Search

The Hypocritical Christian

Mark 2:15-22 (NASB)

15 And it *[a]happened that He was reclining at the table in his house, and many tax collectors and [b]sinners [c]were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him.16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they said to His disciples, “Why is He eating and drinking with tax collectors and [d]sinners?” 17 And hearing this, Jesus *said to them, It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick; I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The Call of Levi

cvggo_calling

This is Carravagio’s painting depicting the Call of Matthew / Levi.

Caravaggio was a Baroque period painter who lived a relatively short life, even in his day, of 38 years.  He was a renowned belligerent drunkard.  He was not the first choice of the church officials to paint a three painting series of St Matthew on the walls of  Contarelli Chapel in the church of San Luigi dei Francesi in Rome.

In the painting, forget for a moment that Caravaggio contemporized the clothing and the setting to be more like 16th century Italy, we see a man showing Jesus where to find Levi (Matthew) amidst the rest of the tax collectors. It is not clear if the man who is seated and pointing is pointing at the fellow next to him or at himself.  This was probably by design by Caravaggio, the ambiguity suggesting that Jesus could call almost anyone at any time. But, like a lot of people, I prefer to think of the fellow pointing as being Levi, who is pointing towards himself as if to say “Wait! you mean me?”

Calling is an interesting thing. Because the Bible includes so many dramatic stories of calling we sometimes get trapped into thinking that we have to experience a burning bush or a whale story to be called.  We forget that Samuel was asleep and a boy.  We forget that Levi was hanging out at work.  Steven the Cyprian was just travelling through Jerusalem and was asked to carry a cross. The four whom we saw rip up the roof and lower their paralyzed friend down were just doing that.

Yes, all too often, we get caught up thinking that calling always entails: “When Christ calls a man he bids the man to come and die.”  That’s a quote from The Cost of Discipleship by Bonhoeffer.  Bonhoeffer is not wrong, there is a systematic death to self that must take place in the following of Christ; but, Bonhoeffer, is a tad over-dramatic. Sure, Peter, whom Bonhoeffer uses as his example ultimately was called to be martyred as was Levi/Matthew and therefore were both metaphorically and literally called to die. The truth is that the vast majority of followers of Jesus are never asked to do such things.  We should never forget that many are and it is the potential cost of all our discipleship; however, we should also never forget that many more are not called in that way. Bonhoeffer was writing at a very dangerous time in a very particular context.  If we aren’t careful we misjudge our own time and the sinfulness of pride can lead us to look for the “good fight” every where and in all times. But I digress.

Verse 15 says that after Levi responded to the call  (You know, after he said “who me” and Jesus likely responded with “well, yeah” or “and why not you?”) that he and Jesus were at a meal together where lots of sinners and tax-collectors were present with Jesus disciples. The sentence is a little ambiguous.  The verses ends with this clause “for there were many of them and they were following Jesus.”  It is unclear if the many refers to the sinners and tax-collectors or if it refers to the disciples.  Either way there were many of them and they were following Jesus and the concepts of many and following are more important than the identities. This is precisely what I think Mark is intending for us to hear.  Sure we all know about famous followers like Levi or St Paul or Bonhoffer or C.S. Lewis or Mother Theresa or Beth Moore but there are always many more anonymous followers of Jesus. Hordes of them in fact.

Sure there are those of us who are called by God to follow Jesus into big jobs and life changing / life threatening work.  Most of us though are called to the other kind of discipleship: quiet, consistent witness every day exactly where we are.

  • Have you delayed your own urging to follow Jesus because you are afraid of where he will send you?
  • Perhaps you have fallen into the pride trap of wanting to be picked for something big for the Lord?
  • Maybe you have forgotten how important just being a witness in the everyday is to the work of the Kingdom of God?

Stop waiting to follow.  Be like Levi: arise and follow.  Be like the unnamed many and spend some time around the table in fellowship with Jesus. Go to worship.  Pray each morning; you always have something to give to God in prayer. Be kind.  Don’t judge. Find some ways to give back to the community.  Even the quiet disciples are welcomed with “well done good and faithful servant” when it is time to cross the Jordan.

Feel free to use this Bible study for your own groups or discussion.  It is freely given. If you do I merely ask that you acknowledge where you got it and if you find it useful that you encourage others to seek it out. It is freely given and written with fear, foreboding, and prayer by a fellow hypocrite who is simply trying to figure out the road ahead.

