August 2, 2009

Follow the Leader!

Part 8: Who does he think he is?

Mark 2:1-12

 

Opening:

Moment of truth: how many of you men have ever been out in public and someone had to tell you that your fly was open? Sometimes other people see things about us we’d rather they not see—whether it’s our underwear or our temper or our selfishness.

But other times, people see things about us that are wonderful. “I saw the way you handled that situation—you were very kind.” Has anyone ever come up to you and said, “Excuse me, but your faith is showing”? Wouldn’t that be cool?

Today, we’re going to read a story in the gospel of Mark about 4 men who brought their friend to Jesus, and Jesus said, “Excuse me, your faith is showing.” He saw their faith. And they got more than they bargained for.

 

Offering and announcements:

Compassion International (bottom of middle section): 77 children sponsored last Sunday! For more info on sponsoring a child, please stop at the Info Center today.

Leadership Summit (item #1) is this Thursday and Friday! Not too late—stop at the Info Center for prices and registration information. Because of the Summit…

College Life is meeting at SFCC (back of tear-off) – great opportunity to meet other college students and have fun!

Visitors from Mongolia (item #5): Mongolian children are coming to Spokane for heart surgery; we have a host family, but still need volunteers for transportation, to make some meals, and definitely prayer! Please contact Kenna for details or write “Mongolia” on the tear-off tab.

 

Baptisms:

 

Introduction: When four men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed, they got more than they bargained for!

We’ve finished Mark 1—it only took us seven weeks! In Mark 1 tells the beginning of the Jesus-story: Jesus is baptized, tempted, calls his first followers, and proclaims his message that the Kingdom of God has come. He kicks off his ministry very successfully; his preaching, healing and deliverance attract huge crowds. He’s a rock star—He’s on a roll! Then in Mark 2, trouble starts. Mark tells us five straight stories in which Jesus clashes with the religious authorities. Here’s the first one:

Mark 2:1-12 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 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. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

8 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? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 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!”

Jesus is back in Capernaum. Jesus started his ministry there and had made it his home base. Remember the last time He had been there, the whole town had shown up at Peter’s house and Jesus had worked late into the night, teaching, healing and freeing people. He got up early the next morning and slipped away to pray. When the disciples found him and said, “Everyone is looking for you,” Jesus said that He was called to go preach in other villages, and he left. He left at the height of His success, and now He was back, and the crowd immediately gathered again so that there was no room in the house, or even near the door. Sold out! Standing room only! Jam packed!

Four men brought a friend for healing—we’ll call him Bob. Bob was paralyzed, so they carried him on a stretcher—probably a blanket attached to some poles. But they couldn’t get to Jesus because of the crowd. I’m sure they tried. “Excuse me—paralyzed man coming through!”

ILL: On Bloomsday, when a wheelchair competitor comes up behind you, everyone shouts, “Wheelchair coming through!” And everyone moves to the side to make way for the wheelchair.

Bloomies are much nicer than this crowd. Nobody moved. The four men shouted, shoved, begged, all to no avail. Nobody was giving up his spot near the action. They all wanted to be close to Jesus.

Instead of giving up and going home, these guys huddled and they got creative. I wish I could have overheard their conversation—I’ll bet they kicked around several ideas.

• “What if I yell, ‘Fire!’?”

• “What if we smear some stuff on Bob to make it look like he has some contagious skin disease like leprosy, and then we shout, “Leper coming through! Unclean!”?

• “Why don’t we try the roof? We could dig a hole in the roof and lower Bob down right in front of Jesus.”

I’m not sure what Bob thought of this, but I think his four friends were all high-fiving and doing chest bumps! “Cool idea! Let’s do it! We might even make it into the Bible!”

Palestinian houses had flat roofs, with a stair on the side of the house to reach it. A typical roof was constructed of poles set across the walls about 3 feet apart. They packed the space between the poles with brushwood packed with clay, then covered with earth. In the spring, grass grew on the roof, and people often sat up there for quiet and relaxation. It wouldn’t have been hard to dig a hole between two poles, and it would have been relatively easy to repair afterwards.

So they hauled Bob up the stairs, plopped him on the grass, and started digging! And as the hole began to open, dirt and sticks started raining down on the people below. Imagine the scene. Those immediately below the hole were protesting as dirt rained down on them. You know Peter wasn’t happy! “Hey, what are you doing to my roof?” The religious leaders who were there to check out Jesus were upset by this rude interruption of His teaching. I’ll bet some of the crowd was laughing. And I think Jesus was smiling. He shook the dirt out of His hair, looked at Bob lying on the stretcher in front in front of him, and looked up at the hole in the roof, at four expectant faces beaming down at him. It might have looked like this. Picture of four faces. (This is an original unedited photo.)

Jesus saw more than just four excited, expectant faces. He saw faith.

