As busy as He was, Jesus always made Himself available to those who needed Him. Whether it was for teaching, healing, or even to be criticized, Jesus did not shirk from His calling. In this lesson, Stephen encourages us to do likewise.
MARK - THE GOSPEL OF ACTION
“NEVER OFF DUTY . . . ALWAYS ON CALL”
We are in Mark, chapter 2, this morning. Usually when a man becomes popular, usually when something begins to succeed, the originator of that ministry or occupation or whatever it might be becomes aloof and builds walls around his life. He, especially, becomes more difficult to reach by, those who would be considered, common people. And yet, when we look at the life of Jesus Christ, as His ministry begins to pick up the pace, as people begin to find out more about who He is, as they begin to flock to Him, we find that Jesus Christ is still totally available. And, in this chapter, I want to give you several instances where we see the availability of Jesus Christ. Like a good soldier, He’s never off duty. Like a good doctor, He is always on call.
Now, in chapter 1, that we just completed two Sundays ago, the critics were remaining silent. In fact, they didn’t say anything. They just, kind of, murmured a little bit. In chapter 2, they will come, just a little bit more, out of their shell and they will question the disciples, but not Jesus directly. But, in chapter 3, the persecution will begin and, from that point to the cross, they will begin to plot His death. Now, here in chapter 2, they will only go so far as questioning His disciples. But, in spite of the persecution that is about to intensify, Jesus Christ is totally available. And I want that thought to run through your mind as we go through this passage this morning. That Jesus Christ is completely available to you and to me, just as He was to them.
Notice, first of all, how He was available in His teaching. Look at verse 1, Mark, chapter 2, “And again He entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that He was in the house.” People began spreading the news. Now, this could, literally, read, “He was in HIS house.” And that was confusing to me because I thought that He didn’t have a place to lay His head. Now what He meant, however, when He said that “the foxes have holes, and the birds . . . have nests” was that Jesus Himself did not have a permanent residence. But, evidently in Capernaum, someone had loaned Him a house and that was where He stayed as His base of operation. And so, He had returned to His house and everybody got the news. “And” - immediately, verse 2 - “many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door”. Now, I had to study a little bit about these homes in Palestine and discovered that, among the wealthier homes, there would be a doorway and then there would be a foyer and then, from that foyer, the house would begin to develop or the inside of the house. The poorer homes had a door, no foyer. In fact, the door opened right out onto the street. And in the morning, it was the custom to open that door and it was an open invitation. You could come and go as you pleased. Only when someone wanted strict privacy would they close that door, among these common people. But, evidently, the door of Jesus Christ was open. So, you find people coming into the house. In fact, there are so many that they spill out onto the street. You know, as I thought about the way they used to open their door, in fact, many of them didn’t even have a door, it was always open, I think I like closed doors, don’t you? Especially the door leading into the living room. It’s amazing what you can do in the time that somebody comes from that car to knock on your door. You can let the cat out, you can vacuum the living room, you can tuck your shirttail in and then open the door, “Oh, what a surprise! If only I’d known you were coming, I would have tidied up.” You had stuffed toys under the couch, you know. I like closed doors but here, there was no such thing. It was all open, “and He preached the word unto them.” You know, it’s fascinating, as we studied the life of Christ in chapter 1, we find Him teaching the word in the synagogue. In chapter 2, we find Him preaching the word there at the doorway. And He will continually teach the word. Never mistake, because He healed so often, that He had come to earth to heal. He came to present the kingdom program. He came to preach the opportunity for salvation. And to prove that He was Jesus Christ, the Son of God, He would heal, as we will find in just a moment. But, Jesus Christ then was available to those in His teaching.
Now notice, He was available in His healing. Look at verse 3, a very familiar passage, “And they come unto Him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.” - or carried by four. “And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press,” - or because of the crowd - “ they uncovered the roof where he was; and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.” Now, these homes were constructed in such a way that the roofs were, literally, beams laid from wall to wall about three feet apart. And in the middle of these beams, they would lay limestone slabs about three feet by three feet. And then, on top of that, they would take brush and mix it with clay and pack it in for insulation. And then sod, so that usually these homes had a flourishing crop of grass on their roofs. And to get into this house, what they had to do was pull the dirt off and dig out a hole, literally, get to the limestone slabs, and they only needed to pull two or three of them off and that would have been six or nine feet. And they then let down that poor man’s mattress made of straw, sticks running through each side and ropes from those poles. And they lowered this man down into the middle.
