Christmas (B)
January 5, 2003
Understanding Our Position
Leads to Praise
Understanding our identity is vital to our eternal purpose — glorifying God. In our depravity, we’ve fooled ourselves into thinking that we’re autonomous, self-sufficient, free to do as we please. We see man at the center of the universe, and even many of our churches see man at the center of God’s purposes.
God has always been about His own fame and glory, and rightfully so, because He is the center of the universe. As John Piper suggests in The Pleasures of God, for Him to see anything as more important than Himself would be idolatry.
This doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love us. It’s quite the contrary. The scriptures say that God loved the world so much that He gave His only son. It is because God is the center of all things (Rom. 11:36) that relationship with Him is the best thing for us and a life of worship, the most appropriate response.
Human selfishness is a detrimental illusion. Discovering and believing in the reality of who God is and who we are in light of Him will drastically change our behavior.
This is evident in the very order of Paul’s epistle. The apostle begins with doctrine, and our response to the truths of God’s word overflow from the truth. This eulogy in verses 3-14 caught to move us to praise the most high God. Understanding our position leads to praise.
I. Praise God for Every Spiritual Blessing (v. 3)
Paul starts His letter with a glorious tribute to the triune God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Paul understood the purpose and extent of our salvation in Christ, and that led to this long sentence of praise.
Paul reveals that God the Father has chosen us in eternity past to the praise of the glory of His grace (vv. 4-6); God the Son has provided redemption in the historical past at the cross to the praise of His glory (vv. 7-12); and God the Spirit has sealed us in our personal past at the point of conversion (vv. 13-14) to the praise of His glory.
In the verses to follow, we observe some of those eternal, spiritual blessings.
II. Praise God for Election and Adoption (vv. 4-6)
We’ve been chosen by God and predestined to adoption as sons and daughters. God’s election was determined before the very foundation of the world was laid, and, therefore, was not dependant on “temporal circumstances or human merit”.1
III. Praise God for Redemption and Forgiveness (vv. 7-8a)
We’ve been redeemed — bought out of the marketplace of sin and rescued from slavery. Our sin is forgiven in Christ. The debt has been payed by the very blood of our Lord Jesus.
IV. Praise God for Revealing the Mystery (vv. 9-10)
The mystery is the cosmic reconciliation of Christ. There are both present (Col. 1:25-27) and future (Col. 1:19-20) elements of this reconciliation. As Gentiles, we can praise God that we were grafted into His glorious plan and can experience the blessing of being called His children.
V. Praise God for Assurance (vv. 11-13)
There is an inheritance awaiting us — the glory of the life to come, and the Holy Spirit has stamped His seal upon us. The idea of sealing is that of marking cattle (or even slaves). This marking brought both identification and protection.
As the elect we find our identity in Christ. We’ve been chosen by God and predestined to adoption as sons and daughters; Christ has redeemed and forgiven us; God has revealed to us His mystery of salvation; and we have assurance by the seal of His Spirit. As we focus on the reality of who God is to us in Christ, and understand our positions in Christ, may we overflow into praise. (Jonathan Kever)
1Peter T. O’Brien, The Letter to the Ephesians in The Pillar New Testament Commentary series (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1999), p. 100.
Baptism of the Lord (B)
January 12, 2003
Who is this Jesus?
There are many today who think the Bible is just a bunch of stories, and Jesus, just a good teacher. “It’s a good book that provides some good moral teaching, but it’s not historically trustworthy” they say, “… and Jesus is a good teacher, but he’s just a man.” Is the Bible just a book with helpful principles and Jesus just a teacher?
The Gospel writers would respond with a resounding “NO!”. Their writings testify to the truth of Jesus’ life and teachings. “Who is this Jesus?” they would ask, “He is the Christ, the Son of God.”
I. Testimony of the Author (v. 1)
The book of Mark opens with a bold proclamation. Mark gives testimony to the reality of Jesus’ position – He is the Christ, the Son of God. He begins by declaring this as the gospel. We get so used to hearing that word that we often forget the impact of its meaning. Mark’s testimony is good news!. This is the beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God!
What is the good news? The Forgiver of sin has come to save those who place there trust in Him. We were not left to suffer the consequences of our own depravity. We were not left to pay the penalty for all eternity. No, those who trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, are saved!
