This

This This and This
Have you ever stopped to consider what a versatile word “this” is? It really is. “This” is a pronoun, an adjective, and an adverb. It’s a determiner, used before a single noun. “This” is a powerful word in the English language. It’s also a powerful word in the Gospels. It’’s used in several important exclamations surrounding the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s take a look at handful of “this’’s” in the Gospels.

Mark 2:12

He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” (TNIV)

To which I would ask, “Seen anything like what?” The context of the story is important. It’’s not about some guy just out for a walk carrying his cot. Here was a man who was completely paralyzed; absolutely unable to walk. But this bloke was lucky because he had four friends who not only cared a great deal for him, but also had a great deal of faith in Jesus Christ. Our Lord was preaching this day at Peter’’s house in Capernaum to a capacity crowd. These four men brought their paralyzed friend to see Jesus but couldn’’t get in the front door, so they improvised: They scrambled up to the roof, carrying their friend on a mat or bed, and proceeded to take apart the roof so as to lower their friend down through the hole, dropping him right in front of Jesus. It worked.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5 NIV)

It was the faith of these four friends that caught Jesus’ attention. It impressed our Lord, and in response to their faith,  and perhaps to the paralyzed man’s lack of it, – Jesus forgave the man’s sins. He needed saving more than he needed healing, but he still needed healing so Jesus took care of that, too. Our Lord always knows what’s best for us.

And that brings us to the first “this.” In response to this paralyzed man’s healing, everyone gathered at Peter’’s house exclaimed, “We have never seen anything like this!” But just what did they see, exactly?

Well, the obvious answer is that they saw a paralyzed man get up, cot and all, and walk out of the house. But there was more going on, percolating under the surface. Some religious types were there and they weren’t overly impressed with something Jesus said:

“Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7 TNIV)

There are quotations around that, but they weren’t really talking to anybody, they were thinking these words. And, because Jesus is the Son of God, He called them on their improper thoughts:

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (Mark 2:8 – 10a TNIV)

It’s a minor point, but it’s scary to think the Jesus knows exactly what you’re thinking! It makes you want to think twice about what you’re thinking once.

At any rate, the fact that the man was physically healed suggests that his sins were also forgiven. The one miracle everybody saw – the one that changed his body – proved that the other miracle – the one nobody could see – changed his heart. Everybody that heard and witnessed what Jesus did and what happened to the man were simply amazed. “Everybody” included the religious trouble makers. And everybody, even the religious trouble makers, gave God the glory for both miracles.

What amazed the people, and this is the first this, was Jesus’ ultimate authority; authority over sin and sickness. This is a profound thought. Think about how you struggle with sin, every day. Sometimes you get the victory over tempation, but all too often you give in again. That urge to sin, which you find so powerful and often irresistable, falls under Jesus’ authority. He is far more powerful. And He is able to heal any sickness and any disease. Our Lord’s authority is complete; it covers the pysical world and the spiritual.

Mark 4:41

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”  (TNIV)

The this here refers to what the disciples thought of Jesus. The story is a familiar one, you probably know it by heart. There was a storm one evening and Jesus and His disciples were crossing the lake, to get to the other side, of course. And it was all Jesus’ idea. The storm they would face was no surprise to Him. It scared the daylights out of the other guys in the boat, but not Jesus. Jesus was so calm, He was taking a nap when the gale hit.

Jesus’ response to His friends is important. When they woke Him in a panic, the very first thing He did was rebuke the elements around Him. In language reminescent of something from The Exorcist, Jesus commanded the shrieking winds to be quiet and the raging waters to “be muzzled.” And the elements obeyed Him. It should be no surprise whatsoever that at the Word of the Son of God, nature obeyed. After all, the Second Person of the Trinity was the creative force behind the birth of the universe and the material world.

Having dealt with the wind and the waves – nature at its worst – Jesus turned to His frightened friends and He chided them. He gently rebuked them for not having enough faith. They hadn’t been following Him for too long, but Jesus expected them to have a little more faith than they had. In fact, Jesus routinely rebuked His friends for not having more faith and more understanding. This is very telling and should serve to teach us something. Jesus expects us to grow in both our faith and our understanding of Him and His Word. When we are “babes in Christ,” it’s normal to claim ignorance about one aspect of the faith or another. But the longer we serve Him; the longer we claim to be Christians, the less meaningful that excuse becomes. God saves us, He plants His Holy Spirit in us, gives us all the tools and provides the conditions necessary for us to grow. But the growing bit is our responsibility.

So when the disciples “were terrified” and wondered, “Who is this?”, it wasn’t one of their shining moments. They should have known. They probably suspected they were in the presence of the “strong Son of God,” yet their knowledge and understanding were imprefect and their faith weak.

Still, would we have faired any better than they? When we act surprised when God answers a prayer, are we not showing our lack of faith? When we, after years in the faith, can’t find the book of Philemon, do we not demonstrate a lack of knowledge? When we can’t discern between the truth of God’s Word and the lies of a false teacher, do we not show that we still don’t know Jesus very well? When we are overcome by fear at the expense of having faith, aren’t we looking for a rebuke? We should surely know THIS Man, by now.

