Let us pray: Dear Lord Christ, You alone have all power over our bodies and our souls. You alone know the extent of the physical and spiritual diseases that we suffer from. And You alone can heal us. Today we ask that, like this man in our lesson, You may heal our sin-sickened hearts with Your life-changing forgiveness. And then with our souls uplifted, our physical health will be uplifted, too. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, THE MIRACLE WORKER!
TEXT: Mark 2: 1-12
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
What is a friend? Someone you know from grade school? A person you used to play with around your neighborhood? Is it someone you occasionally socialize with after work? Let’s face it, we use that term “friend” rather loosely, don’t we? What really defines a friend is whether they stick with you during tough times. Do they put themselves out for you? Are they willing to sacrifice for you? Do they remain true to you even when you find it difficult, if not impossible, to return the favor?
True friends are truly hard to find. We all have a lot of acquaintances, but friends are a bit rarer to discover. And when you do find a friend, my advice is to do your utmost to hang on to them!
I’ve always loved this text from Mark’s gospel. I especially like the picture of faith-driven friendship that it portrays. If you couple together Godly faith and friendship, as does this lesson, you see an uplifting portrait being painted with words by Mark. Indeed, here we have:
THE POWER OF FAITH!
Capernaum was Jesus’ adopted city. His adopted “home town” is you will. The people there knew Jesus and many of His disciples. In fact, it was probably the hometown of Peter, Andrew, James and John. Jesus had been gone for a little while, traveling around the outlying area—preaching, teaching, and doing miracles such as casting out demons. But now He returns! The word spreads. “When Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.”
Obviously these folks were happy to see Jesus. Obviously they had heard of more miracles and wanted to “get in on the action” as it were. We don’t know whose house Christ was staying at. Perhaps it was a relative of one of the apostles. In any case, He was the Man of the hour.
“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.”
I cannot help but think as I read this: “Do I have four friends who would do that for me?”” This wasn’t easy. This wasn’t merely driving a couple of miles out of the way to pick up someone who needed a ride. These four fellows physically hauled the stretcher upon which their friend was confined. It was heavy. It was hot outside. It was physically taxing and took some time to get him there. And once they arrived, the crowd is too big and too unmannerly to let them through. But they don’t give up. They know Jesus is God’s Son. They know He can help their buddy. They have faith. And the power of their faith compels them to climb up to the roof and laboriously strip off enough roof tiles to make a sizeable hole. Then they get some ropes and lower the man directly in front of Christ! Amazing, isn’t it? Who do you know that would put themselves out in such a fashion to help you?
I mentioned that these men had faith in Christ. How do I know that? Because Jesus says so! “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ “Their” is plural. All five of these fellows had faith that Jesus was their Savior. Now, you would expect, and no doubt they expected, Jesus to address the paralytic’s physical condition. After all, that’s why they worked so hard to get him in front of Christ. But no. Jesus knows that the spiritual sickness of sin, the ache of a heart which is unsure of its standing before the Almighty, He knows that that is all important. So, first Christ forgives this man’s sins. Note well, Jesus doesn’t say: “I forgive you some of your sins.” No, all of them are wiped away with Christ’s absolution. This tells us a lot about what we should view as the most important thing in our lives, too. The spiritual must always come before the physical.
“Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” Yes, in every crowd there always seems to be the naysayers. They had them then. We have them today. And these self-righteous, self-appointed guardians of what they thought was Godly piety viewed Christ as a fake instead of as God’s Son, the Messiah from sin and death.
“Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts (after all, as God’s Son He can read human hearts) and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins….He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’”
What does all this teach us? First that Jesus is God’s Son. He can heal the soul just as He healed this fellow’s body. Second, although we are very physically oriented, and tend to think that our physical well-being is all-important, Christ shows that the spiritual side to our existence is what must come first. Of course, the question for each of you is this: “Is it?”
Third, Christ wants to help and does. He never turns anyone away. That’s a terrific comfort as we go to Him in prayer and ask for His help and guidance. Fourth, none of this would have occurred unless those four friends had not believed in Jesus and exercised the power of their faith. If they hadn’t actively shown Christian love by laboriously carrying this stretcher with the dead weight of their friend on it, the opportunity for this miracle would have been missed. But, it wasn’t missed! They acted! Their active faith overcame all the obstacles in their path. And that power was rewarded in the restoring of their friend’s soul and body.
As Christians, each of you possesses the power of such faith, too. All that remains is for you to put it into action. To put yourself out by loving your neighbor as Christ has loved you. So the next time you find yourself grumpy—search out a friend in need and assist them. Be your brother and your sister’s keeper. But, most of all, help uplift their souls by leading them to Christ, speaking to them about Christ, and sharing with them His life-changing Word of eternal truth. Never, never, forget that the power of your faith can lead to miracles, too! Amen