II. Testimony of the God’s Word to Isaiah (vv. 2-3)
The author then turns to the prophets. God’s word to Isaiah reached it’s ultimate fulfillment in the coming of the messenger who would prepare the way for the Lord. It was John the Baptist, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, “Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight'” (v. 3). Hundreds of years earlier Isaiah proclaimed the coming of the Lord and His messenger, and now God’s word through the prophet testified to the validity of the Messiah.
III. Testimony of John the Baptist (vv.4-8)
The third witness given by the author is that of John the Baptist. Notice the flow of Marks testimony. He begins with the proposition that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. He then turns back in time to the words of Isaiah the prophet for proof. Finally, Mark brings his readers to the present, to John the Baptist — the fulfillment of those words.
Here begins the narrative. John the Baptist is proclaiming to the nation a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The messiah was coming, and the Baptist was calling the people to prepare their hearts to receive Him. The author makes it clear that the Baptist wasn’t the Messiah; in fact he wasn’t even worthy to tie the straps of the Messiah’ sandals. His baptism wasn’t for salvation; it was only water; it symbolized an inward change of the heart. But there was one coming, and “… He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
IV. Testimony of the Father and Spirit (vv. 9-11)
In verse nine Jesus of Nazareth enters the scene. Jesus requested to be baptized by John, not as a symbol of personal repentance, but as an act of obedience to the Father and as a declaration of His position and public ministry.
Immediately after Jesus came up out of the water, the heavens opened. The Spirit descended upon Him and the Father spoke. Who is this Jesus? He is the Christ, the Son of God. The Father’s “beloved Son” with whom He was “well-pleased.”
In the first eleven verses of Mark’s gospel a strong case is made for the validity of Jesus as the Christ. Are you listening to the testimony? Can you see the fulfillment of the prophets message? Can you hear the cry of John the Baptist? Do you understand the testimony of the Father and Spirit in this glimpse of the holy trinity?
Who is this Jesus? He is the Christ, the Son of God. Have you placed your trust in Him for salvation? Are you living your life as a testimony to the good news? (Jonathan Kever)
Second Sunday after the Epiphany (B)
January 19, 2003
1 Corinthians 6:12-20
Addressing the sin of sexual immorality among the Corinthian believers Paul expressed a profoundly simple thought. Because all of the believer belongs entirely to God they must honor God with their bodies.
I. The Objection
Reading through this letter, it becomes clear the Corinthian congregation was a mess. They were divided into competing factions. Their gatherings for Communion were a joke of incredible misbehavior to the point of drunkenness! It seems that some were defining their “rights” to behave as they chose, including the freedom of sexual immorality.
That congregation would make even the most stout-hearted pastor wonder if I he Corinthian church was worth the work. Paul, however, had no such doubts. Firmly he reminded the believers who they were — God’s children. And, how they should live — as redeemed people to bring honor to God.
A portion of the Corinthian believers argued that everything was permissible for them! They raised such slogans as, “Food for the stomach and the stomach for food!” They pointed to the mortal nature of the physical body. They seemed to believe that because the body was mortal and passing away, what they did physically had no bearing upon them spiritually. That which is sin will pass away with the body. It cannot stain one’s spirit. Therefore, everything was permissible for them because everything was passing away along with their bodies. Even sexual immorality was permissible.
You can imagine how this viewpoint was received in a seaport town. Corinth was a major port offering all the extra curricular activities of any large seaport city. In that pagan environment such a view-point would be very well received. How did Paul respond to such an argument?
II. God’s people belong entirely to God; spirit and body!
Paul responded to this argument with the thought that Jesus is Lord of both spirit and body. The Corinthian believers belonged to Jesus in their spirits and in their bodies. To that end Paul reminded the believers, “… The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord!, and the Lord for the body. By His power God raised the Lord from the dead, and He will raise us also!” (vv. 13b-14).
It does matter what one does with his or her body because the Lord has redeemed believers spiritually and physically. Paul pointed to Jesus resurrection. God raised Jesus physically from the grave; His spirit and body were raised. So also believers shall be raised physically from death. Paul stressed the fact that the bodies of believers were important to God and were to be used in a manner which honored God.
The image which comes to my mind is that of objects set aside from common to sacred use in the temple. An incense burner, for example, designed and destined for use in the temple was no ordinary thing. It was not that it contained any magical properties. Rather, it was “holy” because it was set aside for sacred use in the temple.