John 7:46

“No one ever spoke the way this man does,” the guards replied. (TNIV)

Jesus was preaching and teaching, and once again His preaching and teaching was getting Him into hot water with the religious leaders. Other people were astonished with what He was saying, but nobody could raise the ire of the religious elite like Jesus could. The Pharisees in particular despised our Lord. In the beginning of His earthly ministry, the Pharisees were slightly interested in what Jesus was teaching, but now He was gaining in popularity at the expense of theirs. The Pharisees had an exaggerated opinion of their own importance. In their minds, they were the brightest, most educated of all Jews. In elevating their own sense of themselves, they exaggerated the ignorance of the average person. This led to kind of spiritual pride that convinced them their teachings were the only valid teachings; that their way of practicing the faith was the true way.

The temple guards – common men – who heard Jesus preaching were simply astonished at His words. They were supposed to arrest Him, but instead they were arrested by Him and His teachings. They were completely stunned with our Lord’s teachings. Of course, the Pharisees dismissed the officers as being taken in by Jesus. They weren’t educated in theology, after all.

But then along came one of their own, Nicodemus.

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus earlier and who was one of their own number, asked, “Does our law condemn a man without first hearing him to find out what he has been doing?” (John 7:50, 51 TNIV)

Nicodemus was a man looking for truth and justice. He found Jesus, and he found in Jesus was he was looking for. He was educated. He knew the Scriptures, but he wasn’t a religious snob like his associates were. What made Nicodemus different? His heart had been touched by the words of our Lord. And he is seen here stepping up to defend Jesus. The response of his peers shows their disgust:

They replied, “Are you from Galilee, too? Look into it, and you will find that a prophet does not come out of Galilee.” (John 7:52 TNIV)

This may not sound like it to you, but they were insulting – even taunting – Nicodemus. They knew full well he wasn’t from Galilee. In fact, in their minds nobody of any importance ever came from Galilee. That’s what they thought of their friend, simply because he stood up for Jesus.

These highly educated, theological and doctrinal nitpickers were driven to distraction by Jesus’ simple, yet profound teachings. How distracted were they? In their anger and emotional outrage, these Pharisees showed just how in tune with the Scriptures they were.  Or were not. Nobody important – no prophet – ever came Galilee? Apparently they forgot about Jonah, Hosea, Nahum, and others. Truth is rarely ever seen in emotional outbursts.

There was never a man who spoke like this Jesus. His teachings change lives and reveal the shortcomings of those who are opposed to the simple Gospel of salvation by faith.

Luke 23:4

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” (TNIV)

The whole Sanhedrin brought Jesus to Pilate, charging Him with the sin of blasphemy. This was not Pilate’s day. Pilate was the Roman governor of Palestine. It was his habit to spend some time in Jerusalem during Passover just to keep an eye on the crowds; to keep the peace. Pilate wasn’t interested in disturbances. He had his life. He just wanted to be left alone. The charges against Jesus levied by the Jewish religious leaders didn’t really concern him at all. And his verdict in verse 4 should have been the end of it. The charges should have been dropped. But that wasn’t end of the story. Pilate, the man who just wanted to be left alone, was also the kind of guy who couldn’t fish or cut bait.

When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23:7 TNIV)

Pilate couldn’t leave it alone. Pilate sent Jesus on to Herod Antipas. Who was this guy? Well, around 4 BC, when his father died, Herod Antipas was made tetrarch of Galilee and Perea. Later, while visiting his half-brother Herod Philip, be became infatuated with Philip’s wife, Herodias. It wasn’t long before Herod Antipas eloped with his half-brother’s wife. This was a scandal, and none other than John the Baptist called him on it over and over again. Instead of repenting, Herod Antipas tossed the Baptist into prison. During a birthday party thrown in his honor, Antipas foolishly promised the daughter of Herodias, with whom he had become infatuated, to give her anything she wanted. What she wanted was John the Baptist’s head. And he delivered what she wanted.

Later, when he heard about the miracles of Jesus, Herod Antipas thought it was John the Baptist come back to life! To their great credit, there were some Pharisees who actually warned Jesus that Herod Antipas was out to get him. Pilate made this possible by sending this Jesus to stand in front of this perverse, impenitent, and superstitous ruler. Herod Antipas humiliated Jesus and mocked Him. He sent the Lord back to Pilate, where the mockery and shameful treatment continued.

Then we read this:

That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies. (Luke 23:12 TNIV)

Funny, isn’t it? Two enemies brought together and united by their disdain for one Man – Jesus Christ. Two men, one outright perverse and evil, the other just a guy wanting some peace and recognition for his work, becoming friends because of Jesus.

This is the way it’s always been, though. You have otherwise good and decent people who have no interest in Jesus and those who hate Jesus being united by the Gospel. The Word of God is powerful. This man Jesus, whose Word of redemption and salvation saves so many, also judges those who don’t want anything to do with Him. Herod Antipas hated Jesus. Pilate wanted to be left alone, but both united against Jesus. There can be no neutrality when it comes to this man Jesus. You will either submit your life to Him, or you will be judged with worst of the worst.

 

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