Richard Whitaker- Discipleship and Connections Pastor LHBC
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed 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 say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (ESV) Mark 2:1-12
Love draws a crowd doesn’t it? People knew that Jesus liked to be around them and that he was for them. His posture and life routine spoke truth and love to his Capernaum neighbors. Jesus lived a simple life that brought clarity, purpose, and hope to everyone. It was a kind of no-limits hope that inspired a group of five friends to view what most people would describe as obstacles, mere stepping stones of faith.
Can you hear the men talking? “Alright brothers! We know that we can’t heal our friend’s body or broken spirit, but we believe that Jesus can. The four of us are going to carry our dear brother and place him in front of Jesus…today, not tomorrow, because tomorrow is not guaranteed. We will not be stopped by the crowd or officials or any other obstacle. Ready? LET’S GO!”
The men believed that Jesus could make their friend whole again and their faith took the shape of resolute action. They created a plan, started moving in Jesus’ direction, and trusted that Jesus would come through. Their example teaches us that belief in Jesus becomes faith when belief turns into action.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews explained the relationship of faith and action this way, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (ESV) James 2:14-17 While we can never earn God’s grace, we must apply effort that is inspired by truth and motivated by love.
We also learn from these men that our healing comes through living in community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. This man needed his friends to become whole again and the healing he received was both spiritual and physical. If we learn nothing else from COVID-19 life, let us learn to be all-in for each other. We simply cannot fill our lives with so much activity that we don’t have time to love our neighbors and church family well. The spiritual strength and healing we need now or in the future will come through God’s gift of Christ centered community.
Jesus authenticates forgiving the man’s sins by miraculously healing his paralyzed body. In doing so, Jesus has now demonstrated his authority over demons, disease, and all kinds of physical maladies. This weight of authority points to the greatest authority of all – the authority to forgive sins. As God’s son, Jesus is both our physical and spiritual healer. Only he can make us healthy and whole from the inside out.
While this man’s sin was connected to physical paralysis, we can find ourselves spiritually and mentally paralyzed through connections to pride, bitterness, anger, rage, hatred, and self reliance. The grace that God wants to provide in our lives can be blocked by ways of thinking and acting that are not in keeping with God’s Word. Let us bring our sins to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and allow him to free us from those paralyzing chains. Move forward daily in community with the assurance that God has authority to cleanse us from all our sins.
Let us exercise the faith of these four friends and determine to get our family, friends, and neighbors to Jesus by all means possible. Let us pray to have compassion on lost souls who will depart this earth for eternity in torment without the forgiveness of sins that only Jesus can provide. Let us formulate an action plan to love the people that God has placed around us before burdening ourselves with personal pursuits and trust the authority of Jesus to work through us and the truth of his gospel to save souls to the glory of God and the good of our city.
PRAYER FOR TODAY:
Lord Jesus, thank you for your faithfulness to deliver me from my sin and shame. I bring all of my sin before you today and trust that you will forgive and heal and free me from the bondage these sins have caused. Show me the way into biblical community with other brothers and sisters in Christ who can encourage me and hold me accountable. Give me eyes to see the spiritual and physical needs of my neighbors, coworkers, and friends in ways that I haven’t before. Most of all give me love for you that shows up in action more and more each day. In Jesus name, Amen.
MEMORY VERSE OF THE WEEK:
1 John 4:4
Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.