Jesus Encounters: Jesus, the paralytic & friends - The sign of a new walk

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Jesus Encounters: Jesus, the paralytic & friends - The sign of a new walk

by I Gordon

Are you forgiven? Can people see you are forgiven? What exactly would people expect to see if you were to say that you are forgiven? In mark chapter 2 we have a short little story of the healing of a paralytic man. It is a fantastic story really. It is one where the friends of the paralytic go to some extreme measures to make sure their mate gets his 'Jesus encounter'. But even more than that, it is a story that speaks to us today in several ways. If I told you what they are right now I'd save you time... but also have the world's smallest Bible study. So I won't. But please read on!

Time for some R and R for Jesus?

Mark 2:1-2 When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home.  And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 

Jesus has just come back to Capernaum after healing the man with leprosy as mentioned in Mark chapter 1. So it's time for some r'n'r (rest and relaxation) right? Well, not quite. You may remember that after healing the leprous man, Jesus told him not to say anything but just to present himself to the priest as required in the Mosaic law. If you remember that, you may also remember that the man blabbed! He told everyone that he could find what wonderful things Jesus did for him! Now you can't blame him and I'm sure Jesus didn't blame him... but it didn't always make things easy for Jesus. You see, there are a lot of needs out there and word quickly spreads throughout the land about Jesus. Soon he can't really go anywhere without a crowd. So here Jesus is, back in what became His home base, and this Bible study is a sell out! It's a packed house! Now it is good that we read that He was teaching them the word. He didn't just try to meet their physical needs. He met their spiritual needs. It is a man's spiritual needs, not his physical needs, that are the most important. This little point will come out clearly in this study.

Now these are my kind of friends!

Mark 2:3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.

So here we are first introduced to our paralytic friend, who is being carried by four of his buddies. Let me ask a simple question...Could this man have got to Jesus by himself? The answer is no. He couldn't walk and was thus reliant on either Jesus coming to him or for someone else helping him to come to Jesus. Now I've mentioned before that the healings in the Gospels normally also contain some element of gospel truth as well. What then is a paralytic? Who is the paralytic? Who are the friends? Let me suggest to you that if you are not a Christian, then you are like that paralytic man spiritually speaking. You may be able to walk physically but not spiritually as God would have you walk. If you are a Christian then this man is an outward picture of who you were. So let me ask you, who helped you come to Christ? And what about the friends of the paralytic? Do you see yourself in their actions in trying to help their friend come to Christ? Have you helped or tried to help, someone come to Christ? We should not underestimate or overlook these wonderful friends in this story. What compassion and love they showed to their friend in doing all they could to bring him to Christ. In fact, the Believers Bible commentary states that someone has given these four nicknames: Sympathy, Cooperation, Originality, and Persistence! I like that. 

J. Vernon McGee nails the importance of these friends when he writes: 'What we need in the church today is stretcher-bearers - men and women with that kind of faith to go out and bring in the unsaved so they can hear the gospel. There are many people today who are paralyzed with a palsy of sin, a palsy of indifference, or a palsy of prejudice. A great many people are not going to come into church where the gospel is preached unless you take a corner of the stretcher and bring them in. That's what these men did. They had the faith to bring this poor man to hear the Lord Jesus deal with him personally and say, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee."

When you won't take no for an answer!

Mark 2:4 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.

I mention earlier that one of the nicknames given to these men was persistence. What things could have put them off or turned them back? Faced with a massive crowd of people and a packed house they could have said the following: 'Oh, a large crowd - I hate crowds!' 'Sorry - our hands are tied as the way to Jesus is blocked.' "We have to make a scene and I hate being the center of attention!" But instead of being put off these men come up with the novel idea of taking apart the roof to get their friend to Jesus! They were willing tp possibly offend someone by damaging their house if that is what it took. In fact their actions could actually have cost them (certainly time if not money) as someone had to repair the roof! They had to really go right out of the way to get this man to Jesus but they were willing. No barrier was gonig to stop them.  What hinders people from getting to Jesus? What excuses do people come up with to not come?  I think sometimes, we are easily swayed by the smallest of road blocks in our efforts to bring people to Jesus. What about the paralytic man himself? What was it like for him to be lowered down through the roof knowing you can't move and is at the mercy of the ones holding him? He too showed tremendous faith and desire to get to Jesus. His faith will be rewarded as all faith is.

