Good morning ladies and gentlemen. It is an honor and a great privilege for me to be with the church of God this morning. Turn with me in your Bibles to Mark chapter 2. Preaching is always a nerve racking thing because, in a sense, preachers always leave the pulpit as a failure. It is the preacher’s job to proclaim the sinfulness of sin and the goodness of God. We always leave failing at this because no one using human language can even begin to describe how horrendous sin is or how amazing our God is.
I also enjoy defining preaching as, “finding the things in the Bible that are true and no one wants to hear ant telling it to them.” For example, no unbeliever wants to find out how vile they are and how powerful God is to punish them. I find this definition true even in my personal studies. Somehow, God’s Spirit, by illumination, always shows me teachings in the scripture I do not want to hear. But I find this thinking to be of the flesh. When something exists I don’t want to hear it is almost always because it is a sin I am hanging on to. If I preach something today you do not want to hear, I can think of two options: 1. Either I improperly interpreted the scripture to you, 2. Or there is some sin you are hanging on to. This is where today’s text will be highly applicable to us, brothers and sisters. We must “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Look with me now at our beautiful passage, Mark chapter 2 verses 1-12. “And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 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. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 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. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 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? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 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!”
Pray with me: Father, I come before you a weak and sinful man. For some reason you chose in your goodness and by your grace to allow me to stand before these people and proclaim your Word. Please do not allow my many imperfections to be a distraction. Allow your Word to be clearly perceived. Spirit, please edify my brothers and sisters here. Please draw sinners to yourself. May they see your goodness, oh God, and not be able to refuse.
There are two major themes in this passage and the surrounding passage that I would be a daft preacher if you missed. The first one being preaching itself. If you were here two Sundays ago, Pastor Bucky covered Jesus’ resolve to pray and preach. Notice how Mark highlights this theme: Mark 1:14-15 when Jesus begins his ministry “14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Mark 1:20-21, “21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” In Mark 1:38 he says, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” That is why he came out. That was Christ’s purpose to make known to the world the Father, He is the Word, the great revealer of God, because “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
In fact this is the very same thing that goes on in this text. If you remember from last week, Jesus heals the leper. He also tells the leper not to tell anyone because everyone has the wrong idea of who the Messiah should be (and he would be surrounded by sign-seekers). But the leper does the exact opposite and the crowds find Jesus wherever he goes. So Jesus goes to rural places for several days, plausibly so the initial excitement from the miracle dies down. He then returns to Capernaum which has become his base of operations or what the citizens therein proclaim to one another, “Jesus has returned home!” Everyone and their neighbor comes out to see Jesus. Now, notice what Jesus doesn’t do. He doesn’t give his disciples a lyre, a shofar, and whatever other biblical instrument you can think of to put together some emotionally driven tunes to manipulate his audience. He doesn’t throw together some culturally relevant message for the seekers in his midst to answer some questions that may keep them from “resisting the whispering of God.” He doesn’t even throw out a few miracles like, “Hey you guys liked that water to wine trick, right?” No! Rather He simply preached the Word. Dear brothers and sisters, may this be said of us! When our entire culture is sprinting as far away from God as they can, when false teachers round us have drawn millions for themselves by making people feel comfortable in their sin, when other churches around us have “adapted to culture” by making relevant shallow messages, singing songs to Jesus like He’s our girlfriend, and attracting people by every carnal means possible like a fly to honey, may it be said of First Cleveland that we preach the Word! Just as the Apostle Paul commanded Timothy, “I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. 3 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. 5 As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.” This is one of the ordained means, ordained weapons to fight of the darkness that clouds the unbeliever’s minds. We can include in this short list also intercessory prayer and sacrificial love.
I want to put before you several quotes by great men on preaching:
“It does not answer the aim which God had in this institution, merely for men to have good commentaries and expositions on the Scripture, and other good books of divinity; because, although these may tend, as well as preaching, to give a good doctrinal or speculative understanding of the word of God, yet they have not an equal tendency to impress them on men’s hearts and affections. God hath appointed a particular and lively application of his word, in the preaching of it, as a fit means to affect sinners with the importance of religion, their own misery, the necessity of a remedy, and the glory and sufficiency of a remedy provided; to stir up the pure minds of the saints, quicken their affections by often bringing the great things of religion in their remembrance, and setting them in their proper colours, though they know them, and have been fully instructed in them already.” Jonathan Edwards
Evangelical pastors commonly state that biblical preaching is the hallmark of their calling. Nevertheless, a careful observer might come to a very different conclusion. The priority of preaching is simply not evident in far too many churches.
We must affirm with Luther that the preaching of the Word is the first essential mark of the church. Luther believed so strongly in the centrality of preaching that he stated, ‘Now, wherever you hear or see this Word preached, believed, professed, and lived, do no doubt that the true ecclesia sancta catholica (Christian, holy people) must be there….And even were no other sign than this alone, it would still suffice to prove that a Christian, holy people must exist there, for God’s Word cannot be without God’s people and, conversely, God’s people cannot be without God’s Word.’” Dr. Albert Mohler
I do not think it is too much to say that preaching really is an essential means perhaps even the most important means, of grace. If that is the case, then we should be very careful in our Christian lives to expose ourselves to the best teaching and attend the best churches available.” James Montgomery Boice
“… the primary task of the church is not to educate man, is not to heal him physically or psychologically, it is not to make him happy. I will go even further; it is not even to make him good… Her primary purpose is not any of these; it is rather to put man in a right relationship with God, to reconcile man to God.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
The Apostle Paul puts it plainly before us in 1 Cor. 1, “18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
20 Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach[b] to save those who believe.”
But do not think you are off the hook for not being a preacher. I do not stand before you because this is in my job description. I stand before you because I am a Christian. In fact it is every believer’s role to proclaim and teach God’s Word to all peoples. May that be our church description: they proclaim the Word to you earnestly, pray for you eagerly, and love you sacrificially. Not they have cool music, show cool movies, have an entertaining preacher, or all the other carnal things that simply attract a crowd! We are not sitting on this hill to impress other people with us, we are here to impress people with how great God is! May we have the same prerogatives as Jesus!