Friday, May 29, 2015

Death and Taxes ...

It is said there are only two certainties in our modern world, death and taxes.  While we draw breath, we have the “pleasure” of contributing to our societal improvement in the form of taxation.  But few of us perceive the “privilege” of our taxes as being something to look forward to; rather, something to avoid at all costs.  The rate at which we are taxed is always a sore spot.  Whether it is property taxes, sales taxes, income taxes, social security taxes, Medicare taxes, capital gains taxes, estate taxes, or “sin” taxes, it seems “everything” can find a way to be taxed.  By definition, taxes are involuntary.  The cost of taxes are wherever possible, automatically taken from us without our ability to defer or avoid them.  Should we attempt at shorting our government in what they dictate is due, we are subject to criminal prosecution that is never too pleasant.  This condition is not new, but dates back well into the time of Christ.
Romans built a massive empire of roads … in order to carry the taxation from their occupied territories back to the capital city state.  In fact, conquering other lands had only one primary motivation, to “acquire” their wealth.  Once conquered, the people would become a persistent source of revenue in the form of taxes.  Should they resist, armies were dispatched to terminate rebellion … and carry the back payments back to Rome.  Without the benefit of electronic systems and controls, people had to be assigned for the physical collection of taxes to send to Rome.  Those tax collectors had all the authority of Rome, complete with military threat of far worse punishments, in order to do their job and get the money for their Roman masters.  In the process however, the Romans were not so concerned with corruption on the local level, as long as the taxation due continued to flow.  So enterprising tax collectors simply required a higher rate than Rome actually did, and pocketed the overage. 
If this practice had been done by foreigners, it “might” have been more palatable.  At least then, the plight of the Jewish people would have been fully caused by forces outside of their own.  But most tax collectors wound up being Jews themselves, forced into, or reasoned on their own, that steady employment beats starvation or crucifixion.  Thus anyone who took on this role became instantly hated by the public.  Being a tax collector for Rome was tantamount to being a traitor to Israel.  And this was only worsened because most tax collectors were all too happy to cheat, and collect overages from anyone.  Those who were cheated had no recourse.  If they murdered a tax collector they faced crucifixion for their entire families, not just themselves.  And inevitably another tax collector would be appointed to resume doing the work, and cheating of the last one, perhaps even more greedily.  Despite hating them for what they did, the people were at the complete mercy of the tax collector.  And the tax collector had no ability to lower taxes, only to raise them.
In this climate, Peter begins to recount perhaps the most surprising pick of Jesus Christ of His next disciple.  John Mark records in chapter two and verse 13 saying … “And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them.”  The crowds that created a standing room only event at the home of Peter were no less interested in hearing Jesus Christ speak.  When Jesus left the house of Peter, and moved to the sea shore, they followed Him there.  If anything they grew along the way.  In this crowd were every kind of person, from the Religious elite, to the poor, to those who were publicly known for their sins.  And to this crowd of the mixed bag of humanity, Jesus taught them all.  Christ made no distinction in those who came to hear Him.  He did not segregate them by class, or honor them with access based on what they did for a living, or not.  In the eye of Christ, all were precious sheep to be saved by their Shepherd.  What would happen next, would not be done in private, but in the most public fashion possible, during the day, with a multitude in tow.
John Mark continues in verse 14 … “And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.”  Levi Matthew who would later write his own gospel account of the story of Jesus Christ, was by profession, a tax collector.  There was no doubt the greed of this position had infected his life.  There was no doubt Levi Matthew was going to be hated by this crowd, in fact likely hated by Peter and the other disciples.  This pick of Jesus Christ for another disciple was not for lack of other candidates.  An entire multitude was following Him already, he had more than enough “members” in His church to pick from to honor someone with being a disciple.  But the mission of Christ was not to find “enough” people to save, it was to find everyone.  This mission of Christ, was not just to reach out to the normal people, but even to those we hate, despise, and consider the “dregs” of society.
To consider the magnitude of what Christ had just done and put in modern terms, Jesus had just picked as His next honored disciple Osama Bin Laden.  What our nation considers a terrorist and enemy of the people, someone responsible for many deaths of our citizens.  In His day, if you failed to pay Roman taxes, or found yourself in the disfavor of the local tax collector, you might next find yourself up on a Roman cross.  Tax collectors, like Osama, are hated for a reason.  The loss of life that may come from tax collector was less direct, but it just as easily impacted the innocent.  Children were sold into slavery, or taken this way, to pay for back debts to Rome.  Wives were taken.  No one was safe, or immune from the payment of taxes.  And now despite having a multitude of “normal church going folk” with Him, Jesus picks Levi Matthew to follow Him.  This was the surprise draft pick of the century for Peter … and for Matthew.
But the transformation of our Lord was on display in this simple text, if we look close enough to see it.  The call of Jesus Christ, brought with it, the gift of liberation from your former desires, your former weaknesses, and slavery to sin.  That call freed Levi Matthew from his greed, and his immediate response was to get up and leave literally everything behind to follow Christ.  Remember that being a disciple of Christ still carried no reward, no home, no steady employment, and no guarantee of the next meal.  None of this deterred Levi Matthew.  He was fine with all of it in an instant.  Better to be destitute at the side of Jesus Christ, than rich in a comfortable home far from His side.  Levi Matthew arises to follow Christ DESPITE the real knowledge of what Peter is going to think about him, and how the other disciples probably despise him.  Peer pressure did not deter Matthew from moving immediately to the side of Christ.  He knew if there were a “clique” of the cool kids within the group of the disciples he was sure NOT to be in it.  He was going to be an outcast at best with his peers.  But follow he did.
John Mark continues in verse 15 … “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him.”  In what should have been a climate of massive negativity within the heart and mind of Levi Matthew, there was none.  Instead of becoming instantly withdrawn and defensive and guarded with the rest of the disciples, Levi does the strangest thing of all.  He opens his home and holds a feast.  Not just a feast for his own family, or those who could stand the association with him, but for literally every person in the multitude that was following Christ, regardless of who they were.  Levi is casting aside his wealth all too happily for the honor of following Christ.  And in his FIRST act as a disciple he offers food to everyone in attendance.  A man formerly bound to greed, is instantly charitable because of the change that has occurred within him as he responds to the freeing call of Christ.
