Several days later Jesus came back to Capernaum. The report went out that he was home. Many people had gathered. There was no room left, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking God’s word to them.Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Some experts in Moses’ Teachings were sitting there. They thought, “Why does he talk this way? He’s dishonoring God. Who besides God can forgive sins?”At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, “Why do you have these thoughts? 

Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? 10 I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I’m telling you to get up, pick up your cot, and go home!”

12 The man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and walked away while everyone watched. Everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” – Mark 2:1-12

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Two of Six Young Bucks | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

We sang, “You’ve Got a Friend” at NewSong worship recently. It’s not our normal kind of worship song, but the words are pretty good.

When you’re down and troubled And you need some love and care
And nothing, nothing is going right Close your eyes and think of me
And soon I will be there To brighten up even your darkest night

You just call out my name And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, to see you again
Winter, spring, summer or fall All you have to do is call
And I’ll be there You’ve got a friend

If the sky above you Grows dark and full of clouds
And that old north wind begins to blow Keep your head together
And call my name out loud Soon you’ll hear me knocking at your door

You just call out my name And you know wherever I am
I’ll come running, running, yeah, yeah, to see you again…

Songwriter: Carole King
You’ve Got a Friend lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

I hope you have a friend. I hope there is someone in your life to whom you can call in the dark of night or the storms of life. I hope you are not alone. I hope that especially when it comes to bringing someone to Jesus. For this is not something for the faint of heart. There will be obstacles. There will be challenges; people in the way, crowded rooms, and no way to get your friend to Jesus. Unless you have a friend or two.

Perhaps you have a friend who has brought you to Jesus. That would be a good place to start looking for others who will also be your friends, and join you in the important work of befriending someone else toward Jesus. They may be somewhat reluctant. They may not want to make a fuss. They may initially come along with you out of a sense of duty.

But every posse needs a sheriff. Every gang needs a leader. Every friend needs someone who will help him do the right thing. And that’s what friends do. True friends help their friends do the right thing. They say, “Here! There’s a way. We can do this. We can get this friend to Jesus. Let’s do this!” They are the ones who in the most urgent moments say, “Let’s roll.”

I wrote yesterday about the fact that we’re all the man on the pallet. We all need help getting to Jesus. But when that once-lame man walked out of that house, I’m guessing he might well have become a friend to someone else who needed Jesus’ healing and hope. He was freed from his sins and now able to point others to the One who heals and forgives.

If you’ve been brought to Jesus it’s time to look for some friends. It’s time to join a merry band who will seek the down and out, help the helpless, bringing them to Jesus. You might feel the need for a friend. You might feel lonely. Look for someone who will join you in this mission of God. And when you find him and join in that mission you will forge a friendship deep and true. She may be an answer to your prayers and to the need of yet another friend who needs Jesus’ mercy, grace, and truth.

Several days later Jesus came back to Capernaum. The report went out that he was home. 2 Many people had gathered. There was no room left, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking God’s word to them.3 Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. 4 Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”6 Some experts in Moses’ Teachings were sitting there. They thought, 7 “Why does he talk this way? He’s dishonoring God. Who besides God can forgive sins?”8 At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, “Why do you have these thoughts? 9 Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? 10 I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I’m telling you to get up, pick up your cot, and go home!”12 The man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and walked away while everyone watched. Everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

– Mark 2:1-12
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Sunset in the Hill Country | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

Are you the man on the pallet, the friends who brought him to Jesus, the owner of the house whose roof was unroofed by these importune friends, or one of those in the crowd who was amazed and praising God? Each of us can find a place in this story. But make no mistake: even if you don’t think you’re part of this story its implications can reach far into the depths of your heart.

The man on the pallet is at his friends’ mercy. If they don’t come to his house, pick him up and put him on the pallet, carry him to the place where Jesus is teaching, and lower him down in front of Jesus he’ll never get there. Can you imagine such a dramatic miracle of healing? Can you imagine at once being crippled and then able to walk? Can you imagine hearing the words, “Your sins are forgiven you,” as you realize your need for forgiveness is greater even than your need to be freed from your bed? Then imagine being forgiven by the Son of God and able to walk out of the room under your own power!

