Sermon notes for 16 July 2017
See previous post: (I) Whom Do You Seek?
This Gospel lesson begins with some folk seeking Jesus – to bring him a paralytic. The lesson doesn’t say what the people coming to Jesus were looking for, but Jesus sees their faith and pardons the paralytic of his sins. We might infer from this that this is exactly what these folk were seeking from Jesus. They will by the end of the story get even more – the paralytic will be healed. But it is possible that the man wanted forgiveness more than anything else and Jesus correctly discerned this.
Gospel: Matthew 9:1-8
So Jesus got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.
Why did Jesus heal this man? To prove he was not blaspheming, and that He really did have the power to forgive sins. Jesus’ initial and prime response to their faith is to forgive the sins of the paralytic. Jesus heals the man only as the afterthought, to prove that his words about forgiveness are real.
We often love miracles of all sorts, but in Christianity they are supposed to be signs pointing to the Kingdom of God. They are not the main attraction. Yet the attraction of miracles, and even magical events captures the attraction of many Christians. In loving the miracle, they can lose sight of its importance and meaning.
Note: In the Gospel lesson, the people marveled, not that the man was healed, but that Christ has the power to heal! They actually are on to something important and aren’t being distracted by the miracle.
The Gospel lesson begins with some faithful people seeking Jesus out. In response to their faith, Jesus forgives.
Last week, I asked you to think about, “What is my question for Jesus?” The paralytic’s question may well have been, “Can you forgive me?”
Today, I ask you something Jesus asked, “Whom do you seek?”
We might think that seeking Jesus is always a good thing, and it is, except that sometimes people do seek Him for wrong reasons. We can think back to the Garden of Gethsemane.
Then Jesus, knowing all that was to befall him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he; . . . So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews seized Jesus and bound him. (John 18:4-11)
The men coming to arrest Jesus were seeking Him! And note that Jesus does not disseminate or obfuscate in His answer. He plainly and truthfully says that He is Jesus. He accepts all who seek Him! He is not worried about their motives. If they are seeking Him, they are on a right path, even if they don’t know it. He doesn’t try to avoid them or escape them.
But some do seek Jesus to be rid of him.
Sometimes people are seeking Him and yet can’t see Him even when He is right in front of them
Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom do you seek?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). (John 20:15-16)
Why couldn’t she see Him? She was looking for a dead man. She didn’t understand yet who He is. So her wrong understanding prevented her from seeing Him exactly as He is.
This can happen to any of us if we fail to seek out the risen Lord, but rather only want a miracle worker or a magician or a slave to clean up our messes and our lives. If we aren’t looking for the risen Lord, we will miss Him entirely even if he stands right before our eyes.
This is also how sometimes our desire for and love miracles can blind us, for we seek the magic and the power but not He who is empowered to save us. The Magi of Matthew 2 were able to find the Messiah, even if He was still but a young baby because they were looking for the King of the Jews – they were looking for who Jesus is rather than whom they imagine Him to be. The stars and the angels guided them right to Jesus.
If we seek Jesus for who He is, we will find Him and be able to see Him.
A final thought based upon today’s Epistle lesson – Romans 12:6-14 –
Brothers and sisters, having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Seeking Jesus requires effort and emotion, energy and enthusiasm on our part. Look at the Epistle – it emphasizes diligence, fervor, strength, steadfastness as well as affection, rejoicing and cheerfulness. Seeking Jesus is not for the half-hearted or double-minded.
Note as well what St. Paul says we are to do – provide for the saints and practice hospitality. I actually think we do these two things well. The last point comes much harder to us – Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse!