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Our Surprising Savior

Written by Mark Haywood

Hi! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Mark Haywood, I’m married to Kelly, and we have a one year old named Lucy. Kelly works for a campus ministry at UNC called Cru, so we get to spend a lot of time with college students. This fall, we’re leading a group of juniors and seniors through a Bible study on the Gospel of Mark. I’ve always loved this Gospel, and not just because from it I take my namesake. Mark writes his gospel in a way that challenges the reader’s expectations of Jesus. Jesus came onto the scene during a time of great persecution. The Jews were ruled from Rome, and they were expecting a great, Messianic King who would free them from the Romans. Meanwhile, they worked constantly to obey the law, hoping they could earn their way back to God. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus flips both of these ideas on their head. He comes not as a great king but a suffering servant. He exposed the supposed “righteous” acts of the Pharisees as superficial, revealing the rottenness in their hearts. Luckily, He also shows us the true life we find in Him.

In Mark 2, we find Jesus surrounded by great crowds. However, the crowds aren’t really there for Jesus. They’re around for the miracles; the “magic tricks” they think will solve their problems. They don’t understand the fundamental heart change needed to grasp the Gospel. In Mark 2, there’s this group of friends so desperate to get their paralytic friend through the crowds to Jesus, they literally cut a hole in the roof of a house. They lower the man through the roof, where Jesus heals him. Before the healing, Jesus tells the man “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes are in shock, saying “Who can forgive sins but God alone.” They simply cannot believe Jesus’ God-like claim of being able to forgive our sins.

At this point in the study, we paused. It’s so easy to see the hypocrisy of the scribes, trying to prove their holiness while missing their depravity. They wanted the miracles, but they didn’t see their fundamental need for a savior. As a group, we pondered this truth, only to conclude we’re no different. How often do we find ourselves striving for salvation, only to fall short? As a new dad, I’m constantly judging myself by my successes and failures as a parent. If I can get Lucy to eat, sleep, and poop at the right times, maybe I’m a good dad. However, when I’m not home from work by bedtime, I feel guilty. And then there’s my sales job, where I’m literally judged by my successes and failures. The Gospel turns these notions on their heads, saying there’s nothing we can do to earn God’s favor. Instead, He chose us, He died for us, and He became sin for us, so that we might become His righteousness.

It’s interesting, if you read the story of the paralytic closely, you’ll notice the guy really does nothing to earn Jesus’ forgiveness. The author of our bible study wrote “Most of you believe in salvation by faith alone, not by works. But don’t you deep down think that you do something to acquire God’s grace? We all think that we have done something just a bit better than the rest of the people that don’t know God out there. If you aren’t a Christian, you may be still looking for that magic move that will earn God’s favor. But this guy doesn’t do a thing. Could it be that Jesus has more control over our hearts than we realize? Could it also be that a heart response to Him is more important than any outward work? Isn’t it good to know that Jesus knows our hearts even before we speak words?” If we’re not careful, we’re quick to try to add to the good news and fill it with caveats.

Thank God that He chooses us. He knows our hearts, He revels our sin, and He graciously forgives our sin. The next time I miss a sales goal or accidentally let Lucy fall on the playground, may I remember God’s great grace. May I parent from a place of knowing we can love because He first loved us, and may I remember there’s nothing I can do to earn his favor.

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