Peter continues recalling the story to Mark in verse 16 … “And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?”  Now despite the offer, the Pharisees would not be caught dead in the home of a tax collector.  And even if he is going to reform, quit his job, and attempt at becoming an upright citizen of the nation, having all these “dregs” of society in your home to eat is hardly a good first step.  On the other hand, it was likely that the people who had been publicly humiliated in the common knowledge of their sins who were free to enjoy the charity of Matthew this day.  What difference to them; their reputations were already ruined in public knowledge.  Eating at a tax collectors home would hardly make others think less of the adulterers, thieves, prostitutes, and liars.  And as an added bonus, Jesus did not seem to mind their company at all.  In fact, He seemed pleased to have them with Him to eat lunch, like if He actually looked forward to it.  This upset every social norm there was.  And of course the first ones to decry this practice were the religious leaders of the day.
John Mark continues in verse 17 … “When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  In this response, Jesus attempts to remind the religious leaders it has always been their job to bring those in need to the feet of God for the healing of their sins.  In addition Jesus makes it clear that many in this crowd do NOT BELIEVE they have a problem with sins.  This distinction is horrific and true to this day.  So many in our churches believe that mere attendance and adherence to tradition keep them immune from the problem of sin.  They freely point out sins in the lives of others … you know, the publicans of our day.  But they see no sin in themselves that warrants attention.  They are content to feel better about themselves by comparing their relatively little sins, with the great sins they see around them in the world.  But it is, and always has been, a false comparison.  There is no need to call the righteous, but in truth, there are no righteous but Christ.  The religious leaders miss both messages, because they will not hear.
The Pharisees have setup a religion of doom and gloom.  They have focused on our sins and not the cure for them.  They were the first pastors who have passed on to our modern pastors, the traditions of reverence and self-sacrifice to the point where nothing can be enjoyed, even the very personal presence of Jesus Christ.  John Mark illustrates this beginning in verse 18 … “And the disciples of John and of the Pharisees used to fast: and they come and say unto him, Why do the disciples of John and of the Pharisees fast, but thy disciples fast not? [verse 19] And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber fast, while the bridegroom is with them? as long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [verse 20] But the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken away from them, and then shall they fast in those days.”  Jesus did NOT have a problem with celebration, or joy, or feasts.  The religion of following Christ is NOT meant to be one of constant quiet without ever having a moment of fun.  You will note the fun derived in this picture came from the charity of Matthew being made free from his greed by the call of Christ.  He is giving away all his food and wealth to anyone in need.  And with this charity is born great joy.  So the “fun” they are having is not based in the pleasing of self, but in the joy of pleasing others.  Yet fun it is.
The Pharisees, having failed at appealing to this young Rabbi to guard His reputation, now attempt at curtailing His behavior by appealing to tradition.  Those who fast and deny themselves food and water are sure to be holier than those who party with Christ.  Sure it takes a degree of self-control to fast and pray, to deny one’s own hunger and thirst for the sake of God.  But it is not through self-control that sin will be mastered and eliminated, it is through the call of Christ, and the surrender to that call.  To fast and pray … in order to be noticed as fasting and praying … is not about God, it is about ego.  The Pharisees made spectacle out of fasting in order to insure they were “known” to be pious.  But those whose hearts are bent on the will of God, fast in secret, and pray silently, so that only God knows the desires of their hearts.  They do not seek the reputation and fame of their peers, they seek the will of God.  And from the perspective of Christ, it is not a time to be sullen and fast.  Separation from Him will be that time.  It is our separation from Christ that should drive us to fast, not when He is close.
Then Jesus continues His object lesson to the Pharisees as Peter recalls to John Mark in verse 21 saying … “No man also seweth a piece of new cloth on an old garment: else the new piece that filled it up taketh away from the old, and the rent is made worse. [verse 22] And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles.”  The object lesson here, is that we must be fully transformed, and fully made new.  Attempting to put a band-aide on our sins is nowhere near enough.  Attempting to partially be born again is nowhere near enough.  Christ is not looking for us to submit only a part of our desires to Him, He is looking for the whole of us.  We need to be completely made new, so that He can pour His spirit into us without bursting the bottles of our old lives.  He needs to completely cloth us in His righteousness because our tattered rags cannot be patched, they need to be burned.  We need the whole of what He longs to do for us, not just some limited representation because we believe we are already good enough people.
Jesus was willing to pick the Osama Bin Laden of His day to become an honored disciple.  He was willing to pick the most hated of us, to become an author of the Gospel of Christ to us.  The transformation of Levi Matthew was stunning, and it began in an instant.  Levi did what we need to do, that is to respond to the call of Christ.  His first act was one of charity.  He was willing to give up everything for Jesus Christ.  He instantly became homeless, poor, and joined a group that DID NOT WANT him there.  But Jesus wanted him and that was enough for Levi.  Over time the disciples would realize that Levi Matthew was no different than they were.  Their hate would turn to love, as the impact of Jesus Christ would see no other result in them.  If there were pity to be had on this day, it should have been from Matthew to the other disciples.  For Levi Matthew had been freed from his sins by the call of Christ, and was already living a liberated life with His Lord.  The others had yet to experience this kind of liberation to this extent.  But it was coming …

Friday, May 22, 2015

Standing Room Only ...

In our world, rock stars often are so popular, that a performance in a given venue sells out every seat; to fit in even a single person more, requires them to stand for the duration of the event (standing room only or SRO).  I’m sure modern musicians would love to believe this phenomenon started with them.  It didn’t.  Perhaps the first recorded SRO event in history came at the time of the Messiah.  Peter recounted it to John Mark in the opening of chapter two of the Gospel of Mark.  Not coincidentally, Peter is quick to call attention to the venue, as it was his own home in Capernaum.  And while we have no real idea what the voice of Jesus might have been like, from a singing perspective; we definitely know He was an awesome speaker, and His restorative healing powers had made the miraculous possible.  To go where Jesus is, represented a chance at restorative, re-creative, healing like nothing else on planet earth.  To hear His words, receive His teachings, and have Him remove even your desire to sin, represented a restorative healing to your soul, that ONLY Jesus could offer.  If you had to stand, that was only a small price to pay.
