STRENGTH FOR THE WEEK: Meeting Jesus.
WHO CARES ABOUT YOUR NAME?
Jesus 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’? – Mark 2:8-9
It is true that God knows you by name, but what if you found yourself before him in front of the prying eyes of the whole world and he never even called you by name? What if, instead of referring to you by your name, he referred to you by what is broken about you? Instead of talking to the watching crowd about you by your name, he referred to you as this adulterous woman, or this racist man, or this porn-addicted boy, or this raped girl, or this unemployed father, or this impotent husband, or this unmarried person, or this divorced man, or this broke fella, or this bankrupt businessman, or this failing student, or this stuttering person, or this unattractive person. What would it do to you if the God who knows your name chose to talk to others about you in your presence in those terms instead of by your name?
Let’s go further. What if on top of describing you by what is wrong with you, he did so not primarily to help you out of it or to fix it as a matter of urgency and concern? Instead, he did so in order to make a theological point or sermon to those watching you squirm in this awkward moment. He pointed out what was wrong with you and instead of using his power to restore you immediately, he started by using your infirmity as an illustration to make a point. And not a point about you, or about how much you have suffered because of this thing, or about how patiently and valiantly you have endured this thing, or about how special you are in God’s eyes because of your unique pain. No. Instead, he used your infirmity as an illustration to make a point about himself, about how special he is and how much authority he has. How would that make you feel? There is one word that perfectly sums up that feeling. Humiliated.
Before Jesus uses his power to extend God’s grace to this paralyzed man, he pretty much humiliates him. Jesus does not acknowledge the man’s name, or his family, or his pain, or his story. He ignores it altogether, and does so publicly where he speaks of the man as though he is not in the room. And he does it to make a point to the teachers of the law and to focus their attention on how evil their hearts are and how special he himself is, all while the paralyzed man is still lying there helpless in front of everyone. You ask why Jesus does this? Well, it is because when you come to Jesus, he means you to stand before him without any pretenses about your sinfulness, your brokenness, your helplessness, or your ordinariness. He means you to stand before him as you are, naked. Only then can he clothe you with God’s grace by working on your behalf.
And so he humiliates us first, because humiliation is the perfect remover of the artificial clothing of human dignity. If the humiliation is something you cannot stand, then it means you value your dignity as a person in the eyes of humanity more than your dignity as a son or daughter in the eyes of God. You can’t have both. So join him in the changing room of humiliation to shed off these artificial human sources of your dignity and stand before him naked, with nothing to prove, nothing to defend, nothing to hide, nothing to fight for, because then, and only then, will he work on your behalf to make grace your new and permanent outfit. And as the paralyzed man found out, receiving grace from God is infinitely more valuable and powerful than receiving dignity from people. Dignity only makes you feel at home among strangers. Grace actually brings you back home to a loving Father, a loving Brother, and a loving Family, and a new Name. What dignities are you holding on to that are keeping you from receiving true grace?