In that sense the bodies of believers are likewise holy. Why? Because the fact of redemption transforms them, as it were, from ordinary to sacred use. That is, they are now returned to their original purpose — that of glorifying God. Therefore, believers must honor God with their bodies.
There were more than a few who believed that everything was permissible. Yet it is quite clear that not everything is beneficial. Not everything is beneficial, because not everything benefits the Lord and His kingdom.
Furthermore, Paul pointed out a great irony in their loose morals. Yes, they may think that everything is permissible for them. Yet those things in which these believers at first freely indulged may grow to dominate their minds, hearts and bodies. The irony is that their “freedom” may become their master, enslaving their lives and bodies.
III. What are we to do?
As God’s people we must understand that we do not belong to ourselves. For disciples of Jesus, life is not about what we want. Rather, our lives are about honoring God. For that reason we must seek to honor God with our bodies! Why? Because all of you belongs entirely to God! If Jesus is your Savior you belong body and spirit to God.
How do we honor God with our bodies? One grand way. We flee from immorality. It means we proclaim lovingly and loudly that sex is for marriage and no where else! We honor God with the one-flesh relationship of marriage. That is not a message our culture receives with joy. No matter. As God’s people we honor God in the one-flesh relationship of marriage. (Tim McQuade)
Third Sunday after the Epiphany (B)
January 26, 2003
A People Possessed!
Four men answered Jesus’ call to be His disciples. That call possessed their lives. Jesus issues that call to us. Will His call to discipleship possess your life?
I. This is more than a simple story
Jesus was not making a cold call upon these four men. I’m certain they knew about Jesus and who He was and had probably heard His preaching.
When Jesus called these men they walked away from everything to follow. “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and his brother Andrew, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow Me,’ Jesus said, ‘And I will make you fishers of men!’ At once they left their nets and followed Him.” Amazing! Simon and Andrew dropped their livelihoods and followed Jesus. John and James did the same.
Think for a minute about what these people left behind. Nothing less than their livelihood. Fishing was not a hobby for these men. Fishing was their career, their vocation, their bread and butter. All four of these men had the potential for making a good living. They walked away from that good living and followed Jesus. Mark described their response as immediate and without any hesitation!
If you heard of someone doing this today you’d think him incredibly irresponsible, wouldn’t you? What would possess reasonable men to leave behind a livelihood and family businesses to follow Jesus? They have families to support. They have obligations. What possessed these men to walk away and follow Jesus?
II. An offer they couldn’t refuse is offered to us
I believe there are two specific reasons why these men walked away to follow Jesus. First, Jesus called them to participate in His ministry. He said, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men!” Jesus would make them full participants in His ministry.
Second, Jesus also called them to be in His inner circle of students. A disciple followed his teacher and learned not simply through study but also by doing and living what they were taught. A disciple received closer instruction because they lived with the master. That was what Jesus offered these four men. He offered them an opportunity to share in His ministry and learn from Him as inside students.
We may read this account with some relief. We think, “What would I have done if Jesus called me like that?” When we realize that Jesus will never walk up to us as He did these four men we’re relieved. But Jesus does call you and me to be disciples. Jesus expects us to be a people possessed by the call to be His disciples just like these four men!
III. How do we live a life possessed?
How do we live a life possessed by discipleship? There is first an understanding, second a prayer. First, a life possessed by discipleship means understanding our livelihoods as our fields of discipleship. We tend to see life in terms of secular and sacred work. Ministers and clergy do sacred work. Policemen, teachers, salesmen do secular work. Clergy are the ones called by God to serve Him. Others simply work, right? Wrong!
For the disciple there is no such thing as secular work. All work is sacred work in the disciple’s hands. So Jesus asks us, “Will you be My disciple in sales? Will you be My disciple working with your hands? Will you be My disciple in the classroom? Will you be My disciple in the bank, in your business, in management? Come, follow Me.”
Second, living a life possessed by Jesus’ call means praying a certain prayer. Do not pray this prayer unless you’re serious about discipleship. God will answer it. “O Lord, I pray I would be where You want me to be, doing what You want me to do.”
God’s answer to your prayer may be subtle. Perhaps the church’s nominating committee will call on you. He may present new opportunities where you work. God’s answer may be less subtle. God may completely re-arrange your career and life. If you don’t want God to disturb your life, don’t pray that prayer! If you want to serve Him and live for Him; if you want to be a disciple; pray it with all your heart!