 

Mark 2:14-17

Sourced from Bible Gateway (www.biblegateway.com)

Mark 2:14-17

New Century Version (NCV)

14 While he was walking along, he saw a man named Levi son of Alphaeus, sitting in the tax collector’s booth. Jesus said to him, “Follow me,” and he stood up and followed Jesus.

15 Later, as Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating there with Jesus and his followers. Many people like this followed Jesus. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Jesus eating with the tax collectors and “sinners,” they asked his followers, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 Jesus heard this and said to them, “It is not the healthy people who need a doctor, but the sick. I did not come to invite good people but to invite sinners.”

Faith that Heals

faith

Take a moment to reread Mark Chapter 2, 1-12.

In the very first post on the Hypocritical Christian, I suggested the following themes for the gospel of Mark:

  • Origin of the Good News of Jesus Christ
  • Christ is the messiah for the purpose of salvation
  • Christ has authority
  • Repentance is about believing whom Christ is
  • The specific work of Christ is dealing with the sin problem.

Now in the first 12 verse of Mark 2, we see all of this playing out.  In fact at least one commentator has suggested that the entire Gospel of Mark is found in these 12 verses.  Of course that is a little bit of hyperbole, but the point is that in this one story the broadest themes and the major point that Mark is communicating is present in action.

You may recall that the paralytic has been lowered into the presence of Jesus and even though the friends clearly want a healing miracle for their pal what Jesus actually says is pretty astonishing.  “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

So astonishing in fact that there were present some professional religious folk (scribes) who were thinking to themselves, “Wait, what?!?  You can’t do that!”   They knew their Old Testament scriptures quite well and that told them that only YHWH can forgive sins. If you are not familiar with YHWH it is the four consonants of the sacred name of God.  The name given to Moses from the burning bush.  If you have ever heard the phrase “the God of Abraham, Jacob, and Issac” then you know what we mean when we say YHWH.  So the scribes know that only God can forgive sins.  Exodus 34:6-7; Isaiah 43:25 and 44:22 are just a few of the places that make this clear.

Mark tells us that the scribes believe Jesus to be blaspheming.  Blasphemy is a technical term and in Jesus day a religious crime.  Anything that discredited THE NAME (YHWH) was punishable by death through stoning. In the scribes’ minds claiming the ability to do something that only the ONE GOD can do was a serious act of discrediting God. It is hard to think of something that we have in our culture that is the equivalent of this.  Maybe using the parking space of the CEO or drinking from the Admiral’s private liquor cabinet, but these infractions are minor compared to the way they viewed blasphemy.  The closest thing I can think of is identity theft, but identity theft of someone enormously powerful like the President or the Queen of England or OPRAH!

Here is where it gets interesting. Jesus knows what they are thinking and calls them out on it. He issues a challenge for himself to them.  He starts by asking them a question: “Which is easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say ‘Get up.  Take your pallet and walk’?”

Note what is going on here in the question.  Sins are an intangible thing while paralysis is not. If I say to a person who can not walk get up and they do then I have clearly healed them of their paralysis.  If I say to a person that your sins are forgiven there is no way that anyone can prove it just by looking.  On the one hand, it is easier to say the first because no one can disprove you with empirical evidence unlike saying stand up because in the second case the person either gets up or they do not; on the other hand, the latter is the easier of the two because it is not something that only God can claim authority over.  Everyone had seen a faith healer work this sort of miracle before. Even if we only thought in terms of modern science the latter would still be easier because it is both prove-able and there are medical procedures for healing some forms of paralysis. Try and get a prescription for your sins filled at Walgreens!

But Jesus is not stopping with the rhetorical question, he is actually cleverly setting up the scribes because he follows the question up with the following statement: “but in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins — he said to the paralyzed one ‘I say to you, Rise, take up your pallet and go home.'”

See both the challenge and the set up?  If the paralytic stands up then the Son of Man has the authority (power) to forgive sins on earth. If the paralytic stands up the scribes will have to admit that the sins were forgiven and that no blasphemy took place.

(Note: “Son of Man” is a term that Mark uses about 2 dozen times in his gospel. Another time we can discuss what this title means, but please make note from the bold type above there can be zero question that Jesus means for it to refer to himself.)

Mark makes it crystal clear what happens next.  The paralytic, to the absolute astonishment of the crowd, stands up, picks up his pallet and left this time out the door and not the hole in the roof. Jesus proved his point spectacularly and everyone gave praise to God.

