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Mark 1-5 Continued...

"Friends and Faith"

Mark 2:1-12

Mark 2:1-12. "A few days later 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. 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. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

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?"

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their 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 on earth 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!'"

Quite an interesting account here in the pages of Mark. Many times people want to know by whose authority am I preaching. Someone said to me recently, "What authority do you have to say those things to me?" Now, while I'm not taken aback by some questions, because I realize that sometimes people just want to know the truth. Sometimes people like to put you on the spot as they did with Jesus, so it's nothing new. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people say "I don't like the way the church is organized now. In fact, I don't trust anything that any man does under the name of religion." Well, brethren, let me tell you something. It's God the Father who is our authority, period. No matter what we do in this life, no matter what line of work we're in, no matter what type of background we have, no matter what race or culture we are or come from, it is God the Father who is our authority--God the Father. Now while that may sound simple enough, it's not understood readily, is it? In today's gospel message we focus on that very same principle, the principle of authority. It is only God who has authority. And he extends that authority to Jesus Christ. Jesus seemed to provoke, almost deliberately, the teachers of the law, by saying to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." And as a result this required them to look at the issue of authority from which Jesus spoke. Now this particular lesson in Mark 2 focuses on a number of things. It focuses on the divinity and authority of Jesus Christ. Mark quotes Jesus as saying "Your sins are forgiven." And we just sang a hymn--what was that hymn we sang this morning? It dawned on me when we were singing this, I read the subtitle where the Scripture it says under "Cleanse me" "If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And here Jesus said "Your sins are forgiven" to this paralytic man. In the time of Christ, and all of the time before Jesus Christ, and all of the time after Jesus Christ, it is agreed that only God can forgive sin. Only God can do that. One would have to wonder then if Jesus was almost baiting those teachers of the law who were within earshot, because the Scripture does tell us they were nearby and were listening to what Jesus was saying. We wonder if Jesus was saying something by his statement to address this very subject. And we know that the Jews of his day were struck by that fact that Jesus spoke with authority--with authority. Jesus didn't have to wonder what he was going to say or say it and hope that they wouldn't be offended by it. In fact, his authority allowed him to say things that people would be offended by--religious people. It's not like a lot of the lessons that other teachers of Jesus' day were saying. This particular text is but a selection, one selection of an account of Jesus that demonstrates the controversy with which Jesus spoke and his words created in an already established area of religion. And so what we find is that Jesus speaking delivered controversy. He claimed, Jesus did, to have the authority to forgive sins. That claim in and of itself was one to ruffle the feathers of those that were listening. He also claimed to be Lord of the Sabbath. He also claimed that he was the one who could heal, and he also proclaimed that it was only by his authority over disease could this example of healing take place. And he even healed on the Sabbath day. I think by seeing how Jesus handles himself, and the devotion that he had to his Father, we can understand the piety that was associated with him and as a result us. In order for us to receive the new wine that Jesus was bringing we had to become new containers. We had to become new wineskins. And so he proclaimed freedom to those whom he wanted to associate with. We also see by this short account here in Mark 2 that this particular text focuses on the authority that Jesus had over sin and over disease. Jesus had authority over those two elements. To the local people who were witnessing this, this was a new thing. It was more than a new thing, it was a shocking thing. Before their very eyes a paralytic man, his sins were forgiven, and he was healed by someone of authority--someone willing to take on the educated religious leaders that were standing there nearby. What made it even more complicated was that Jesus was just a regular man to them. Walking in the flesh, yet claiming to have the authority of God--so much so that he said he was able to forgive sin. He was able to forgive sin. (We're going to talk about that in just a moment.) And he was able to heal diseases. This isn't what the vision that the Jews had of the Messiah was all about. You see they envisioned the Messiah coming to overturn a political system. They pictured the Messiah as bringing in, ushering in an era of peace. They didn't envision the Messiah coming to forgive sins, or to heal the sick, or to reach out to the lonely. Rather, they looked at the restoration of Israel and their national greatness. To complicate matters, Jesus happened to be the son of unwed parents, the son of a carpenter walking and claiming authority given to him by his Father to forgive sins. This to many, was preposterous, especially to the society, to the people and culture that saw Jesus. They thought he was blaspheming because he was proclaiming to possess authority. Jesus never stood behind anything else other than his Father. And he boasted his Father's authority in his ministry. Yet their judgment about Jesus Christ was incorrect. Because he was God in the flesh. He is God in the flesh [cf. John 1:1-11].

