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Posts Tagged ‘Mark’

Mark 2:1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

This man and his friends were clearly determined to get a hearing with Jesus and their motivation seems clear enough—they believe Jesus can heal the lame. Of course if you read on you will find that Jesus did indeed make this paralytic man walk again but Jesus doesn’t begin by healing this man. Instead Jesus sees these men’s faith and says to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”

This isn’t what the paralytic was looking for. Perhaps he had some sense of his spiritual condition as we are told that Jesus “saw their faith,” but the goal of this man and his friends is physical healing and Jesus instead redirects the conversation toward sin.

Sin is rarely a popular subject in conversation and yet Jesus leads this conversation with, “your sins are forgiven.” Tim Keller reflects on this passage in his book The King’s Cross:

Jesus is confronting the paralytic with his main problem by driving him deep. Jesus is saying, “By coming to me and asking for only your body to be healed, you are not going deep enough. You have underestimated the depths of your longings, the longing of your heart” (pp. 28).

Physical healing is not this man’s deepest need. Our deepest needs are spiritual. The human heart’s deepest need is to know its maker. Sin is our greatest barrier in seeing that need met. Only Jesus can bring the sort of healing we really need and he offers this freely to this paralytic. He offers it freely to us.

I praise the Lord that He doesn’t always answer my prayers in the way that I would like Him to because in so doing He promises to meet my greatest need. Every day Jesus meets my greatest need—to be restored to the Father—to be a child of God. Jesus meets that need every day because every day He “lives to make intercession for me” (Hebrews 7:25).

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What better question to pose to Immanuel than “What are you doing here?”  As Christians we speak a lot about who we believe Jesus to be and we should.  But why has Jesus come from heaven to earth?  In a series of posts, I am going to seek to simply let Jesus answer this question for himself.  Most people with a little Bible knowledge are aware of the “I am” statements of Jesus in John’s Gospel, statements which display to us who Jesus is, but it seems most people are far less familiar with Jesus’ “I have come statements” in Matthew, Mark, and Luke (these three Gospels are called the Synoptic Gospels–this is simply because of their similarities) which display to us why Jesus came to earth.

It is important that we understand both who Jesus is and why He came to earth.  In fact, even in calling Jesus Immanuel at the begging of this post, I was making a statement about who I believe Jesus to be.  “Immanuel” means “God with us”–meaning that Jesus is God with us (Isa. 7:14; 8:8; Matt. 1:25).  Though reigning in heaven above, God has in some sense come down to us, to be with us, to dwell with us, speak to us, live for us, and finally die and rise again for us. However, I believe that all of these acts were not ultimately for us.  I believe that Jesus came to earth, lived, walked, died, and rose again ultimately for the glory of God. Similarly, you and I were created to glorify God–to know Him, love Him, enjoy Him, and worship Him.  However, we have utterly failed to live up to the purpose for which we were created.  Jesus has not failed–He alone has lived up to the purpose for which He came to earth.

In anticipation of the cross, Jesus prayed to the Father, “Now is my soul troubled.  And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’?  But for this purpose I have come into this hour.  Father, glorify your name” (John 12:27-28).  I think the purpose of Jesus’ incarnation, his taking on of human flesh, was ultimatly to glorify God.

It is important that we speak of Jesus “having come” to earth rather than “becoming” or “having been created.”  He was not created, but there was a point in time in which He took on human flesh.  Before He took on human flesh, He was with the Father for all eternity.  He is the great “I Am” of Exodus 3:14 (John 8:58).  Jesus and the Father are one (John 10:30; 17:11).  In fact, Jesus actively created the World alongside the Father and everything “was created through him and for him” (Col. 1:16).

In fact, Jesus’ “I have come” statements imply a prior existence in heaven.  These statements refer to having come from the heavenly sphere to earth.  In each of Jesus’ “I have come” statements, we see the formula of “I have come” + a purpose statement, i.e. “in order to seek and save the lost” or “not to abolish the law or the prophets but to fulfill them” (Luke 19:10; Matt. 5:17).

Some scholars have argued that these “I have come” statements simply state where Jesus physically traveled from, i.e. from Galilee to Samaria or some such location.  There are two major problems with such an interpretation.

