7th Sunday after Epiphany (LCMS Readings - Year B)
Saturday, February 18, and Sunday, February 19, 2006
It all started way back, such a long, long time back, way back in the days of David when the people remembered all of the powers of God, and sang the hymn, Psalm 103, which says, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits, Who forgives all your iniquity, your sin, Who heals all your diseases.”
On your insert, it starts at the top left hand corner, quoting Psalm 103. David wrote this psalm around 1000 B.C., a thousand years before Christ. David’s poem, his hymn reminds us that God has the power to forgive all of our sins and the power to heal diseases. God has power over our spiritual lives and our physical lives.
But then as you can see on the insert, the waves of change caused a shift in the thinking of people. 1000 years pass after David wrote Psalm 103, and now the waves of change, the waves of the world, the waves of sinful man have slammed against the Jewish scribes who are there the day the paralytic is lowered through the roof. Jesus says to this paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven.” The Jewish scribes say, “This man’s blaspheming!” (in other words, He’s speaking a lie about God). They say, “Who can forgive sins but God?”
The Jewish scribes are upset because Jesus is claiming to have the power to forgive sins, a power that Scripture says only God has. However, they seem less concerned that Jesus also claims to have the power to heal people from diseases—which is also said to be a power of God alone. Psalm 103 says that God is the One who can forgive all of our sins and all of our diseases. The Jewish scribes are being hit by the waves of change, the waves of their own thinking, the waves of the lies of the world, the waves of disbelief, the waves of Satan that are causing them to question and doubt and reject Jesus.
And that’s the reason that Jesus talks to the paralytic about his sins. That’s why Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven, because more than just being a miracle worker, Jesus wants the Jewish scribes, and all of the people there that day in Capernaum, and really wants all of us to see that He is God. Jesus shows Himself to be God, because He does both. He is freeing and healing both body and soul.
Jesus reaches out to bring the scribes back to the truth. Like on your insert with the little picture of a hand reaching out towards the Jewish scribes, Jesus reached out to those men, hoping to lead them back to the truth. Maybe those scribes only came that day to see a miracle worker, a kind of sideshow act, sort of like the TV cameras showing up anytime there’s something sensational. It doesn’t seem the Jewish scribes were actually showing up to learn from Jesus, to listen to what He was actually preaching. Jesus knows this, shows that He has the power of God to know what they’re thinking in their hearts, and so He reaches out to bring the Jewish scribes back to the truth. Jesus is freeing and healing both body and soul, because He is God.
Well, Jesus reached out to bring the Jewish scribes back to the truth, and after they react to the healing saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this before,” we don’t know what happened to that particular group of scribes. Did they all reject Jesus like so many of the scribes, or did some of those scribes become followers of Jesus? We don’t know.
What we do know is that there has been constant problem of people drifting away from the truth of God. God continually is reaching out to bring people back to the truth. Throughout history, God has spoken His truth through His people, others have changed that truth, and still others have reached out with God’s truth again. That’s the cycle we’ve seen today—David spoke God’s truth, the Jewish scribes drifted away from that truth, and then Jesus reaches out to bring them back to the truth. Let’s see another time in history where this happened, which may sound a lot like how it happens in our lives today.
It all started way back, such a long, long time back, back when Solomon, David’s son, wrote the book of Proverbs, collecting wise sayings inspired by God’s truth. In the middle section of your insert, you’ve got a verse from Proverbs, “For whoever finds [Wisdom] finds life and obtains favor from the Lord.” Solomon’s proverb here reminds us that life—both now and eternally, both physically and spiritually—life comes from having Wisdom. And in Proverbs, as my Tuesday Morning Men’s Bible Study is learning over the next few weeks, in Proverbs, Wisdom isn’t just smarts, intellect, facts, book knowledge. Wisdom is knowing how to live life in a way that pleases God. And actually, more than that, Wisdom is Christ Himself. Christ is the Wisdom of God in the flesh, and by having faith in Christ, we receive God’s Wisdom into our lives.
But then as you can see on the insert, the waves of change caused a shift in the thinking of people. Around 500 years after Solomon, a Greek philosopher named Democritus was trying to decide the meaning of life, trying to decide how to live life in a right way. Democritus said, “The physician’s art heals the diseases of the body; wisdom frees the soul from passion.” In other words, doctors can take care of diseases, but wisdom—and wisdom in the Greek meaning of intellect and learning—wisdom can free the soul. Wisdom helps the soul overcome passions—temptations, addictions, and crude behavior. This isn’t what Solomon said, because in Proverbs, the Wisdom that brings life is God Himself. No, instead, Democritus is saying that through the intellect, education, training of the mind then we can overcome all of those passions which cause us to do immoral things.
Whether or not Democritus knew Solomon’s Proverbs, whether Democritus knew about the true God or not, the Greeks were very powerful, exporting their philosophies around the world, which means that his philosophy of freeing yourself through a wisdom you gain by study, wisdom you gain by your own effort, that philosophy would eventually threaten how the people of God understood themselves.
In fact, it still creeps in, doesn’t it? If only we could make ourselves right, if only we lived in a good way, if only we could control our addictions, then we’ll have the promise of heaven, then our souls will be ready to be with God. What Democritus said still affects how people think about God today, because it’s related to the idea that we can do something to save ourselves, that we can unite our souls with God through our actions. We’re still drifting away from God’s truth, still being pushed along by the waves of change, the waves of our own thinking, the waves of the lies of the world, the waves of disbelief, the waves of Satan that are causing us to question whether Jesus is the Wisdom we need for life.
