The Doctor Is In
There is a famous Peanuts comic in which Lucy is pictured behind a booth with a painted marque that reads: “The Doctor Is In.” If you give her a nickel, she’ll cure anything.
I’d like to open the message today by asking:
- If you had a nickel, what would you ask Lucy to cure?
That question relates to our exploration of Christianity. If Christianity is about a person, like we’ve been saying over the past couple of weeks, then it’s import to know why Jesus came? The Bible’s message is the Jesus came to heal. One issue that American Christianity has is confusion over why Jesus came and why he’s come to heal. To answer the question we’re going to look at two episodes in Mark 2.
Jesus Heals the Paralytic
Please turn to the beginning of Mark, we’re going to see what Jesus does with a paralyzed man.
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. (Mark 2:1–4).
The friends of the paralyzed man are good friends. They’re caring friends. They’re friends on a mission. They see that the doctor is in, and so they’re going to get George to Jesus, so he can walk again. How might George’s friends answer the question:
- Why did Jesus come?
Well, Jesus is being “typical Jesus” and does something that turns everyone’s head around. Let’s read on and see what he does…
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? (Mark 2:5–9).
I imagine George’s friends saying something like: “Umm… Very nice, thank you, Jesus. But that wasn’t actually what we wanted. The bloke can’t walk, so let’s sort out the important stuff before we get into this spiritual stuff, ya know?”
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:10–12).
What do you suppose the onlookers were thinking when Jesus said: “Your sins are forgiven.”
Why did Jesus do it that way? Why make it about the man’s sin? I don’t know much about George’s sin, but I’m 98% sure there wasn’t a linear, causal relationship between his sin and paralysis. So, why go there, Jesus?
I think the answer to this question that Mark is getting us to focus on is in the next episode.
Jesus Calls the Tax Collector
He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:13–17).
If you didn’t know, tax collectors were despised in Jesus’ Israel. They collected on behalf of the occupying enemy, the Romans. But what is more, as they did it, they were ripping off their fellow Jews, lining their own pockets.
How do you really tick someone off? Mess with either their kids or their money, right? So tax collectors were hated.
There’s Jesus, attracting all the wrong folks who’ve gathered at the house of this tax collector turned Jesus follower. When the self-righteous, religious upity-ups saw it they had a question: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” (Mark 2:16).
Jesus’ answer helps to define Christianity: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17).
Why did Jesus come? He came to forgive sin. He forgives the paralyzed man. He forgives the tax collector.
The Great Physician is saying, “Your deepest problem isn’t that you don’t have sufficient education; or you lack effective politicians; or you don’t have enough money; or that there’s too much crime in your neighborhood. It’s not even that love and respect in American society is gone. Your deepest problem is that you’re separated from my Father by sin.”
Two Aspects of Sin
If Jesus came primarily to deal with our deepest problem, which is sin, then perhaps it would be worthwhile to understand it a bit better.
(1) Falling short. One aspect of sin can be illustrated by an arrow that flies through the air, but misses the target because it falls short. It drops to the ground 10 feet before it hits the mark. So, sin is not living up to the standard; it’s falling short.
(2) Rebellion. Another aspect of sin is rebellion. To illustrate this I want to tell you something about I learn this part week at The Cove in Asheville, NC.
a. Core Terror
Last week I was with the Christian psychologist and author, Larry Crabb. During the week we were asked to identify our core terror, and then to discuss how we tried to mitigate or avoid that terror by putting on personas and masks.