It is no small lesson for us to absorb.  As followers of Jesus Christ, and personal witnesses to the power of His restorative power to remove sins from our lives … have we ever stopped to consider why so many of our churches are half full or less from week to week?  We offer ample seating, with literally zero SRO events.  Oh sure, you could argue that there are no “personal” appearances made by Jesus Christ in our churches today, but if so, how sad.  How sad, that the world does NOT see Jesus Christ reflected in His professed followers.  How sad, that though we “talk” about the removal of sins from our lives, we continue to rely upon self to see it done, and continue to fail at it, such that the world sees only themselves in us.  We appear to have nothing to offer them, because the impact of Christ on us, has been refused by us; choosing rather to “partner” with Christ, or supplant Him altogether, in a continued illusion of our ability to simply “choose” not to sin.  Were we to completely surrender to Jesus, and see even our desires to sin removed, we too might have such a witness to tell, that SRO church services might once again dominate the landscape.
Peter outlined just such an event to John Mark.  Sure the main story line was about a paralytic that was healed, but the far more important sub text, was about how ALL of us might be healed and restored from the disease we know as “sin”.  Peter begins in chapter two and verse one recalling … “And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.”  Like any good concert event, word of mouth is an effective tool at publicity.  Where we might use social media today to spread the news, in the days of Peter, “social” media was truly “social”.  People actually physical spoke with one another, building personal connections, and relationships defined by presence and context.  Note here too, Peter is quick to recall that Jesus was … “in the house”.  Elvis is in the building.  The Beatles have arrived on set.  Pick your generational equivalent terms of excitement, for Peter and the surrounding community, having Jesus there in person made a buzz that no one could ignore.
John Mark continues transcribing in verse 2 writing … “And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.”  Notice the immediacy of the gathering crowd in the words “and straightway”.  If you were going to get a good seat near the feet of Jesus, you had no time to dilly-dally.  The push of the crowds was going to be real.  The craving of the people to hear everything clearly and learn at the feet of Jesus was going to drive early-birds, and lines of folks pressed as close as they could get.  In no time at all, the entire home of Peter well exceeds the fire code for maximum attendance.  You simply could not squeeze one more person in there.  So next, the crowd presses around the open doors and windows, hoping there too, to get a glimpse of the Master inside.  And the preaching of Jesus began.  Would that our churches so ably reflected the love of Christ, that crowds today would press up next to the windows and open doors, just to glimpse the love taught from our pulpits, and shown in our pews.
John Mark continues in verse 3 … “And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. [verse 4] And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.”  Here Peter reveals something subtle we often overlook.  The first time Jesus Christ was at this venue (Peter being proud to have Jesus in his home), Jesus healed every person in the area that was sick or demon possessed.  You will note here, that the story centers around only one sick person, whose friends had to bring him there, likely from a greater distance.  There were no “physically” sick people pressing in on Jesus this time around, because He had already healed them all, except for this one person who was likely “not from around there”.  The people who were pressing in on Jesus had a different reason to be there, than for mere physical healing, they were there for a spiritual healing they believed He might bring.  And they were not to be disappointed.
You might think, that having four guys climb up on your roof, and then destroy the section over the head of the Messiah might be at the least … distracting.  You might think, that the owner of the home, likely Peter himself, might be a bit, perturbed to have such a gaping hole in the middle of his living room, cause when the rain comes …  But Peter is not distracted in the retelling of this story, by the damage done to his home.  He does not count the un-invited friends as trespassers, and vandals, in this account.  Instead, the extent to which the condition of the paralytic has degenerated is the focus of attention here.  This is not someone who can get around limping, or relying upon a cane, or set of crutches.  This poor person is bed ridden.  He has to be literally carried around on a blanket or stretcher to move at all.  His disease is so advanced he must be still of his own power, and can only move, when he is moved by outside forces. 
How like us.  We too are so enslaved in our sins that we are powerless to move from them, UNLESS we are moved by forces outside of ourselves in the form of Jesus Christ.  Notice the parallels too of the four friends who are so moved with compassion for the paralyzed man, they take the time to … “heal him”?  No, they cannot do that.  They are powerless to do anything for him, EXCEPT, “bring him” to Jesus.  If only we counted our friendship so dear, as to measure it by our introduction of the love of Christ to those we know are in such desperate need of it.  Instead of bearing them, in their pain, in their slavery to sin, on blankets to the feet of Jesus; we throw rocks at them because of their condition.  We avoid bringing them to the source of love, and instead cast them out of our presence, and ridicule them for weaknesses we hide in our own hearts.  These four true friends knew they were powerless to help the man, but were willing to carry him to Jesus Christ in an act of love that would live on for eternal memory in the scriptures recorded here.  We do not know their names, but we know the extent of their love for this man.  These four would not take “no” for an answer where it came to bringing this man to Christ.  They did not pummel the crowd, but they found a way around them.  If it took, breaking and entering to get to Jesus, they were willing to endure the punishment to see their friend made whole.  How few of us, would do “anything” in love to see our friends made whole by Jesus.
Mark continues in verse 5 … “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”  And here is where the priority of heaven is revealed.  The FIRST thing Jesus offers this poor paralytic is NOT physical relief, but the more important priority, a spiritual relief.  The FIRST thing Jesus does is bless this man, not only with forgiveness, but with the removal of sins and the desires that enslave us to them, from the heart of this man.  It is the faith of the four, that so impresses Jesus.  Jesus sees, that they were there for the deeper blessing of salvation He could offer, and He does not disappoint them.  The crowd there were gathered to determine if spiritual salvation was possible through the power of the Messiah.  They too were not disappointed.  Jesus had just revealed to all pressing in to see and hear, that forgiveness and freedom from sin was possible through His transformative power.  That was the priority message the crowd wanted and needed to hear that day.
