This month

Sunday 29th May 2024 - Martin Mowat

Joseph 8 - Readings: Genesis 42:29-38 & Romans 8:28-32, 35, 37-39 

In the new year we started a series about Jacob and Joseph, but what with Lent, Easter, and messages from David, Jess and Aaron twice, and then Pentecost last week, it has turned out to be all somewhat disjointed.  I’m sorry.  God willing, we should be able to get it wrapped up over the next few weeks without any further interruptions. 

Last time we left Jacob with an agonising decision to make.  There had been two years of famine, for which he and his family had been totally unprepared, so he’d sent 10 of his sons to Egypt to buy grain for their big family, and transport it back to Canaan.  Joseph, now the Egyptian Home Affairs Minister, had happened to see them standing in line.  Pretending to be a real Egyptian, he’d accused them of being spies, arrested Simeon, and sent the others packing back to Jacob, saying that he would only release Simeon if they returned with Benjamin.

So, that was Jacob’s dilemma. Would he allow his sons to take Benjamin from him so that the Egyptian official could meet him, or would he keep him at home and allow Simeon to fester in jail?  Can you imagine having to make a decision like that? But we’ve just heard what he decided.  Simeon could fester; Benjamin would stay. 

At this point in the story Joseph had been in Egypt for over 20 years.  The first 13 had been spent working for Potiphar, and then in prison, and since then he’d been Pharaoh’s right-hand man for about 9 years.

He must have longed to see his young brother Benjamin again, but probably thought that it would never happen. Now, amazingly, incredibly, maybe, just maybe, it was going to happen. As I’ve said before in this series, and as we’ve just heard, Paul told the Romans that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, those who have been called according to his purpose.” And Joseph had certainly been ‘called according to God’s purpose’. “If God is for us, Paul went on to say, who can be against us?”

When the nine brothers returned home from their grain buying adventure, their worst fears were realised.  Jacob was NOT happy with them. They had now managed to lose TWO of his sons, and on top of that, to all intents and purposes they had stolen the grain in Egypt, because they still had the money they had been sent with, and would never be able to show their faces there again. His family was in deep trouble, and so he flatly refused to allow Benjamin out of his sight. If he did, he thought, things could ONLY get worse. 

But hunger is very powerful thing. We don’t know how long it took but as the family eked out their daily rations, it became increasingly clear to all of them, poor old Jacob included, that a return to Egypt, with all the risks that it involved, was their only option.

In our first reading we finished Genesis 42. Chapter 43 starts with these words “Now the famine was still severe in the land.  So, when they had eaten all the grain they had brought from Egypt, their father reluctantly said to them, ‘Go back and buy us a little more food.’

Judah, one of the brothers, reminded his father of the condition that Joseph had made for Simeon’s release, and this of course triggered another tirade from Jacob.  ‘Why did you bring this trouble on me by telling the man you had another brother? I mean, use your intelligence for goodness sake!(Italics mine.)

There had probably been many such explosions over the last few days, weeks and months, but eventually Jacob had to face the inevitable, and let go of his last and most precious possession. 

Are there things that you’ve been holding onto that have prevented God from fulfilling His purpose for your life?

Judah promised faithfully, on the lives of his two children, that he would bring Benjamin back safe and sound, but Jacob probably thought “Oh yes? I’ve heard all that before.” 

‘If it must be, he told them, then do this: put some of the best products of the land in your bags and take them down to the man as a gift – a little balm and a little honey, some spices and myrrh, some pistachio nuts and almonds. Take double the amount of silver with you, for you must return the silver that was put back into the mouths of your sacks. Perhaps it was a mistake.  Take Benjamin also and go back to the man at once.  And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man so that he will let both Simeon and Benjamin come back with you. As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved. And may God Almighty grant you mercy before the man.

Jacob was a man of God, even though he was far from perfect.  Now, in his hour of greatest need, when he was at his most vulnerable, he could ONLY trust in his God.

And then, when they’d left, there was the waiting …. Heartfelt prayers as he lay awake at night, trying not to think about what might be happening to his precious sons.