We are all the man on the pallet. None of us has come to Jesus under our own power. That is obvious for those who were brought up in the Christian faith by faithful parents and surrounded with faithful and loving family and friends: they brought us to Jesus. We didn’t get to Jesus under our own power at 8 days old when we were baptized; we had literally to be carried to the church. We didn’t get to Sunday school and church each week under our own power. We had to be taken by someone.

Perhaps, however, you were a precocious child and decided on your own to walk the 3, 5, or 8 blocks to Sunday school each Sunday. But you didn’t build the church, nor call the pastor, nor recruit the Sunday school teachers. All those things were in place for you, provided by others. You were carried to Jesus just as surely as the paralyzed man.

Maybe you’re like my friend who was not brought up in a Christian home, who spent years and years apart from the faith, and came to faith later in life. He was seeking something more. But he will be the first to tell you that he didn’t get to Jesus on his own. There was a kind person who offered friendship and opportunity for relating to other single persons. There was the church’s singles ministry that provided the venue for him to meet the woman who is now his wife. He’ll tell you that God reached out to him and brought him to faith. He was carried to Jesus.

You might be one who made a careful search and discovered the grace and truth of Jesus Christ that spoke to your heart like no other religion or world view ever could. You must confess, however, that you did not make Jesus your Savior. Jesus made you God’s child (Thank you, Pastor Jeff Doria, for sharing this observation your son made years ago). You, too, were carried to Jesus, and God made you his child.

We may find ourselves in other places in this story. We’ll consider this throughout the week before us. But we’re all the man on the pallet in regard to getting to Jesus and experiencing his healing mercy. Thank God Jesus has come for people such as us, and for the friends who have carried us to Jesus – however they have done it.

Several days later Jesus came back to Capernaum. The report went out that he was home. Many people had gathered. There was no room left, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking God’s word to them.

Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

Some experts in Moses’ Teachings were sitting there. They thought, “Why does he talk this way? He’s dishonoring God. Who besides God can forgive sins?”

At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, “Why do you have these thoughts? Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? 10 I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I’m telling you to get up, pick up your cot, and go home!”

12 The man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and walked away while everyone watched. Everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”

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Sunset in the Hill Country | Wimberley, Texas | June 2020

Are you the man on the pallet, the friends who brought him to Jesus, the owner of the house whose roof was unroofed by these importune friends, or one of those in the crowd who was amazed and praising God? Each of us can find a place in this story. But make no mistake: even if you don’t think you’re part of this story its implications can reach far into the depths of your heart.

The man on the pallet is at his friends’ mercy. If they don’t come to his house, pick him up and put him on the pallet, carry him to the place where Jesus is teaching, and lower him down in front of Jesus. And can you imagine such a dramatic miracle of healing? Can you imagine at once being crippled and then able to walk? Can you imagine hearing the words, “Your sins are forgiven you,” as you realize your need for forgiveness is greater even than your need to be freed from your bed. Then imagine being forgiven by the Son of God and able to walk out of the room under your own power!

We are so much like the man on the pallet. None of us has come to Jesus under our own power. That is obvious for those who were brought up in the Christian faith by faithful parents and surrounded with faithful and loving family and friends. We didn’t get to Jesus at 8 days old when we were baptized; we had literally to be carried to the church. We didn’t get to Sunday school and church each week under our own power. We had to be carried.

Perhaps, however, you were precocious and decided on your own to walk the 3, 5, or 8 blocks to Sunday school each Sunday. But you didn’t build the church, nor call the pastor, nor recruit the Sunday school teachers. All those things were in place for you, provided by others. You were carried to Jesus just as surely as the paralyzed man. 

Maybe you’re like my friend who was not brought up in a Christian home, who spent years and years apart from the faith, and came to faith later in life. He was seeking something more. But he will be the first to tell you that he didn’t get to Jesus on his own. There was a kind person who offered friendship and opportunity for relating to other single persons. There was the church’s singles ministry that provided the venue for him to meet the woman who is now his wife. He’ll tell you that God reached out to him and brought him to faith. He was carried to Jesus.

You might be one who made a careful search and discovered the grace and truth of Jesus Christ that spoke to your heart like no other religion or world view ever could. You must confess, however, that you did not make Jesus your Savior. Jesus made you God’s child. You, too, were carried to Jesus, and God made you his child.