Now, I want you to notice that the crowd, in this home, are the doctors of the law, they are the scribes. Now, according to the Rabbis of that day, you were hideously sick if you had been a hideous sinner. That’s what the Rabbis believed. And sickness was, in fact, the hand of God. It was the finger of God on you, if you were sick. And so, sickness and sin were inseparable to their minds in that day. And these doctors of the law had ostracized this man from society because he was paralyzed. “Paralutikos,” is the word from which we get our word, “paralyzed.” And there he was, and I’ve often viewed the story from the vantage point of the onlooker but, imagine how he felt that day. Lowered down in the middle of his accusers, I don’t think he was ever more embarrassed in his life. He was paralyzed. Maybe his arms had fallen awkwardly off and dangled there and his head rolled strangely to the side. Maybe he was drooling a bit and there he was, his mind alert but, his body emaciated, weak. And he could feel the gaze of the scribes on him and their condemning thoughts.
Jesus Christ said three things to him, I want you to notice. Circle, first of all, verse 5, the word, “Son” - or translated, “child.” The word is, “teknon,” which means, “little child.” It was an affectionate term used by a mother for a child or a father for a son. He looked down on that man, who was probably paralyzed, not only from his physical state but, with fear and He said, “Child,” with all the compassion of an available Savior.
Then Luke gives us the recording that Jesus then said, “Be of good courage” or “Take heart.” Now, there are two words used in the original language for the word, “courage,” or translated, “courage.” The first word is the word, “courage,” and it has the idea of a person who is scared to death. And it’s kind of like myself and, perhaps, you’ve had many instances where you’ve been so afraid and so you try to drum up the courage to do whatever you’ve go to do. As a little boy, we had a garage that was connected to our basement. And many times they would send one of us four boys, if Tim chickened out, it would be me, or maybe one of the other brothers. And they would send us down to that basement and out to the garage where there was a freezer in the corner. Maybe it was for a half-gallon of ice cream or something. We wanted that so bad, we’d do anything. And they would send us down. And I can remember, time and time again, as a little lad going down to that basement, with the cold tile floor, and then opening the door into that garage, and it was pitch dark. And I would grope a little bit to try to find the light switch, waiting to be pounced on by some “boogie-man” or something. Finally, I would find that light but it would only reach so far and always the corners were still dark. We had an attic and it was always dark. In fact, to me it was another universe up there and I knew that eyes were peering at me. And so, I would run to that freezer, flick open the door, grab that gallon of ice cream and turn around and run and I just knew, you know. So what I would do to drum up the courage to survive that is I would begin to whistle. Maybe you’ve done something like that. Now, it’s hard to whistle when your lips are trembling. (Blow, blow) You know, you can just get a little air out. But see, what I was doing was I was drumming up the courage to make it through it. I was filled with fear. Now, the other Greek word that’s used, speaking of courage, is, “one who is without fear.” You have courage because you have absolutely no fear at all. There is no need to whistle or hum. No fear. That’s the word that Jesus Christ used here. He said, “Child, take courage. There is absolutely no reason to fear.” His accusers were there. He knew that he was a defiled person in their presence. And Jesus said, “Take heart. No need to fear. Take courage.” And then, in the same breath, Jesus looked at him and said, “thy sins be forgiven thee.”
“And immediately” - Mark writes - “when Jesus perceived in His spirit that” - the critics - “so reasoned within themselves” - because they thought in verse 7, “who can forgive sins but God only?” And by the way, a person who blasphemed, they had a law for that too. The scribes would hang you from a tree and they would stone you and then they would cut the rope and they would bury you in shame. And they said, “this man . . . blasphemies” - verse 7 - “who can forgive sins but God only?” “And immediately when Jesus perceived . . . that they so reasoned . . . He said unto them, ‘Why reason ye these things in your hearts?’” Now, I love His response. We can’t pass this by. Do you know the good test of you and me is how we face criticism? One of the good tests of character is what you do and how you respond when someone levels a criticism at your character. I never find Jesus Christ saying, “What are you thinking that for?” And getting all over them. No, He never says that. All He says was, “Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy,” - or to the paralyzed, verse 9 - “‘Thy sins be forgiven thee;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?’ But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,” - remember here is the reason He is healing - “I say unto thee, ‘Arise, and take up they bed, and go thy way into thine house.’ And immediately” - Mark records - “he arose”.