And then, thinking about them, can you even begin to imagine all their emotions as they set off back to Egypt? 

The moment Joseph set eyes on them he ordered for Simeon to be released and for a lavish lunch to be prepared. Once more the brothers must have wondered what on earth was going on, for them, mere foreign farmers, to be treated like VIPs.  But even stranger still, Joseph made them sit opposite him in the order of their ages. 

“No way could this be coincidence”, they must have thought. “Is this some kind of ambush, or just a bad joke?” I can imagine them giving each other sideways questioning looks up and down the table. And as if that wasn’t enough, Benjamin, now a grown man, of course, was given FIVE times as much food as his brothers. I’ve read that perhaps Joseph was testing the older ones to see if they’d react with the same resentment to Benjamin, that they had shown to him all those years ago. 

But there was no time for the brothers to waste wondering about all these strange things. The very next morning the caravan set out back to Canaan, back to Jacob, and this time all 11 of them were allowed to go.  Oh, they thought, Daddy is going to be so happy when he sees us all safe and sound. 

But their euphoria was short lived. Joseph had something else in store for them.

They had not gone far from the city’ Genesis tells us, when they heard a police syren behind them. “Oh sh…! Now what?” they must have thought, “what on earth…?”

The brothers were frisked and searched. Joseph’s favourite silver cup was found in Benjamin’s possession, and he was immediately arrested. The others were told that they were free to go home, but for them that wasn’t an option, so they followed the guards back to the city and pleaded, pleaded with Joseph’s steward for Benjamin’s release.  Their very worst fears had been realised. The nightmare was just going from bad to worse. No way could they go back to Jacob with news like this, he’d have their guts for garters. 

Again, we ask ourselves exactly what Joseph was playing at. Was this some kind of perverted revenge? I don’t think so. But we have to notice the irony of the fact that once again, the same 10 brothers who had trafficked Joseph, were being sent back to their father to report the loss of another son.

Whatever it was though, Judah’s pleading Benjamin’s innocence, and explaining to the steward that this was going to break their father’s heart, was more than Joseph could cope with.  He ordered his attendant staff out of his presence and told his brothers who he was. Of course they didn’t believe him at first, but when they did, oh, what emotions as the 12 of them were reunited. The tears of joy, the apologies, the forgiving, the hugging, the catching up on all the family news. ‘Is my father still alive?’ Joseph asked, not once but at least three times. ‘How is he doing? Go and get him, bring him here, I want to see him, to love him, to provide for him in his dotage, …’

For Joseph there would be no more recriminations. No more harsh words. No more retribution. This was like Christmas, Easter, and his 40th birthday all rolled into one. A day for celebration.  There was so much fuss going on that even Pharaoh got to hear about it, and he was glad. 

We’re going to pick up the story here next week, because it’s sooooo rich, but in conclusion for today, Joseph, when he was finally alone with his brothers, opened his arms and said to them “Come close to me”? At that moment Joseph had the power to have all of them locked up or even executed. But instead, he reached out to them in love and forgiveness. 

What a wonderful picture this is of us. We are guilty of all of those things that the brothers did, of jealousy, of rebellion, of lying, of animosity, I won’t go on.

But as Joseph opened his arms and reached out to his brothers, so Jesus, on the cross, reached out to us, in love and forgiveness, grace, mercy, salvation, and all the wonders of a personal relationship with him.  

19th May 2024 - Martin Mowat

Pentecost Sunday

 

We’ll have our readings in a minute or two. But first I want to say that at Pentecost we remember, and celebrate one of the strangest events in the Bible.  

 

Just imagine, the 12 disciples, 12 because although poor Judas had committed suicide, Matthias had been elected to take his place, imagine them skulking in their upper room

 

They were confused, because what had happened over the past few weeks wasn’t what any of them had expected, particularly the way that Jesus had disappeared into the sky, not to be seen or heard of since.

 

Immediately before that, though, there had been a strange conversation with him. It was while he was eating with them, ‘Do not leave Jerusalem, he’s said, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptised with water, but in a few days, you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.