And that is the point. We may find ourselves in other places in this story. We’ll consider this throughout the week before us. But we’re all the man on the pallet in regard to getting to Jesus and experiencing his healing mercy. Thank God Jesus has come for people such as us, and for the friends who have carried us to Jesus – however they have done it. 

Psalm 26:8
Lord, I love the habitation of your house
    and the place where your glory dwells.

Psalm 56:3-4
When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
    in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can flesh do to me?

Psalm 86

Incline your ear, O Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Preserve my life, for I am godly;
    save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
    for to you do I cry all the day.
Gladden the soul of your servant,
    for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.
For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,
    abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon you.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
    listen to my plea for grace.
In the day of my trouble I call upon you,
    for you answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

14 O God, insolent men have risen up against me;
    a band of ruthless men seeks my life,
    and they do not set you before them.
15 But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious,
    slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me;
    give your strength to your servant,
    and save the son of your maidservant.
17 Show me a sign of your favor,
    that those who hate me may see and be put to shame
    because you, Lord, have helped me and comforted me.

Psalm 116:1-2
I love the Lord, because he has heard
    my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
    therefore I will call on him as long as I live.

Psalm 146

 Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
    your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. – Mark 1:32-45

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Wildflowers | Wimberly, Texas | June 2020

How good are you at keeping a secret? I’m not going to tell you one. But how about it? If you’re told something in confidence, are you good for it? I have jokingly said that if you want Diane not to know something, tell me. I don’t tell her anything! While that’s not precisely true, I do guard secrets carefully. And I’ve had opportunity to keep plenty of them over the years. Sometimes to my own detriment (think of not being able to tell specifics about a human resources situation). 

On two different occasions Jesus seeks to prevent the message about his powerful ministry getting out. He will not allow the demons to speak when he casts them out. One commentator observes: 

[Jesus’] plan—to reveal Himself as the Messiah, God, and the Son of God—was not served by the testimony of His enemy. One of Satan’s favorite tools is to twist the truth to his own ends. Jesus would not let the demons lay a hand on the truth to twist it. Bible Ref

Interesting to me, also is that when Jesus tells the now-healed man with leprosy that he should tell no one, it doesn’t work. The man can’t keep the secret. And Jesus’ ministry was shaped by that fact. He was relegated to out-of-the-way places in an attempt to carry out his ultimate mission. Yet people continued to come to see him. 

Jesus has dominion over the powers of Satan even in his state of humiliation. He commands the demons to remain silent. The power of his character as a man without sin gives him the ultimate advantage over the powers of evil. They cannot find a foothold to gain an advantage over him. 

Jesus does not seek so much to control his followers as to influence them. He will not make the former leper his new puppet, but he will urge him to keep quiet about the miraculous healing Jesus performed. To no avail. 

Jesus accomplished his mission – against the powers of Satan, and in the face of disobedient followers. We are now no longer under a gag order. The command that was given only to this man, “Tell no one,” is one that all too many Christians keep. But that no longer applies. We are to tell others. We are to witness to what Jesus has done. 

Do you have a story to tell? Are you excited enough about it to let others know what has happened in your live? If so, it’s definitely OK to tell the story. Please do. 

That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. – Mark 1:32-45

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Creekside Tree | Wimberly, Texas | June 2020

If wishes were horses beggars would ride. That was a favorite saying of my mother-in-law. I’m guessing her mother had said the same to her. What a great reminder against wishing our lives away!

Mr. Hoeppel was the produce manager at Shopper’s Big Star grocery store in Cape Girardeau, where I worked as a bagboy and as a produce helper. We would have some great conversations, the two of us. I’d tell him I couldn’t wait to be finished with school, or until summer, or until the next pay day. He’d tell me, “Don’t wish your life away.”

These days it’s a challenge not to do just that. I wish this pandemic was over. I wish we could get together with our friends. I wish we could see our grandchildren. I wish, I wish…on and on it goes. I’m guessing I might not be the only one with similar wishes.

Then comes the time to pray. Dear Father in heaven, look upon us with your mercy and end this disease. For the sake of Jesus Christ and for his glory, heal us we pray! We can so easily identify with the man who came to Jesus asking to be healed from his leprosy. If you are willing, you can heal us all. You can take away this dread disease. 