Now, I want you to notice the stair step, and I’ve given it to you in your notes, of His logic. This was how Jesus Christ was proving His point. And He was taking the Rabbi’s argument. First of all, it is impossible for someone to be healed unless He is forgiven. Secondly, only God can forgive sin. Thirdly, Jesus healed this man proving that Jesus must have forgiven his sins, ultimately stating, Jesus must be God. It was an undeniable argument. Fascinating how He dealt with His critics. And what a physician. Imagine! He comes to the sick, He gives a perfect diagnoses, presents a complete cure and then pays the bill. Wow! What a physician! Now, I want you to notice, that it says, “they were all amazed,” - verse 12 - “and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw it on this fashion.’” Literally, “Some strange things are happening here today.”
Notice, thirdly, His availability then to the outcasts. Look at verse 13, “And He went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto Him, and He taught them. And as He passed by, He saw Levi” - we know him as Matthew - “the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom,” - or the tax collector’s table. Now, Capernaum was the intersection of many commercial roads. In fact, you came from Egypt to Galilee and you went through Capernaum. It was the center. It was a thriving economy. Now, there were two kinds or two classes of tax collectors. There was the “gooby(?)” or there were the “gooby(?).” And these men would tax your property and your income and stated things and it was very difficult to become wealthy because those were fixed taxes. But then the second class of tax collectors were the “mokay(?).” And these men became very wealthy because they taxed everything they could touch. If you caught a fish, you could not get down the road to your house without passing this tax collector, who had set his table at an intersection. You’d be taxed on that fish. You went shopping and you bought some things, you would pay him tax. Because there were not stated amounts, these men became incredibly wealthy. It was a way to get rich quick. Now, there were two kinds of “mokay(?).” There was the great “mokay(?),” he would hire someone to sit at the table. You see, he was worried about his reputation. And it was obvious that, since these Jews were traitors because they had bought the right from the Roman government, the great “mokay(?)” didn’t want anyone to know that he was part of this. So he would hire someone. He was the great “mokay(?).” The little “mokay(?)” was too cheap and too greedy to hire anybody. He had to sit at the table himself because he didn’t want a middle man. Notice what it says about Matthew, he was - “sitting at the” - tax table. He was a little “mokay(?).” Cheap, greedy Matthew. He didn’t care about his reputation. He could care less if you leveled your finger at him and said, “Don’t you realize, as a Jew, you’re a traitor to us?” He could care less. He was out for the buck. A little “mokay(?).” And yet, you find Jesus Christ coming to him and saying, in verse 14, “‘Follow Me.’ And” - Matthew - “arose and followed Him.”
Now, I want you to notice, finally, the availability of Jesus Christ to the needy world. Notice what Matthew does in verse 15, “And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in His house,” - notice, “His house,” there - “many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples”. The word “publican,” was the general term for these tax collectors. A publican meant, one who did public duty. And Matthew was a publican. Now, you’ll know, as you study through the gospels, that the publicans were as bad as Gentiles in the Jewish mind. They were scum. In fact, they would say here, the critics would say to the disciples of Jesus, in verse 16, when they saw Him eating, “How is it that He eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?” Literally, “How does He eat with people of the soil, dirty people? How can He associate with them?” The clue is in verse 17, “When Jesus heard it, He saith unto them, ‘They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’” Jesus Christ was at a feast and, I believe, that this was Matthew’s resignation dinner. He called all of his friends together and he had a guest speaker up his sleeve, namely, Jesus. He was going to resign publicly. He was going to tell all of his publican friends and all the crowd that he ran with that he was quitting his job. He was going to follow this man. And so he gathered all of these people and a feast was prepared. And they reclined. Now Jesus Christ was right smack in the middle of them. In fact, they weren’t sitting, they were reclining. They would rest on their left elbow. They would face the food. It was a sign of intimacy. If you ate a meal with another individual, it meant that you were close friends. What was Jesus doing there? Jesus stated that, “I didn’t come to call the righteous. They don’t need Me. I’m a physician. I don’t make house calls on the well. They don’t need Me. I go to the sick. They need Me.” So Jesus reclines.