First, it would be absolutely absurd to say something like “I have come from Galilee to seek and save the lost” or better yet “I have come from Samaria to cast fire on the earth and would that it were already kindled” (I made up thes locations, the latter is taken from Luke 12:49).  Jesus’ “I have come” statements all have far-reaching implications–cosmic, world transforming, paradigm shifting implications like “casting fire on the earth” and fulfilling the whole of the law and prophets!

Secondly, there is no human Old Testament figure or early Jewish figure who spoke with the forumula of “I have come” + a statement of purpose in the cosmic way that Jesus does.  None of the Old Testament prophets started their prophetic ministry by proclaiming to Israel, “I have come in order to . . .”  Where we do find this “I have come” + purpose formula is proceeding from the mouths of angels (Daniel 9:22-23; 11:2; Numbers 22:32).  Each of these angels, Gabriel in Daniel and the Angel of the Lord’s Host in Numbers are speaking of having come from heaven in order to inform/help Daniel and Joshua respectively.  This “I have come” + purpose formula is also found in some early Jewish literature and each time it is used by angelic beings but  never by humans.

So when Matthew, Mark, and Luke cite Jesus’ “I have come” statements, they are implying that Jesus, like these angels, has come from a prior existence in heaven to earth in order to do certain things.  So each of these statements will reveal to us the many interrelated reasons why God the Son took on human flesh and left His heavenly abode to dwell with us for a time.

I want to look at 10 such statements in the Synoptic Gospels (Matt., Mark, and Luke).  In two of the statements Jesus says, “The Son of Man came to . . . ” rather than “I have come to . . . .”  “Son of Man” is a significant designation that Jesus gives to himself with important Old Testament precedent. In my next post, I will look at two questions asked by demons of Jesus, which also utilize a very similar formula to the “I have come” + purpose formula.  In fact what the demons fear that Jesus has come to do, has far reaching implications and reveal some of the cosmic implications of Christ’s coming.

These posts are going to be theological in nature and they are going to stretch what you think about Jesus and why He came.  They may be tough to understand, so feel free to ask questions–I am not an expert in the feild of gospel studies by any means, but I will do my best to answer any questions you might have.

Finally I should mention that the idea for this series of posts came from Dr. Simon Gathercole’s book, The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  You can also download or stream lectures by Dr. Gathercole on Jesus’ preexistence at Southern Seminary’s website, just scroll down to the 2004 Gheen’s Lectures–if you want to download them, just click on the link and select “save target as” or “save link as.”

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Belief comes from hearing the living Word of God preached concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ (cf. Rom. 10:17). I think that is agreeable. In a related way, the careful exposition of the Word of God is desparately needed in the Church today. These are things we should not neglect. So, how should we read the living Word of God? Should we follow the storyline on its terms?

The following exerpts are from Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels. In the two sections, Dr. Strauss helps us see how we should go about reading and expositing the four Gospels.

Reading “Vertically”: Following the Storyline

The four Gospels record seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. Many sermons have been preached on these seven “words” of Jesus. While insight can be gained from this approach, the danger is that we will miss each writer’s unique contribution. No Gospel records more than three of these sayings, and each has its own perspective on the crucifixion. In Mark, for example, Jesus says only one thing from the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forksaken me?” The crucifixion is a dark and foreboding scene. The narrator intentionally draws the reader into Jesus’ experience of isolation and dispair. Introducing Luke’s reassuring, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” or John’s traiumphant “It is finished” misses Mark’s point.

Similarly, throughout Luke’s Gospel, Jesus offers God’s love and forgiveness to sinners. Jesus’prayer life and intimacy with the Father is also a frequent theme. It is a fitting climax, therefore, that in Luke, Jesus continues to offer forgiveness to sinners from the cross (“Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”; “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise”) and expresses his trust in and dependence on the Father (“Father, into your hand I commit my spirit”). To introduce Mark’s statement of isolation and despair risks distorting Luke’s portrait of Jesus. Each Gospel has a story to tell. By reading vertically, we hear that story on its own terms.