So what does this mean that Jesus claims an authority that the Old Testament scriptures clearly indicate is the sole purview of YHWH? What is the implication? It is pretty inescapable, if Jesus makes the man walk in the way he structured the challenge then he also forgave the paralytic’s sins.  Don’t get caught up in the tortured discussions about how they viewed sin and illness as interconnected in those days and this is Jesus giving them some good old post-enlightenment sensibility about these matters of illness and the separation of the physical from the spiritual.  That is smoke and mirrors and clearly not the intent that Mark has here.  Mark wants to demonstrate here the key points that his Gospel is seeking to share: Jesus is the Christ (Messiah) and uniquely appointed by God to be God’s agent, the presence of the Kingdom on Earth. Jesus has authority.  Jesus is going to correct the sin problem.

Mark is sharing this story to persuade everyone who reads / hears it of the truth of who Christ is.  Remember the demon in the first chapter: “you are the Holy One of God.” Mark is asking all of us to ponder what it means that this Jesus can do something that only God can do.

Consider this.  When the the four bring the paralyzed one to Jesus we are told that when Jesus saw their faith he spoke to the paralytic.  I said in a previous post that what they did in action was demonstrate their faith that Jesus could do what they desired.  In New Testament Greek faith is the word pistis (this is the transliteration of the Greek letters) and it means assurance, conviction, etc. all those synonyms in English that you would expect.  What is interesting is that it is derived from the Greek word peitho which is strictly speaking “to win over; persuade.” With this information we can come to understand that faith is a demonstration of having been persuaded.  It is a confiding belief in the truth, veracity, reality of any person or thing.  In the case of the four, their actions demonstrated a belief in the truth of whom Jesus was and the authority that he possessed.

I think that Mark is trying to persuade us. In the last post I wrote: “faith that heals is faith that trusts.” A careful reader will note that the only difference in the title of the last post and this post is punctuation. Faith that heals is faith that trusts; faith that heals comes from having been persuaded about who Christ is.

I encourage you to spend a little time this week asking yourself what it truly meant that the paralytic got up and walked.  Is it not more than a miracle? Is it not more than the forgiveness of sins?

Mark seems to think so.

Feel free to use this Bible study for your own groups or discussion.  It is freely given. If you do I merely ask that you acknowledge where you got it and if you find it useful that you encourage others to seek it out. It is freely given and written with fear, foreboding, and prayer by a fellow hypocrite who is simply trying to figure out the road ahead.

Faith That Heals?

Years ago I purchased my first house.  It was a 75 year old bungalow made from stone. Over the course of 7 years, the interior of the house was restored to something like what it would have looked in the 1920s.  The work included reinstalling a wall so that one very large room was once again two bedrooms.  When the wall was rebuilt, closets were included to increase the storage. Not only was the wall build, but the trim work around the doors, the crown molding, and the toe moldings all had to be milled by me to make it look like the millwork from 7 decades before.  Some years later I had the opportunity to stop by and ask the current owner if my children could see where they used to live. The host was gracious. The house looked great and it was nice to bring back memories, but one thing was a little irritating.  The wall and closets had been removed again.  Ugh!

I mention this because I have often thought that the first miracle of Mark Chapter 2 is not the healing of the paralytic, but rather that Jesus does not get mad.  Many, many people have heard this tale of four men bringing a paralyzed man on a gurney of some sort to be healed. Kids like the story because the tearing a hole in the roof (literally digging up the roof) is a vivid image.  If you are not careful you will miss a little trivia fact in the start of the story.  This is Jesus’ home. This is Jesus’ roof!

So, just take a moment and ponder that. Imagine what it would be like to be at home, with…um… the whole town over.  They are piling in through the door -some of them are hacking and coughing; some of them have weeping pustules. Some of the people are probably just watching you work and wondering if there is more to drink or something to eat. You are teaching and healing, healing and teaching. You are trapped behind the couch because there is no room left. And then after all of this, four grown men climb up on your roof, dig a hole large enough for a man- a prostrate man- to pass through and they lower him down to you.

And miraculously, Jesus’ reaction is to be impressed with their faith to the point that he does what they ask.

Well, sort of.

What Mark actually tells us is “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “my son, your sins are forgiven.”

This the first of two posts on these 12 verses of Mark.  When I started the Hypocritical Christian blog I expected to write a post a week on a single chapter of a book in the Bible.  I was probably foolish to think that was possible because there is so much in every passage of scripture that it is impossible to skip over stuff. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit keeps telling me to post more often.  I mention this simply to say in this post you may determine that I left out some stuff and you will be right to note I am not covering everything. This post is going to focus on the action of the four men and the revelation that Jesus is “cardiognostes”, the “heart-knower.” The subsequent post will look more directly at the controversy with the scribes with a emphasis on what faith means.