The title that I have for this sermon today is "Friends & Faith", and I want to go through this account again with that little bit of a background and look at what we have going on in this particular account, because I think it's quite fascinating. Mark chapter 2, "A few days later" verse 1, "Jesus again enters Capernaum." Now we read last week where the man with leprosy had fallen on his knees before Jesus and was healed and Jesus asked him not to go and tell anyone. And so the man, listening to Jesus, goes and tells everyone. And from that point forward wherever Jesus went, the cities he entered into, large throngs of people surrounded Jesus because they wanted to be healed. And so a few days later when Jesus enters Capernaum the people heard that he had come to them, or come home. So many people gathered that there was no room left. Now Capernaum was a small town. And yet it appears by these simple words that were given here, that word of Jesus return to Capernaum spread rapidly through the city, so rapidly, that when Jesus finally entered Capernaum there were so many people waiting there for him that there was no room left, it said, not even outside the door. And Jesus began to preach to them. That's what he did. He preached to them. Some men came. And this is where we're going to have to start identifying some characteristics. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four of them. Now this paralytic in this account is well known to us. We never learned this paralytic's name. We never will. In fact, in this whole little section here, the paralytic man never says one word to Jesus Christ. We don't know what he's thinking. We don't know why he became paralytic. Was it as a result of an accident? Was it a result of birth? We don't know, really, anything about the man other than the fact that he's paralyzed. We don't know how he feels about these men bringing him there. Did they bring him against his will? We don't know that. We would like to think that this man came to Jesus for healing, because he heard of the great powers that Jesus held. But what we find is that some men came bringing to Christ this paralytic, four of them. Four because we could think there is one on each side [corner] of the stretcher as they carried this man to Jesus. These four men bring this paralytic to Jesus. Next verse, "Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd they made an opening in the roof above Jesus." And so here we find that Jesus was surrounded by people. A lot of times, you and I, when we try to go to Jesus we think that there's just too many people for Jesus to see us right now, or for me to pray to him. But his friends here saw that there were way too many people in front of them for Jesus to even notice this paralytic man. So his friends pick him up and they carry him outside of the building to, it appears to be the side of the house, and up a back staircase. Now these are his friends. And then what they do, is says they begin to dig a hole in the roof. Now if you know anything about adobe construction, which is this type of housing materials, it's brick and mud and straw and wood. And they're digging at it and they don't have their dust-busters with them, so they're not siphoning up the lose gravel as it's being unearthed here. Jesus inside the house and those who were around Jesus, immediately wherever this hole appeared, no doubt, look up and they see the ceiling beginning to crumble above them. Debris is now falling on a lot of folks. I don't know which one of them stuck their head through the opening first, but someone sticks their head through and says "It's only us. We'll be right there." They make the hole wide enough so they can lower this paralytic man through the hole. Jesus, I'm sure, is watching this with an incredible amount of empathy towards their scenario. Others are probably wondering "What in the world are they doing? The roof is going to cave in. They're going to fall. What are these guys doing?" O.K. They made an opening in the roof above Jesus and after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man way lying on. Now at this point the man is before Jesus Christ. He still hasn't said anything. He's before the healer. Jesus, it says here, saw their faith. He doesn't tell us he saw the faith of the paralytic man. He saw the faith of those men who brought this paralytic to Jesus and left him in front of Jesus. Jesus looks at the man, seeing their faith, he looks at the man and says, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 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?" Their immediate reaction to what's taken place is problematic. This man has just said 'Sin's are forgiven' to this man on the mat. Jesus knew in his spirit that this is what is what they are thinking in their hearts. And he says to them, "Why are you thinking these things?" and then he kind of throws a riddle to them. "Which is easier to say to this paralytic man? 