Rev Bill\’s Sermons

February 18, 2006

MARK 2:1-12

Filed under: Mark — revbill @ 4:51 pm

Mark 2:1-12
Faith – Filled Friends
February 19, 2006

The story in our Gospel lesson has always been one of my favorites – but for different reasons at different times in my life.
It was one of my favorites as a child.
The thought of four men chopping a hole in the roof to lower their friend into the house made for an exciting story for me.
It sounded like great fun — standing on the roof and going Chop, Chop, Chop.
Now – the story is a favorite for me because it is –- I believe – a picture of what the Church should – and can be.
Here we have friends helping someone find Jesus – and helping him find healing in both body and spirit when he finds Jesus.
Isn’t that what the Church is all about?

The Biblical story, of course, has a group of people bringing their paralyzed friend to see Jesus. When they got to the house where Jesus was — probably Jesus’ house or Simon’s house — they found a crowd blocking their way. They couldn’t figure out how to get their friend to Jesus, who was in the house.
But they decided to get this job done.
The stakes were too high to let the crowd stop them.
Their paralyzed friend couldn’t hold a job — couldn’t take care of himself — couldn’t go for a walk — couldn’t do anything. His friends knew that Jesus had helped other people, so they thought that he might help their friend. So — when they couldn’t get to Jesus through the crowd, they carried their friend to the roof.

Hearing the story as a child I couldn’t figure out how they did that.
Did they attach ropes to the stretcher and haul him up?
Did a strong man carry him up a ladder?
I decided long ago not to worry about how they did it. It’s one of my questions on a long list of questions I’ll have to wait until I get to heaven to get answers to!
However they did it, they got him to the roof. Then they chopped a large hole in the roof so that they could lower their friend into the house — into Jesus’ presence.

Now –- houses had flat roofs in those days – and the roofs were composed of mud and thatch layered over beams that stretched from wall to wall.
Can’t you imagine what a mess these men made cutting their way through the mud and thatch?
Then they had to cut some of the beams.
I always felt sorry for the homeowner.
I always wondered if he was able to repair the roof so that it didn’t leak.
One more question to add to my list of questions I’ll ask when I get to heaven!

But the paralytic’s life was more important than a roof.
His friends chopped the hole and lowered the man into Jesus’ presence.
That must have impressed the crowd.
It impresses me.
It especially impressed me when I was a little boy hearing this story in Sunday school.

When the man came into Jesus’ presence, Mark tells us that Jesus “saw their faith” and said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now – that may not be the first thing you might expect Jesus to say.
You might expect Jesus to first say something like “Get up and walk” – when the paralytic is lowered through the roof into His presence.
But — He says “your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus was probably using this opportunity to demonstrate His Godly authority — authority not only to heal but also to forgive sins.

But let’s look at what Mark tells us here.
Mark records that:

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic:
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”

The first step in this man’s healing was his friends bringing him to Jesus – going to the trouble of bringing him to the house — taking him to the roof when they needed to – making a hole in the roof to lower him through — and lowering him through the hole in the roof.
All those things that it took to get their friend to Jesus.
The second step in this man’s healing was when Jesus saw their faith –
not HIS faith, but THEIR faith — plural.
It was the faith of the man’s friends as well as his own faith that impressed Jesus.

It was only after the friends brought the man to Jesus –
only after the friends took the man on top of the house – dug the hole through the roof — and lowered him down through the roof –
only after these things that Jesus said,

“Stand up, take your mat and go to your home”

Then – and only then – that Mark says:

The man stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ “

I’m sure that was true!

This man’s life was completely changed.
He was redeemed from his sins – and also his paralysis!
He was made whole!
And that happened, not just because of his faith, but also because of the faith of his friends.

This man’s life was restored to him because of the faith of his friends.
It was THEIR faith working alongside HIS faith that made the difference.

I believe it still happens that way today.

Jesus doesn’t call us to faith in isolation from other Christians.
Jesus calls us to faith along with other Christians.
And it is our faith ALONGSIDE the faith of our Christian brothers and sisters that reshapes broken lives — that makes us whole.

And that is what the Church is all about.

That’s why this passage is one of my favorites at this point in my life.
It gives us a picture of what the Church is all about – and what the Church should be.

Let me repeat this point –- because it is important.

Jesus doesn’t call us to faith in isolation from other Christians.
Jesus calls us to faith along with other Christians.
And it is our faith ALONGSIDE the faith of our Christian brothers and sisters that reshapes broken lives — that makes us whole.

And that is what the Church is all about.
That’s why we come together to worship.
That’s why we gather for times of study – fellowship – and service to others.

Again –
Jesus doesn’t call us to faith in isolation from other Christians.
Jesus calls us to faith along with other Christians.
And it is our faith ALONGSIDE the faith of our Christian brothers and sisters that reshapes broken lives — that makes us whole

That’s why it isn’t good enough to sit at home and watch a worship service on television. When there’s ice or snow and we have to cancel worship services – or when you are sick — or if you are home bound sitting at home and watching a worship service on television might suffice – but sitting at home and watching a worship service on TV will never replace worshipping together.
The Christian life isn’t a spectator sport. We need to join with other Christians to worship — to learn — to praise — to serve — to show our love for Christ. When we gather together with other Christians, God gives us a blessing. When we gather together with other Christians, their faith blesses us and our faith blesses them.

Now –the fact that God chooses to bless us not only through our faith but also through the faith of Christian brothers and sisters shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Parents know how important it is for their children to have friends who will lift them up instead of pull them down. It isn’t elitist to encourage children to make friends with children of good character. The character of those around us has an effect on our character.

In much the same way, the faith of those around us has an effect on our faith.

