From: Su Min
Subject: Framed Picture
Today we shall first take a step back and review the text Matt 8:18- 9:1, bearing in mind that the original text comes from an oral teaching tradition, and it was a spoken word to listeners in small groups, learning about events in the time of Jesus.
The frame of the picture relates to Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee: in the opening verse, we find it is Jesus who gives the command to depart from Capernaum to the other (eastern) side of the lake. Jesus seeks to be relieved of the pressure of the multitude around him. In contrast, in the closing verse, the journey is in the reverse direction, from the East shore to Capernaum, under pressure from the crowd who want to get rid of Jesus. It is the crowd who besought Jesus to depart. What an irony.
Within this frame of Jesus coming and going, across The Sea of Galilee, is the main text, a small discourse on the price of following Jesus, followed by two miracles, the calming of the storm, and the healing of the demon possessed men.
The sequence that unfolds is as follows:
What a joy it is for me that by looking at the text as a picture within a frame, we can recall, almost word for word, the scriptures as recorded in the Gospel according to St Matthew, Ch 8 Vs 18-34. It seems to me that this was the very way that the early disciples were able to preach the message of salvation and redemption so accurately, repeating the same message each time inerrantly, for they had assembled the gospel message in word pictures outlined by frames, and transmitted the message in reproducible small packets. (There may be some connection to the way messages are transmitted in small packets across the Internet, but I digress!)
- Jesus is tired and commands his group to depart to the other side.
- One would-be follower says, "I will follow you wherever you go."
- Jesus tells him , "The son of Man has no place to lay his head"
- To another disciple Jesus calls, "Follow me" but he procrastinates, "Let me bury my father first".
- Jesus crosses the lake and a tempest arises. The fearful disciples awake him and Jesus calms the storm.
- On reaching the East shore Jesus encounters two demon possessed men. He commands the demons to leave the men and enter into a herd of swine. The swine rush off a cliff and kill themselves.
- The people of Decapolis plead for Jesus to leave the region. He gets on a boat and departs for Capernaum.
We are fed by the word of God. It is our daily bread. When consumed and digested and absorbed, it nourishes us so that we can grow and better serve our Lord and Master. The text that we just reviewed aids us in evaluating the cost of following Jesus, helps us draw comfort from Jesus in the midst of any storm, refocuses our awareness of the spiritual dimension of struggles on this earth, confirms compassion as an important attribute of our Saviour, and allows us to compare and contrasts our response to Jesus with the people of Decapolis and the grateful healed man who had been demon possessed, but now was glad to tell of all the great things God had done for him. Praise be to God.
We move onto the healing of the paralytic. The text is Matt 9:1-8. Parallel passages are found in Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26. Read the passages, my loved ones, and may God add His blessing to your reading of His Holy Word. Thanks be to God!
And we, scattered all over cyberspace, at the turn of the millennium, also are filled with awe, and stand amazed at the compassion of Jesus who has the authority to forgive us our sins. We have never experienced anything like this. We have experienced the remarkable cleansing of our souls and the forgiveness of our sins by the One who has Authority over All. Praise be to God.
- Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town, Capernaum. The people heard that he had come home (Matt 9:1, Mark 2:1).
- One day, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for Him to heal the sick (Luke 5:17.)
- So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them (Mark 2:2).
- Some men came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them, and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus (Mark 2:3, Luke 5:18).
- Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they went up on the roof. They made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered through the tiles the paralysed man, lying on his mat, into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus (Mark 2:4, Luke 5: 19).
- When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralysed man, "Take heart, friend. Son, your sins are forgiven," (Matt 9: 2, Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20).
- Now some Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking and saying to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Matt 9:3, Mark 2:7-8, Luke 5:21).
- Immediately Jesus knew in His spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why are you thinking these things. Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?" (Matt 9:4, Mark 2:8, Luke 5:22)
- "Which is easier, to say 'your sins are forgiven' or to say 'get up, take your mat, and walk'?" (Matt 9:5, Mark 2:9, Luke 5:23)
- "But so that you may know that the son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.." Then he turned to the paralytic and said, "I tell you: Get up, take your mat, and go home". Matt 9:6, Mark 2:10-11, Luke 5:24)
- And immediately the man got up and stood up in front of them, took the mat that he had been lying on, walked out in full view of them, and went home praising God (Matt 9:7, Mark 2:12, Luke 5:25).
- When the crowd saw this they were amazed and filled with awe, and they praised God, who had given such authority to men, saying, "We have never seen anything like this. We have seen remarkable things today." (Matt 9:8, Mark 2:12, Luke 5:25-26)
Jesus has returned from his rest and recuperation across the Sea of Galilee. His outgoing trip was marked by a sudden tempest which he quelled by command. His brief sojourn at Gergesenes was marked by the healing of the demon possessed men and his rejection by the multitudes of Decapolis. Jesus returns to Capernaum and great crowds gather. Some to be healed. Some to learn and listen with respect. Others to criticise. Hmm, those with destructive critical intent still seem to be around, 2000 years later! The paralysed man is brought to the feet of Jesus despite the great crowd. Such is the faith of the band of friends that Jesus commends them and publicly pronounces the forgiveness of the sick man's sins.
There is no theological basis for linking the paralysis to any specific sin or sinfulness. The paralytic was as much or as little a sinner as you and I are, and equally we are all in need of forgiveness. In a sense he was equally spiritually paralysed as physically paralysed, and Jesus first cured the spiritual paralysis. Do you recognise that spiritual paralysis in your soul? Can not walk in God's way? Do you perceive your spiritual blindness? Can not see spiritual truths as embodied in the Holy Scripture? Are you spiritually deaf, failing to hear the message of hope and redemption that Jesus has preached and his faithful disciples have echoed through the ages? Are you spiritually malnourished spiritually stunted, spiritually anaemic, devastated by spiritual cancer? Jesus can heal you, if you will let him. Unless you are too proud to confess your sins. Unless you are too proud to submit to the Lordship of Jesus.
The teachers of the law had not perceived that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah, the Son of God. They though that a fellow man had no business trying to forgive sins. Jesus knew their thoughts. He demonstrated his spiritual authority by display of physical authority. The crowds were amazed at the spectacle, but like the crowds at Decapolis did not see the spiritual significance. The crowds at Decapolis had focused on their physical loss. The crowd at Capernaum focused on the physical healing, wrongly assuming that this power of healing has been given to a fellow man, not hearing or believing that indeed Jesus was Son of God.
Let us pray
Thank you for our lesson today.
Thank you for the gospel writers who captured the good news in a way that was easy to teach and easy to learn.
Thank you for showing us Jesus can heal physically, a miracle as a demonstration of his authority.
Thank you for showing us that Jesus can forgive sins, a miracle that allows us to stand before you at your throne of grace.
Enable us by the power of your Holy Spirit to go forth to the world to testify of your healing power and your forgiving grace.
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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