The abrupt teacher and his exclusive gospel
There’s a little vignette in the life of Christ that I thoroughly enjoy re-reading. It opens a window into the real Jesus. In Mk. 2:1-12, we find Jesus in the little house of Peter the fisherman. This is the very beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. He hasn’t been around long enough for anyone to hate Him. But He has stirred the curiosity of the religious leaders and they are beginning to investigate.
A careful reading of this text reveals the following scene in the little, lake-side village of Capernaum. Jesus is seated in Peter’s house. The sick and infirmed are mashing through the narrow door to be healed. Other commoners are rubbernecking to get a glimpse of these extraordinary miracles. But, interestingly, we find the religious leaders (Pharisees) comfortably seated within the house—no doubt enjoying front row seats. They are there to determine whether Jesus is true or false.
For most people this would be very intimidating. The Pharisees were respected and feared. They were the police, judges and lawyers of the land. One word by them to the Sanhedrin (Israel’s ‘Supreme Court’) and they’d lock you up and throw away the key. While Rome did not grant them the right to carry out capital punishment, we find, especially in the book of Acts, that this did not always stop them from angrily shedding blood. To have such men front and center was good reason to watch your every word. But Jesus was not just any man. He was and is God.
So as Jesus is healing and teaching, suddenly the house begins to fill with dust. Particles of debris from the roof above begin to fall to the floor. Rays of light pierced the dusty air to reveal two men breaking apart the roof so they could lower their paralyzed friend to Jesus! They would not be stopped by a clogged entrance—they would make their own. No doubt, the Pharisees were fully entertained. But the show hadn’t even begun.
Once their infirmed friend was safely lowered to the ground, Jesus began His work. If you were to read every recorded miracle in Christ’s earthly life, you would find that this is the ONLY miracle where He does what He is about to do. And I believe He does it to jolt the Pharisees to their very core. Not merely to be controversial, but to wake them up to the reality of who He is!
Here it is. Mark 2:5-7 says, “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven. But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” The Pharisees were right and wrong. They were right in saying only God can forgive sins. They were wrong in saying He was blaspheming. If He was just a man or a glorified angel, he would have been guilty of blasphemy; but he was God. And as God, He can forgive sins based upon faith-alone trust in Him. The paralysis had passed to the Pharisees. They came looking for subtle inaccuracies, but Jesus, in one abrupt declaration, pulled back the curtains and revealed Himself as the one, true God. Even though it would be three more years before the murder of Jesus, it is in the early part of His ministry where the religious leaders begin to conspire against Him. They could not handle the real Jesus.
Even the ancient philosopher, Plato, (who lived some 400 years before Christ) imagined what would happen if a perfect man came to live on this imperfect planet. He says, “… [if] a just man in his simplicity and nobleness” who was “willing to hold to his course of justice unwavering to the point of death...” were to enter our world, “Our just man will be thrown into prison, scourged and racked, will have his eyes burn out and, after every kind of torment, be impaled.” Plato knew a truly perfect man would be too controversial and mankind would execute him in a most graphic manner.
I challenge the honest thinker to consider Jesus’ exclusive claims to salvation. He says in John 14:6 … “I am the way and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” He did not say He was “a” way, leaving the door open to other options. He uses three definite articles, plus the exclusive claim that no other way leads to the Father. So much for the fairy tale of the “tolerant” Jesus. He was intolerant of all other promised ways outside of Himself. This is not a bias twist. These are His words. He knew man’s soul was in peril and that the sacrifice He made on the cross was the only way for mankind to be forgiven and not encounter the justice of God.
C. S. Lewis challenges the honest thinker to make a conclusion about Christ and His teachings. Is He Lord (true and therefore deserves our surrender), liar (intentionally deceiving people), or lunatic (simply crazy like his brothers thought (Mk. 3:21))? Before we say we’re okay with Jesus, we should investigate what He taught. That goes for the politicians and Joe the Plumber.