In Jesus’ Words: Follow Me (Mark 2:13-17)

Do you remember that feeling when you got picked for the team in school? It probably made you feel happy or relieved. Or maybe you remember not getting picked, and it seemed to make your whole day feel even worse.  Everyone wants to belong somewhere, to know they have worth. We want to feel, that even though we might not be very good or have made some stupid mistakes, someone believes in us anyway, and likes the potential they see in us. Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did, and how he made people feel.

Jesus was known for dining with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors were in a category all by themselves and considered the biggest sinners of all. It would have been scandalous in those days to be seen with them, much less dine at their house. Now, Jesus was not hanging out with them to call out their sins or to prove his point, which he certainly had the authority to do. He was there for one thing: Follow Me! Jesus saw their potential over the bad. He was giving them a chance. They had been picked for the team!

~ The Call of Matthew, Dining with Sinners ~
Mark 2:13-17

Then Jesus went out again beside the sea. The whole crowd was coming to Him, and He taught them. Then, moving on, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him.

While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew went on to follow Jesus the rest of his life, giving up his rich lifestyle. He wrote a book about Jesus’s life which became one of the four gospels. He went on to minister to Persia, Macedonia, Syria and Ethiopia to bring the good news to kings and sinners, and he never regretted that day he was picked or his decision to follow.

In Jesus’ Words: We have never seen anything like this! (Mark 2:1-12)

Which is easier – to forgive someone’s sins, or to heal their physical body?  We have medical doctors, medicine and hospitals that can do great things today to heal the body, but we still only have one person who has ever claimed to be able to forgive your sins for eternity, and that is Jesus.  No other person, no matter what religion or belief, has ever even attempted to make that claim.  And that one single claim is the difference, and it’s a big difference.  It’s worth checking out the person who made this claim.

Jesus had no agenda of his own, and did not seek fame on his own.  Everything he did pointed to God, whom He called His Father.  The crowds that followed Him said it all – “We have never seen anything like this!”

I have to insert a little humor here as you read this story.  Imagine Jesus speaking to the crowds, people hanging on his every word, some serious perhaps, and all of a sudden these four guys start cutting into the roof and lowering this guy down into the room. People gasp!  But Jesus stays calm, and maybe he even smiles and laughs a little to himself as he sees what lengths these guys have gone.  Jesus was not put off.  I like to think that Jesus, who was also fully human, takes delight in our persistence and creativity of our faith to see Him.  He enjoyed people.

 The Son of Man Forgives and Heals
Mark 2: 1-12

When Jesus entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying.

Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

But some of the scribes were sitting there, thinking to themselves: “Why does He speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”

Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Would you climb through the roof of a crowded room if you knew Jesus could heal you?

Pray for Our World: Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern Africa.  25-50% of the population fled the country following the economic and social meltdown, and scourge of disease.  Independent from Britain since 1965, it was followed by intense guerrilla warfare and government fraud and corruption.  The church has grown amidst these trials as a refuge and to help meet the many desperate physical and social needs of the people.  Pray for the strength of these churches, for desperately needed resources, and the healing of their country.

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This is the last country (alphabetically) in a year of prayer around the world.  This is the final image too.  If nothing else, I hope you remember this picture.  It is a real part of the world we all live in, that we all participate in. 

Someday, God is going to ask each of us, “What did you do to help?”  Jesus’ direction to us was very clear: “Love God, love others, and tell others about Me.” For those of us who believe in Jesus as our Savior, we are completely covered in His grace and forgiveness, so we should act like it.  Go out and do things for God, and then you’ll worry less about all the “don’ts”.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
Colossians 3:17

Pray for Our World: Zambia

Zambia is a landlocked central southern African country. Debt, corruption and AIDS have driven the economy spiraling downward, so that 86% live below the poverty threshold. Independent from Britain in 1964, then under socialism until 1991 when Chiluba, an active Christian, was elected and declared Zambia a Christian country but with full religious freedom for all faiths. It was written into their constitution in 1996.

There is still much to be done to help the country economically and socially. Health services are overwhelmed with AIDS, leadership training is urgently needed, and Islam has been aggressively targeting Zambia. Pray that the country and people will turn to God as their source of strength and help.

Pray for Our World: Yemen

Yemen lies south of Saudi Arabia on the Red Sea and Arabian Sea.  97% are Arab, and there are over 1700 clans and tribes.  It is the poorest country in the Arab world.  Oil-poor, dwindling water supplies, high unemployment and rapid population growth plague the country.  75% make their living through agriculture, especially from the drug qat. Once part of the Ottoman Empire, they have a turbulent history of wars and conquests.  Islam is the official religion and the legal system is based on sharia’a law.  Islam is very conservative in Yemen, and there is very little religious freedom.  Only .08% are Christian, and the rest are Muslim.

According to tradition, Shem, the son of Noah founded the city of Sanaa, the largest city in Yemen. The Queen of Sheba also reigned in Yemen and sought wisdom from King Solomon almost 3000 years ago. The prophet Isaiah recorded these words of prophecy mentioning Sheba in Isaiah 6:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
    and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
    and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
    and his glory appears over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Herds of camels will cover your land,
    young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
    bearing gold and incense
    and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.”

Despite the difficult circumstances in modern day Yemen, increasing numbers are finding life in Christ through radio, Bible distribution, and the Lord’s use of dreams and visions. God is still working today just as He did in the Bible! Believers meet in secret and in small groups, but they are also learning how to honor their culture and family while still being faithful to Christ. God has not forgotten them! Pray for the people of modern day Yemen, that they too will seek wisdom from God.