Jesus calls you to live a life possessed by discipleship. If you are serious at out being a disciple, pray that prayer: “O Lord, I pray I would be where You want me to be, doing what You want me to do. I pray this in the name of Jesus my Savior, Amen.” (Tim McQuade)
Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany (B)
February 2, 2003
The Firm Foundation
I was recently on a plane returning home, and sitting next to me was a young college student. We struck up a conversation revolving around his major area of study. As the conversation progressed it became evident that this young man was not a Christian.
He spoke of his desire to be hired by a non-profit organization after college that would allow him the opportunity to provide help to those in need. He hopes to do this by getting involved in public policy.
I asked him what it was that sparked this flame of interest in bettering the world through politics. “I don’t know” he said, “I guess I just feel like it s the right thing to do, and helping others makes me feel good.”
As we continued in conversation, I asked him how he knew what the “right thing to do” was. I asked him what authority he used to determine right and wrong.
“That’s a good question” he responded. “I’ve never really thought about it. I guess whatever’s best for the whole community determines what’s right.”
His authority structure was basically non-existent. This young man attempted to build a moral structure on a sandy foundation. Determining morality on the basis of what’s best for the whole assumes a couple of things. First, it assumes that the whole is in a position to choose rightly. Second, it assumes they will. However, because of man’s depravity, people’s beliefs concerning morality shift like sand, and that is no way to determine right and wrong.
The only firm foundation, the only true authority on which to base decisions of morality is the Word of God. John tells us in his Gospel that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And in our text today, we may observe the authority of Jesus in both His teaching and His power over the spiritual realm.
I. Authority in teaching (vv. 21-22)
Jesus and His disciples entered Capernaum. There, on the Sabbath, Jesus attended a worship service in a Jewish synagogue. There He began to teach. The text says that He began teaching “as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (v. 22).
The authority in Jesus’ teaching set him apart from all others. Mark notes this by contrasting Jesus’ teaching with that of the scribes.
II. Authority over the spiritual realm (vv. 23-26)
Following Mark’s comments on Jesus authority in teaching we observe Jesus’ authority over the Spiritual realm. A man, demon-possessed, entered the synagogue and challenged Jesus. Jesus rebuked the demons, casting them out of the man. Jesus authority was demonstrated in both His ability to expound the scriptures as well as His ability to control the spiritual world. This is indeed real authority!
III. The response to Jesus’ authority (vv. 27-28)
And what was the response of those gathered? Amazement! Imagine sitting in that synagogue and hearing truth from God’s word being taught in such an authoritative manner that there was no possible way to deny it. And imagine seeing the same authority found in that teaching being demonstrated in the spiritual realm. What other response could there be? Those present were so amazed and apparently confused that they began debating saying “‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him'” (v. 27).
What should our response be to Jesus’ authority? We need go no further than the words of Jesus leading up to our text today: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:14). We must stand in awe of the authority of Jesus over sin and respond in faith. In faith we must build our lives on the firm foundation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the living Word, our true authority. (Jonathan Kever)
Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (B)
February 9, 2003
How common it is for us to lose our passion for God and His work in this world. The phrase “burned out” is a very appropriate illustration of the what happens. A once strong and zealous flame dwindles down until finally there isn’t enough fuel to sustain it.
Bruce Wilkinson shares an experience of spiritual “burnout” in his book Secrets of the Vine. He says that at one point in his ministry it became evident to him that something was missing. He had a wonderful family, a vital ministry with a giant “to do” list, and his finances were in order — there was just something missing. He describes that loss of vitality like this: “By the time I walked into my office, I was in full-blown crisis…. The ministry that just yesterday had seemed so important, today tasted like sawdust.”1
What is it that brings us to such a crisis of faith? Wilkinson goes on to share that after realizing his burnout, he went to visit a leadership mentor he met several years earlier. When he arrived, his friend George asked him to tell his life story — from the very beginning. When he had nearly finished, George interrupted him to finish his story. George knew what was happening.
When Bruce was still young and zealous in his ministry, he had to depend on God for sustenance and strength. He turned to God for satisfaction and depended on Him for success in ministry. But as he grew, he became blinded by the illusion of self-sufficiency. As he gathered more attention from others for the things “he” was accomplishing, he turned less and less to God for fulfillment and more and more to his own competence. And so the flame began to dwindle and dwindle, until crisis struck.
