Sunday, November 11, 2007

What we want and what we get from God.

Have you ever gotten a gift that you didn’t want?

It was Christmas Eve at the Hathaway house. And on Christmas Eve each person in my family gets to pick out one present to open on Christmas Eve. (For the sake of this story you have to understand that I am not a musical person. I took piano lessons when I was little and I always much preferred to watch my piano teacher play than do it myself. The main instrument I know how to play is the radio.) Anyway, it’s Christmas Eve and you have to pick your present real carefully because this is the only one you get to open until the next morning. So I went for one from my parents rather than one from my siblings because I figure, I’ve never beat my parents up so they might like me more and get me something cool. So I start opening this present up and it’s got all these different packages with it. First I open up a maraca, so I’m thinking okay maybe this is a joke. Then I open up a long wooden thing with ridges on it, and it comes with a stick. I’m starting to get worried. Then I open up a little cowbell. Then I open up a little congo drum set and a bag that everything came in with a price tag of like $70. I’m thoroughly depressed at this point. But my dad is so excited. He’s like, “This is an indigenous drum set!” And I’m like, “Wow! You’re right, it is.” He’s like, “You could use this in your class that you teach.” I said, “Dad, you remember I’m an English teacher right.” Anyway, He got the sense that I didn’t want it and wasn’t going to use it so he took it back. And I was thinking, maybe he’ll get me a $70 gift that I’ll like. But no. He just took it back.

There’s a story in the Bible where Jesus gives somebody a gift that he didn’t ask for, and I’m not sure it was the gift he wanted, but Jesus gave it to him anyway. Let’s take a look:

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. (Now the largest of these rooms that they’ve found fits about 50 standing close together.) And he was preaching the word to them. (Jesus was teaching people about God from the bible.) And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, (Just imagine this for a second, you’ve got these guys maybe from the Capernaum High Basketball team and their star forward has just been paralyzed from a chariot accident. And they’ve got their big game against Jerusalem High next week and they really want their friend to be in the game. So they go to see this guy named Jesus, who they’ve heard can heal people. But he’s not even healing people right now, he’s in the middle of a lecture with some important dudes. And they try to get in at the door but it is a full house and no one is letting them come in. And then one guy has the bright idea, “Let’s crowd surf him in to Jesus. Let’s just lift him up and push him toward Jesus.” But then another guy says, “Actually, crowd surfing won’t be invented for another 2,000 years. So then one of the other guys says, “I know, let’s vandalize his house, drop our friend through the roof, and then ask him to heal his legs.” So everyone agrees and they walk up the outside stairs and dig through the mud and branches…)
and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."
(I can just see the guys up on the roof saying, no, no, Jesus, it’s his legs, he’s paralyzed. Can you fix his legs? We didn’t come about his sin! See, these guys had cared for their friend, had believed Jesus could do something, they’d overcome obstacles to get their friend to Jesus, and then Jesus doesn’t give them what they hoping for. Now I wonder how many of you had “Healing” on your Christmas wishlist. I wonder how many of you have “Forgiveness of sins” on your Christmas wishlist. Jesus is helping this guy to reexamine what he wants, what he thinks he needs. Maybe that’s what he’s asking you to do tonight. What do you think you want from God? What do you think you need from God? Is it possible that God knows better than you do what you need? Maybe you need forgiveness of your sins more than a new game system, more than a new game this Christmas. Maybe you need forgiveness of your sins more than a new outfit, more than giftcards, more than music.

And for those of you who think that you don’t have faith let me tell you what faith is. Faith for these guys was hope that things could get better, and a belief that maybe Jesus could do something about their problem. That’s the kind of faith that I’m asking you to have tonight. Believe that things can get better than they are right now. Believe that Jesus can do something about the problem so come to him. Listen, these guys didn’t totally understand who Jesus was, they hadn’t gotten their lives right before coming to Jesus. They knew they had a problem, and they brought the problem to Jesus.

Now some of the scribes (these are the guys who really know their bible) were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Actually these guys were right, the only one who can really forgive sins is God. A sin is a wrong done to God so only God can forgive wrongs done against him. If I slap Tiffany, Amanda can’t say, “I forgive you for slapping Tiffany.” Well, she can say that, but it doesn’t mean anything. In the same way only God can forgive wrongs done to him. So what does that say about Jesus?) 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? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed 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 say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home." 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!"

So Jesus proved that he could forgive sins by miraculously healing this guy of paralysis. Jesus miraculously heals. Jesus forgives sins. We should, like the people there, be amazed, glorify God, and say, “We’ve never seen anything like this!” But there’s one thing that they don’t do that we should do. Worship Jesus. If Jesus forgives sinners we should worship Him as the God he is claiming to be.

Let me tell you one more story. There once was a high school senior who was a month away from graduating. He’d been driving his dad’s old, busted up minivan back and forth from school and he dreamed of having a new sportscar as his graduation present. His dad saw this and so he took him to look at all the best sportscars on the market, like a Saleen Mustang, an RX7, etc. etc. They just looked; they didn’t buy. But his dad found out what car his son wanted and how much it would cost. The last month of high school quickly passed and the senior graduated and at his graduation party his dad gave him a small present wrapped with a red bow. And the boy was so excited. He said, “It’s going to be keys to a new sportscar; I just know it.” But instead, it was a bible. And the senior was so upset at his dad and he shouted at him “Why didn’t you get me the car?” And his dad just said, “Read your bible.” And the son said, “I’m not reading that bible. You tricked me. You made me think I was going to get a brand new sportscar.” And his dad just said, “Read your bible.” But the boy wouldn’t read the bible because he was so mad at his dad. And months past, and as the boy was packing up his things to get ready to leave for college, he saw the Bible sitting on his bookshelf and he picked it up and began to read it and in its pages he found: life, and love, and forgiveness, and a check for the exact amount of the Saleen Mustang he wanted.
You see, we think we know what we want God to give us, a Saleen Mustang. But God gives us something far better than what we ask for, far more expensive than the gift we asked for, far more necessary than the gift we ask for. Jesus gives us forgiveness.