In the case of the man with leprosy Jesus was willing. Then and there. Done. Healed. And in this case told the man to tell no one about that encounter. Instead he was to go to the priest, make the offering and be declared publicly to be clean.

Something extraordinary happened 2000 years ago when God visited our planet. Jesus, God’s Son, showed the mighty power of God over sin, sickness, and death. That power is still at work, and in much the same way it was in Jesus’ day. And it is important to understand what Jesus did and what Jesus did not do during his time on earth.

Jesus was not on earth for 33 years in order to bring a quick fix to the challenges, sicknesses, troubles, and brokenness of the world. Jesus was on earth to save the world eternally. That would happen only by means of his sacrificial death and his innocent suffering. But that’s exactly what Jesus did. And he gave a foretaste of that restoration and salvation to a few as a sign of God’s rule and reign. Jesus’ touch changes everything.

And until that Great Last day we will call out for his help and mercy. Once in a while – just as in his day – one of us will see that in bold relief. Let’s never mistake the foretaste for the main course. But let’s never abandon hope that Jesus is willing to be in our lives and touch us with his healing grace. That’s much more than just a wish.

That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. – Mark 1:32-45

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Blue Wildflowers | Wimberly, Texas | June 2020

During one of our virtual workouts our trainer wanted to show us how long we could go before we had to stop. When we were at the point of muscle failure he urged us to keep going. He contended that we could go 40% longer than we thought we could. I’m not sure I went 40% longer, but I did manage to go longer than I thought I could. 

When it comes to the Christian life, there are times we come to the end of our rope. We can’t go on. We need to power down. We have not been able to summon any more compassion for our neighbors who have suffered a loss. We lose our temper when our kids don’t obey as they should. We give into temptation to envy or lust. How do we keep going?

Jesus offers us a great example and reminder. We can’t go it alone. We need God’s power and help to keep on the path and finish the race of faith. When Jesus has finished a day of healing and casting out demons he has in mind more work to be done. He will retreat – and early in the morning for that matter. But he goes out to pray not simply to reflect, but to power up for further ministry.

There are some people who will lead all the others. He will run faster. She will last longer. But even the best athlete needs to rest. A marathon runner eventually has to stop and rest – even if only at the end of the race. Jesus will run for three years, but he does so only under the power of God. Even Jesus will need to rest (cf. John 4:6). 

So Jesus is for us an example and a reminder. His example is that of prayer. He doesn’t take on the mission for which he came without seeking God’s help, insight, and power. There is much to be said here about Jesus as God in the flesh. It is a mystery that at the same time he is God in the flesh, he is fully and truly human. We learn that he emptied himself and laid aside his divine prerogatives in order to redeem us. As such he sought God’s strength and never sought to do anything apart from God’s power and guidance (cf. John 5:19).

Jesus seeks God’s guidance in prayer. This is a good example for us. Jesus also offers us a reminder. Don’t go this alone. Don’t try to do the work of God on your own strength. Seek God’s help, guidance, and strength in prayer. This honors God and aligns us with his will. This is a timely reminder for us all.

This is also a reminder that our prayers ought not to be totally centered only on our own needs. During times like these our needs and challenges are sure to focus our prayers. But perhaps this reminder will serve to focus our prayers also on how God wants to bless others through us. 

That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. – Mark 1:32-45

Foundations of houses outside of the synogogue at Capernaum

Foundations of some houses outside the synagogue in Capernaum | 2012

It’s called the Crux Theologrum, question of why some are saved, and not others. Some have answered by saying that some are simply more receptive to the Gospel message and come to faith cooperatively. That’s called synergism. We can do nothing to save ourselves. Others – though very few others – speak of God’s sovereign choice of some to salvation and others to damnation. That would put God acting against his revealed will that “all be saved.” The Lutheran answer to the question of Why Some and Not Others is “I don’t know.”

“I don’t know” isn’t a very satisfying answer to most questions, but in this case it is the only answer to this important question. We do not have the mind of God.

