Imagine that you live in the region of Galilee during the first century and that you’ve been hearing about someone named Jesus who is said to have good news. He reportedly teaches about the kingdom of God, heals diseases and casts out demons on a regular basis. Jesus himself announced the kingdom by saying, “The time has come…The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)
How would you interpret the idea of the “kingdom of God?”
What kind of “good news” would you imagine him to be bringing?
Jesus began to clarify these concepts as he taught the good news with powerful words and demonstrated the cosmic scope of the Kingdom of God through miraculous healings and deliverances. (For the first few examples of these events, see Mark 1:14-2:12.)
But it must still have been confusing to fit Jesus’ words and actions into a coherent shape.
Early understanding of Jesus, the good news, and his kingdom might be accurately represented as a loosely formed cloud of disconnected words and impressions.
Over time, however, the words and witness of Jesus would begin to take on a surprising shape.
One day Jesus was “preaching the word” to a packed house in Capernaum when the resourceful friends of a paralytic interrupted Jesus by lowering the man into the crowd from the roof.
Jesus responded to this by saying “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Reactions to this surprising statement surely varied. I imagine his friends thinking, “Um, that’s very nice Jesus, but we really want you to heal his legs.” Religious leaders in the crowd were horrified at what they presumed was blasphemy. “Who does he think he is?” they thought. In response, Jesus asked them a question of his own; “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” (v. 9) To make his point, Jesus told the man to pick up his mat and go home. Which he did.
Jesus’ question was ironic and it foreshadowed the shape of his words and his witness. Jesus would indeed provide for the forgiveness of our sins, but it would not be easy. At all.
It cost him little to heal the paralytic, but the price tag for our forgiveness would be his death on a cruel cross.
The words and witness of Jesus Christ ultimately took the shape of a painful cross on which he gave his life as payment for our sins.
What shape will the words and witness of Jesus Christ take in your life?
“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavishes on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7