When Light is Scarce

The honesty and passion of the Psalms floors me. Picks my snoozing heart right out of the rocker and sets it on a course toward integrity. It doesn’t matter who you are. If you’re human, you experience the gamut of emotions to which the Psalms witness.

And sometimes those emotions are dark.

psalm 119 8182

What is this really saying? This is no romantic notion of fainting from happiness or desire. This is an all out cry of despair. My eyes fail. My soul faints. This is an admission that the circumstances around seem overwhelmingly dark. The Psalmist’s cry for comfort is borne from suffering, from a restless, weary soul.

But look at the faith: looking for your promise . . . longing for your salvation. This is faith in action, albeit, coming from a disillusioned believer. When will you comfort me? The Psalmist knows the comfort will come when it comes, when God releases it.

Are you in a dark forest where beams of light do little to warm you or direct your path? Let the honesty of the Psalms encourage you. Sometimes you have to admit that you can’t see–your eyes have failed. And sometimes you have to admit that your soul faints–becomes so overwhelmed you can’t function.

I’ve been there. More than others might think. Faith isn’t necessarily strong in that moment, bt faith knows to keep looking for what comes later. The comfort that will come, even if not on this earth. Faith knows the Promise and the Salvation that gives that comfort.

I’m Hurting Today: Jesus Knows

Sometimes you read a passage of scripture and think, “What is the point of this?” So distant it is from your circumstances that it seems mundane, unimportant. I mean, my heart is broken for a friend who experienced a huge trauma and I choose to read a debate on Sabbath keeping from the Gospel of Mark instead of a gut-wrenching Psalm? How on earth does an argument on Sabbath speak to me?

Then I’m pierced with a verse.

“He [Jesus] looked around at them [Pharisees] in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”

Jesus is furious at the brokenness of this world. Good. Finally. I need an angry Jesus this morning.

Because I’m angry.

Too many why’s. Too much stubbornness. Too many shriveled hands in this world and not enough ambassadors of grace saying, “Stretch out your hand.”

This is not how the world is supposed to be.

Jesus does good–saves a life–on the Sabbath and pharisees ignore the miracle, and instead plot to kill him. Kill the Grace that gave life? This world is so upside down. Tipped on its side and bleeding out. Who can stop the emptying to certain death?

“Stretch out your hand,” Jesus said to the hurting man.

And I cry back to Jesus, “Stretch out your hand and heal us, this world.”

Stretch out your hand and stop this bleeding.

And He did. Not only his hand, but his hands. Both his hands.

I need that this morning. Not just an angry Jesus, but a hand-stretched out, bleeding Jesus.

He knows pain. He knows. And that’s the comfort I need this morning. That he’s been there, broken.

Questioning through Mark: 2:13-17

Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him. While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.
When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

1. What have you sacrificed to follow Jesus?

2. What has Jesus done that has surprised, upset, or frustrated you? The Pharisees didn’t like him eating with sinners. They thought they were good enough to be in Jesus’s club. Has any of this attitude snuck into your life? Do you feel you are more deserving than others of God’s grace and presence?

3. Do you recognize your need for him? Jesus spent time with those who welcomed him because they knew they needed him.

Questioning Through Mark: 2:1-12

Mark 2:1-12

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 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 the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
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!”
  1. How desperate are you for Jesus? The friends of the paralytic were desperate enough to find a way to Jesus.
  2. How certain are you of Jesus? The friends counted the cost and knew that destroying someone’s personal property was worth getting their friend to Jesus. They knew Jesus could help. Certainty raises the level of intensity in our relationship with Jesus, makes us more desperate to be with him because we know He is the answer.
  3. Why have you gathered by Jesus? Pharisees came to prove him wrong, came with suspicion. Others came with needs or in faith. Why have you come? Have you come just for a miracle and not to receive the words of life that He speaks?
  4. Are you amazed by Jesus?  Philips, Craig, and Dean: Your Grace Still Amazes Me.

Questioning Through Mark: 1:40-45

Mark 1:40-45

A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.

Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”

Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

  1. What did it cost the leper to beg Jesus from healing? He had to break law and approach Jesus. He got on his knees, a sign of reverence and humility. Did it hurt to kneel on his flesh-eaten knees? Are you willing to pay the price of your pride and comfort to beg Jesus for his presence and provision in your life?
  2. The leper’s humble attitude, “If you are willing . . .” might suggest he doubted Jesus’ desire to heal. Are you doubting Jesus’ desire to work in your life?
  3. Do you see the radical nature of Jesus’ touch? His touch conquers disease. The touch came first, and then the command to go to the priests and offer sacrifices. Thus, the sacrifices were for thanksgiving, not the means of healing. The Law cannot heal. Jesus heals. This is how the story would sound if the leper approached another rabbi:

A man with leprosy came to a rabbi, begging, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Filled with fear and revulsion, the rabbi jumped back, “Don’t you know the Law? You must yell unclean and stay away from others. If you want to be clean, follow the rules Moses laid out for sacrifice, and perhaps God will have mercy on you.”

 Ashamed, the leper left.

  1. Do you have eyes to see the compassion of Jesus? Jesus reaches beyond the letter of the Law to the deeper principal. He opens our view of the Levitical practices so we see the compassion behind the Law, which was always for our good, not our oppression. Jesus doesn’t disregard the Law—he sends the cleansed man to the priest—but he exhibits the true nature of the Law, the love and saving nature of Yahweh.