By Chase Noel
From the onset of Jesus’ earthly ministry He was doing things no one had seen before
He was casting out demons, teaching with peculiar authority, and calling men of ordinary trade to extraordinary service. In Mark 2, He forgives a paralytic of his sins and cures him of his paralysis with the provided strength to do more than stand, but to also walk, carrying his bed.
“And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee… Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion” (Mark 2:1-5, 11-12).
That day, this man was given the freedom that most of us have, yet take for granted. The freedom to go home simply because he could (and because Jesus said so). As much attention and as many words as the event of this day deserves, it’s what the people say in response to what happened there that strikes me:
“…We never saw it on this fashion”
It carries a similar tone to that of the Samaritan woman, at Jacob’s well, who said, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did” (Jn. 4:29). That tone is an unprecedented one. What was happening was unprecedented in the history of God’s people, on the heels of a 400-year drought from hearing His voice. What was happening was Jesus—He was happening! To many, hope seemed as though it had suddenly broken into a virgin’s womb, when, in reality its song had been gradually lifting out of the prophets of old. To be sure, what was happening was unprecedented, but it shouldn’t have been unexpected. After all, the LORD told us, “I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth” (Isaiah 45:19).
It was the accumulation of unprecedented events like this one that created the religious tension culminated at the cross. Not only were these events defying the laws of nature and physics, but the way Jesus went about them—how He-himself responded to them—clearly implied a divine identity. In other words, the miracles Jesus performed positioned Him to make affirming claims about the Source of them. To say things like: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The implications drawn out from these claims leas us to a decision: to follow Him, or not.
Yes, Jesus’ miracles were sensational to everyone, but His words, they were only to be accepted by some. In the end, it’s our response to His spoken Word, propped up by His revealed power, that will judge us.So it is, that, the deeper our revelation of Jesus goes, the higher our obligation to Him will grow. You and I must do something about His Word.
We find in Scripture that Jesus confronted faith on two basic points:
He confronts faith on the basis of belief, and on the basis of acceptance. First, the idea of an incarnate-God dying for the sins of His created man was hard for sophisticates to believe. Paul said, “… We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:23). Secondly, He was hard to accept, because of His call to a deeper obedience to the law. Jesus told us in His sermon on the mount: “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Jesus peeled back the external layer of Old Testament commands to reveal to us their depth of meaning. While His explanation of the law offended many, conversely it appealed to Old Testament descriptions of God’s nature: “The LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). Jesus was not adding to, nor was He taking away from Scripture.
He was validating it, showing to us more clearly His heart and will in them. He was deepening the responsibility of His listeners by bringing a new clarity to God’s Word.
Just as the people said of the event involving the paralytic, “We never saw it on this fashion…” (Mark 2:12), I can imagine those who heard Jesus’ sermons, parables, and even His prayers, saying with the same wonder: “We never heard it like that…”
However, to see Him only as sensational is not enough. To be mesmerized by the miraculous doesn’t make us Christians. To merely attribute His works to divine power doesn’t either. His call is for us to believe in, and to accept the truth of His identity by obeying His Word—His teachings.
Before we go out seeking the sensational we should consider what it will mean for our lives when the party’s over, and the paralytic has gone home. My guess is that many confessed the wonder of His works without committing to the words which often followed. The question then is this: are we willing to respond with our lives—in a competing manner—to the depth of commitment that Jesus is calling us to, by His Word? Are we willing to move beyond the sensational into the relational aspect of knowing Jesus, and living for Him? This will demand more than our wonder, it will require our will. You and I must do something about His words—His Word.