Nick Poindexter

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Tag: Mark (page 1 of 2)

Whatever It Takes

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
-Mark 2:1-5 (NIV)

Can you imagine the scene?

This guy named Jesus came through your town performing all kinds of miracles. He returns, and this time you have a front-row seat. You are actually in his presence as he teaches. Out of nowhere, you hear a rumble on the roof. Dust and plaster start to fall. Next thing you know a paralyzed man on a mat is being lowered by four other men through the roof directly in front of Jesus.

Bizarre story, isn’t it. Well, this is the beginning of Mark Chapter 2.

To be clear, this isn’t a case of an event that needs to be viewed through the lens of its time. Ripping a hole in a stranger’s roof wasn’t common in 1st-century Jewish culture; it was just plain weird.

And I can’t help but love the desperation and the sheer chutzpah of the paralytic’s friends. I mean, they believed in Jesus enough to destroy private property, interrupt his preaching, and probably cover him in dirt!

But did you notice Jesus’ reaction? We would think a correction, a gentle rebuke at minimum, would be in order. However, there is no condemnation from Jesus at all. Instead, he is marveled at their faith.

In the same way as the four friends, we too must be willing to do whatever it takes to get others to Jesus. Individually, we must be willing to cast our pride and fears to the side. Collectively, our churches must be creative and innovative enough to lay all the options out on the table… “Here are the ways we can reach people for Jesus.” If it’s sinful or unbiblical, throw it out. Everything else is fair game.

And it is imperative that we do not overlook the obvious point from this story — the paralytic had to be carried on a mat. Sometimes we have to do the carrying to get people to come to Jesus! We must make the sacrifice. We must make the initiation. Because they will not come on their own… They are paralyzed!

Do you find it odd that the first thing Jesus says to the man is, “Son, your sins are forgiven”? The guy is clearly paralyzed. Jesus knew that. I think it’s simply a reminder of his mission… Jesus came to forgive sin and offer salvation to the world, more important than any physical or temporal need we have on Earth.

So what are you waiting for? Someone is counting on you to get them to Jesus. Are you willing to do whatever it takes? Anything that is blocking us, hindering us, or slowing us down needs to be dug up and thrown out! And that includes our insecurities, reputations, comforts and personal preferences.

The risk is worth it. Why? Because Jesus knew that our reconciliation to the Father was of the utmost importance. His obedience even unto death proves that.

Jesus understood “Whatever it takes.”

Let Love Rule

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”
-Mark 12:28-31 (NIV)

Jewish law in a nutshell: 248 commands of things to do, 365 commands of things not to do, for a total of 613 rules, all of which are covered in the first 5 books of the Old Testament (a.k.a. the Pentateuch/Torah). The “thou shalts” require action to bring you closer to God, and the “thou shalt nots” forbid action that creates a distance from God.

With that in mind, a scribe walks in on Jesus debating scripture with others in Chapter 12 of Mark. A scribe’s purpose is to interpret the meaning of scripture and its commands, so of course his interest is piqued. Whether to settle the question once and for all or to drag Jesus into it, I don’t know. But the Scribe asks Jesus the loaded question: What is the most important commandment? 1 out of 613. Nice odds, huh? As if there were a “right” answer anyhow.

Jesus responds however by quoting the Shema, a traditional Jewish confession of faith (“Hear, O Israel…”). Why? Probably to demonstrate his knowledge of tradition and scripture. In other words, he was setting up his answer by showing he had the authority to answer the question in the first place.

Then, he let his wisdom shine – all 613 rules, all of the 10 Commandments, all that jazz – are boiled down to one principle, one simple word: Love.

Instead of focusing all of one’s heart, soul, mind and strength on rules, Jesus says to focus them on relationships – your relationship with the Father, and your relationship with every, single person He surrounds you with. Simply put, when you love God and love others, every one of God’s rules is fulfilled. Love covers them all.

If you’re like me you probably know how hard it is to love people. Loving God (to me) is not so difficult most of the time, but loving everyone pretty much seems infeasible. But there’s a reason why Jesus says that loving the Lord is the most important, and loving people is second. When your love for Him is poured out from everything you do – your emotions, your intellect, your energy – it gives you the desire and wisdom you need to love others.

Want to know the secret to living a life God would be proud of? Base everything you think, everything you say, and everything you do on one question: Am I loving God and loving others?