I remember reading the story told by Hugh Redwood, an old preacher from England. Of a woman who lived in the dock district in London. She lived with a Chinese man and they had, what they called back then, a half-cast baby, half-breed. She was an outcast to society. She heard of a ladies Bible study and decided to go. She went and enjoyed it. In fact, she brought her baby with her. And enjoyed it so much that she came back week after week until finally, after a month or two, the Vicar came to her and said, “Ma’am, I do not want you to return.” And she looked at him with questions in her eyes. And he went ahead and provided the answer, “If you keep coming, these women will never come back to this church.” And he tells the story that her eyes filled with tears and she looked at him and said, “I know I’m a sinner but isn’t there anywhere that a sinner can go?” Back in this day, there was a place. They could go to Jesus. And I fear, ladies and gentlemen, that we throw up our sanctuaries and we start all of our programs. We say, “If you want Him, come to us. But, if you come, act like us, look like us, be like us.” We’ve missed the point. When I study the availability of Jesus Christ, it is mind-boggling. Because if He lived in the 20th century I think we would spurn Him too.
Let me give you some truths that you need to apply from the availability of Jesus Christ. Perhaps, you could jot them down. Very simple and yet, profound. Number one, Jesus Christ is availability to you when you admit you need Him. It’s as simple as that. He’s available. Have you ever told Him that you wanted Him? The question is, will you accept Him? He’s available. In fact, He died for you. His blood was shed for you. And, if you realize, perhaps even this morning, that you need Him, I have great news, He’s available.
Secondly, Jesus Christ is available to others when you are willing to serve Him. You know, I had to go back to this passage and it was amazing some things that began to come out of the text and it’s true for you, too. And I suggest that you read a passage over and over and over again. It seems that you see something new every time. It was fascinating to me that the possibility of Jesus Christ’s ministry was because others, who followed Him, would serve Him. Think of it. Someone loaned Him a house and the guy is never introduced. We don’t know who he was. Think of the men who patched the roof. We never heard of them. But, you know, I have a feeling they probably didn’t patch it for a couple of months because they invited people in, “Look, there it is! He came right through that hole. Right down here and Jesus healed him.” But those men who toiled and cleaned up were never introduced. Think of the feast given to Matthew’s friends. There were women cooking, perhaps even men back there helping prepare the feast and we never see them. But yet, they were busy preparing for this feast. “Jesus is going to be here and He’s going to share the gospel of the kingdom and we’re going to serve to make it possible.” I love the truth of these hidden servants, who we never see. But Jesus Christ is available to others because others served Him. So the question is, will you serve Him if you know Him?
I remember reading a story. It was after World War II and Europe was left to pick up the pieces. And, I guess, the most tragic thing of the aftermath was the thousands of orphaned children who roamed the streets, starving to death. And a GI was going back to his barracks in London and he turned the corner in his jeep and he saw a little orphan boy. A rag-tag kid looking through the window of a pastry shop, his nose pressed against the glass. He was salivating as he watched the man knead the dough and put together those donuts and put them into the oven and then they came out piping hot and placed right in front of that little boys nose in the window. And the GI screeched to a halt and he got out and he went up to the little boy and he said, “Hey, would you like some?” The little kid, “Yea, sure would!” The GI goes into the donut shop, buys a dozen, comes out and hands them to the little boy. He turns and walks away and then he feels a tug on his jacket. There’s that little boy who looks up at him and says, “Mister, are you God?”
You know, the truth is, ladies and gentlemen, that Jesus Christ has come, totally available. And He needs those that claim Him to be little Christ’s, Christians, that’s your name. Have you made it possible for someone to sit at the feast table? Have you made it possible for someone to hear? Can people look at you and say, “You must be from God,” because you are available to them?