'Your sins are forgiven' or to say 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?" Which was easier to say? There have been times when someone has hurt me deeply, and there are times when I have hurt people deeply. And people have come to me or I've gone to someone and I've said to them "I'm sorry. I apologize." And they've said to me "I forgive you." And I said, "Thank you." And we go on. You see, it's possible, it is quite possible for humans to forgive one another's sins, as they effect us, isn't it? There are times when someone has sinned against another person. Case in point, a man and woman are married, and one of the two makes a grave mistake and sins. The partner is crushed, devastated. But when that individual comes and is truly repentant, and recognizes the error of their sin and sees how it has hurt the other individual, and apologizes probably a thousand times and that other person is able to say to them and mean it, "I forgive you", that is an overwhelming human ability to forgive sin. Now, before you say "Whoa, what is he saying?", only God can forgive the ramification of sin. Only God can remove the sin as though it never existed. Only God in his divine authority has the right to forgive sin. We as human beings have the ability to forgive one another. We as human beings have the ability to forgive one another's sins as they effect us. We nowhere can provide authority or salvation to an individual. You know that's through Jesus Christ. Jesus says your sins are forgiven. Which is easier to say? "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 on earth to forgive sins..." This is the first time Jesus uses the phrase "Son of man", and he refers to himself as that. And he says "to show you that I have authority to forgive sins and to heal on this earth, he says to paralytic 'I tell you, get up and take your mat and go home.'" He got up and he took his mat and he walked out of the place. Now, let's draw some analogies here. The paralytic man was frozen by his sins into a state of helplessness, whatever those sins may have been. His friends realize his helplessness and they carried him to Jesus Christ. We don't know if this man wanted to go to Jesus, but his friends took him before Christ. And that's where we intervene and we bring our friends before Christ. Those who are hurting, those who need forgiveness of sins, those who need Jesus Christ in their life. Jesus freed this man by declaring that he was forgiven. And as a result Jesus was stating that he has the power to relay God's forgiveness on earth. And therefore we in the church have been entrusted with the power and authority through Jesus Christ to tell others that they don't have to be paralyzed by sin anymore. That it is through Christ's forgiveness and grace that their sins can be removed. And so we bring our friends to Christ. The paralytic man could not reach Jesus because the door was jammed with people. But his friends were not willing to let this deter them. They didn't see it as an obstacle, they just saw it, "It's going to take a little more effort to help our friend out." So in their zeal they were willing to do something that took a lot of energy and strength, and it took a lot of courage to do--that is to break through the roof of a home to help this man out [and this home was fiery Peter's house!]. What are some obstacles that you and I face when we try to help one another out? When we try to help those people out that can't help themselves there are a lot of obstacles that we will face. There may be relatives, family or friends who will stand in the doorway and not allow you to bring that friend to Jesus Christ. That's when we have to take the back staircase. That's when we have to punch a hole through the roof. That's when we have to not give up, as this paralytic's friends didn't. You know, people shouldn't have to commit acts of desperation to have access to Jesus Christ. They shouldn't have to do this. Christians, you and I, are commissioned to make it easy for others to have access to Jesus Christ, by how we live, and how we include others in what we do for them. We need a faith that won't quit. The faith of these friends of the paralyzed man tell us a compelling story. We don't know any of their names. Yet the thing that we remember about them is the moment that they carried their friendship through, because of Jesus Christ. Many times people are remembered for all the wrong reasons. There was one mistake that we could make that people will remember us by forever, no matter how much we apologize or overcome that mistake. That's unfortunate. That really is unfortunate. But these particular men, their faithfulness, has been preserved for 2000 years because of this act of kindness that they extended to someone who needed it. They wouldn't take "No" for an answer, or let any obstacles stand in their way--because they had passion and determination. They also must have really believed without any hesitation at all that Jesus Christ could heal the man. Now I know there will be times when we stumble across people that are our friends who are hurting, or maybe strangers that will come up to us and begin a conversation, and it's hard to keep that conversation going. It's hard, sometimes, even if the conversation is "Christian" oriented, to sometimes even bring up the name of Jesus Christ. I know. And I know that we all feel this and go through these things. But you know what? That's when we need to have the faith of a friend, and bring up Jesus' name because we believe in his name. We believe in his authority. And to show us how much this means to us, Jesus, not knowing anything necessarily about this paralytic man's faith (or I shouldn't say that--I should say) we don't read about the paralytic man's faith, Jesus sees their faith. I can't tell you how many times in my life, when I thought to myself concerning my own mother, that things were going to work out for me, because I knew my mother was praying about it. I trusted in her faith. I knew she had faith. And I knew she was praying for me. And I knew, I had no hesitation, to feeling that whatever the situation was, was going to work out because my mother was praying about it. I can't describe that, but I can tell you that I've felt it a million times. So Jesus responded to the faith of those men. And thus we realize that faith can move mountains. I have no hesitation in realizing that our prayer for a piano player is going to be answered. I know it is, partly because I've asked my Mom to pray for it. I know she is, I know God's going to answer that prayer.