They had gathered round him and asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ But he’d answered ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’

 

And it was then that he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

 

That was their last conversation with him.

 

Now, to add insult to injury, they’re wanted men. The authorities are after them. So they are skulking, and in that upper room, probably the same one where they had had the last supper, a place where they felt safe.

 

Well, they weren’t just skulking, if I’m honest, they were praying too. Well, they would be, wouldn’t they?

 

Then, out of the blue, something amazing, something completely without precedent, something totally unexpected happened. Let’s hear about it. 

 

1st reading. Acts 2:1-12

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.  They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.  When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard their own language being spoken. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?  Then how is it that each of us hears them in our native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!”  Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?”

This was a real event, witnessed by many people, but what on earth did it mean? That was the question they were all asking. Wouldn’t you ask the same question? But more importantly for us here in Mirepoix, « What on earth does it mean for us, - today? »

 

Peter immediately stood up and explained it all to them. Let’s listen to a few excepts from what he said.

 

2nd reading Acts 2:14-17, 22-24, 32-33, 36-38

Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These people are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. ….

 

“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. …. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. ….. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

That was then. What about today? Peter gives us the answer in the very next verse. That promise he said is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.

Is that us, or is that us?  And yet some Christians are afraid of the Holy Spirit as if it was something a bit creepy.

But “it” is actually a “he”.

And while the disciples may have been bemused by the way he had manifested himself, I think they all knew exactly what was going on, because I’m sure that Jesus would have explained it all to them in great detail. This was no surprise to them, nor was it in any way creepy.

God the Father - OK. God the Son, Jesus, - OK, but God the Holy Spirit - not so sure!

 

But that’s not logical. He was, after all, a GIFT. What had Jesus told them that day? “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised” and “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Relatively early on in his ministry, teaching on prayer, Jesus famously said Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’

 

This isn’t just any gift – it’s a GOOD GIFT.  One that we don’t need to be afraid to receive.

Who is he then, this Holy Spirit?  Quite simply he is the spirit of Jesus. When we give our hearts and lives to him, he gives his spirit to us in return. And according to the apostle John. « He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. » Far greater even than Satan in other words.

 

This is HUGE.

 

What is his role? Since Easter Lectio 365 has been talking about the different facets of Holy Spirit, saying

1.     that he is like water that brings life, wherever it flows, to those who are spiritually thirsty.

2.     that he is a fire that sets our hearts on fire, giving us a passion to share the good news of the gospel

3.     that he is an anointing

4.     and that, as we heard from Genesis at the beginning of our service, he is the hovering presence of God.


That’s not too scary is it?

 

This was what the disciples had been waiting for.

 

This was the day on which the church was born, birthed by the Holy Spirit of God.

 

What were its distinguishing characteristics in those early days, weeks, months and years ?

-         the fellowship of believers – Lectio talked about that this morning

-         the fruit of the spirit were manifest – Galatians 5 - love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. 

-          the gifts of the spirit were distributed – 1 Corinthians 12 – They were given, Paul tells us, for the common good. To one there is given, through the Spirit, a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge …, to another faith …, to another gifts of healing …, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines

-          and the church grew.  Thousands were baptised that first Pentecost, and those new Christians began enthusiastically sharing that good news in a world that was just as sceptical and self-interested as ours is today.

 

Can I conclude by saying that in the early 1980s, Charlotte and I attended a pentecostal church in Buckingham? Our pastor’s favourite Bible passage was about a prophet called Ezekiel who was taken by God to a valley where there were “a great many” dry bones.  

‘Son of man, said God, can these bones live?’ ‘Sovereign Lord, you alone know.’ ‘Prophesy to these bones and say to them, “Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! … I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. 

So he prophesied as he was commanded. And as he was prophesying, this is the bit that I love, as he was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. He looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.

Then God said to him, ‘Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.”’ So he prophesied as God had commanded him, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet – a vast army.

Then he said to him: ‘Son of man, these bones are the people of Israel. They say, “Our bones are dried up and our hope is gone; we are cut off.” Therefore prophesy and say to them: “This is what the Sovereign Lord says: my people, I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them; … I will put my Spirit in you and you will live, ….