My core terror was rejection. Others spoke of terror like being overlooked or being alone.
b. Relational Persona
I’ve worked really hard all my life to avoid rejection. I earn an officer commission in the military, and a wagon load of degrees so I wouldn’t be rejected. I assumed that if I had the credentials, then I’d get an invitation to the party. I put on the persona of the learned-expert, to valuable to reject. It’s too scary to admit that I don’t know; I don’t know about planting this church, I don’t know about remarriage. All I know is that I don’t know.
c. My Background History
My core terror began in my early childhood. Several experiences of being bullied and rejected before I finished kindergarten put me on guard for life. I’m so afraid of being rejected that I don’t know how to be myself. Often I catch myself trying to figure out who I should be; the authentic Dan is hidden.
d. My Discovery
This past week I was in a small group that asked some hard questions. I told my small group that I feel immense shame just to be me, how I wish I was someone else. One person said, “I see you’ve drawn the conclusion that the treatment you’ve received means you’re unworthy, shameful, but I wonder if you’ve ever grieved instead?” I admitted I’d not. My anger has typically turned inward at myself, that I wasn’t good enough to make things turn out better.
My experiences are so numerous and my turning inward such a well-worn path, that I discovered this past week that I suffer with PTSD brought on by repeated traumatic events of rejection in my history.
e. Rebellion Illustrated
Now, you might hear all of this and think, “Where’s the sin, Dan? Seems like you were sinned against.” That’s true. And each of you have been sinned against in some way too.
But here is my sin of rebellion: my wounds have created a core terror and sends me into ways of relating that I try to protect myself. “God, you didn’t love me well, you didn’t protect me. I have to do it myself.” In other words, I think I’m at the center of the solar system, supposing God’s job is revolve around me.
There is something within me that doesn’t want God at the center. I don’t want to revolve around God, to trust God, to wait on God. That’s rebellion; that’s sin.
Rebellion leads into all sorts of evil. Sometimes it’s moral errors that fly in the face of God’s holiness. Other times it’s a failure to trust him with my core terror.
For example, I suffered a divorce, but God gave me a new wife. Yet I’m so terrorized by rejection that I withhold my heart from Brittany—it’s hard to move towards her. And if she hurts me, I defend with logic and reason—the expert mask goes on: “You can’t reject me, I’m the expert.”
Jesus Secures the Harness
What would it be like to be undefended, to drop the persona? It would feel foolish, like suicide, it would open me up to being hurt in all the ways I’ve been hurt before. That’s risky—like jumping off a cliff. Yet that’s where connection is found.
What if I believed that God had buckled me into a harness, and I wouldn’t die if I dropped the mask, if I jumped off the cliff? How might trusting God change the way that I relate? Would I love well; would the Holy Spirit be release from within me into the life of another, into the life of my wife?
Oh, I’m catching a vision here of how I could relate and I’m being drawn towards it. I’m being drawn toward giving up self-rule, that is, to let go of my incessant demand to manage my core terror myself. I’m empty and broken. I want to trust God more with this.
Realizing I want self-rule, that I want to manage my core terror myself because I refuse to trust. That’s a confession of rebellion. That’s a confession of my sin. When I realize that I’m broken like that, then the Holy Spirit comes and makes me aware of a deep thirst in my soul. He asks: “You want God, don’t you? Well, I put that thirst within you; it means I’m here. Consider your relationships, where do you need to cliff jump? Trust me! I’ve secured the gospel around your waist, you’re secure, you’re safe.”
Why did Jesus come? He came to call self-absorbed, sinners who struggle to trust like me. He said: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17). He came call sinners into a deeper walk God—to take up the sport of cliff jumping as they relate.
Jesus Diagnosis and Delivers
Jesus came to diagnosis and deliver. He’s the Great Physician who knows how we are better than we know. And he says, “If you believe my diagnosis, I can heal you, I can give you an abundant life.”
Abundant life isn’t having every material blessing you hope for. No! Abundant life is when you walk into each difficulty of life undefended, abandoning self-proactive demands, trusting in the harness of the gospel. And there you’ll find a thirst to know God more and desire to reveal what he is like in the way you relate.
When self-protective demands give way to a deep thirst to trust God, you’re tasting the abundant life.
Jesus lived that life. He trusted the Father through difficult circumstances and never once took up self-protective demands, even when a Roman framing crew nailed him to a tree. And as he was raised up Jesus diagnosed us, calling out our heart-condition that separates us from God, and, then, he delivered us by making forgiveness available in his death.
That’s what a doctor does: he diagnosis and delivers. That’s what Jesus came to do.