The story is really straightforward.  Four friends carry a man to Jesus.  They cannot reach him.  They go to exceptional lengths to overcome the crowd.  Jesus is impressed and pronounces forgiveness. The scribes think to themselves that Jesus is making a claim to do what only God can do. Jesus reads their minds.

Just these 8 verses force me to ask some questions. Can a person experience healing and salvation because of the faith of someone else? Gosh I hope so because Christians do a lot of praying for health.

  • When was the last time that you prayed extra hard for some oneelse’s healing?
  • When did you last pray for someone whose situation seemed helpless (paralysis is a big deal) with the total conviction that Jesus can make the change happen?
  • When was the last time you went the extra mile to bring someone else into the presence of Jesus?

It seems to me that what Jesus sees in the actions of the four men is their resolve not only to help their stricken friend, but that Jesus is the one who can make the difference. It is that latter part that labels what they do as faith versus just desperation. This conviction they have is what makes the difference for their friend.

I have a friend, Paul Burns, who wrote a book called Prayer Encounters. The book grew in part out of his own experience of leading people in life-changing prayers.  Paul would say to people that the key to effective prayer is the belief that God can do what is asked. Mark doesn’t record the conversation if any between the four and Jesus. All we get are the actions, but those actions demonstrate that these four believe that Jesus can do something.

Too many Christians pay lip-service to prayer.  Too many Christians spend too little time helping those in need get into the presence of the Lord.

In the next post, we will unpack the meaning of faith more fully. For now, consider that Jesus knows what the scribes are thinking in their hearts. We don’t know if that is simply because he sees something in their faces and he intuits their thoughts; or, if he is just straight up reading their minds. The trouble with Jesus is he may be a super-intuitive, smart person and he may just be God and therefore a mind reader.  Mark has an answer in mind that we will get to next time. Somehow Jesus knows. What if he knows what you are thinking as well?

Scared?

We all should be.

  • Have you been hiding some ill-will towards someone you work with? a spouse? a sibling? the President? the neighbor whose political affiliation is different? the person from a different race? The person poorer or richer than you?
  • Do you say one thing to people but “secretly” think another?
  • Do you judge others? do you judge self? do you lust? do you rage?

We could make that list go for a long time. I do not write these things to make any of us feel guilty.  I write them to say that when we read Mark Chapter 2, we should take seriously the reminder that Jesus knows our hearts.  It should remind us that as much as we need God’s healing for the physical things that ail us and as much as we need God’s blessing for the material needs that befall us; we need God’s forgiveness for the sins that plague us.

Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, encouraged his students to spend a few minutes daily doing a personal inventory.  The idea was to contemplate the effectiveness of our thoughts and actions with the intent of improving consistently. I invite you in light of the faith demonstrated by the four who carried the paralytic to do some personal inventory.  I urge you in light of Jesus’ knack for reading minds to take a moment to consider what is most often on your mind. Perhaps these questions can help:

  • When you pray for yourself or others are you convinced that Jesus can answer the prayer?  If not, what would it take for you to change your viewpoint (repent) and pray with more conviction?
  • Is there someone who needs your help? Is there someone who needs the witness of your faith or actions? If Jesus was watching your actions would he see your faith?
  • What secret thought do wish God couldn’t see?  When was the last time you confessed to God your sins? Just as importantly, what past sins do you keep apologizing to God because you doubt that He forgave you?
  • What is one thing that can be different in your life tomorrow that will move you closer to Jesus?

Just as we all need to pray to Christ with the belief that God can do what we ask, we need to pray to Christ to renew our minds and thoughts because our actions will follow. Faith that heals is faith that trusts.

Mark 2:1-12 (NASB)

sourced from http://www.biblegateway.org

The Paralytic Healed

When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they *came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to [a]get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof [b]above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, [c]Son, your sins are forgiven.”But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins [d]but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware [e]in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, *said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He *said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

Images of Healing the Paralytic

Below are three separate images depicting the healing of a paralytic man as told in Mark Chapter 2. The images come from different times.  This first one looks like one that I might have seen in school when I was a kid.  I went to Catholic school and they didn’t have child friendly pictures back then. While at first glance the image looks middle eastern, closer examination shows that all the folks in the image have European features regardless of how swarthy their skin is.

paralytic

This second image is from the Jesusmafa images.  My understanding is that these images came out of a partnership between indigenous Mafa Christians and French missionaries in Cameroon. It is a great example of how the stories of the gospel can be inculturated, or put into a localized context, where ever they told.

jesusmafa_healing_paralyzed_man

Finally there is this apparently even older image of the story. I am not sure where it came from but it is in a mosaic style that was fairly prominent in the first 500 years of Christianity.