 

1. Jesus saw their faith. 1-5

Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus saw their faith. I’ve always loved those words. How did Jesus see their faith? How was their faith made visible? By action. Faith always produces action, so eventually it can be seen. These four men expressed their faith in Jesus first by bringing their buddy to Jesus for healing, and then by digging up the roof. They were so convinced that Jesus could help their friend that they wouldn’t take no for an answer. Here are some things we can learn from their faith.

Their faith was in Jesus. These men believed that Jesus could heal Bob. They just had to get him to Jesus and Jesus would do the rest.

I know that this seems obvious—that their faith was in Jesus. But I point it out because sometimes people mistakenly have faith in faith. When people have faith in faith, everything depends on their faith. “If I just believe enough, it will happen.” But for these guys, everything depended on Jesus. Do you see the difference? I don’t think they wasted any time measuring their faith, or trying to pump their faith up. “Ok, do you believe? Do you really believe? We’ve gotta believe to make this happen!” I don’t think they even talked about their faith—I think they talked about Jesus. “Jesus is back in town. He can heal Bob—let’s get him to Jesus!” They had seen what Jesus can do and they knew Jesus could heal their friend.

So how do you know if you have faith in faith, or faith in Jesus? If you think it all depends on your faith, that’s faith in faith. If you think it all depends on Jesus, that’s faith in Jesus. Don’t worry about having enough faith—that’s you depending on your faith. Just trust Jesus and come to Him. Their faith was in Jesus.

Their faith was active. Jesus saw their faith in their action. Real faith always produces action. When you really believe something, you act upon it. It affects your behavior. They believed that Jesus could heal their friend, so they got him to Jesus. Real faith always results in action.

ILL: Allstate Insurance Company recently surveyed Californians in earthquake-prone regions. Sixty-four percent of respondents believe a massive earthquake will hit in three to five years; but only 25% have earthquake insurance.

Do they really believe an earthquake will hit? No. If they did, they’d move! Real faith always results in action. This is what James says:

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Faith always results in action. I believe, therefore I do.

ILL: On Rick’s 10th anniversary here at Life Center, I gave him a personal check for 10 million dollars, and a note that said he’s worth a million…per year! I’m happy to report that Rick didn’t try to cash that check! Why? Because he knew I didn’t have the funds! But what would you do if I wrote you a check for $100? Would you thank me when I gave you the check, or only after you had cashed it? You’d thank me when I gave it to you, and then you would take that to the bank with confidence, because you believe I have that much money and you would trust me to write a good check. Your faith would produce the action of going to the bank, just like Rick’s faith produced the action of not going to the bank. What you believe determines what you do. Real faith produces action.

For these guys, they believed that Jesus could heal Bob, so they got him to Jesus. Whatever it took, they got him to Jesus—and Jesus saw their faith.

Their faith was persistent. When they got to the house and saw the crowd, they were undeterred. They had to get to Jesus! They refused to take no for an answer. They wouldn’t let anything stop them. So when the way was blocked, they looked for another way, and when they couldn’t find one, they made a new way—they created the first skylight! Had they been less certain that Jesus would heal Bob, they would have seen the crowd and turned around and gone home. “Oh well; we tried. I guess it wasn’t meant to be.” Instead, their attitude was “Bob, we know that Jesus can heal you. We just have to figure out a way to get you to Jesus, and we’re going to do it.”

You see this persistent faith in other Bible stories.

• When blind Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was passing by, he began shouting at the top of his lungs, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” When everyone began telling him to shut up, he only yelled louder. He knew Jesus could heal him and he wasn’t going to be stopped by the crowd. Persistent faith.

• The woman who had a bleeding problem was not supposed to touch anyone—she was unclean and would make them unclean if she touched them. But she knew that if she touched Jesus she would be well, so she pressed through the crowd and touched Jesus. She wouldn’t be stopped by social or religious conventions. Persistent faith.

• Perhaps the most remarkable example of persistent faith was the Canaanite woman whose daughter was demonized. She came to Jesus and cried out for mercy for her daughter. When Jesus ignored her, she kept following and pestering Him until the disciples finally asked Jesus to send her away. Jesus told her, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel. It is not right to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” She refused to be offended or put off, and said, “Yes Lord, but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the master’s table.” Just a crumb, Jesus—that’s all I need. Jesus said, “Woman, you have great faith,” and He healed her daughter. Persistent faith.

If you believe that Jesus is your answer, you won’t let anything stop you from getting to Jesus. Their faith was persistent.

Their faith was creative. When the way to Jesus was blocked, they looked for another way. When they couldn’t find one, they made a new way through the roof! They got creative. Their faith resulted in some sanctified ingenuity.

I love people with creative faith! They are so energizing to be around. If they believe that Jesus wants them to do something, and they face an obstacle, they don’t even think of giving up. They just get creative. “We’ll find a way to make it happen.”

ILL: I read an article about Firstfruits of Washington, a business here in our state that grows and packs apples and cherries. In 1984, the Broetje family, who owns the business, made a mission trip to Mexico. They came back convinced that God wanted them to change the way they did business and to treat their workers with new level of respect. The problems facing the migrant workers seemed insurmountable.