It was not as if Jesus was done with His encounter with this man as yet, but before He had a chance to proceed, He began to pick up the thoughts of the religious leadership of His day, that were also gathered there to determine if salvation would be possible through this Messiah.  John Mark recounts in verse 6 … “But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, [verse 7] Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?”  These men did not “speak” these thoughts, they simply were thinking them.  It is telling that our motives, and private personal thoughts, are as transparent as glass to our God.  Had logic ruled the day, the act of Christ in knowing what they were thinking would have been enough to determine His identity as the Son of God.  Another myth debunked here, is the idea that we have the power to forgive the sins others commit.  We can forgive them for what they do to us.  But we cannot rectify them with their God.  Confession to each other, is not the same as confession to God.  Only God can forgive sins, men dressed in black robes, or preacher’s apparel do not have that power.
John Mark continues in verse 8 … “And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?”  To see divinity flash through humanity, and be called out for what you are thinking should have already been a clincher on the identity of this man.  This was not reading body language, this was reading the inner most thoughts of those who reasoned this Messiah might not be the Son of God.  The religious leadership were so bound to their understanding of scriptures, that they were questioning the power of God to provide salvation.  How like us.  We are so bound to our understanding of scriptures, that we call blasphemy by its right name, yet refuse to see it in the insertion of self into the process of our own salvation.  We come to believe, that “we” can forgive our own sins, and remove our own sinful desires by the power of our will, thus blaspheming the power that alone belongs to God.  Yet we ignore our sins, and proclaim loudly the mistakes of others as determined in the word.  Only God can forgive sins, only Jesus can remove the desire for them from our hearts.
Peter recalls in verse 9 to John Mark … “Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?”  Here too, is another subtle message of truth revealed to us.  For Jesus, our physical restoration is just as EASY as our spiritual one.  The work of restoring us to the creations He intended us to be, is NOT a hard work for our creator.  It is an easy one.  We see it as hard, in fact, as nearly impossible.  We see our countless failures, and repeated sins, as hallmarks that it is impossible for us to be holy.  Because we view our lives through the lens of our own will power and determination not to sin.  Instead, Jesus looks at our physical diseases the same way as He looks at our spiritual disease, and LONGS to transform and restore us to what He intended us to be.  For Him, this work is a no-brainer.  For Him, sin runs away and hides and never again wishes to be in His presence.  For Him, this is a work He can do easily for us.  It is we who complicate it, and make it appear hard, because we refuse to let Him do it.  We keep inserting ourselves in the process and messing it up.  We keep telling Him, to let us handle this or that, and in so doing prolong the easy transformation He would have accomplished in us.  We are by far our own worst enemies.  When we give it all up to Jesus Christ, we begin to experience the full restoration He longed to give us.
John Mark continues in verse 10 … “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) [verse 11] I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.”  Two events are here tied together.  Our assurance, not just the doubting scribes listening to the Messiah that day, our faith is to be made certain because Jesus healed the physical infirmity of this man – JUST – like He heals the spiritual infirmities we are plagued with.  “Arise”, or be lifted up, or rise above, your previous life, your previous disease, your previous desires – not because you have inherent power within you, but because Christ gives you the power to obey.  “Go home” with an assurance that you are not only physically well, but you are spiritually made whole.  The most important blessing was given FIRST.  This one only helps you share it without having to have four friends carry you around to tell of it.  If the gospel of Peter through John Mark is not a lie, then the marriage of what happened here both physical and spiritual are true, and possible for us. 
We may not have physical palsy that requires our friends to bear us around on comfortable blankets.  But we decidedly have a spiritual malady in a slavery of loving-self, that exhibits symptoms of selfishness in every sin we commit.  If Jesus was able to heal the physical needs of this man, why would we doubt His ability to heal the spiritual needs within us?  After being brought into alignment with His laws, and learning through His power, how to love others like He loves others; we do not need to be carried around by our friends, we need to find a comfortable blanket, and go rescue another who is not found the healing we have in Jesus Christ.  We are not to add to their burdens through our righteous condemnation of their sins, we are to bear them up gently, and in love, take them to Jesus to find healing of their own.  Tear the roof off a church if that is what is needed to find the love of Jesus Christ.  Disrupt the tradition of quiet reverence with acts of love that are provocative, but meaningful, and result in seeing another find healing at the feet of Jesus Christ.  Our silence is not what is called for, our love is.  Our songs and our speech made only on a weekly basis, are a poor substitute for a love that would do “anything” to see a friend find Christ.
The story continues in verse 12 … “And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”  The physical restorations, this crowd had seen.  They had seen ears replaced, eyes restored, missing limbs put back where they go, through the power of Christ.  They had seen demons driven from their hosts and compelled to keep silent.  In short, this crowd had seen nearly every variation of physical restoration possible the last time Jesus was in the house.  But they had never seen salvation occur like this ever before.  They, like us, had the knowledge of the Law, but the inability to keep it, or be in harmony with it.  Until this day, they never thought to be transformed and restored within, the same way they were healed on the outside.  They had never thought that the easy work of God was to remove sinful desires that had so long enslaved their hearts.  But after today, no more of that.  Salvation was possible, and was real, through the transforming power of Jesus Christ.  It did not have to wait, or depend on me.  My role was to get out of its way, and let Jesus do what He needs to do within me.  My role is to surrender to Christ, not attempt to insert further controls.  My role is to give up and let it happen to me.  Christ does not need a partner in this work, He needs to be allowed to do it for us.  The work is His, not ours.  He needs for us to believe He can, and He will do it for us.  He needs for us to get out of His way, and quit thinking we know better than He does.
Notice Peter uses the words “and immediately he arose”.  The transformation did not take weeks to implement, it was instant.  The faith of this man, and his friends, was to allow Christ to heal him.  They brought everything to Christ, and did not walk away empty handed.  There is no “risk” to us, in bringing every desire of our corrupted hearts to Jesus Christ.  What He removes from our lives and our desires, He replaces with something much better.  His restoration is not casual, partial, or incomplete.  It is full.  It is liberating.  It makes a life one worth living.  This is the excitement Jesus can restore in the hearts of those would let Him do the work of physical and spiritual restoration.  An SRO series of church services is possible today, if His house becomes one filled with those who have a firsthand knowledge of what it is like to be restored.  If we would care so much, as to carry those we know who remain in desperate need, to Jesus on comfortable blankets, in acts of love that too will be remembered for all time.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Restoration from Dependence ...

