The Writing on the Wall
This chapter, following on yesterday’s reading of the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, tells the story of the fall on the Babylonian empire over which Nebuchadnezzar had presided.
The date is 539 BC. Belshazzar the son of Nabonidus is thought to have ruled during the lengthy absence of his father from Babylon.
On the night of Belshazzar’s great feast the armies of Cyrus the Persians were making their way into the city. The words on the wall told the story of his failure and judgment. The ancient historian Herodotus says that the Persians were able to enter the city along the shallow river bed of the Euphrates, the waters of which Cyrus had diverted into a basin to make this access possible.
So Belshazzar feasted in a false security born of a belief in the invulnerable nature of the city’s defences. He did not know that his time had come and that God had brought the liberator of his exiled people to send them back home as Isaiah the prophet had said (Isaiah 44:28).
God works his purposes out in human affairs. We are to trust him and not be afraid. Our call is to be faithful whatever the circumstances of the times might be.
At the present time our own country gives evidence of turning its back on the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ and of turning a deaf ear to the gospel of the grace of God. As individual believers and as churches our calling is to be faithful to God in our own lives and to continue to offer the message of salvation to all who will listen. The outcome lies with God.
Mark 1:40 – 2:12
The Healing of Two Men
The first healing, that of the man with leprosy, was motivated by the compassion of Jesus. His plea for help stirred Jesus to reach out and touch him and to heal him in that touch.
Jesus’ command to tell no one but to show himself to the person designated by the Law of Moses to pronounce a person cured or clean was to be for a witness to them. It was an indication that what the Law could only legislate for and could not cure, Jesus could cure by the obvious power of God. It was a testimony as to what was happening in Jesus which those who conducted the rituals of the Temple needed to see and acknowledge. We do not know whether the healed man did this or not. What we are told is that his unwillingness to obey Jesus’ direction resulted in the Lord being no longer able to enter freely into the towns and villages of the region. One can understand the man’s excitement but his failure to obey had consequences for Jesus. There is a lesson here for us.
The second healing brings us, in Marks’ Gospel, to five stories that mark the growing conflict generated by the ministry of Jesus.
The indignation of the teachers or interpreters of the Law was twofold. Only God could forgive sins and Jesus pronounced the man forgiven and demonstrated it with the very visible result of healing. It was an affront to them but an evident sign of who Jesus was. In addition, forgiveness was to be obtained in the Temple by sacrifice but Jesus offered it “in the street” as it were. There was blasphemy for them in both considerations.
In time, Jesus will offer forgiveness to the whole world by dying and rising again. In this we rejoice and live in hope of the life of the world to come.