Everyone loves a good story...
We have some very talented “story tellers” in our church. Just last Sunday, during our Fellowship Time in Davis Hall, several of you shared stories... Stories as to why you’re a member here at West Point Prez... and how much the church, OUR church, means to you.
Of course, the Bible is filled with good stories, too! Old Testament stories like... Noah’s Ark... to Jonah and the Whale, Moses parting the Red Sea... of course, we can’t leave out the New Testament! Like the accounts of Jesus’ Birth, Peter walking on the water... Jesus calming the storm... to the stories of the crucifixion and the Resurrection (which the greatest stories ever told)! There are so many others... like all the miracle stories... including our lesson for today.
Jesus’ healing of the paralyzed man is one of those Biblical stories that catches our attention, and captures our imagination. It stays with us, and fascinates us...
Jesus was in Capernaum, and so many people had come out to see Jesus... hordes of the sick, the poor, the outcasts... so many had crowded in... hoping for some word... some touch... some gesture from Jesus that would make them whole... so many that it was impossible to get through the door!
Try to image... four men carrying their paralyzed friend through the crowd... shoulder to shoulder, elbow to elbow... trying to meet Jesus. They were determined... filled with a sense of mission and purpose and perseverance and FAITH...
So determined, in fact, that when the doorway was found to be jammed by others trying to “get-to” Jesus... they got creative! These 4-men hoisted their paralyzed friend up on the roof... and proceeded to make their own entrance... through the ceiling... in order to lower the crippled man down, to Jesus!
What a wonderful story! A good story! A story that stays with you...
But it doesn’t end there! I can’t help but wonder why no one seemed to want to stop (or attempt to stop) these men from ripping open the roof and ceiling of someone’s home. Can you imagine? If that were to happen at my house, I’m sure... 100% positive... that I would be among the first screaming “STOP! What in the world are you guys doing? We have a back door for heaven’s sake! There are other ways to get into the house!”
What if this story were to unfold here... at our church? After over $50,000 of roof repairs... and $4,500 for ceiling painting... I’m pretty sure an Elder or two would be a little upset if four men showed up trying to dig through the roof - no matter the reason!
But no one (according to the story) seemed to mind. Not even Jesus! Jesus never asked, “What are you doing?” - or - “What do you want?” He simply knew what the man needed. Jesus saw the faith of these 4 men. And in response, Jesus announced, to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
It’s such a good story! The 4-men came... trying to meet Jesus... longing for healing for their friend... but received salvation as well. Grace upon grace.
When we think about Jesus’ life... I think it’s the miracles that surprise us most. In the Gospel of Mark there are seventeen miracles recorded as stories of faith... stories handed down for people like you and me, to ponder.
Of course, people are always looking for a sign... looking for some proof... something outside of the ordinary, something extra. Like in the Gospel of Matthew (chapter 12)... where... the Pharisees accused Jesus of being Beelzebub or of having the Devil’s power when He casts out a demon.
Jesus had some fairly strong words for those “teachers of the Law.” They wanted a sign... some proof... some evidence... that Jesus was Who he claimed to be! But Jesus answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!” And He goes on to speak of the sign of Jonah (as in Jonah and the whale) and how the people of Nineveh were more righteous than the Scribes and Pharisees... because the Ninevites actually repented when they heard God’s Word.
Of course, we live in a world today where seeing is believing. But, Jesus didn’t perform ANY of his miracles to offer signs... or to prove who he was. Jesus performed miracles BECAUSE of Who he was... He was/is the Son of God - true God of true God - with power and authority.
Jesus’ miracles always remind me of the last part of John’s gospel (20:30-31), where we’re told: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
Of course, in our Lesson today the paralyzed man was lowered down before Jesus... and we’re told, “When Jesus saw THEIR faith (the faith of the 4 friends), He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”
That’s always God’s promise when it comes to repentance and faith. “Your sins are forgiven!” That’s the greatest miracle Jesus ever performs. It meets our greatest need. It costs the greatest price. And it brings the greatest blessing... and the results are eternal!
And maybe no one was bothered, or upset, because of the hole in the roof: but there were plenty of upset people... “Now some of the 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?’”
Here was Jesus... God in the Flesh... in person... who came to set “the teachers of the Law” (and us) free. He came with the power and authority of God, because that’s who He is. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Give the “teachers of the law” credit: they had this part right.
Jesus responded: “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.”
And just like that... the paralyzed man got up... he was healed. And everyone’s collective jaws dropped!
They were all amazed, “We have never seen anything like this.”
And we say, “Of course you’ve never seen anything like this.” This miracle... was God’s doing! God enters into our world and lives and we’re changed... forever! We’re never the same again.
Think of the paralyzed man, for a moment. While some were so busy arguing theology and ritual and tradition and demanding everyone “color inside the lines” - this man could walk! His life had been restored... redeemed! In fact he walked out in full view of everyone... he had been set free to live life because of God’s grace, forgiveness and healing.
Christ meets sinners. That is the purpose of His coming. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk. 19:10)
Jesus always meets us at our greatest point of need.
He even meets us as we’re gathered here in church.
What’s the real reason we gather in this place?
Is it to fellowship,
to put in our time,
to feel good about ourselves,
or, are we here to meet Jesus?
As we strive to meet Jesus... all those other things will happen... BUT... if we fail to meet Jesus... all the other stuff no longer matters.
Jesus meets us today by His Spirit... He reveals Himself as the One who has authority on earth to forgive sins and to make us whole!
It’s a wonderful story... a good story... but the story doesn’t end here...
Because you and I add to the story: by our faith as we seek Christ as our Healer! By our faith as we trust Christ as our Savior!
We proclaim by our words and actions: Jesus is the only one. We testify by our lives, how much we need Him.
Persevere in faith. There’s no obstacle too large, to ever keep us away from Jesus... Even if it means, digging a hole in a roof!
What a good story! Amen.