So often, we come to believe that the success of spreading the gospel depends upon us.  We come to believe “we” have a work to complete before the Lord can return to our world.  “We” may be privileged (or burdened depending on your point of view) to be the last generation, “responsible” for getting it done.  The problem of course in all of this thinking, is that “we” have historically proven that “we” cannot be depended upon to get anything right, let alone done, much less perfectly.  If the return of our Lord, and the success of Christianity depends upon “us” to get it right and get it done … the promise of the Lord to return will forever be delayed.  Instead, when God makes a promise, He does the work and takes the action needed to see that it gets done, and is fulfilled.  He never intended to leverage our strengths, but rather to use us in spite of our lack of ability to accomplish His will; allow His strength to flow through us (not to originate there). 
When the Messiah first came to this world, it was not because Mary had spent a lifetime preparing to be a virgin mother.  No one taught her what that was going to mean, how could they?  It had never happened before.  Imagine how hard it would have been to have maintained chastity only to be found with child.  Who would believe it?  Not even Joseph, who loved her and arguably was an upright man, until the Angel came to him to explain it was true.  What was impossible for mankind, what had never been done in the history of the world, was in fact done through the power of God.  “Mary” did not accomplish this miraculous feat.  She was but a willing participant in channeling the power of our God.  Our God did not “need’ Mary specifically, instead He chose to honor her with participation in the great mission of redemption.  He did not look for her to first accomplish some set of tests, and great actions of heroes worthy of Greek poems to be selected for her role.  Instead He looked for humility, kindness, meekness, and a willingness to be a part of His divine will and mission for our redemption.  What no one else on planet earth may ever believe of her story, she would know to be true.  No prep, just a full dependence on God that He meant what He said, and would do what He promised.
Now, so many years later, we would do well to study the example of Christ.  If we too are to be willing participants in the mission of God for the redemption of the world, the “how” Christ did what He did, should be equally as important to us, as the “what” He did.  If like Mary, it is not going to rely upon “our” strength to accomplish His will, or even “our” preparation to begin His work; we should look to Christ to uncover “how” He found a way to participate in the divine mission of His Father while in human form.  Peter spends a great deal of time recounting this to John Mark in the writing of the first gospel to mankind.  He begins in chapter one, in verse 35 recalling … “And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed.”
Jesus had just spent the evening, following the close of the Sabbath healing everyone in Capernaum of every disease they had.  He had cast out demons, while restraining them from further identifying Him as the Son of the Most High.  All in all, the power of God the Father reflected perfectly through His Son for the benefit of mankind had to be very tiring.  The emotional drain on humanity to have been so intimate with so many in desperate need - had to be rough.  Imagine yourself, entering the hospital room of your own 3 or 4 children all stricken with terminal diseases, and you now performing a supernatural healing on each of them.  Imagine the sadness of encountering them in this condition at all.  Then imagine the relief as they are now healed.  Then imagine the need each of them would have to hug you, hold you, and thank you for what you have done.  To each of your children, this is a life changing event.  They loved you before, and now love you even more.  Each will really want to express that love to you – individually, not as a group.  A healing is not a “corporate” event, it is a personal one.  It is not a “casual” event to be taken off the terminal disease list.  It is a life extending, life altering one, that has no other human equal.
While God may be omnipresent, and have the divine strength to handle multiple people expressing individual gratitude love and intimacy all at once, Christ was still bound in human flesh, and human form, subject to the same emotional limits as are we.  Being touched with our infirmities was more than just “seeing” how hard sin is on us, it is about seeing the “limits” our humanity can take.  So how does the surely exhausted Savior respond to these emotionally fulfilling yet draining events?  He rises up very  early before the day begins, and seeks the solitude of a deserted location in order to pray.  You would think His body must have ached for sleep.  It did.  You would think He might be hungry as He is not heading out to a Denny’s or an IHOP to have breakfast, read the paper, and do a little praying.  No, He is not looking to find a nice picnic spot and enjoy some left over fish and pita bread.  He is looking for a place where He can be alone from humanity and have His full attention directed on praying to know “what is the will of His Father” next.  In so doing, hunger abates, exhaustion disappears, and He emerges from this experience renewed at full strength – for it is not His human form that originates this strength within Him, it is allowing the strength of His Father to cover all those human needs.
Peter, and the other disciples, rise much later.  And realizing that a disciple really only has one key “job” in the title of being a disciple – that is to “follow” your leader – they come to the horrifying discovery that they have “lost” sight of their leader (again).  He recounts in verse 36 … “And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. [verse 37] And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee.”  You can bet, Peter was likely frustrated that he and the others had to “find” Jesus in the first place.  The popularity of their master was at an all-time high since the night before.  By extension, the popularity of the disciples would be at an all-time high as well.  However, the value of the disciple was only as good as his proximity to his Leader (it still is).  If Peter could not introduce men to his Lord, his value as a disciple was not so great and would diminish quickly (it still does).  So when Jesus disappears to renew His own strength in seeking the will of His Father, Peter cannot equate.  In any case, finding Jesus, he can remind Him that there are many men waiting to see Him and hear from Him.
Mark continues to chronicle the story in verse 38 … “And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. [verse 39] And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.”  It is important to note, Christ did NOT set the agenda of what to do next, UNTIL He had prayed to His Father God to find out what it was.  The mission was set by God the Father, not the human will of Jesus Christ.  The strength to do this mission was provided through communion with God the Father, not based on the human strength of Jesus Christ.  Jesus does not tease Peter for being a disciple who lost his Lord (nor does He tease us).  Jesus also does not respond to any frustration in the voice of Peter, or address Peter’s potentially very selfish motives in trying to gain honor by being closest to Christ in proximity.  Instead, He ignores what might be the weakness of men, and stays focused on the will of His Father.  Christ does not demand the perfection of Peter before they move on to do the will of God, only Peter’s willingness to keep moving.