Well, the waves of change slammed into Democritus who taught people to conquer their immoral passions through their own actions, and those waves of change were just as ready to slam into all of the people who would learn this philosophy.
Then as you can see on your insert, Clement reaches out to bring the Philosophers of the world back to the truth. Clement was an early church father, a leader in the church around A.D. 200—roughly 170 years after Christ was crucified. Clement started as a philosopher, and so after he became a Christian, he kept studying the philosophers, looking for ways to take what the philosophers said in the past and connect them with Christ.
Clement took what Democritus said and reached out to bring his philosophy back to the truth of God’s Word. While Democritus said that only our own wisdom could free our soul, Clement comes along and says, “But the good Instructor, the Wisdom, the Word of the Father, who made man, [meaning Jesus Christ. . .He] cares for the whole nature of His creature; the all-sufficient Physician of humanity, the Saviour, heals both body and soul.” The philosophy of Democritus had separated the two—healing for the body was one thing, freeing the soul was another, but Clement calls the philosophers back to the truth: Jesus is freeing and healing both body and soul.
Clement’s words are a good reminder for us, because what Democritus says sounds nice, it sounds nice to free yourself from immorality through training your mind. We start to think that God can handle healing our diseases, but we have to get our own minds, our own hearts in order. Clement calls us back to the truth, the truth in Psalm 103—God is the One “who forgives all your sin, who heals all your diseases.” God’s Word brings peace and hope, because we don’t have to rely on our own actions to save us. Jesus is freeing and healing both body and soul.
Well, like I said, this cycle of God speaking His truth, the people drifting away from the truth, and then God reaching out and bringing us back to the truth, that cycle has continually happened throughout history, and it continually happens throughout our lives. Think of all of the times in your life when you drifted away from God in your way of thinking and believing. Think of the times when you stopped trusting that God had the power over both body and soul, or the times when you let your own thoughts be a wave that shoved aside God’s truth.
I remember a time when I was in high school. I watched an episode of Oprah (I don’t know why; a high school guy watching Oprah?), an episode about the power of crystals. People said they carried crystals in their pockets, and the crystals helped them stay healthy or do well at their jobs. By rubbing the crystals in their fingers, these people claimed that they had gotten help for both body and soul.
So I found a crystal I had—actually, more of an agate. I took it with me the next day to school, kept it in my pocket, thinking that this crystal would somehow give me power. It didn’t.
Thankfully when I later mentioned this to my mom, she told me that this didn’t match with believing in God’s help. She caught me before I drifted too far away from the truth. I put the crystal back in my collection of rocks—because that’s all it was—a rock. Jesus is the One who has the power over physical life and spiritual life.
But just like my Oprah story, while we know that Jesus is the One who has this power of God, still the waves of change slam against us, causing us to drift away from the truth.
Take yoga, for instance. There is freeing and healing for us today, but it’s through Jesus. . .not through yoga. The stretching, relaxation, and body movement parts of yoga can be quite helpful, I’m told, but it’s the spiritual promises of yoga, meditation, and the healing arts that lead us away from God’s truth.
For instance, there’s a body massage/movement/meditation technique called the Rosen Method. One Website about this technique says, “The Rosen Method is not only a way to experience physical and emotional healing, but also a mystical study. This ability to live in our own truth and make intimate contact with another being is an experience of love that is fundamental to the great spiritual revolution currently sweeping our planet.” The more you read about something like the Rosen Method—which is a spiritually-focused yoga—the more you realize that it’s just like what Democritus was saying. The power of freeing and healing the body and soul is through something we do.
If you’re currently doing something like yoga, and it’s helping you with balance or stretching or relaxing, that’s great, but if your yoga instructor is getting you to call on your own ability to free your soul from its passions, if your yoga instructor is promising that yoga will bring freeing and healing for both body and soul, that’s where you’ve got to stop.
It’s sort of like going to the doctor. Doctors can help heal us from diseases and injuries, but the moment we think of doctors as being like God, having power over all things, able to save us from anything, that’s when we’ve put doctors in the place of God. That’s also true with something like yoga, the moment it becomes our ultimate guide in life, then we’ve let it become an idol.
We’ve been given the Word of God which tells us that only Jesus can free and heal both body and soul. So if you’ve been tempted away from the truth by yoga, meditation, the healing arts, crystals, philosophies, or whatever else, then God’s Word is reaching out to bring you back to the truth. If you know someone who is trusting in these things more than God, then now you’re being sent out to reach out and bring them back to the truth. Jesus frees and heals both body and soul. We don’t need any other technique; we don’t need another Master; we don’t need to rely on our own ability to become one with ourselves or become one with the universe. You don’t need to save yourself. Jesus will save us—both body and soul. We can trust in Him for all times.
The waves of change, the waves of our own thinking, the waves of the lies of the world, the waves of disbelief, the waves of Satan will come, but look one more time at that insert and see how the cycle continues. There’s always things that will drag us away from the truth; there will always be times in our lives—whether they last one minute or years—there’ll be times when we’re drifting away from God’s truth, but as the insert shows, God’s hand is always working to reach out and bring us back to His truth. God is always reaching out, guiding us back to see that the true freeing and healing for our lives comes through His Son, Jesus.
May we always trust in Jesus who frees us and heals us for eternity!
Soul Power is going to lead us in a song now called “I Am Free.” It’s a wonderful way for us to remember that the freeing and healing for our lives comes through Jesus. The first time through the Chorus we’ll echo, repeat each line that Soul Power sings, and then the second time through the song, we’ll all sing together both the verse and chorus. Let us sing and celebrate that we are freed and healed through Jesus.