Reading “Horizontally”: Comparing Their Accounts

While there is a danger in harmonistically reading one Gospel’s presentation into another, thare are also benefits in comparing their accounts using a “synopsis,” which places the Gospels in parallel columns. By comparing the Gospels, we can identify each writer’s themes and theology. For example, by comparing Luke with Matthew and Mark, we see that Luke often introduces statements about Jesus’ prayer life, revealing his interest in Jesus’ intimacy with the Father. We may call this reading horizontally–comparing the Gospels to discern each Evangelist’s unique theological perspective. 

When is a harmony legitimate? While harmonistically reading the Gospels risks missing each Gospel’s narrative and theological themes, a harmony is beneficial when asking historical questions. The Gospels claim to be historical narratives, and so it is legitimate to investigate them from the perspective of what actually happened. 

Jesus’ trial scene, for example, takes on different contours in each of the four Gospels. While a narrative may ask about the themes of each Gospel writer, the historian asks basic historical questions: What role did the Jewish and Roman authoritites play in the arrest of Jesus? Before whom was he tried. What accusations were made against him? Why was he crucified? The historian’s task is to examine and critique all of the available evidence in order to piece together a credible historical account. Here a harmonistic study is necessary and helpful in order to glean as much information as possible from the available sources. 

Though the Gospels were written at a specific time, in a specific place, and with specific purposes, they are of timeless benefit for the church. The unique unity and diversity of the four Gospels provide the church of all ages with an authoritative and inspired portrait of Jesus Christ.

Mark L. Strauss (Four Portraits, One Jesus: An Introduction to Jesus and the Gospels, 32-35).

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Christ’s passion for the glory of the Father and the salvation of his beloved is what Easter is about. In Mark 10:45, Jesus explains why he was born:

“For even the Son of Man came not to serve, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The gospel is proclaimed in this verse . . . how? How is this good news? In this post, I aim to answer that question. The following are expanded notes with commentaries from a sermon I heard Steve Lawson preach at the Cross of Christ regional Ligonier Conference in Ft. Worth last November, titled ‘Christ, Our Ransom.’ Though I remember Lawson’s brilliant exposition of the text fairly well, my notes were brief, so most of the following is my commentary on Lawson’s exposition.

What is a ransom (Gk. lupron)? In pop culture today, a ransom nearly exclusively refers to a payment rendered to a kidnapper in order to secure the redemption of the person kidnapped. However, the Bible’s reference to a ransom typically refers either to payment under the Law made for sin or a price paid to redeem a slave (e.g. Ex. 21:30, 30:12; Lev. 19:20). In fact, the connection of a ransom paid for redemption with slavery is an important parallel to make for every Christian who has been bought and redeemed from their slavery to sin into adoption as slaves of Christ, who is an infinitely glorious and benevolent Master.

Why was a ransom necessary? After Peter and John healed a lame begger and preached the gospel at Solomon’s Portico, they were arrested for preaching the resurrection. The next day, Peter preached to the Council of Sadducees and elders, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is not other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The very fact that salvation in Christ is needed should make the idea of redemption in order to be saved necessary. So why? Peter proclaims Christ alone has given his life as a ransom for those chosen by God’s sovereign grace in Christ before the foundation of the world, and the ransom required was necessary because we were 1) slaves to our sin (Rom. 6:20), and 2) to Satan (John 8:44, 2 Tim. 2:26) and 3) we were held captive to the world that is hostile toward God, while in bondage to the curse of the law. In order to fully comprehend Mk. 10:45, it is absolutely necessary to place the third reason at the top of the list. Ultimately, a ransom was necessary for our salvation because we are cursed for not keeping the Law. This curse is rendered by God who declares “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Therefore, Gal. 3:10b says, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”

Who paid the ransom? Paul unlocks the answer to this question in one beautiful sentence about the great exchange of Christ’s righteousness for our sin. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). Who paid the ransom? Jesus did. The Judge of heaven and earth paid the price for our ransom. Our precious resurrected Savior paid the punitive substitutionary atonement for all who are legally declared righteous by faith before the Father. I have said this in several posts now: that is why imputation is so important to justification. Christ lived the perfect live that we should have lived and are condemned for not doing, and he died the sinless sacrifice on our behalf, our ransom, imputing his righteousness to us and taking our sins from us and taking them on himself on the cross. Therefore, Christ has paid the ransom price by becoming a curse for us (Gal. 3:13).