It will be the process of being with Christ that will one day bring perfection of character to Peter (as it is with us).  That process is nowhere near completion at this point, but it has begun.  Peter is NOT perfect, he does NOT have perfect doctrines or scriptural understanding – yet Christ is willing to continue to use him and be with him as they both set out to accomplish the will of His Father.  Jesus is more interested in Peter’s ability to love, than in his wisdom.  The mistakes Peter is sure to make do nothing to discourage Jesus from staying with Peter.  No, instead Jesus realizes that Peter will never slow down making mistakes unless he can witness firsthand what the will of God the Father is for mankind (and it still works this way for us).  Jesus is not depending on Peter to get the work done, He is honoring Peter with participation in the work Jesus performs Himself.  Jesus continues to preach, teach, and heal, even casting out demons.
Mark continues in verse 40 saying … “And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.”  Again, the social norms are to be upset.  Leprosy is fatal in this time, and easily contagious.  It is a living death sentence and those afflicted have time to endure the pain of rotting flesh, and isolation from everyone they knew or loved.  These souls are as “diseased” as you can get, and ostracized by those who are supposed to love them, for the fear of becoming like them.  How like us.  We look at those in the world, bound by sins that do not tempt our hearts, and our first response is to cast them out of our fellowship and condemn them for the sin ridden diseases they are enslaved to.  Instead of loving them back to redemption, we isolate them from our presence for “fear” of becoming like them.  But this is NOT the response Christ has.
Peter recalls to John Mark in verse 41 writing … “And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. [verse 42] And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.”  First things first, the man standing or kneeling before him is STILL sick.  He is NOT clean yet.  He is ridden with filth and rotting flesh, completely unworthy of standing in the presence of the most pure Son of God.  Christ looks at this rotting living corpse and does NOT move away, or move to isolate him, or get him away from his disciples.  Instead Jesus Christ is “moved with compassion”.  When our Lord looks upon us in our enslavement to the sins we have chosen to embrace, He is again “moved with compassion”.  That compassion is the reason for the gospel.  He is not here to condemn us, judge us, and righteously execute us for the sins we are plainly guilty of committing.  He is here to restore us unto Himself.  He immediately puts forth His hand and touches Him.  Immediate physical contact to a contagiously diseased man; a gesture of love no one will understand.  It is as if Christ is looking to get sick, but that is not how He sees it.
Instead Jesus does for the leper what He also does for us in our sins; instead of leaving us there in them, He removes them from our lives.  He heals this man.  Compassion, and a gesture of love and affirmation and intimacy are not enough, He follows through with a complete healing – of both the leper and of us.  Compassion drives Christ to change the life of the leper through healing.  It is no less so with our lives bound in the terminal disease of sin.  Compassion does not cause Christ to have a momentary event of pity for the leper and then simply move on, as nothing can be done for a person bound to a terminal incurable disease (much like sin).  Instead compassion motivates Christ to take an immediate and life altering interest in the leper to remove from him what was making him sick.  So it is with us.  The terminal disease of our sin is not something we can heal ourselves from.  We have chosen it, embraced it, and it is consuming us.  But our savior is moved with compassion to heal us, not leave us to rot in our sins.  He is the one who removes them from us, as we, like the leper allow Him to do so. 
Notice too, the effects of what Christ did are immediate and fully restorative.  Whatever fingers or toes, or facial features that have long since rotted away and fallen off of this poor man, are immediately re-created and restored to him.  He is not merely free of further disintegration; he is restored to his former natural state.  His nose and ears, and extremities work again.  His flesh is made clean by the power of Christ.  When our sin is removed from our lives, it does not just leave an empty hole in its place.  We too are restored, brought into alignment with the law of God, in harmony with it.  We begin to think differently, to love differently, and see scriptures more deeply through the lens of Jesus Christ.  And we discover the beauty of loving others, instead of loving only self.  Our restoration is also full, and in the process of time, we experience it deeper every day.
Mark continues the story in verse 43 … “And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; [verse 44] And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them.”  The secrecy the man is charged with has a primary purpose, to see the religious leadership come to redemption as well.  Christ hopes that in reminding the leadership of the church of His day, that restoration even from the most deadly disease was always possible when in harmony with the will and love of God the Father; that perhaps He can reach the hearts of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Crowd control, was only a secondary concern.  Redemption was always the primary.  Christ had and has no less interest in reaching the leaders of His church, as He does in the members of it.  But alas, men do, what men wish to do, even when directed by God to do something different.
Mark writes in verse 45 … “But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.”  If the man had followed the direction of Christ, perhaps the religious leaders might have joined in following Jesus.  But the healed leper did not follow instructions, and as a result the leaders only hardened their positions against this upstart, who seems to deny the counsel of Moses.  The exuberance of the former leper, and the marked physical differences in his appearance, were a testimony to the entire nation about what kind of restoration the Messiah had brought into their midst.  But like us, they did not see the parallels in the removal of sins, which is more important, they thought only of the physical difference an encounter with Christ could make.  Instead of seeing the deeper picture of restoration a dependence on Christ could make in their souls, freeing them from sins they had been bound to their entire lives, they saw only restored noses, ears, and eyes. 
The reward of our gospel, is not found in the prolonging of life in this world, it is found the alteration of how we live each day.  The gospel of dependence and restoration through Jesus Christ, may have the side benefit of making us see clearer, hear better, and smell more than we ever have before.  But the primary benefit is that it can enable us to love deeper than we ever have before.  The “success” of this gospel message does NOT rely on us.  It relies on the strength of Jesus Christ and His Father God.  We are merely honored to participate in a work He is already doing.  We like Peter and the others, have so often lost sight of our Lord, have to search to find Him again from our own choices to look away and trust to self.  But like the disciples of old, our value is defined in our proximity to Jesus, in our ability to introduce others to Him.  It is our dependence that will see us freed, restored, and reconciled to the side of Jesus Christ as He returns to take us home.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Author of Sabbath Rest ...

The letter of the Ten Commandment law tells us to “remember” and to keep the Sabbath Holy.  We are forbidden to work, or to have others work for us.  Over the years between the time of Moses and the time of Christ, much study and debate had gone in to the interpretation of those scriptures.  In the intervening period, Israel had suffered more than once for discarding God’s laws and pursuing the practices of their neighbors.  So the religious leadership in the day of Christ inheriting the wealth of study from prior generations and building upon it with their own collective wisdom, had developed a strict series of rules around Sabbath observance, that essentially turned the joy of spending time with God, into a drudgery that made life difficult during this day. 
