The following is taken from a sermon series preached at The Southeast Project. You can listen to the audio of this teaching on our sermon audio page.
12 When Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, he withdrew to Galilee. 13 Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah:
15 “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles—16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.”
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
For most of us, we imagine two very different spaces. One is where you live now and the other one is where you go when you die. The first space is earth, filled with people, trees, mountains, and buildings. The second space is heaven, where we usually think of angels and streets of gold.
But the whole point of the Bible is it to remind us that these two spaces were not meant to be two different spaces. They were actually meant to overlap. If you read the first book of the Bible, it imagines this picture with two people named Adam and Eve who live in a paradise with God. It sounds almost too perfect, kind of like heaven. And the Bible ends with the story of a new earth where everything sounds a lot like heaven. But there is a tension in that because we live in the middle.
The people in the time of Jesus understood this tension. They knew that it wasn’t supposed to be this way so they created temples that served as places of awe where God’s space and our space met each other. We still have remnants of this idea in the huge cathedrals in Europe. The whole idea is to create a place of beauty completely different from the world outside.
The temple was the only space where they believed this overlap happened. The problem was they believed the world was too sinful for God to enter it. And, on the flip side, they believed they were too sinful to enter God’s space. So, they had sacrifices and believed that this removed their sin and allowed these two spaces to coexist.
All that is humming along just fine and then Jesus shows up and begins to announce that the Kingdom of Heaven has come near. In other words, God’s presence, along with goodness, justice, mercy, and life that is found in God’s space is showing up in our space that is filled with injustice, ugliness, and death.
Jesus doesn’t announce this in a temple like people would have expected. Jesus goes to a little fishing village where regular people are living and tells them that heaven is showing up right where they are. Along with this, he gathers followers and begins to show people that God’s space is alive and real among them, and he does it in a way that only Jesus could do.
23 Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. 24 News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. 25 Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.
Thousands of people from hundreds of miles around began to hear the stories of Jesus, and they start to show up because he isn’t just claiming that God’s space had invaded our space. Jesus begins to show this new reality by performing miracles that seemed to be bringing pockets of heaven into the most unexpected places and in the most unexpected people.
We can talk about healing. We can find more examples of healings that Jesus performed. We can go back and look at all the places throughout the whole Bible where people experienced unexplainable healing. We could even dive deep and try to understand what it means when it says Jesus cast out demons.
Do they really expect us to believe in demons?
These are all good questions and things that are worth asking. They are worth wrestling with in our minds and in conversations. Doubt and questions are the way faith evolves and matures. Please don’t ever stop asking questions. Don’t simply take it at face value but be surprised, nervous, uncertain, and intrigued by what we are told about Jesus.
I want you to do this is because this is exactly what drew the crowds to Jesus. When they heard what Jesus was doing they were shocked and in disbelief. They began to ask if it was actually possible that God’s space could invade our space. Could heaven and earth actually overlap? Could this reality be found in this man named Jesus?
But this is just the warmup. We can’t talk about Jesus and healing without talking about sin and forgiveness. Because Jesus didn’t only come to heal the people of their diseases, he came to heal them of their sin and we see this a few chapters later.
9 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
Blaspheming meant to claim to do what God could do. It meant that Jesus was bucking the system. Jesus was doing things outside of the norm. He wasn’t in the temple where this kind of stuff belonged.
Sins forgiven? In the middle of nowhere? That wasn’t the way things were done.
Jesus was doing things in a different way.
Now, the author of this book we are reading goes right from here to telling us his story of Jesus calling him to imagine a different kind of world.
9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth.
“Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice. For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Sin is a word we don’t like, but it is a word we need to learn to embrace. For most of us when we think of sin we think of making God mad, breaking His law, or disobeying God. These sound accurate but they miss the whole story that takes us back to the overlap of God’s space and our space.
The Hebrew word for how God desires the world to look is SHALOM. SHALOM means peace, wholeness, health, blessing, SHALOM is what God intends for the world. The world doesn’t look a whole lot like SHALOM.
Now, the word for SIN, in the Greek this was originally written, was the same word they used for when soldier using a bow missed his target.
All of in some way have missed the target when it comes to the SHALOM that God wants in this world. We contribute to the opposite of this through the way we treat our world, ourselves, and each other. And, in so many ways our actions cause us to get in the way of the overlap of God’s space and our space.
Our sin keeps us from experiencing what God wants for this world, but Jesus tells us that he has come to rescue sinners and heal them of this disease.
At the end of Jesus’s life, he is once again sitting down, having a meal, and he once again redefines the picture for his followers.
26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
The word covenant might be unfamiliar to some of us. What Jesus is saying is there was an old way of doing things and a new ways of doing things. The old way was in the temple and the new way is found in Jesus.
Remember these people lived in a time when the only way to experience God’s presence was to go this temple and sacrifice something to remove sin so that God’s space and our space could come together.
Jesus is saying that through him, our sin is forgiven and we are redeemed, restored, reconciled, and renewed. And, through his forgiveness we experience His presence in our lives. Not in some place we go to but in our lives. This is what is called GOOD NEWS. You were always meant to experience God’s presence in your life and through Jesus, and His forgiveness, you can.