First, they needed sustainable work. The Broetjes got creative, and tried planting new varieties of apples, and built a packing plant that resulted in year round work for their employees.

Then they learned that the women working in the packing plant were leaving their small children locked up at home all day, or were pulling their older children out of school to watch the younger ones. So the Broetjes got creative and built an affordable daycare that today employs 23 people and can care for up to 77 children.

Next, they realized that their workers needed affordable housing. Many of them were sleeping in cars, garages, or other cramped quarters, often paying bloated rents. So the Broetjes got creative and invested over $5 million of their own money and opened Vista Hermosa, a community of 121 affordable houses, with its own elementary school, public library branch, chapel, laundry facility and store.

Next, they realized that education was an issue. So the Broetjes got creative. They created a foundation that provides scholarships for their employees or their children to further their education. And they created a summer program called Camp Vista to help grade school children improve their skills, particularly in English.

The problem they’re working on now is immigration issues. Somehow, I think they’ll find a solution, don’t you? They have creative faith. They believe God told them to do something, so they got creative and did it.

Has God asked you to do something? Have you gotten stuck? Stopped by an obstacle? It may be time to exercise some creative faith.

Their faith was sacrificial. Someone had to repair the roof. It doesn’t say who did, but I think it’s fair to assume that these four guys happily did the repairs.

Sometimes our faith in Jesus leads us to do something risky, costly, sacrificial—like dig a hole in someone’s roof, or build affordable housing for migrant workers. The Broetjes’ faith was sacrificial. Did I mention that they give away 75% of their annual profits to needy people at home and around the world? Why do they do that? Because they believe in Jesus.

Faith in Jesus that is active, persistent, creative and sacrificial. That is what Jesus saw when He looked up.

Can Jesus see your faith? What are you doing that demonstrates your faith? Is your faith visible?

One other thing about these guys: they not only had faith in Jesus, but they obviously loved their friend. They loved him so much that they had to get him to Jesus. Do you have any friends that you are desperately trying to get to Jesus? Please turn your outline over, and take a moment and write down the names of friends and family—people you know and love—who need to get to Jesus. Now we’re going to pray for those people and ask Jesus to help us get them to Jesus no matter what!

 

Prayer time here.

 

2. Jesus forgave his sins. 5-7

Mark 2:5-7 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus forgave his sins. This wasn’t what anyone expected! I’m sure his four friends looking down through the skylight were stunned! “What do you mean, ‘your sins are forgiven’? He can’t walk. We didn’t bring him to be forgiven; we brought him to be healed!”

“Yeah, fix his legs, Jesus!”

But Jesus knew what his real need was, and dealt with that first. Was this man paralyzed because of some sin in his life? Possibly. It’s possible that the paralysis was psychosomatic, a symptom of something going on inside him, and Jesus knew that he wouldn’t be healed until he was forgiven. There are places in the Bible where sin and sickness are connected. But not always–you can’t assume that every sickness is related to a specific sin.

Even if this man’s sickness wasn’t directly related to sin, our first and greatest need as human beings is to be reconciled to God. So Jesus addressed the spiritual need first, and forgave the man.

By forgiving this paralyzed man Jesus challenged their theology and assumptions. Only God can forgive a man completely. Only God can say, “Your sins are forgiven,” and forgive a person for everything. I can forgive you what you’ve done to me, but I can’t forgive you for everything you’ve done. I don’t even know everything you’ve done…and don’t want to! Only God can forgive completely.

That’s why the religious leaders were offended. “Who does He think He is? Only God can forgive sins.” And they were right. Only God can forgive sins. So who does Jesus think He is? God? Yes. That’s the point. And that is why this is the beginning of the religious leaders’ opposition to Jesus. From the very beginning, they understood Jesus was claiming to be more than a man; He was claiming to be God. And that was blasphemy—a word they used here, and continued to use right up to Jesus’ trial and execution. Jesus was crucified because of blasphemy. He claimed to be God. He claimed to be able to do things that only God can do.

So Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Every one of us needs to hear that. Have you heard Jesus say that to you? Your sins are forgiven.

I said that this man and his friends got more than they bargained for when they came to Jesus. They carried him to Jesus to be healed; he walked home not only healed physically, but spiritually. He walked home a new man, beginning a new life with God, forgiven, free, and whole. Come to Jesus and you’ll get more than you bargained for! Have you been forgiven…for everything? You can come to Jesus and He will forgive you. We’ll give you a chance to do that in just a moment.

 

3. Jesus healed the man. 8-12

Mark 2:8-12 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? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 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!”

Jesus healed the man. Jesus did this not only for the sick man’s sake, but for everyone there, so they would know that He had authority to forgive sins.

Jesus asked, “Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” Anyone could say, “Your sins are forgiven”, and you’d never be able to prove they are, that you had authority to do it. But if you say, “Get up and walk,” you can see right away whether it has happened, and if you had the authority to do that. So Jesus did the visible miracle to prove that He had the authority to do the invisible miracle. He healed to prove that He had authority to forgive.

Who does he think he is? God…and He proved it.