Of course, the people of Israel had never been invaded because “how” they were keeping Sabbath was not up to the “high standards” God had set.  No, the people of Israel were invaded when they had so forsaken God because of indulging the free sexual expression of neighboring tribes that sex with temple prostitutes, and orgies in the woods, had led to the inevitable unwanted offspring with foreign women.  The female offspring were destined to become a new generation of idolatrous temple prostitutes themselves, while the male offspring became living sacrifices on the altars of Moloch and Baal.  When Israel had degenerated to the point of killing its own children without conscience, it was time to be invaded once again.  But rather than build strict guidelines to govern their sexuality and confine it to the intimacy of marriage between one man and one wife, the Pharisees spent their time crafting rules about Sabbath observance.  Divorce in fact was easy, Sabbath however was difficult.
It is in this time of tradition and rules regarding “how” Sabbath must be observed that the Messiah begins His ministry for our redemption.  Imagine how dismayed our God must have been, to see us systemically turn His day, which only He could have “made” Holy, into something that resembled more of a prison sentence, than a day of greatest intimacy with Himself.  Imagine how hard it must have been for Christ, who set aside His own work, in order to spend special time with us, to find that we had made the practice of spending time with Him so onerous, no one remained interested in doing it.  Sabbath observance then, like now, degenerated into two lines of thinking.  There were the ultra conservatives, who attempted to keep every tradition and rule set down by the church, in a doomed attempt at keeping something holy, which could never be defined by their miserable attempts at self-denial.  And there were those who simply threw in the towel, and decided no precautions were required, anything goes, because God made me who I am.  How the Author of Sabbath would restore the beauty of Sabbath was about to be revealed.
Peter recalls to John Mark in his gospel chapter one and verse 21 saying … “And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught.”  To begin, the traditional thinking about traveling on the Sabbath was discarded.  The Pharisees had set a limit of 1000 steps for the entire day, lest walking further might be interpreted as work.  Here, Jesus and His disciples travel to Capernaum with no thought about getting around, or limiting how far they would go on the day of Sabbath Rest.  They were not walking idly.  They were on a mission of redemption.  They were not paid couriers, or paid evangelists.  They were volunteer missionaries.  Instead of the apprehension that comes from strict observance of the “rules”, there was a sense of joy that comes from the privilege of joining with others to worship God on His day.
When they arrive at Capernaum on Sabbath, their first thought is NOT to check into a hotel.  They do not look for a restaurant to feed themselves.  Instead they head directly to the synagogue in order to worship.  Christ does NOT discard the practice of Sabbath observance, instead He intends to restore it to what it was intended to be.  He does not advocate we ignore Sabbath, but instead that we learn how to enjoy it with Himself and with like believers.  Notice too, He was uninvited.  He did not wait for a written invitation to come and speak, or for pay for doing so.  He goes because He wants to go.  He brings His disciples so they too can enjoy what is about to happen.  And He is NOT interested in being a silent wall flower that is there “feed Himself” with spiritual blessings.  He immediately begins to teach.
Mark continues in verse 22 … “And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.”  Christ did not discard the Laws He Himself had given to Moses, instead He honored them.  But this was not to be a debate about what it means to keep Sabbath Holy, this was a living example of what it means to truly worship God.  Through the lens of Jesus Christ, the scriptures came to life.  From the God who loves others above Himself, the written words on the page were interpreted for probably the first time, as they were intended to be understood.  His authority over the Word came from being present when it was written.  Jesus knew the stories first hand, because He was there when they occurred.  His mission of redemption became the central theme He reveals to the people present on this Sabbath day, and those listeners are blown away by His doctrines.  Christ taught with passion about the reconciliation of the people to their God.  This was not to be a simple history lesson, but a living, breathing, relationship that could impact the lives of those in attendance with the God of the Universe who loved them this much.
The people in attendance in church that day forgot all about lunch.  Ending the sermon right at 12 noon, so they could run home and fill their empty stomachs, had lost all traces of thought.  They wanted more of the word of God, they were living the admonition of Christ that men live not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  They longed for more.  They were intent to hear anything He would say.  Mysteries regarding the infinite love of God were being revealed through scripture in a way like they had never heard.  It was impacting every listener.  The Holy Spirit was being poured out in Capernaum and believers were having their eyes and ears opened by the voice of God in a way they had never dreamed possible.  Oh to have been in that crowd on that day.  Oh to have heard Jesus Christ preaching on Sabbath, the only right interpretation of scriptures we would ever hear.  These people were learning from the mouth of Jesus Christ Himself, an honor we must wait for.
Mark continues in verse 23 … “And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, [verse 24] Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.”  First, it is important to note, that in that crowd on this Sabbath day, was a man with an unclean spirit.  A man possessed of demons.  So why was he at church?  The devil has no interest in helping men find God.  But perhaps before Jesus entered this synagogue the devil had no fear that what was being taught there had “anything” to do with Truth.  This man was not raving mad, adorned in chains, and frothing at the mouth.  He likely was dressed nicely and known to his neighbors.  But he was no less possessed.  He was in church when he was supposed to be in church, on the right day, at the right time.  But he was no less possessed.  He may have helped take up the offering, or say a prayer, or sing a song – but he was no less possessed.
How sad that in our fellowship can walk one who appears to be a like-minded believer, yet is possessed of demons who influence his life.  How sadder still, that this person could be us.  We have no idea it is the case, because we believe “we” are in charge of our lives.  Yet we are bound in sin, enslaved to loving and pleasing ourselves, with no hope of actually glimpsing self-control, let alone living in it.  It is so easy to look at others, ferret out their sins, point the accusing finger, and then believe ourselves to be holier by comparison.  But it is a false comparison, for in so doing, we reveal our lack of love, and motives of envy and pride.  We do not even realize we are consumed by those vices whose author was Lucifer of old.  We do not even realize it is we who may well be controlled by a darker spirit who keeps us from loving and focused only on judging and condemnation.  Until out of our own mouths, comes the voice of a demon we had no idea was in us in the first place.
