Over the last 10+ years, around 15,000 people have stepped into Epic Church at least once. And it’s still happening every single week. Since August 1, 140 people have stepped into our church for the first time. I wish you could have seen the room last Sunday during our Next Steps lunch. 30 people attended from so many different countries: South Korea, Columbia, Mongolia, Kenya, Venezuela, and several Egyptians. People show up here for all kinds of reasons. Some because they moved to San Francisco and finding a church was a priority. Some come because their girlfriend invited them. Others come hoping to find a girlfriend. Some show up and simply say, “I’m not interested in religion, but I really need community.” Some are genuinely seeking to learn more about Christianity. Some show up because we have personally invited them.
I am grateful for all the reasons people have chosen to step into Epic for the first time. But you know what I really love? When people say, “I initially came to Epic because of _______________, but I’ve found so much more.”
Today, as we continue to gain clarity on who Jesus is, we’ll see people come to him for all kinds of reasons. But they usually get way more than what they came for, even if they don’t like it. This is the kind of moment we’re going to walk into today. I’m calling this message, “More than You Asked For”.
Mark 2:1-12 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers 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 paralyzed man, 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 by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven, or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to them, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
There are lots of ways we could teach this text today. We could talk about the passion these four people have to do whatever it takes to get their friend to Jesus. And we’ll get there. We could talk about the reaction of the religious leaders. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that too. We see the response of the crowd – they’re amazed because they’ve never seen anything like this. And then, of course, there’s the healing of this paralyzed man. These are all significant but none of these are the main event of this moment.
Think about what each one of these characters desires in this encounter. What do they all want from Jesus? The four friends want Jesus to heal their paralyzed friend. The religious leaders want to set Jesus straight. The crowd shows up at this home because they’ve heard about the teachings of Jesus and how He has healing power. They want to see Him with their own eyes. As I think about why each of them came to Jesus, I have to ask you this question:
What is it that is bringing you to Jesus?
Why are you interested? What are you after? In this moment, Jesus is after more than simply healing this paralyzed man. And He’s interested in way more than an argument with the religious leaders. And his ultimate aim lies beyond amazing the crowd who came hoping to see something spectacular. And you have to also know:
Jesus is after more than the reason you are coming to Him.
It’s not that Jesus isn’t interested in teaching you or healing you. It’s just that He wants to go deeper than these things.
When this scene begins, it says that the people heard that Jesus had come home. “Home” probably refers to Peter’s home. And this home is crowded. A couple of my kids ride different Muni buses to school. On a recent morning, I walked one of them down to get on their bus and I didn’t know if he would fit – really crowded. That’s the scene at this home – the inside is full and so is the area right outside the door.
So when these four guys show up with their friend, there’s no room. Now most of us would have been like, “Sorry man…we tried.” I’m convinced that in so many areas, too many of us give up on things way too soon.
Not these guys - they get creative. They make an opening in the roof and then lower the man through the hole. As you might imagine, this gets everyone’s attention…everyone including Jesus. But notice this – it’s not the person coming through the hole in the roof that grabs the attention of Jesus most. There’s a stunning phrase that should shape how we live our lives:
When Jesus Saw THEIR Faith
How incredible that Jesus can see when our faith is present.
How sobering that Jesus can see when our faith is absent.
So many of us have somehow bought into the lie that faith or belief or trust is something that can be private, personal, and passive.
Faith always leads to movement.
You say you have faith? But if your faith hasn’t caused you to do anything, the Scriptures teach that that isn’t faith.
James 2:26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
Do you have faith in Jesus? If so, what is that faith leading you to actually do?
Another way to think about your faith is to ask this question:
How confident are you in Jesus?
These four individuals were confident that if they could only get their friend to Jesus, he would be healed. But with what He does next, Jesus defies everyone’s expectations. You would expect him to say, “Son, your body is healed.” But he doesn’t do that. He says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
To really get the weight of this moment, we need to forget everything we know about Jesus, the cross, and forgiveness of sins. Imagine that you only know Jesus as a great teacher and a wonderful healer. And imagine that you’re a Jew who’s well-acquainted with the Hebrew Scriptures or what we call The Old Testament. And you know from this sacred text that only God can forgive sin. See, the religious leaders were right about the truth that no one forgives sins but God alone.
Now, do you see how shocking it is that Jesus is claiming to forgive sins? What is He doing? He’s telling them and telling us, “More than a great teacher is here. More than a wonderful healer is present. God is in your midst. I am God in the flesh.”
What do you do with someone who makes this kind of claim? Either he’s out of his mind or He really is God. Either’s he’s blaspheming or he’s the Messiah. You know what you can’t do with Him? You can’t say He’s just one way of many to God. Or I love his moral teachings. Or I love that he heals the sick and cares for the poor. This is why I said earlier that He’s after more than what we came for.
This outrageous claim is what will ultimately cause Jesus to be crucified on a cross.
John 19:7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”
I want to share from the chapter called “The Shocking Alternative” in C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity:
“Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time…He told people their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history…I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
When I look around today, I see us using Jesus for all the things that are of self-interest to us. When we’re in need, He can provide. That’s true. When we are sick, He can heal. He can do that too. When we want a certain political outcome – we find ways to get Jesus to endorse our views – whether we’re on the left or the right.
Jesus is God. He will not be co-opted by our interests or preferences. He is not looking to orient His entire life around our plans. But He’s very much looking for people who will fall at his feet to call Him Lord and will orient their entire life around Him.
I’m not sure what initially appealed to you about Jesus, but He wants something deeper. If He’s not God, then why bother with any of this? If He is God, why would you not worship Him and obey Him – whatever that includes.
What do you want from Jesus? What’s the deeper thing He wants for you? What does He see when He sees your faith?