Outline of the very first sermon I ever preached (delivered at Luther House Chapel, 23 Feb 2003

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Mark 2:1-12 “1A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4Since 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. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7"Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8Immediately 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? 9Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, 11"I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 12He 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!" The Preparation or Prerequisite for a miracle - Faith • Without faith, miracles produce :  skepticism - compare Pharisees' deductive reasoning process;  blasphemy - the ironic example of the Pharisees  hardened unbelief - why didn't Jesus do any miracles in Matt 13:58? So we ask for an 'act of God' (force majeure), but can we take it? • Faith holds the goodness/reality of God constant, and 'wiggles' the circumstances, the pain, the uncertainties. • Faith needed to recognize a miracle • Faith can be vicarious; very relevant for visitations, evangelism - how is OUR faith in relation to the needs to those whom we love? • Jesus saw the faith of the paralytic's friends, NOT that of the paralytic! And this is faith expressed in love, in action, in long-suffering, in perseverance. E.g., we should be more to pray long and hard for those in need of healing, for those in need of a new movement in their lives The Purpose or Plan of a miracle - Revelation & Renewal It would've been EASIER to merely say, "Get up and walk!" but Jesus had other plans: Revelation: • When we come to God with a problem, on occasion He may want to give you more • You pour your heart out to God and instead of granting your request, He gives you something which at first glance may seem:  Confusing  Irrelevant  Blasphemous

"…but that you may know something more about Me, but that you may know I am a bigger God than you think, but that you may know that I love you more than you can ever imagine…"

Renewal • Not just to heal the body, or impress the mind but to renovate the heart • Do we know WHY it's 'harder' to say, "I forgive you" than to say, "I heal you"?? • Effects of Physical healing 'one-off'; supernatural healing not so obvious! • Healing = working with bodies; Forgiveness = working with hearts, with strained emotions, brokenness. • Healing produces instant gratitude; forgiveness easily taken for granted • Healing focused on individual; forgiveness is a community event  Compare with community outcast - do we know how difficult it is for someone to feel accepted back into a community which has rejected him? ‘Forgiveness of sins' CONNOTES more than just a new legal standing before God; not primarily crediting your moral/judicial accounts; a first-century Jew did not think mainly in such legal terms it also refers to a restoration back into a community  To be accepted back into the people of God, into the true/renewed/eschatological people of God  Inclusion, reconciliation, acceptance and love.  The Pharisees were not only doubting Jesus, but by their actions they were REFUSING ENTRY to the paralytic; they are saying that that guy was NOT part of God's people - it's a LOT more than merely skepticism or religious attack. The Product or Prize of a miracle - Praise • What REALLY matters to God, the bottom line • Praise is the result of a believing heart • J.I. Packer’s summary after an intense period of trials, "Alas, but I have known God!" • "Give us an open heaven" – heaven characterized by praise, request looks to the realization of a condition / atmosphere / attitude of constant praise on earth

Alwyn Lau