The demon knows the end of the story.  The demon knows he has lost the war with God, and will one day face his destruction.  Notice too, the demon makes no reference to hell.  He is not existing in some other-dimensional place where fire torments him day and night.  His question is more accurate, and pointed, being … is it time for us to be destroyed?  The “hell” that exists for fallen angels and for mankind is the same.  It is living life apart from the source of ALL love.  It is knowing that the perfect bliss of loving others does exist, but that we have chosen not to be a part of it, and remain enslaved to loving only self.  That is hell.  That is real.  That exists right now, right here, and requires no flames to inflict a torture all of its own, a torture of our own making. 
The demon is moved to cry out, because he hears the words of Love coming from the mouth of Christ.  His first cry is … “Let us alone”.  The luring words of love and redemption Christ is offering fallen mankind are too much for the demon to withstand.  The torture of knowing God’s love but powerless to embrace it again brings the demon to the breaking point.  He cries out again … “what have we to do with thee thou Jesus of Nazareth”.  The demon did not go looking to confront Christ, he was happy just making the life of this man miserable.  The demon complains that since he was not looking for a confrontation he should just be left alone.  But his selfishness blinds him to the misery he causes his host, the poor blind man, who probably did not even know he was being possessed.  So the demon decides to do what he knows will be the most destructive thing he can do to stop the ministry of Christ … he decides to identify for all the listeners that “this man” is the literal Son of God.  To “out Christ” as divinity this early is sure to stir up controversy and cause those who might listen to shut Him off, due to preconceived ideas.
Mark continues in verse 25 saying … “And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. [verse 26] And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him.”  Jesus forbids the demon to say anything more, whatever damage he has caused will not be tolerated to continue.  And the demon is compelled to obey.  If Christ had been a mere mortal, created a little lower than the angels, and having no divinity within Him, the demon could have easily resisted.  Angels do not take commands from men.  They are stronger than us, wiser, and have lived for eons past our few little years.  But the demon was not talking with just a “Rabbi”, or a “prophet”, he was conversing with the Son of God.  He tore his victim, and cried out with a loud voice, but he said nothing more, and he left his host.  In a twist of irony, on the Sabbath day, in the house of God, it is a demon who once again affirms the identity of Jesus Christ.
Peter recalls the response to John Mark as he writes in verse 27 saying … “And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. [verse 28] And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.”  Those in that temple immediately assumed it was the doctrines of Christ that enabled Him to command demons to obey.  But then the realization it was also with authority that he commanded them and they did obey.  Notice too, the demon was more than one, the words “us” and “they” are used in conjunction with this event.  The fame of these events, the words of the demon, and the freedom from the bondage of possession would spread far and wide across all of Galilee.
The scene then transitions Mark writes in verse 29 … “And forthwith, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.”  After this miracle, church service is over.  So Jesus goes to Peter’s house with His disciples, presumably for a lovely Sabbath afternoon lunch.  Mark continues in verse 30 … “But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and anon they tell him of her. [verse 31] And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered unto them.”  Peter’s mother in law was sick that day, stricken by a severe fever that had left her bed ridden.  Jesus takes her by the hand, lifts her up, and the fever leaves her.  Jesus does not do this, because they are short help in the kitchen.  Instead He does this because He cannot pass by even one person in need.  Peter records it, because it is yet another healing performed by Christ on the Sabbath day.  Acts of love and redemption were the way the Sabbath was meant to be enjoyed, this is what the Author of the Sabbath had in mind.
Notice too, Jesus and his disciples do not go to a restaurant to find their food and sustenance.  They go instead where they are invited, and they receive the food that was offered to them.  The ministry of serving food to Jesus and his companions is accepted without a rebuke, or admonition to be careful “how” the meal is served and cleaned up.  We assume in the house of a fisherman, the diet would be a simple one of pita bread, fish, and perhaps some olive oil.  Peter was not a wealthy man, but he was honored to have His Lord in his home this fine Sabbath day.  Then he recalls that Christ spent the day in fellowship with Peter and his disciples and family.  Perhaps Jesus taught his mother in law, wife, and others in attendance what it means to love others like He loves them.  It is interesting though, the following texts would reveal that a great number of the people in the region still clung to the traditions of the Pharisees where it comes to Sabbath observance.  Note the following texts.
Mark continues in verse 32 saying … “And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. [verse 33] And all the city was gathered together at the door. [verse 34] And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.”  The people of the region wait until sunset, when the Sabbath is officially over, before they bring Jesus Christ those who were sick and possessed with devils in order to be healed.  Perhaps the people were afraid to walk too far to find relief.  Perhaps they believed it a “sin” to seek relief on the Sabbath day itself.  But Peter dispels those ideas by citing his own mother in law’s experience with Jesus before lunch.  You will also note, Jesus does not condemn these people for waiting until after Sabbath to seek healing.  There is no lecture about how they are “doing it wrong”.  It is only His own heart, that so longed to give them relief earlier, yet none would ask.
Notice too, whether they were sick or not, the entire city gathered at the door of Peter.  Many just wanted to see what Christ could or would do, and they were not disappointed.  All those who later would demand “yet another miracle” and they would believe in Jesus, would have had to have forgotten the events at Capernaum on this day.  No matter what the disease Jesus healed them all.  Jesus forbid the devils to speak, so they could not injure His ministry further, but drive them out He did.  The Author of the Sabbath was not present to condemn the people for “how” they kept that day.  He was there to liberate them from their own chains and ideas.  He was there to free them from the possession of sin they had no idea they were enslaved by.  He was there to meet their every need with acts of love that defined His life of service to others.  Jesus did not use the Sabbath as an excuse to setup a health clinic, justifying performing health works on Sabbath.  But He did not delay meeting a need when it was presented just because it was Sabbath either.
To study the behavior of the Author of Sabbath is to change how we think about what it means to keep that time Holy.  It changes what we are intended to “remember”.  It changes the nature of joy we can experience when spending time with Dad.  It can even change what it means to truly worship our God.  And the lessons of Jesus Christ had only just begun …