Perhaps one of the reasons that God allows so much time to pass between the last book of the Old Testament (Malachi, written in the 400s B.C.) and the first events of the New Testament is because God’s people needed to feel fully the weight of waiting. And as we know, what God had in store for us was well worth waiting for.
With the birth of Jesus, God ushered in a revolutionary new era with His people: A New Covenant of Grace (Luke 22:20). The best is yet to come (Rev. 21:1), but praise God we have both the completed work of Jesus Christ and the peace this brings in His New Covenant. I need to be careful here, so let me clarify.
God has always saved and will always save His people in the same manner throughout human history: by grace through faith in the completed work of the Messiah. He saved His people in the Old Testament this way. And He saves us in this way also.
BUT what we find in the very first pages of the New Testament is nothing less than the 🔥POWER🔥, the radical intervention of the incarnation. In every way, it is everything we were looking forward to!
In the birth of Jesus Christ, God left the high places of heaven to walk on the dust of earth as a man. In this divine condescension, in the person and work of Jesus Christ, we meet the perfect resolution of all God’s fleshly, earthly, material symbols and types. We see the end of Israel’s futile struggle to reclaim the earth. And we meet, face to face, its heavenly counterpart: the spiritual kingdom of Jesus Christ, which begins not on a high mountain but in a lowly stable.
Yesterday, I wrote about the high places of the Old Testament – the hills, the mountains, the roofs, the physical stature, etc. I considered that these are only earthly signs and symbols pointing us to a deeper spiritual reality: the idols of the human heart, our striving to get heaven’s blessing by human hands.
This is why in the New Testament, God speaks to us not about flattening pagan temples and laying low every idolatrous geographical feature. He points us instead to the high places which these represent, those within the human heart. And this lesson is best revealed in God’s way of speaking, through a story.
In Mark 2:1-12 (and see Matt. 9:1-8, Luke 5:17-39), Jesus is living in Capernaum, a place He selected as a hub for His earthly ministry. Matthew refers to it as “His own city.” The name Capernaum means “disorderly accumulation of objects.” And indeed, in our story here, Jesus is all about restoring order. The text tells us this:
When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.
2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.
3 And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men.
It’s a familiar story to many. Four men wanted Jesus to heal their paralytic friend, but they couldn’t get into the room, “not even near the door.” So they climbed to the roof “and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.”
The thoughts of these persistent good friends were initially on earthly healing. They had a noble goal, an angelic one even, the blessing of a healthy body for a friend who was unable to help himself. So they ascended to the roof to claim it.
Yet Jesus would not meet them on the high places. Instead, they must lower their friend down to the dust, down to the feet of the Saviour. Remember that when it comes to any character in the Bible, the question we ask is this: What is God revealing through them? And here, God is showing us how to respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Like the paralytic man, we must humble ourselves after the One in Whom our faith for healing rests.
And just look at how Jesus’s priorities reveal His kingdom plan. His FIRST response offers the man at his feet not the high places of earth but something altogether more eternal: the high places of heaven (Matt 6:33).
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
But for those watching in unbelief, even the grumbling scribes “sitting there and reasoning in their hearts,” Jesus next offers another sign in the body of the paralytic man, a kind of earthly ascension from his pallet, this time a physical manifestation of His triumph yet to come.
“But so 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, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”
And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
In Jesus Christ, the story of the high places finds its forever home. Through His own glorious humiliation, Jesus models for us the way to our future in the heights of heaven.
He asks us to repent at His feet in the dust of a fallen creation,
to destroy not the high places of this passing earth but rather the ones within our own hearts,
to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbour as ourselves,
and in all, because of His work alone, to ascend with Him the mountain of the LORD.
And what awaits us after that? Not only spiritual reign with Christ in the heavenly places, ours now at this very moment if we believe (Eph. 1:3), but the heights of a new heaven and earth when He comes again. In that order exactly.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness;
and all these things shall be added unto you.