The paralytic lowered from the roof, Jesus and an apostle. Mosaic (6th)

leper-healed

The Expectations of a Leper

“What’s up with your face?” I was asked recently.

“What do you mean?” I responded.

“You look like you scratched yourself; did you scratch yourself? Do you own a cat?” I self-consciously touched my cheek and realized that this person was rather inelegantly commenting on the bit of eczema that I have been unsuccessful in getting rid of from my face.  Until that moment I had not really thought to be self-conscious about it, because no one had commented on it before.  It has been a little odd for a forty-something to develop eczema and truth be told I was more annoyed at the notion that I would own a cat.  I am not good at treating the eczema with the steroid cream I have been given because I have this hang-up about grease on my hands.

Of course, the minor irritation of someone noticing a facial blemish and thinking I scratched myself is incomparable to what those people in Biblical times went through if they had “leprosy”.   I use quotations because we are fairly certain that the modern illness known as leprosy was not likely to have been in the Ancient Near East at the time of Jesus.  Leprosy in the Bible is much more likely to be a catchall phrase for the gamut of skin conditions (i.e. rash, eczema, psoriasis) that can befall a person.

Regardless of which condition the leper had they were excluded from the community until declared clean by a priest. They often were not allowed in worship spaces.  They were asked to announce themselves as “unclean” in crowds lest people touch them and become unclean themselves.   To our modern ears this seems silly, but just watch a commercial advertising Stelara and you will realize that even today people feel excluded from lots of activities because of skin conditions. This shunning is the sort of life that the leper at the end of Mark Chapter 1 was experiencing when approaching Jesus for the chance to be made whole.

Before we discuss that though, we need to make note of something that seems terribly out of character for Jesus. We are told by Mark that Jesus has made quite a name for himself in Capernaum.  His teaching in the synagogue has impressed.  His exorcisms have been hugely successful.

He even healed Peter’s mother-in-law, bedridden with fever.  The news about Jesus had spread from his teachings and the whole demon expulsion stuff, but apparently it is the garden variety healing that begins to draw the crowd. It makes sense given that this is a time where there is very little medicine to speak of and no Walgreens on the corner to dispense remedies.

Mark says the whole city gathered at his door. I can believe it.  No one likes being sick.  I live in the Texas Hill Country and  believe me if a person appeared who could wave their hand and cure people of sinus infections and cedar allergies there would be the largest traffic jam in the history of the world on the street where they lived.

Before the next morning Jesus skips out and goes off alone to pray.  The disciples hunted for him. When they find him they point out that there is a tremendous crowd looking for him.  Jesus’ response is “let’s go somewhere else then.”

Wait? What?

Jesus is the great physician right?  He heals people.  I do not remember being taught about a Jesus who turns away people wishing to be healed. To make it even more strange, in just a few short verses, Mark relates a healing of this one leper who approaches Jesus.  What does this leper have that the sick people in Capernaum, some of whom no doubt have skin conditions, haven’t got.

The answer apparently is a belief in who Jesus is or more to the point an acknowledgement that Jesus is the Christ, the anointed one of God.  Let’s read between the lines, because I think that is what Mark wants us to do.  Jesus suggest that he needs to move on in order that he may preach.  Perhaps the crowds that now form are no longer gathering to hear the message of “repent for the kingdom of God has begun” but are gathering instead to get their needs met – and only their needs met.  The former expects something of them, the latter expects something only of Jesus.

  1. What does this mean for those tens of thousands of Christians today who seem to think that being Christian is about getting the blessings of this life?or  a promise of second life?
  2. What does this mean for those tens of thousands of Christians whose prayer time consists of praying for healing miracles and nothing else?
  3. What does this mean for those Christians that pray for their own needs (wants?) and never find time to pray for others or to pray for a deeper dependence on God?
  4. What does it mean for those Christian groups who promote meeting the needs of the poor, the hungry, the needy but never include a message of the gospel?