To quote the great theologian Lenny Kravitz, you got to let love rule.

Help My Unbelief

And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”
-Mark 9:21-24 (ESV)

Chapter 9 of Mark’s gospel contains the account of a man who brings his demon-possessed son to Jesus. The father asks him to help, if he can. Jesus rebukes the man and says that anything is possible to those who believe. The father replies, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

I’ve always loved the brutal honesty of the father. It’s almost as if he’s saying, “I am sure that you are who you say you are, and you can do what you say you can do. Now, help me take that one step further and be certain of the things I can’t see… The things I don’t understand… The things I doubt.”

If I’m being honest, that often sounds like my thoughts.

Unfortunately, there’s this twisted idea out there in Christian circles that says in order to have authentic faith, you must have an answer to every question. And I think that’s dangerous. Where does God fit in with that? Life can be tough, and the truth of the matter is that we’re not supposed to simply deflect any bad things or doubts of the world as if they don’t matter. That’s not only unrealistic, it’s also unhealthy. Our questions do matter, especially to God, and that’s the point.

Notice the words of the father again…  He believes, but needs God to help. The man doesn’t have it all figured out. His unbelief allows God room to maneuver.

Faith isn’t simply the absence of doubt. And faith and doubt aren’t contradictory. We can be unsure of how God is going to work it out, but still have faith in his goodness. What’s important is to trust God now, and cling to the assurance that one day we will have a chance to have all our questions answered.

In the meantime, we must be like the father in Mark 9 and go directly to God with our doubts. The choice to believe is ours.

God, help us with our unbelief.

Naked And Free

A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
-Mark 14:51-52 (NIV)

Mark 14 records the story of Jesus with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is praying, the disciples are sleeping, and in walks Judas with his gang. A skirmish breaks out, an ear gets cut off, and Jesus is arrested and lead away.

Mark’s version of the story however contains an extra part not included in the other gospels. Seemingly out of nowhere, he adds that another guy was there watching it all go down. This man was almost apprehended, but narrowly escaped by slipping out of his clothes and running away naked.

Most assume the young man was Mark himself, and this inclusion was simply his way of saying, “I was there.” Out of modesty and embarrassment, I think it’s easy to understand why he would want to remain anonymous.

Now, I know I’m looking far too into it than is necessary. But truth is truth.

The young man had two choices. He could stay clothed and be captured. Or, he could be naked and be free.

And the choice is really the same for us. God wants us to find our value and security in him and him alone. But we don’t do that, do we? Instead we turn to everything but our Father to make us feel worthwhile. Whether it’s your career, significant other, pride, social status, friends or money you cover yourself with, none will lead to freedom. Instead, like the young man, trying to stay covered up will ultimately lead to your downfall.

You see, the young man was said to be “following Jesus.” If you want to be a follower of Christ, then hiding isn’t an option. If you want to truly live, then you better be prepared to be exposed.

Be naked and be free.

Who Do You Say I Am?

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Christ.”
-Mark 8:27-29 (NIV)

Jesus is walking with his disciples around Caesarea Philippi, a pagan city known for its worship of many gods. Fittingly, he asks them, “Who do people say I am?” They reply back with the big names — John the Baptist, Elijah, a prophet. All of which are very flattering comparisons.

Then, when the question is directed at Peter, he answers more specifically — You are the Christ.

It’s really not much different than the thoughts of people today. Ask the question of “Who is Jesus?” and you’ll get a plethora of answers… Jesus is the Savior, the Son of God, a wise teacher, revolutionary leader, a unique prophet, a ground-breaking rabbi, a good role model, a myth, a legend.

Unfortunately, simply believing in Jesus isn’t enough. We must also believe Jesus. The former is head knowledge; the latter is heart knowledge. Jesus came to thoroughly change our lives, not just our brains.

At lot of people admire Jesus, but don’t believe him. A lot of people are inquisitive toward Jesus, but don’t follow him. A lot of people like the idea of Jesus, but don’t trust him.

Was Jesus a teacher, leader, prophet, rabbi and role model? Yes. But those titles don’t do him justice. Jesus is also so much more. He is the Christ. The Messiah. The King of all kings. The Lord of all lords. The Savior of you and I.

So the question remains just as crucial and heart-piercing as it was 2,000 years ago… Who do you say that Jesus is?

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