Let’s pray …  Father God, Abba, thank you so much for your written word, thank you that the more we read it and study it the more we see you, God in three persons, and the more we learn about who you are, how you work, and how you use willing people. 

We can all to easily behave like those dry bones. Forgive us, Lord, for our self-centeredness and our arrogance.  Forgive us for our lack of understanding and for our unbelief.  Holy Spirit, cleanse us and change us, teach us and use us.  In Jesus precious name we pray.  Amen.


Aaron Johnson - 12th May

Mark 10:17-27. The Rich Young Ruler


17.  As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.’[a]

20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is[b] to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.

 

Sports and me don’t go very well together. I’ve never been any good at any sports.

 

Apart from a brief flirtation with badminton 25 years ago. I joined a ‘badminton for beginner’s’ club and I was surprised to find that I quite enjoyed it! So I asked one of my teaching colleagues if she fancied playing sometime, and she sad ‘Yes’. So we would regularly play badminton in the school hall--- and  I won every single time!

‘Hey’! I said to myself. ‘Maybe you’re not so bad at sports after all’!

 

So when I asked a guy at our church for a game I was feeling pretty confident. And he absolutely hammered me! He stood in the centre of the court and would just take one step to the right or left to hit my shots, while he had me running all over the court like crazy! I was totally humiliated--- and I learned a very important lesson that night:

How good you are, depends on who you are comparing yourself to!

 

                                                   *      *      *

In Mark ch 10, the young man learns a similar lesson.

 

He wants to know how to get to heaven, and like most people, he assumes it is to do with being good. ‘Do enough good things in this life and God will be delighted to open up those Pearly Gates and let you walk right in’, we all think.

 

V:17 ‘Good Teacher’ he starts--- and Jesus picks him up straight away, saying: ‘Hang on a minute--- no one is good except God’!

 

No one is good? Surely that can’t be right? I know lots of good people--- most of the people in my family are good. And I bet it’s the same in your family too. My friends are good people--- and surely our church is full of good people!

 

But Jesus wants this young man to know--- and He wants you and me to know--- that when you compare our goodness to God’s goodness, we don’t measure up so well anymore.

 

Because how good you are, depends on who you are comparing yourself to!

 

v.19, Jesus turns the man’s attention to the 10 Commandments which were given to Moses hundreds of years previously.

 

Mark 10:19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.”

 

‘Get in’ thinks the young man. ‘I’ve ticked every one of those boxes!

If that’s what Jesus says I need to do to get into heaven, then I’m in!

‘Here’s my CV Jesus. I’ve kept every one of them since I was a kid’!

 

But hang on a minute--- there are 10 commandments, and Jesus didn’t quote them all. He only listed 6 of them! Where are the other 4? Things like ‘You shall have no other God’s before Me, and Don’t have any idols’ are missing.

 

They are deliberately missing, because Jesus wants the man to work out for himself that the ones He missed out are the ones he has been breaking! And to prove His point, Jesus shatters the young man’s smugness by saying ch10:21 ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

 

Gently and lovingly, Jesus showed him the commandments he hadn’t kept. ‘You shall have no other God’s before Me’--- and the sad truth is that for this rich young man, he chose his God because money had become everything to him.  

 

                                                   *      *      *

What about you? Do you have any idols?

 

If you are a parent, you will have heard the words ‘Mummy--- look at me!

Daddy--- look what I can do!

And it might be a painting that you aren’t able to make out which way it goes--- or it might be a cartwheel or a learning to ride a bike.

 

It carries on right through their adult lives. ‘Mummy--- look at me’ cries the 40-year-old who has got a promotion at work.   

Daddy--- look what I can do! When the 50-year-old completes an extension on their house.

 

We all get our identity--- our sense of value from what we have achieved and through what we own.

 

This rich young man gained his sense of self-worth through the amount of hard cash he had available to him. But if you build your life on anything expect the God who made you and loves you--- whether it is your career, your social status, your looks, your family, your hobbies, or your possessions--- if you build your life on any of these things, they will always let you down.