Our Lord Jesus recognized the necessity of relying on the Father, especially in the midst of a vibrant ministry. Where better to learn how to live faithfully than from the Master. Imitating Christ requires relationship with God and resignation to His will.
I. Imitating Christ requires relationship with God (v. 35-37)
It seemed as if the whole city came to Jesus. He spent the whole night healing the ill and casting out demons.
In the early morning of the next day, even while it was still dark outside, Jesus arose to go and heal more people and continue His ministry of preaching because He was in such high demand, right? Isn’t that how the story goes? No! The text says that the next morning “Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there” (v. 35).
Jesus prioritized His relationship with the Father. He was in high demand, though, and the disciples came looking for Him. They even sound a little annoyed that Jesus wasn’t out meeting with His public. But Jesus understood the necessity of prayer and communion with the Father.
How many of us stand in the center of success in ministry and instead of going to our prayer closets, we attempt to create more success with our own competence?
II. Imitating Christ requires resignation to God’s will (v. 38-39)
Jesus understood the importance of maintaining the life-line of relationship with the Father. He understood where fulfillment was found and who determined success in ministry. It was because of this that Jesus could truly resign Himself to the will of the Father.
Responding to the disciples, Jesus said: “Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for” (v. 38). I’d like to make two observations about Jesus’ response: 1) In the midst of great popularity Jesus is going somewhere else; 2) Jesus is acutely aware of His purpose. And in verse 39 we’re told that Jesus left and began preaching throughout Galilee.
Where does our ability to resign ourselves to God’s purposes come from? An acute awareness of God’s will that is only discovered as we commune with God in prayer and in His Word. Are you imitating Christ in your life and ministry? (Jonathan Kever)
1Bruce Wilkinson, Secrets of the Vine: Breaking Through to Abundance (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2001), 89.
Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany (B)
February 16, 2003
Lay Hold of the Lord’s Willingness
Despite his notoriety, there isn’t a single quote of his contained anywhere in Scripture. We all know his name, but he never utters a single syllable. We really don’t know of anything he ever did. He didn’t travel to remote regions for the cause of Christ or risk his life with bold declarations in the synagogue or temple. The only thing we know of him is that he was a friend of Jesus and as a friend, Jesus was willing to raise him from the dead. Lazarus was an ordinary person just like you and me.
I. Ordinary people like you and me
Have you ever looked closely at the people who received the healing touch of Jesus? Have you considered what lesson there might be in the fact that they are identified almost anonymously? The widow’s son (raised from the dead); a man lowered through a roof; the daughter of Jairus; a man by a pool; a man blind from birth; Bartimeas, an exception because he is named, but does his name bring anything to mind? Is he known for great acts of faith, or is he another who enters and leaves the Biblical narrative almost unannounced?
The point is simply that Jesus used His power to heal the ordinary people of His day, ordinary people such as you and me.
A man with leprosy approaches Jesus. In His day, people suffering from leprosy were thought to be under God’s curse. His plea with Jesus reflects this understanding.
A man with leprosy came to Him and begged Him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean” (Mark 1:40).
His plea clearly reflects: 1) Faith that Jesus can heal. 2) The lingering doubt that Jesus might not be willing to do so. Was Jesus willing?
II. Don’t treat God as if He’s unwilling
Why do we struggle with God’s willingness? Why do we continue to see ourselves as unworthy, and, therefore, that God is unwilling to act in our behalf? It’s not that we doubt God’s power or ability; it’s His willingness we fail to comprehend. We might even see ourselves as the spiritual lepers of the day.
He was willing, even eager, to help the ordinary people of His day. Incidents preserved in Scripture only as “A woman who suffered with bleeding for 12 years.” Or, “A man lying on a mat, an invalid for 38 years.” People who remain nameless and faceless, ordinary people such as you and me. Jesus is willing.
The January 6, 1992 issue of Newsweek reported that a researcher asked people to pray for cardiac patients at San Francisco General Hospital. Even though the patients didn’t know anyone was praying for them, they recovered (and survived) at a higher late than those in an identical control group who were not being prayed for! If that doesn’t boost your confidence in prayer, what will it take? Jesus is willing — we need to ask.
III. A proper response to His willingness
The final verses in the text reveal that the man was given a two-fold commission: 1) Don’t tell anyone about this. 2) Go show yourself to the priest in accordance with the Law and offer the sacrifices commanded.