How was the ransom paid? “. . . to give his life” (Mk. 10:45). Jesus Christ paid the ransom price necessary for our redemption by offering his life on our behalf. The high price to pay for our redemption was not easy, either. Jesus had to die. Rom. 3:24-26 teaches, “We are justified by his grace as a gift, through redemption that is in Jesus Christ, whom God put forward as a propitiation . . .” Propitiation is a heavily loaded word in the New Testament, but it is a beautiful word in light of the gospel. It, first, carries the meaning of the kind of atonement necessary to pay our ransom. In fact, we can be sure by this verse that the cross satisfied the necessary atonement for our sin by exhausting the cup of God’s wrath forever by his blood. If that were not enough, the Greek word for propitiation also carries with it the idea of expiation. In the Old Testament, the cover of the ark of the covenant in the Holy of Holies was sprinkled with the blood of the expiatory victim on the annual day of atonement (this rite signifying that the life of the people, the loss of which they had merited by their sins, was offered to God in the blood as the life of the victim, and that God by this ceremony was appeased and their sins expiated). Why does the gospel hinge on this? When the hope of the gospel is proclaimed, it also celebrates the righteousness of God in all his glory. Therefore, Paul adds to Rom. 3:25a, “This was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be the just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (vv. 25b-26).

Was the ransom voluntarily paid? I feel this point should be added because a few misguided folks have vocally denied the beauty of the vicarious suffering of Jesus Christ as our penal substitution and ransom for our redemption, occasionally drifting to calling Christ’s death on the cross cosmic child abuse. They claim a neutered Christus Victor theory of atonement in an effort to preserve God’s righteousness and the unity of the Trinity. But stooping to these counter-gospel conclusions is an affront to the gospel. Why? Jesus willingly laid down his life for the sheep. Jesus knew the will of the Father spoken in the Scriptures by Isaiah, “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief” (53:10, cf. Matt. 27:46), and his reply was, “I am the good shepherd . . . and I down my life for the sheep” (John 10:15). Therefore, the ransom was paid by our Savior’s blood, not spilled, but poured out voluntarily. Jesus was not the victim of the cross. He was the victor, and he is alive today!

To whom was the ransom paid? Too many believers have assumed the ransom was paid to Satan since we were slaves to sin and death as children of wrath and sons of disobedience (see Eph. 2:2, 3). But the ransom was not paid to Satan. It was not offered to the devil. He did not hold the price of redemption over the heads of sinners. No, the ransom was paid to the Father who was pleased to save many by offering his Son on the cross for our redemption.

For whom was the ransom paid? “. . . for many” (Mk. 10:45). The blood of Christ was shed on the cross for many. We can be sure Jesus was not crucified for his sin, but according to the foreknowledge of the Father, he was appointed to die for our sin. He took our place. This is the vicarious nature of the atonement for the payment of our sins, and Jesus says it is ‘for many,’ not all. There is a specific focus of the specific atonement of those redeemed by God’s grace for us in Christ, and there is also a glorious triumph in ‘for many,’ not all. We can be sure not a drop of Christ’s blood was poured out in vain–not a cent of the ransom was overpaid. Jesus is receiving his very bride, and by the proclamation of the gospel, God according to his sovereign grace is calling all of his sheep to the sheepfold.

Are you in Christ today? Are you among those for whom the ransom was paid? If you are hearing the gospel proclaimed to you as you are reading this loud and clear like a ringing bell, answer the call. Believe and be saved. Be reconciled to God through faith in all the promises God is for us in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the glory of Easter.

PS :: Read Drew’s post below about the Said at Southern blog madness. We made it to the second round, which is actually a surprise for us. There are a lot of excellent blogs in the S@S network, including several who have been blogging faithfully longer. But, if you feel like it, vote for us. If not, that is fine. We are just glad you are reading.

PS2 :: Also read Drew’s post Preaching the Wrath of God on Easter, where he asks, “What did you hear preached on Sunday morning?” “If we sacrifice the whole truth for a half truth, we might win more hearers, but in doing so we have ceased to preach the gospel and we have begun to deceive our hearers.”

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