 

So let me ask you--- what are those things that you dream about when you lay your head down on your pillow before you go to sleep? Are they your idols?

 

Because if they are, God said in the second commandment that you should not have them, because they have taken the place that God rightfully has in your heart.

If anything is at the centre of your life instead of Almighty God, then you are just like this young man and can’t claim to be as ‘good’ as he believed himself to be.

 

The rich young man went to Jesus asking about eternal life--- but walked away from it because the things of this world that promise so much--- but deliver so little had got a stranglehold on his heart. And he walked away sad, v22.

 

Jesus challenged him to choose between God and money--- and when he walked away he had made his choice--- he had chosen his god--- but it wasn’t one that could give him eternal life. He became so poor that all he had left was his money.

 

Isn’t that tragic?

 

                                             *       *       *

Going back to the rich young man is our bible passage, the first thing he said to Jesus was:  Mark 10:17 ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life’?

 

He also wanted to earn his ‘success’. He believed he was fulfilling all of God’s laws--- but maybe there was still another hoop to jump through. The young man knew that there was a gap between him and God, so he was prepared to do something extra, on top of his good moral behaviour to get there. 

 

And is it the same for everyone--- the gap between a holy God and people like you and me is too great!  The thing is though--- there is still a gap--- which takes us back to the rich young man’s question: Mark 10:17 ‘Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life’? But the problem is, you never know if you’ve done enough!

 

The bible says in Romans 3:23 [We] all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. No matter how much you do, it will never be enough!

 

But thankfully, biblical Christianity is spelled D-O-N-E. Which means that what we can’t do for ourselves, Jesus Christ has done for us. He lived the perfect life you can’t--- and He laid down His life when He died on the cross to pay the penalty for the wrong things we have done.

 

And the greatest sin of all is to ignore Almighty God and live as if we are the centre of the universe--- which we’re not! So to become right with God is to humbly receive God’s gift of forgiveness and submit yourself to His rightful authority over your life.

And when we do that, He accepts us into His family and begins to change us from the inside out.

 

This is wonderful Good News that the rich young man didn’t stay around long enough to receive! How sad. How tragic.

 

I implore you--- don’t make the same mistake as him!

Don’t walk away from the offer of eternal life with the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

                                                *      *      *

But let me draw your attention to the passage just before the one we have been looking at. In Mark 10:13, we read: 13 People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

 

These children had nothing to offer Jesus when they were brought forward by their parents. They hadn’t done anything to deserve His love and acceptance, had they?

 

But listen to what Jesus says in v.14: Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’

 

The children did nothing to earn acceptance by Jesus. All they did was to come to Him--- and He welcomed them!

 

This is the answer to the rich young man’s question about how to receive eternal life--- it wasn’t by doing something--- you have to receive it as a gift!

 

                                             *       *       *

Last month we took two of our grandsons shopping to buy them tennis racquets for their birthdays.

 

Now imagine, if when we gave them their presents, they looked us in the eye and said ‘Thanks very much. How much do I owe you?’

 

We’d be shocked, wouldn’t we? No--- you don’t owe us anything--- it’s a gift!

 

But then if they asked us “do you want us to cut the grass or wash the dishes to earn them?”

We’d be upset and say “No, we don’t want you to do anything to earn them. We want you just to receive them as a gift because we love you!”

 

And so it is with God and His free offer of salvation. We can’t do anything to earn eternal life--- it’s a gift from a loving God. It is a free gift by the God who made you and loves you very much! All we have to do is to receive the gift--- which was paid for by the death of the Lord Jesus.

 

To get into the kingdom of God is not achieved by the good things we have done. It’s about receiving God’s love and forgiveness. And all you need to do is receive it like a child on his birthday! Gladly.

 

                                             *       *      

So if you are a Christian--- rejoice and praise God for His wonderful love for you!

 

But if you are not yet a Christian, then you need to know that God sent the Lord Jesus to bless you with love, forgiveness. Turn to Jesus… no one is too old or too bad to turn to Him and start a new life with Him as your saviour.

 

Do it now, if you have never done so before… do it today… and you will be glad for all eternity that you did! 