Gratitude motivates us to worship. Once you have laid hold of the Lord’s willingness, be sure to respond accordingly. A word of praise shared with a friend does the trick. A brief testimony in church uplifts others and reminds them of the Lord’s willingness.
These are important responses because, unlike the leprous man, we have been told to go and tell everyone. Why is it that we sometimes act as if we were told, “Don’t tell anyone about this”?
I am the place where God shines through,
For he and I are one, not two.
I need not fret nor fear his plan,
He wants me where and as I am.
And if I am relaxed and free,
He’ll carry out his plan
Jesus is willing. Whatever your need might be, lay hold of His willingness. (Dan Nicksich)
1Rilla Dunn, “Trusting God.”
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany (B)
February 23, 2003
Who but God alone?
The sign in the office read: “Looking for a change? Want to meet new people? Up for a new challenge? (Then in bold print at the bottom) Go ahead, just mess up one more time!”
Aren’t you glad that God never draws a line in the sand and says, “Go ahead, make my day”? God never says, “Just one more time and you’re out of the family!”
I. A startling claim
Notice the first thing Jesus says to the paralytic. It wasn’t, “Rise and walk.” It wasn’t, “What would you like Me to do for you?”
Here’s what He said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
One of the incredible things about Jesus that we often take for granted is that He claimed, while walking on this earth, the ability to forgive sins. All sins, not just those committed against Him, but the sins committed against you or by you.
So what do you make of a man, Himself unrobbed and uninjured who forgives the person that wronged you? Yet this is precisely what Jesus did. It makes sense only if He really is the one whose laws have been broken and whose love is wounded with every sin. Spoken by anyone other than God, these words are truly unbelievable. Jesus, without hesitation, forgave people of their sins.
Jesus claimed the right to forgive sins. Notice the reaction of some:
II. Wise words from the teachers of the law!
This is one of the rare times you will hear from any pulpit that the teachers of the Law got something right. We typically expect that any interaction with the teachers of the Law, the Pharisee’s, or others, will reveal just how legalistic and theologically confused these supposed men of learning really were. But here, for a brief instance, the teachers of the Law got something right!
“Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Speaking in the absolute sense, in the sense of a complete and total pardon, only God can forgive sins.
The teachers of the Law got it right. Only God can forgive sins. Unfortunately, they went on to draw a wrong conclusion.
III. Right statement, wrong conclusion
To the ears of some of those gathered in the room, blasphemy of the worst sort had just been spoken.
Jesus claimed the right to forgive sins. Knowing this to be a claim to divinity, the teachers concluded that Jesus had blasphemed. These men of learning understood what Jesus was saying but missed the most important point. Right statement: Only God can forgive sins. Wrong conclusion: Jesus is guilty of blasphemy since He claimed to be God!
C.S. Lewis once said that when confronted with the claims of Jesus, we have one of three conclusions we can draw concerning the identity of Jesus: 1) He’s a lunatic (claiming to be God), 2) He’s a liar of the worst sorts, or 3) He’s Lord.
We cannot say we don’t know if He even existed, for there is too much historical evidence to think that. We cannot say He was merely a good teacher or philosopher for He claimed to be much more. He’s Lord, a lunatic or He’s a liar. Which is He to you?
IV. Indisputable proof
“Your sins are forgiven” stands out as the most important statement in the text.
Notice how Jesus handled the situation: “Which is easier to say, ‘Rise and walk or your sins are forgiven'”?
Obviously it would be easier to say your sins are forgiven since that’s something that cannot be seen. To say rise and walk would put you on the spot since everyone would instantly know whether or not you can do what you claimed. Verse 10 points out that Jesus performed the miracle to confirm his authority to forgive sins. The miracle confirmed His claim.
Jesus can say to you, as nobody else can, “Your sins are forgiven.”
D.L. Moody tells of a man who, supposing that he was going to die, expressed forgiveness to another from his death bed, but then he added, “Now, mind you, if I get well, the old grudge holds good.”
We chuckle at that because we know the struggle to forgive. Isn’t it wonderful to know the one who offers total, complete, unconditional forgiveness? (Dan Nicksich)
Sermon briefs in this issue are provided by: Tim McQuade, Pastor Highland Presbyterian Church, New Castle, TN; Dan Nicksich, Pastor, First Christian Church, Somerset, PA; and Jonathan Kever, Managing Editor, Preaching.
Second Sunday after Christmas (B)