The stretcher bearers had a faith that wouldn't quit. And there wasn't an obstacle that they allowed to get in their way to derail them. And then we realize that we can bring about examples of moving mountains by having faith. And that's what it's all about. And Jesus gives us faith, but we have to exercise it. Again I tell you about my stories in gym, and working out for this past month has been eye-opening in so many ways. It's made me realize that the more I put into practice, and it's only the three times a week that I go there for an hour or an hour and a half, those three times a week are yielding results physically for me, and mentally, and emotionally, and even spiritually, because I'm feeling better. And while I'm working out I think, you know, this is exactly how the Christian life is. We have to exercise it, we have to put it into practice, we have to strain sometimes to take it to the next level. We have to endure the pain sometimes because we know it's going to be beneficial. And the whole time we're exercising we have to drink lots of water to stay refreshed. We need a lot of the Holy Spirit to stay refreshed, otherwise our exercise is going to fatigue us more than it should.

Jesus Christ is our redeemer. Only he can forgive our sins. Only he can do that, because he's purchased them by is own blood, satisfying the penalty of death with his life on the cross once and for all. And as a result he guarantees us eternal life, salvation. Isaiah said, "I am doing a new thing." Consequently it's important for us to forget the former things. Our salvation will be, (in Isaiah 43)'our salvation will be unlike what the Lord did for Israel. The Lord saved them from Egypt and became their king. Now the Lord says that it is He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake and remembers your sins no more. This is the new thing that I the Lord will do.' Paul teaches that believers are given the Lord's of ownership, to show that he is our Master and that God, who is our gift of comfort and strength, guarantees that we belong to him. And it's only as a result through these gifts that our salvation is achieved.

And so we take another look at this passage because it's so unique that the faith of this paralytic man is just never discussed, it's never expressed, and he is healed with an incredible healing. You know, Jesus usually says when he heals, "Your faith has healed you." And in this account he doesn't say that. He says "Take up your mat and go home." We don't even know if this man ever followed Jesus again. We don't know if this man ever became a Christian. But what we do know is that the faith of his friends was something that Jesus saw and responded to.

"A few days later when Jesus 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..." Jesus, surrounded by throngs of people, always preached the truth, the gospel message of salvation, the message of healing, the message of forgiveness of sins. "And while he was preaching, since they could not get to him 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. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven.'" Now you and I would recognize this as a miracle. The teachers of the law sitting there thought to themselves, 'This doesn't mix with our religion. Why does he talk like this? He's blaspheming God.' "Jesus, immediately discerning what they are thinking"--because he knew what their religion was. He knew that their religion was not centered on faith. He knew that their religion was centered on something different. He knew that their religion had become a matter of laws, and that their religion had become a matter of routine, and that their religion had become a matter of legality. "Jesus, knowing what they were thinking in their hearts, says to them, 'Why are you thinking these things? What is easier to say to this paralytic man you've just seen lowered from the roof of this building before me, 'You 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 on earth to forgive sins" he looks again to the man and he answers the question by saying, "Pick up your mat, and walk out of here" indicating that it was much easier to say to the man "You are healed"--much easier to say that, than to recognize the forgiveness of sins--easier to say that. And as a result, this man gets up and he leaves. But the undenying emotion that we leave this particular passage with is that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, your sins and my sins. That's the hardest thing it seems to do. And as a result, he in order to be able to do that, will sacrifice his life so that your sins and my sins are forgiven. And the healing is easy from that point on.

Well, we're going to talk more about this next time. So please join me in prayer: "Eternal God we thank you for allowing us to share this particular passage of Scripture with one another--your teaching us of your authority over not only our lives, but your authority to forgive sins, and your authority Father over healing. And we petition you many days for healing. We know that your authority to do so is there. Father, we have learned today that our faith can be of benefit to others, just as it was for this paralytic man who by his friends faith was healed. Help us to demonstrate that faithfulness Father, by coming to you and building our faith stronger every day, our faith in you...the faith that can move mountains. We ask that you continue to demonstrate that faith in this congregation. We ask for your presence always in our lives. We ask for your protection as we travel home this afternoon, and for all those Father, especially the elderly, whom we know will have difficulty with this weather, we ask that you be with them, and protect them. And Father, we thank you for all you do for us, through the name of your Son Jesus the Christ. Amen." [This is a transcription of a sermon given by Pastor Al Ebeling of the Waltham Congregation of the Worldwide Church of God, meeting in the First Congregational Church of Waltham, Massachusetts]

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