Aaron Johnson - May 5th 2024 - Jesus does more than we can ask or even imagine! 

Readings:  Mark 2:1-12 & Philippians 2:5-11

Mark 2:1-12

2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

 

Here is a job description you might recognise. 

 

Wanted a nanny for two adorable children
If you want this choice position, Have a cheery disposition
Rosy cheeks, no warts! Play games, all sort
You must be kind, you must be witty Very sweet and fairly pretty
Take us on outings, give us treats Sing songs, bring sweets

If you won't scold and dominate us
We will never give you cause to hate us
We won't hide your spectacles so you can't see 

Put toads in your bed or pepper in your tea


Hurry, Nanny!
Many thanks Sincerely,
Jane and Michael Banks:

 

It is the job description for Mary Poppins, isn’t it? The two children, Jane & Michael, have a pre-conceived idea of what they want their new nanny to be, so they write down all the characteristics she should have. And they get exactly what they wanted! 

 

I wonder if you have a pre-conceived idea of what you want Jesus to be? 

 

A good teacher? A magician, who did lots of clever tricks like walking on water and stopping the storms? A poor bloke who got caught and crucified--- cut off in the prime of life

 

Let’s look at what the Bible says about Jesus--- and we’ll see if it can help our understanding of who He really is!   

 

*             *           *

Jesus was in someone’s house, teaching them about God. Verse 2 tells us that the place is packed! Some of the crowd there are desperate to hear about God, Some are there because Jesus is getting a reputation for doing some wonderful miracles, so there might be a bit of a show going on! 

And some… these teachers of the law… are there because they are His enemies. 

 

So while Jesus is teaching the crowds, four friends arrive with their mate strapped onto a stretcher. He was a paraplegic. They try to get near Jesus because they have faith that Jesus is able to do help their sick friend. 

 

Can you see them trying to push through the crowd? “’Scuse me… sick man on a bed here… needs to be right at the front where Jesus is. Scuse me!” 

 

But the crowd have no compassion in their hearts. So up onto the roof they go. There was probably a staircase up the outside of the house, in typical Middle Eastern tradition. And they estimate the spot where Jesus is… and they get stuck in! 

 

I love the mental picture of these guys talking about it. One is saying, “Go on. Go for it--- Jesus won’t mind!” But another one says “You’re crazy! You can’t go digging a hole in someone’s roof! Do you know how much that is going to cost us?” But dig they do. 

 

And it must have been a hole about 6 foot by 4 foot to get a stretcher through! And as luck would have it, they are right above Jesus head! Excellent! 

 

Only Jesus has just got showered with a whole load of plaster and rubble! And here is Jesus… the greatest preacher ever… showered with plaster and rubble... and he’s only half way through the second point of His sermon!  Imagine the tension in the room as the stretcher guy is slowly lowered! It’s really quite a hilarious picture! 

 

*             *           *

And as the stretcher is lowered, I am blown away by what happens next. Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 

 

Nobody expected that. Everyone expected Jesus to say ‘Get up and walk! Instead He said "Your sins are forgiven." 

 

I wonder what the man on the stretcher thought? Did he reply under his breath “Eh… thanks… but actually I’m here to get my legs sorted! They don’t work you know!” 

 

But Jesus knows that the Stretcher Guy’s main problem is not his legs--- but his sin!  Jesus is saying “I understand. I’ve seen that you are helpless and need the support of your mates here--- good job there by the way guys--- but you need to realise what the main problem in your life and everybody else’s!”  

 

As he turned to the crowd he said… “Your biggest problem is not your health--- it’s your sin!” Wow! Just like that… straight to the jugular!  

 

We sometimes read the word ‘sin’ in the papers but what does it mean? When the Bible uses the word ‘sin’ its not just referring to the bad things we do--- it’s not the stealing and the lying that’s the problem. 

 

Our biggest sin is ignoring God. Sin is rebelling against God by living without Him in our lives! Sin is saying “It’s my life--- my rules!”

 

And Jesus says that is our biggest problem. Jesus is saying to this paralysed man “By coming to Me and asking only for your body to be healed, you are not going deep enough! You have underestimated the longings of your heart!”

