Tag Archives: Mark 2

The Path of Questions

Winter Wonderland Road by Andrew Young

Often our journey with Christ is like this snowy roadway, uncertain and slippery. We seek certainty and God gives us surprises and questions.

This morning in our Men’s Bible Study as we read Mark 2 and 3 together, I was struck by how many questions Jesus asked:

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? Mark 2:9

The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? Mark 2:19

Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save life or to kill? Mark 3:4

How can Satan cast out Satan? Mark 3:23

Who are my mother and my brothers? Mark 3:33

I realized that several of these questions are rhetorical in nature. Jesus answered them himself in short order. Still he asked questions to push and to prod his listeners to think about their faith, to consider how their faith in God impacted their lives. The questions are something that we as readers of the gospel should take seriously.

As a pastor I am often asked questions by congregants about current theological issues. Such as, “Must someone confess Jesus Christ as Lord in order to go to heaven?” or “Is the Bible literally true when it says _________________?” I sometime like being the expert, the answer man. It seems to gives me a certain status or recognition. However there is a danger if I answer too quickly. I can possibly cut off the conversation one is having with God, wrestling with the question. The “chewing” on the question can push us to deeper trust and faith in God.

Jesus seemed to recognize this, often answering a question with a question. Clearly he was the “expert” who knew the answer, but he sought a deeper trust relationship with the questioner and also with us, the modern reader.  He showed us that his path is not like a superhighway, but  more often a winding path on a winter’s day.

So pay attention to the questions Jesus asked by asking yourself, “What is Jesus trying to teach me?” 

Lord Jesus, help me not to settle for easy answers, but to trust you to guide my wandering journey.

P.S.  Andy Young is my nephew in Seattle and has a great photo slide show on Facebook.

New Wineskins

C. S. Lewis wrote an excellent book on literary criticism, An Experiment in Criticism, that is applicable to how one reads scripture. Lewis argues that a critic should not take preconceived opinions into the reading of a book, but remain open to receive what the writer brings. Our culture too quickly labels a book as good or bad and that judgment is often based on some arbitrary taste. Lewis argues that a book would be better judged by what kind of response it elicits from the reader. Does the reader cherish the book and want to read it over and over, reflecting on its meaning, prose and insights?

An open stance towards the reading of scripture is even more important. We need to allow our mind to hear the text. We cannot simply make our own quick evaluation of it nor rely on the comments of a biblical commentary. We need to read Luke as Luke and distinguish it from the perspective of Matthew, Mark and John. We need to keep our own evaluation process out of the reading and allow the text to speak to us, on its own terms. In other words, let the text shape and critique me and not the other way around.

This can be challenging since so much of my reading of scripture has been shaped by what others may have taught or preached. I bring my biases and cultural norms that are hard to place aside so that the text can speak. I struggle to be quiet and receptive to what God may say through the Word. Yet as I open myself, trusting the Holy Spirit to work through the text, I discover the life giving Word.

It sort of like Jesus’ teaching that one put new wine into new wineskins, so that as the wine ferments and expands, the wineskin has the flexibility to expand and adapt (Mark 2:22). Old wineskins lack the flexibility to expand and instead burst.  My openness to God’s Spirit allows the wine of the Spirit to expand and shape my wineskin of thought and action. I want to be a new wineskin, receptive to the transforming power of God’s Word. And I pray that my congregation and national church would be new wineskins as well.

How do you stay open and receptive to God’s Word?

Lord Jesus, fill me again with your new wine.

Go Home

What path are you following?

When I read the Gospel of Mark, I am struck by how quickly certain people left everything to follow Jesus. Peter, Andrew, James and John immediately left their fishing nets to follow Jesus (Mark 1:18). Levi left his tax booth and followed him (Mark 2:14). I think to myself, “I could never make such a radical, instantaneous decision like them.” The text helps me examine the depth of my conviction to follow Jesus.

Today I was reading the story of the paralytic in Mark 2. Four friends stopped at nothing to place the paralytic in the sight of Jesus. Their plan was that he would be healed. But Jesus’ home was so filled that they could not enter. They still made a way. Jesus then made the controversial move of saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The religious hierarchy had a fit because they did think Jesus had the authority to forgive sins. Jesus could see their skeptical thoughts so he said something even more troublesome, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk?’”

That is a question that continues to challenge all who read it. Which would you say is easier to say?

Jesus continued, “I will now demonstrate that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” He turned to the paralytic, “Stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” Those last words caught my attention. I expected Jesus to say, “And follow me.” After all, here is an ideal candidate to follow Jesus. The healed paralytic could bear witness to what Jesus had done for him. He could be living proof of Jesus authority and healing power.

But Jesus sent him home.

I don’t know why Jesus would call fisherman and tax collectors to follow him, and not the healed paralytic. (It could have something to do with whether miraculous healing was to be the primary focus of his ministry.)  Still, there are at least two lessons that we need to hear.

First, our sins are forgiven. Our broken relationship with God is restored by Jesus’ authority.

Second, we need to listen carefully as to where and how we serve. Not all of us are called to serve Jesus in the same way, to walk the same path. Yet I think we all are called to listen to his voice, a voice that speaks forgiveness and direction.

Lord Jesus, open my heart, mind and will to hear your promise and command.