Mark’s gospel is primarily concerned with showing us who Jesus is. It’s sort of a mystery novel at the beginning we are told that this is the good news of Jesus the messiah. In Mark’s version of Jesus baptism and temptation we are given a heavenly perspective of who Jesus is then in Jesus ministry we glimpse what it really means that Jesus is the messiah and the Son of God. Jesus proclaims the kingdom of God and we see that this means that Jesus has authority to heal, he has authority to free people from demonic possession and in this encounter with the paralysed man we see that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. Not only does Jesus deal with the consequences of our fallen world he also deals with the root problem as well. “Your sins are forgiven’. It’s a gift freely given. And as we hear from the teachers of the law, people who know their scriptures only God can do that.
The other thing that this passage does is that for the first time we see that Jesus comes into conflict with the religious authorities and leaders, this is going to be a theme that repeats itself through out the gospel. When Jesus says to the man ‘your sins are forgiven’ they immediately realise that he claiming authority that only God has and this is blaspheme, only God can forgive sins. The jewish religious system had a well defined sacrificial system to make atonement for sins but to freely forgive sins this was not for man to do but for God to do. Like all people when confronted by Jesus claims about himself or what he showed by his actions and teaching they had to ask the question who is this person Jesus. Is he a liar, or mad, or bad or is he the messiah. Jesus shows his authority by healing the man.
I want to focus on some other people in the story, because I think we need to see their example for us today. That’s the group of people we only know as friends. We don’t know their names we don’t even know how many of them there were, there we at least four. But we do know they had a friend who was paralysed and they hoped that Jesus could offer healing and wholeness to their friend, so they decided to bring him to Jesus. We don’t even know if he was a willing participant in this venture, maybe when Jesus said your sins are forgiven he knew that deep down inside this man was saying all along ‘I’m not good enough for this, I deserve to be a cripple for the things I’ve done wrong, who is God to have anything to do with me’. But they brought their friend to Jesus and he was healed and made whole. I want to look at what these friends have to tell us.
The first thing we know is that they had faith in Jesus, when Jesus looks up probably with dust and dirt in his hair from the tiles and mud from the hole they had made to lower their friend through. It says that Jesus saw their faith. It’s the first time in the gospel that faith and healing are connected. They believed that Jesus would be able to help their friend. Maybe they didn’t fully understand who Jesus was, they may not have been able to give their paralysed friend a detailed understanding of Jesus they just knew he could help. They had faith and as it’s a good illustration of what James says about faith, that you see a persons faith by their action. They didn’t just have a set of beliefs about Jesus a set of confessions about Jesus rather their faith moved them to want to bring their friend to Jesus. It spurred them to action. We can believe a lot of things about Jesus be devoted to him yet how does it spur us on to want to see Jesus bring healing and wholeness into the lives of the people in need around us. Does our faith in Jesus extend to seeing him as a source of help and healing and life for people we know even those who seem to have no need.
Secondly, they were a people of love. They must have loved their friend, honestly hoped the best for him . They knew him, perhaps they had been people who brought him food, carried him out to the place where he could beg for alms which was the only avenue of revenue open in their society for him. Possibly given him money themselves and cared for him, done the things that he could not do for himself. When Jesus came back to the town, they could have been like the other people and rushed to hear what Jesus had to say, but instead they thought of their friend and went to get him. I’ve often heard many impassioned pleas for evangelism and mission but at the heart of seeing people come to Jesus is not that we believe its our duty to so these things rather its our love for other people. The great commission, ‘Go into all the world and make disciples out of every nation teaching them to obey all I have commanded you and baptise them in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit’ is not just a cold order but rather an expression of the love that Jesus has for us and his great commandment that we are to love one another as Christ has loved us. The most effective form of evangelism is not mass evangelism or door to door or street evangelism its showing love to people around us in need befriending them and loving them enough in the context of a friendship to bring them to Jesus.
Thirdly, they worked as a team to get their friend to Jesus. They pooled their resources, their skills their determination and their energy to see this person they had cared for get to Jesus. It took four of them just to move him. Often we tend to think that sharing our faith with others is a personal thing, it up to the lone ranger super Christian type. But you know maybe you and I will simply be the person who finds the rope we’ll need or who points to the stairs and allows the other people to carry a friend up to get to Jesus, it’s a team effort. But some of the greatest things we can do is to welcome people to be part of us to belong before they will believe, to invite them to make friends with us and then they will make friends with Jesus. As a church you know I hope we are here for each other and able to be with each other to show Christian love and bring our friends to Jesus.
Fourthly, it wasn’t easy to get their friend to Jesus. AS they got to the place where Jesus was they found that the door was blocked and the place crowded with other people. Maybe it was like the one day Cricket games this summer and there were security men at the door checking bags and the size of drink containers. But there was no way through the crowd to Jesus. When we bring our friends to Jesus we will meet obstacles. You have to say that there are many people who are kept away from Jesus because of the people standing round him. We need to live with the criticism that the best advertisement for Christianity is Christians and at the same time the worst advertisement for Christianity is Christians. People often can’t see Jesus because we are in the way. You know its not easy brining friends to meet Jesus but he is the one that we know is a light for them and its worth the effort.
Fifthly, To get their friend to Jesus they needed determination, ingenuity a plan and the right tools. In the near east the roof’s of the houses are flat and there is a staircase up the side of the building, in the heat of the day people will live in the breezy air on their roof, Sort of an ancient near eastern version of outdoor summer living. The BBQ not on the patio it’s on the roof. So they thought what if we went up there and broke though the roof and lowered our friend down. And in the reply of a well known Kiwi beer billboard may be we’d say “yeah Right”. But they loved their friend so much they thought of ways of getting round the problem. They would have needed to get either some sort of tool to break through the tiles and mud and rope from somewhere and they did. They maybe even would have thought about well whose going to pay for the damages to the house, we don’t know. We often fail in bring our friends to Christ even when they have a need that Jesus can meet because we don’t have plans we get put off by obstacles or we don’t have the right tools. We don’t have enough holes in the roof for them to go through.
There are lots of good tools available like Alpha and pamphlets that set out a gospel message or good books and bible study groups available, but you know they in themselves don’t bring people to Jesus and often we get caught up in thinking about the tool rather than the goal of getting people to meet Jesus and be made whole. We think we’ll you know people are suspicious of the tools, people who use them come across as insincere used car salesmen. Notice the use of plans and tools only comes well after having faith and showing love. Do we think of the tools in the hand of a great craftsman making a table or a sculpture a thing of beauty and say man you used those tools on that piece of wood rather than you have a vision of beauty and you know how to apply the tools with love to create it.
Finally, the friends were rewarded that when they bought their friend to Jesus it was Jesus who ministered to him and made him whole. In fact Jesus did so much more than they expected. He not only met the man’s presenting need his paralysis he also healed his soul and his relationship with God and the community round him. They brought their friend to the place where he could see Jesus and Jesus was the one that ministered to him. It was their faith that enabled that to happen.
There were three groups of people in this story who gathered around Jesus. The crowd who came wanting to hear him preach the word and maybe they too were hoping that Jesus could meet the needs they had in their lives. There were the religious teachers of the law, who were there to check Jesus out and see if he would fit in with their religious understanding of the world and then their was this group of friends who saw someone they knew who was in need and brought them to Jesus and the challenge for us this morning is well which group do we fit in which group around Jesus are we going to be.