The leper, John the Baptizer, and the demon exorcised in the Capernaum synagogue all have something in common.  Each it their own way identified in Christ that God was at work. The demon knows because he says as much that Christ is the “Holy One of God.”  John the Baptist demonstrates through his humble preaching that he was awaiting the arrival of one that he was unfit to even bow down to untie the sandal straps of his feet.  The leper doesn’t say these things but rather indicates an awareness that something unique of God is happening in Jesus. “if YOU will it I will be clean.”

How many people had desired the leper to be clean.  His mother? most assuredly.  His wife? His children? His best friend? His well meaning rabbi? Depending on his age, there is no telling how many people wanted him to be clean.  He may even have owed someone money who wished for him to be clean so that he could work again and pay back his debts.  None of their desires were sufficient for his wholeness, but he is certain that if Jesus simply wills it it will come to pass-such faith!

And Jesus, who left Capernaum rather than heal the city gathered at his door, not only wills it but actually touches the leper and declares him cleansed.  Cleansing a leper, this is something that only God can do according to the rabbis in Jesus day and before.

Please do not read these words and think that I am suggesting that the difference between those who are healed and those who are not is the depths of their faith.  That is not at all what I am saying although there are a great many misguided Christians who say that very thing to people all the time.  There are also a great many Christians who heap tons of guilt upon their own spirit because they have prayed and prayed to no avail.  They question their faith.  The Christians who suggest that someone should just believe harder are hypocrites because there own faith is insufficient in some area of their life.  The ones who have made themselves feel guilty would not have done so if so many other Christians had not hypocritically told them their faith was weak.

What I am suggesting is that Mark wants us to see the difference between the needy crowds that are being avoided and the faith-filled leper who is cleansed. The leper recognizes the authority of Christ and functions out of that belief that the Divine Will is at work in Jesus. The leper has the expectation that this Jesus can do the things that only God can do.

Jesus sends the cleansed leper away with instructions to be quiet about the healing and to present himself to the priest and offer his sacrifices according to the law.  Presumably when the leper speaks with the priest he is to tell the story because Jesus comments that he is to follow the law of Moses as a testimony to them.

In those instructions there is an important point regarding the law that we can infer.  The law of Moses, whether you mean the 10 commandments or all of the Levitical code, is a tool but not a cure.  The law can be used to discern (i.e. a leper is either clean or unclean); the law cannot heal.

I sell cars. In all of the 2017 Chevrolets that I sell there is a warning message that comes on when you turn the car off. In the information center or the touch screen display, words reminding you to check the back seat appear.  The message is there for the purpose of helping prevent people from leaving pets and children in the car.  In most places it the USA doing either is illegal because of the danger that the heat of a parked car can cause for a baby or a puppy. As much as we would hope that this would never happen it does.  Some parents are so harried and busy that they forget.  If the pet is asleep an owner could easily forget that the animal is in the car.  People are not perfect.  The law exists to remind us that the behavior is deadly.  But the existence of the law does not end the occurrence of the crime. No law can end crime simply through its existence.

The law cannot prevent nor can it heal. The law is a tool of discernment. I am either speeding or I’m not.  That is the law. Likewise, the law of God deems us sinners with respect to a commandment or not a sinner.  In our culture only the judge or an appropriate authority can deem me innocent or not guilty regardless of my crime be it a local judge or a governor’s pardon.  In these roles they represent the lawgiver.  Christ represents the lawgiver.  Only God can declare us righteous.

Our mistake as Christians is made when think that we can follow our way to wholeness. When we think that obeying the law will make us righteous before God. If the whole law can be summed up in the command to love God with the whole self and the neighbor as we love ourselves then we are all sinners before the law. Only God can heal us and make us whole. Only God can grant us pardon and give us life.

As Christians we should endeavor to follow the commandments of God but we must be mindful that the following no matter how perfect does not do the healing or the saving. The only following that works is staying close to Christ: trusting and believing in him.

  1. How are you doing in this sort of trust?  Do you only trust God when things are going well or do you trust God in all circumstances?
  2. Have you ever judged someone else as not redeemed / saved because they were a sinner in your eyes?
  3. The Christian is freed from the law because of the saving work of Christ. Have you questioned God’s ability to pardon you because of your own failures to keep the law of God correctly?
  4. What would the church look like if we trusted God to heal/ save the sinners in our community?

Feel free to use this Bible Study for your own groups or discussion.  It is freely given. If you do I merely ask that you acknowledge where you got it and if you find it useful that you encourage others to seek it out. It is freely given and written with fear, foreboding, and prayer by a fellow hypocrite who is simply trying to figure out the road ahead.

 

Powered by WordPress.com.

Up ↑