 

*             *           *

The stretcher guy had probably spent years saying “If only I could walk, everything would be right! I’d never be unhappy again!” But Jesus is saying “When I heal your body, it will be great for a few months… maybe even years! But after a while, life will get ordinary again. 

Your feeling of excitement wont last… your discontentment goes deeper than that!”

 

The Stretcher Guy is like a struggling actor or musician, who after years of taking bit parts and working in a restaurant, saying, “If only I could make it!” And eventually they get the success they have been striving for--- and what happens? They become unstable, angry and arrogant--- Because the awful realisation dawns on them--- they are still the same person inside!  And this disillusionment turns them into a howling, insufferable wreck! 

 

But Jesus is saying “I have got something better for you!” When Jesus says “Your sins are forgiven!” He is saying something so unexpected that the teachers of the law react with “Who does this fella think he is?”

 

                                       *          *          *

Picture 3 friends, Tom, Dick and Harry having a coffee one day. And as they chat, an argument develops--- and Harry gets so angry with Tom and whacks him across the face. While Tom is holding his cheek, Dick says to Harry, “Its ok Harry I forgive you.” 

 

What is Tom going to say to that? He is going to say “Oi Dick… I am the one who got slapped so I’m the only one forgive Harry! It’s not yours to forgive!”

 

So when Jesus says “Your sins are forgiven!” He is saying “Your sins have been against Me… and I forgive you!” The only person who can forgive a man’s sins is God! Jesus, by claiming to be able to forgive the stretcher guy’s sins--- is claiming to be God Almighty! The teachers of the law know it…. This man Jesus is not just claiming to be a miracle worker… He is claiming to be the Lord of the Universe! 

 

*             *           *

So this brings the teachers of the law--- remember they are enemies of Jesus---  to a crossroads in their understanding of Jesus: either He is blaspheming--- and by that we don’t mean swearing---  we mean He is making himself equal with God the Father--- or He is saying He is God! 

 

Which one is it? Is Jesus really God or is He blaspheming? 

 

What do you say? This is a vitally important question! 

 

We do not have the option of saying that Jesus was a good man, who did jolly nice things while He lived on earth. You know… healed the sick, kind to His mother, patted dogs on the head!  No! That is nonsense! We don’t have that option with Jesus! 

 

Either He is who He said He was… and He has just claimed to be God… or He is an utter fraud! There is no other option! 

 

So Jesus proved it when He said: Mark 2:9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…" He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 

 

Jesus does the visible thing, which is to tell the guy on the stretcher to walk, so they will know He can do the invisible thing, which is to forgive his sins.   He proves He has the authority to forgive sin by telling the man to walk--- proving He is God! 

 

Only God could read the thoughts of the Scribes. And only God could tell the man his sins were forgiven and leave his heart filled with peace! 

 

So when Jesus forgave the stretcher guy his sins, He was proving himself equal with Almighty God! So Jesus again shows His authority when He tells the man on the stretcher to get up, pick up his mat and walk!  

 

And he did. 

 

                                       *          *          *

I am a proud Newcastle boy... a Geordie. 

 

Just outside Newcastle is the Angel of the North--- have you seen it? It is a huge angel that stands 20 metres tall--- with his arms permanently outstretched--- and that is just how the Lord Jesus is for you. His arms are always outstretched--- because He loves you. 

 

So Christian--- when you have failed through your sin and failed through your lack of love for God and for other people--- run into those outstretched arms and find the healing your heart needs. He will never turn you away. 

 

And if you are not yet a Christian--- and you feel a tug in your heart that says you need to know Jesus and to worship Him--- run into those outstretched arms--- confess your sin, ask forgiveness and declare your need for Him. He will never turn you away. 

 

To all of us, the Lord Jesus “You’re sorry... great... let’s start again,” as He wraps His outstretched, loving arms around you. 

 

Because of Him--- the Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered and died for your sins--- for He had no of His own--- you can approach Almighty God confidently. This is wonderful Saviour, who loves you very much! 

 

Praise his holy Name!