Take a look at Jesus’ ministry on this occasion. He is beginning his ministry with a flourish of healings and miracles. People are coming from all around to see him, hear him teach, and be healed. But the next day he is nowhere to be found. He has gone out to pray. Before daybreak. Unannounced. No permission. No explanation before he leaves. And when his disciples come and find him, expressing their exasperation with him, he simply says that they’ve got to go. He’s going to preach in other places. That is why he has come.

Jesus did not come to heal a group of people only in one place. His ministry was not to be confined to one locale. He is not on a campaign trail. He is not worried about gathering constituents from various interest groups. But he is on a mission. He has come to heal the sick, raise the dead, teach about God, suffer, and die. He must let people know that he is doing this for all people. He’s going elsewhere to remind people that they have no exclusive claim on him.

Jesus is our Lord, but we do not own him. He is Lord. He calls us to repent and believe. He heals diseases. He teaches the truth about God. He does this for all people. He won’t stay put. He won’t be our special live-in guest.

But this is actually good news for us. He did not confine his ministry to the people in Capernaum. He went even to the Samaritans and Gentiles. Why some and not others? Because Jesus’ main ministry was not just to heal the people of his day. His mission was to provide eternal healing and life to all who believe in him. If he’s not working in your life in an obvious manner, be sure of this: He is working. And he wants you to believe in him and do whatever you can to point others to him as well.

That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” 39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him. – Mark 1:32-45

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Yucca | Wimberly, Texas | June 2020

Do you know your achilles heel? Do you know where the chink in your armor is located?  When Jesus was tempted by the devil (cf. Matthew 4:1-11), there were three distinct ways he was approached. He could satisfy his appetite (turn the stones to bread), seek affirmation (throw yourself down from the temple so the angels will come to your aid), or make good on his ambition (bow down and worship me and all the glory of the world would be his).

Then as now – when people are coming from all around in response to his miracles – Jesus shows that he is not about notoriety. He has no need for celebrity status. He will not seek the affirmation of others. He has a mission to accomplish and will set off from one place to another to embody and proclaim the presence of the reign and rule of God. His appetite is to fulfill the will of the Father. His affirmation will always be from God.

Jesus will not seek the praise of men. He will leave the place where people were coming in droves to see him in order to be healed. He is not interested in being a celebrity. He is dedicated to being our Savior.

We pastors want to be needed (at least this one does). Even though sometimes the needs of others can border on unhealthy over-dependance, it’s nice to be needed and appreciated. Affirmation is a good thing, like any medicine. But you can easily overdose on it.

Think of the religious sideshows that seek more attention to the event than to the Lord who is healing, renewing, calling people to repentance, and forgiving their sins. Not every tent revival or televangelist is caught up in this web of celebrity (think Billy Graham here). But it is a dangerous trap (think Jimmy Swaggart).

Jesus sought to avoid the limelight and hoopla around his miracles and preaching because he had a greater mission even than healing diseases. He did heal; of that there is no doubt. But when he leaves, he goes to pray. He seeks God’s approval. He delights in the affirmation of his Father in heaven (cf. Mark 1:11). His ambition is to do the Father’s will, not simply to gather a large crowd.

Great crowds did follow Jesus, and he taught them. He did not reject large numbers of people, he just didn’t live for them. Jesus died for them. He came to seek and save the sick and diseased, the forgotten and sinner, the confused and even the criminal. That was Jesus’ mission. He will not be sidetracked into being a sideshow. And we can thank God for that.

Psalm 19:1

The heavens declare the glory of God,
    and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 49:16-20

Be not afraid when a man becomes rich,
    when the glory of his house increases.
17 For when he dies he will carry nothing away;
    his glory will not go down after him.
18 For though, while he lives, he counts himself blessed
    —and though you get praise when you do well for yourself—
19 his soul will go to the generation of his fathers,
    who will never again see light.
20 Man in his pomp yet without understanding is like the beasts that perish.

Psalm 79:8-9

Do not remember against us our former iniquities;
    let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
    for we are brought very low.
Help us, O God of our salvation,
    for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
    for your name’s sake!

Psalm 109:30-31

With my mouth I will give great thanks to the Lord;
    I will praise him in the midst of the throng.
31 For he stands at the right hand of the needy one,
    to save him from those who condemn his soul to death.

Psalm 139:1-6

 Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is high; I cannot attain it.