The man who was paralyzed was blessed by his own faith, but he was also blessed by the faith of his friends:
– The faith of friends who were determined to bring him into Jesus’ presence.
– The faith of friends who would not be deterred by the crowds.
– The faith of friends who chopped a hole and lowered the man into Jesus’ presence.

Mark tells us that Jesus saw THEIR faith– not just HIS faith – but THEIR faith — and THEIR faith opened the door to HIS blessing.

I am sure you all can remember people whose faith has been a blessing to you – and who have made in difference in your faith and your life.

I have been blessed to live among Christians all my life, and THEIR faith has made a difference in MY faith – and MY life.

First and foremost I was blessed by the faith of my Mom and Dad.
They were both very active our Church, and my sisters and I were raised to be in Church –- and to take an active part in the life of the Church. They both taught Sunday School and made sure we were there. Dad was on the Session of the Church for years – and served as Clerk of the Session for years. He also was a lay speaker and spoke at many smaller churches in our area. I’m sure part of the reason I love the fellowship and love we share here at Wentworth is due to the fact that I enjoyed as a child going with Dad to some of the smaller churches in our area and enjoying the warmth of fellowship they had. I’m also sure that God used Dad’s commitment to being an active part of the governing bodies of the denomination to instill a sense of the importance of being involved in the life of the church in me.
So – my parent’s faith shaped my faith.
THEIR faith has made a difference in MY faith – and MY life.
There are so many others whose faith has shaped my faith – and shaped my life.

I am sure you all can remember people whose faith has been a blessing to you – and who have made in difference in your faith and your life.
Maybe your parents – maybe your grandparents – maybe teachers – maybe friends – maybe your spouse – people who have touched your life and made a difference in your life.

This is what the Church should be!
A community of Christians gathered to share with each other – bless each other – share God’s love with each other – touch each other with our faith – and make a difference in each other’s lives.

The man who was paralyzed was blessed by his own faith, but he was also blessed by the faith of his friends:
– The faith of friends who were determined to bring him into Jesus’ presence.
– The faith of friends who would not be deterred by the crowds.
– The faith of friends who chopped a hole and lowered the man into Jesus’ presence

And that is what the Church is all about.

That’s why we come together to worship.
That’s why we gather for times of study – fellowship – and service to others.
Jesus doesn’t call us to faith in isolation from other Christians.
Jesus calls us to faith along with other Christians.
And it is our faith ALONGSIDE the faith of our Christian brothers and sisters that reshapes broken lives — that makes us whole.

In her book, The Art of Life, Edith Schaeffer talks about her life as a little girl. Her mother would say, “Edith, I know just who you’ve been playing with today.” Her mother meant that Edith would pick up the friend’s mannerisms and gestures — even the friend’s accent. Her mother could watch and listen and then tell Edith exactly who she had been playing with that day. Edith says:

“Children often copy other children quite unconsciously.
So do adults.
We are affected by the people we spend time with,
in one way or another.”

It seems to me that there are a couple of things that we can learn from this.

One is that we can receive a blessing or not from the faith or lack of faith of our friends.
We can be blessed by their faith– by their upright character — by their moral integrity – or we can be “pulled down” by their lack of faith – their questionable character – their lack of integrity.
We can be blessed as their faith causes us to grow in faith — as their influence pulls us in the right direction – or “pulled down” as their lack of faith leads us in the wrong directions.

What that means, of course, is that we need to choose our friends wisely — that we need to spend time with people whose influence will pull us up instead of down.

And the other thing is to realize that our faith can be a blessing to other people.
Our character and moral integrity can make a difference to those around us.
We can pull other people up or drive them down by the quality of our faith — by the quality of our lives.
We need to live so that we pull people up instead of driving them down.

The man who was paralyzed was blessed by his own faith, but he was also blessed by the faith of his friends:
– The faith of friends who were determined to bring him into Jesus’ presence.
– The faith of friends who would not be deterred by the crowds.
– The faith of friends who chopped a hole and lowered the man into Jesus’ presence

And that is what the Church is all about.

That’s why we come together to worship.
That’s why we gather for times of study – fellowship – and service to others.
Jesus doesn’t call us to faith in isolation from other Christians.
Jesus calls us to faith along with other Christians.
And it is our faith ALONGSIDE the faith of our Christian brothers and sisters that reshapes broken lives — that makes us whole.

Harry Emerson Fosdick was a preacher from an earlier day. On one occasion, he visited a European art gallery where a statue of Apollo was on display. Apollo was the Greek god of youth, and was supposed to embody physical perfection. The statue in that gallery was, indeed, the statue of a handsome physical specimen. Fosdick observed the statue, and then stood back to observe the crowd. He later commented that it was interesting to see the people’s reaction to the beautiful statue. He said that invariably, the people would gaze at the statue for a moment observe it’s wonderful and immaculate proportions of the body and superb stature — and then they would begin to straighten up.

We can surround ourselves with friends that “straighten us up” so to speak instead of “bringing us down.”
We can make sure that we are the type of people that others can look at and be “straightened up” instead of “brought down”.

When friends brought the paralyzed man to Jesus, he saw THEIR faith — not just HIS faith but THEIR faith — and he gave the man a blessing — a healing.

That’s what the Church is to be about. A place where we can come – and others can come – and be surrounded by the faith of others – and be blessed.

Let’s let God make this Church a blessing – so it can be a place where we can come – and others can come – and be surrounded by the faithful friends – and be blessed.

Let us surround ourselves with people of faith so that we might straighten up and stand a little taller because of their influence on our lives.
And then let us live lives of faith so that others who observe us will straighten up and stand a little taller because of our influence on their lives.

Amen

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