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

Jesus saw their faith. This probably means all five of them for it took faith on the part of the paralytic to come this way as well as mentioned above. So Jesus forgives the sin of the paralytic man but is that the reason that the man came? It is difficult to know but my guestimate would be that these men had heard about the wonderful healings Jesus had performed and simply wanted their friend to be able to walk again. How would you feel if you were the paralytic man? For Jesus, forgiveness of sins is the most important blessing He can give. If this man had been healed and still died in his sin, what good would that have been? He would have gained temporal benefit of a working body but eternal loss. If we had to choose, is it not better to have temporal loss and eternal benefit? What do you value and ask for? Most value temporal things. We see with our natural eyes and not our spiritual unfortunately. Thankfully, Jesus isn't without compassion when it comes to our temporal physical needs as well and has something in mind there as well!

An object lesson is on its way...

Mark 2:6-9 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'?

Now this would have been a little off putting would it not? Imagine you are the Scribe or the Pharisee who is watching and listening and you hear Jesus announce this man's sins forgiven. You know that only God can forgive sins so you consider this blasphemy! You don't say it of course. You keep silent about it and just ponder it in your mind. And then Jesus answers your question that you are only thinking about! Gulp! Who is this man? It is true that only God can forgive sins so this statement where Jesus forgives the man's sins is a wonderful testimony that He is God! But can He back it up? I mean, anyone could declare a man's sins forgiven but how would anyone really know that they were forgiven? Or, as Jesus asks, is it easier to say to the paralytic that your sins are forgiven or get up and walk? It is obviously easier to say the former because there is no there that can truly verify whether it has actually happened. But if the man was to get up and walk... well... there would be a whole room full of witnesses that could see and verify that that took place.

How do we witness to the fact we are forgiven?

Mark 2:10-12 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!"

Here for me is the remarkable thing about this story. Jesus performs an incredible miracle of healing a paralytic man but the healing itself is only secondary for Jesus. It was not the be-all and end-all but was simply used to demonstrate his authority on earth to forgive sins. Ok... Jesus certainly had compassion on the man and was happy to heal him, but for Jesus, forgiveness was the most important thing and the healing would testify to this fact!

Let me say it again in different words... What was the proof that the man had received forgiveness? It was simply this; He previously couldn't walk and now he could! There was a outward sign of the more important fact that his sins had been forgiven. What about you? If you are a Christian, how can anyone possibly know that you are forgiven? That was the question right from the start of the study was it not? What is it that someone who claims to be forgiven now has? It is the same as this paralytic man - They have a new walk. They walk in the ways of God. This is how Christian's witness to the fact that they have received forgiveness. And there are lots of 'fruits' that go along with this. Can you imagine the joy that this paralytic would have had? Can you imagine the hope that would have now filled his heart? What about the his love for Jesus and God now? He would have been a new man and not just physically. The believer who has experienced and received the wonderful grace and healing of God should someone that is bubbling over with thankfullness, hope and joy. There should be a new walk. It doesn't mean they are perfect. It doesn't mean that trying times won't come and temporarly rob us of our experience of these things. But there should be something to show for a life that has been touched by Jesus. The Bible does talk about people who profess to be believers but have no indication of that through their life and we need to beware of that.

Titus 1:15-16 To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. (16) They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.

The book of 1st John also reminds us that a person can know that they are in the truth because they obey the commandment to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and walk in love.

1Jn 3:18-24 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (19) This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence (20) whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (21) Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God (22) and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. (23) And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. (24) Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.

Like the paralytic touched and healed by Jesus, may we too rise up and walk in a manner pleasing to God, full of joy, hope and thankfulness fro what He has done for us!