A few years back, Noah and I were in transition and living in a short-term apartment. It was a normal afternoon and I was home reading in the living room. Now, most days I am never found in a quiet “state” as I prefer to read, work and even write with background noise – anything from HGTV, to indie music on Spotify or people conversing at my local Starbucks. However, for some reason I found myself in complete silence… that is, until it was rather dramatically broken with the loudest crashing noise I have ever heard. The worst part? The noise was coming from the other bedroom. There I found myself, alone and extremely freighted by the intrusion. It appeared someone was in our house and I was about to meet this stranger. Now, pausing for a moment, what would you do? Perhaps, you would reach for your cell phone, run towards the nearest exit or grab a baseball bat…. but not me! In a moment of panic, I ran towards the bathroom and locked the door. Sitting there, alone, I quickly realized this “plan” was not the smartest one I had ever devised. Thankfully, moments later Noah came walking through the door yelling, “I’m home,” and I was able to work up enough nerve to peak my head from the bathroom and whisper, “help, there is someone in the next room!” Noah, my courageous husband, didn’t miss a beat as he bravely walked directly where I was pointing. Seconds later he was busting out laughing. I followed his laughter towards my closet, where I saw a crime alright, a crime of fashion! I starred into my once nicely organized closet turned train wreck! Clothes were everywhere, shelves were all over the floor and every bar had fallen. Apparently, the pair of shoes I had bought earlier that day was the final straw and the weight of my addiction had finally caught up with me!
With that in mind, as I read through the Gospel of Mark, I was recently taken aback by a story that must have been the ultimate dramatic intrusion for all who were in the room. In Mark 2:1-12, we learn of Jesus’ return to his hometown of Capernaum. Most scholars think that he was preaching the Word in Peter’s home, who was good friends with the writer who records this story for us, John Mark. We learn that many people are gathered in the crowded rooms as Jesus knew rather well how to pack a house! As we read on, we find that Jesus’ disciples, friends, Pharisees and even strangers were listening to His words when all of a sudden… a great noise halted them in their tracks. The noise that all were hearing was coming from above them, as what I imagine to be layers of the roof started to fall upon their heads. What was happening? There they all saw a paralyzed man being lowered to Jesus on a mat. What would Jesus do? What could he say? Now all eyes were on him and this man, with the help of four friends, made a desperate attempt to encounter Jesus. Mark 2: 5 says,
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Think about this with me for a moment, this man is desperate to walk. He wants to be free from the life he is living – hindered by his body’s inability to function normally and what does Jesus say, “your sins are forgiven.” This man was in need of a physical miracle and what he received was something he probably never considered. Now the Pharisees saw an opportunity, a chance to call Jesus’ out on his bold statement,
“Now some 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?” (Mark 2:6-7)
Jesus instantly knew their motives and their hearts. He knew what they were thinking and he wasn’t afraid to speak truth in the midst of accusations. What happens next is my favorite part of the story – it takes place before the second miracle, and reads much like a riddle,
“Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” (Mark 2:9-10)
Have you ever wondered what conversations were taking place after this question was proposed? Were they arguing with each other or were they silent? It is a rather tricky question to answer actually. Healing someone takes proof, a lame man would have to rise; whereas, saying your sins are forgiven is more challenging to see immediate evidence of. However, truly forgiving someone’s sins is really the greater of the two. Think about it: Jesus had God’s authority to forgive this man before he died for Him on the cross! God’s plan for salvation had already been set in motion and Jesus’ authority on earth was established. While the Pharisees sought tension instead of truth, they were missing all the hints along the way for indeed Isaiah predicted what the Messiah would do in the Old Testament when he prophesied,
“Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy…” (Isaiah 35:6a)
The Messiah had come and he possessed the power to forgive sins and heal a broken man! Of course though, Jesus doesn’t stop there as he goes on to prove His power by telling the man to “get up and walk.” And, without hesitation, the man picks up his mat and walks. I imagine the man didn’t just walk, but rather leaped for joy like a deer gracefully restored. Mark tells us with assurance,
“He (the lame man) 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!” (Mark 2:12)
Therefore, we can conclude that a great take away of this story would be God’s ability to heal and I have often heard this to be a powerful sermon on restoration – both physical and spiritual. However, I want you to consider two other important themes that resonate with me.
The Importance of Individual Faith
We know that Scriptures tell us that it is impossible to please God without having faith. However, what about bold faith… the kind of faith that allows five crazy and audacious men to climb a roof to get to Jesus? Perhaps they had heard Jesus had the power to heal. However, when the room was filled, they didn’t walk away like they could have. They didn’t make excuses or back down because they were too desperate to find a way, even if that way was through a roof! Jesus recognized not just one person, but all of their faith combined (verse 5) and without hesitation met them where they were. When was the last time you had bold faith, the kind of faith that dared you to do what others could only consider crazy and audacious? When was the last time Jesus met you where you were and gave you more than you knew you needed?
The Importance of Communal Faith
The Beatles wrote, “I get by with a little help from my friends” and we truly all need great, godly friendships in our lives. However in an era where most ‘outcasts,’ like blind and cripple men, were friendless, this lame man had four amazing buddies who loved him for who he was. They were the type of friends who could stand in the gap for him and together, they could all believe for the impossible. This man was not alone and amazingly without them, I wonder… would this man have ever walked? Ecclesiastes tell us that,
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Godly friendships are vital to our faith. They help us when we cannot do it alone. Consider Daniel… without Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, could he have stood strong on his own? Sometimes faith amongst friends is our most powerful weapon. When was the last time you focused on having faith with a group of friends?
I encourage you to consider the importance of this story for your own life. Maybe you picture yourself in this story as a friend of Jesus (like His disciple Peter) or maybe you are in the crowd trying to figure out who Jesus is to you. Maybe you feel like a Pharisee unsure that Jesus has true authority in your life, or maybe you find yourself on the roof (crippled and needing to get to Jesus or standing in the gap for a friend). My prayer is that this would remind us all that Jesus is able to forgive our sins and heal our souls. Likewise, we really do all need community to have bold faith. Let us ask for help when we find ourselves needing to get to Jesus and may we be the kind of Christian that is a godly friend that others can always run to, met with bold, audacious, faith!