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We Need Community

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Scripture

Mark 2:1–12 KJV 1900
1 And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. 6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? 8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

Intro

The church or a local community of believers is essential to our spiritual well-being. Believers in the early church needed each other and God expected them to be there for each other. Likewise, we need each other and God expects us to be there for each other. God has ordained that we play a vital role in each other’s faith. For that reason, we are commanded in Hebrews 10:25
Hebrews 10:25 KJV 1900
25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play Major League baseball. In his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson faced venom nearly everywhere he traveled. Pitchers threw fastballs at his head. Runners spiked him on the bases, brutal comments were made to him and even to his teammates. Even the home crowds in Brooklyn saw him as an object of reproach.
During one game in Boston, the taunts and racial slurs seemed to reach a peak. During the game, his teammate, a Southern white man by the name Pee Wee Reese, called time . . . and he walked from his position at shortstop toward Robinson at second base, and with the crowds looking on, he put his arm around Robinson’s shoulder. Robinson has no idea what Reese said to him, but the fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that meant so much to him.
Friendships! I’m not talking about simple acquaintances. I’m talking about people who will care about you, people who will love you, encourage you, and stick by your side, even with all of your sins and mistakes. We all need good and great friends like this.
There’s a story in the Bible about some great friends. I want to share that scripture with you. It’s found in Mark 2:1-12
It’s one of the great stories in the Bible about community. It involved a paralyzed man and his friends. Imagine what life was like for a paralytic in the ancient world. This man's whole life is lived on a mat three feet wide and six feet long. Someone has to feed him, carry him, clothe him, move him to keep him from being covered with bedsores, clean him when he soils himself. He will never know the sense of independence we fiercely try to maintain.
Nothing can be done medically — no surgeries, no rehab programs, no treatment centers. Anyone in this man's condition has to go through life as a beggar — lay by the side of the road, be dependent on people dropping coins beside him so he could live another day. He has no money, no job, no influence, no family, and seemingly not much of a future.
What's he got going for him? This man had friends, amazing friends!! He’s in one of the most amazing small groups of all time. This whole story takes place because of his friends. Without them, he never makes it to Jesus, never gets forgiven, and never gets healed.
Because of his physical condition, the odds were against this man having any friendships at all. Even in our day, people who wrestle with physical challenges often say the most difficult obstacles they face are the attitudes of so-called normal people. Those are people who don’t know how to respond, sometimes they’re unkind, sometimes they look away. This is a fast-paced world, and it is not a very gracious place for those who can't run as fast as others.
But the ancient world could be even harsher. The Greeks regularly disposed of newborn infants with physical abnormalities. In ancient Israel, there was an assumption that if people were suffering physically, they had brought it on themselves. In another New Testament story the disciples see a man blind from birth and ask Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Think about the story of Job. Job’s wonderfully obnoxious and accusatory friends believed Job was guilty of some type of sin, because of all the grief which came his way. That was the ancient belief. It was the fact that God was a retributional God. That’s the belief that God punishes us for doing wrong. If that’s the case, then we should all be suffering like Job. But, that’s not who God is. He’s filled with grace and mercy, love and power, courage and life.
Yet, here’s a small group of men who refuse to let any obstacle stop them. And this is a key point ~ Their little group did not come about by accident. In the face of very real obstacles — social stigma, inconvenience, financial pressure, lots of time and energy — they chose to be friends.
As this chapter begins, Jesus had already performed several miracles. In chapter 1, the text says that the whole city had gathered at Peter’s house to see Jesus and that Jesus could not publicly enter a city. Chapter 2 begins as a continuation of this theme. Jesus was speaking and the crowds were so large there was standing room only.
Capernaum was the home of Simon Peter. This city was Jesus’ base of operations in his Galilean ministry. It was a large city on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The paralytic was being carried on a bed or a small couch, probably with a friend on each corner. Mark is a master of understatement in these verses. While Palestinian homes would have been accessible to someone wanting to get on the roof, it was by no means a daily occurrence. The houses were low, usually with an outside stairway to reach the roof. The roofs were tiled and covered with thatch. The four men had to drag the cot up the stairs, tear up the tiles, and dig through the thatch. The hole would have to be large enough to get the cot through. Add to this the annoyance of the people below. Debris would be falling on them as they tried to listen to the words of Jesus. A further complicating matter would be the damage to someone else’s property. We have no idea how the owner of the house, whether it was Simon Peter or someone else, reacted to the destruction of his property, but we can imagine that it came as quite a shock!
The mat (bed) can stand for our sinfulness, brokenness and imperfection. It’s what is "not normal" about us. It’s that "AS - IS" tag we try to hide. There’s no warranty on our woundedness. But only when we allow others to see our mat, when we give and receive help with each other, healing becomes possible.
Maybe your mat (bed) is a raging temper, fear, or an inability to trust. Maybe it's control. Maybe it’s an addiction. Maybe your mat is a terrible secret you still feel guilty about. Maybe it’s a deep sense of failure, or inadequacy, or loneliness.
Community is made up of people with all their goodness and badness. It’s made up of people who are strong and powerful; yet at the same time, we’re weak and poor. If you want a deep friendship, you can't always be the strong one. You will sometimes have to let somebody else carry your mat. That’s what happens in this story.
When Jesus saw their faith. Whose faith did Jesus see? The text says “their faith.” He certainly saw the faith of the four men who would not let any barrier stand in the way of their friend’s need. But I believe that Jesus also saw the man’s faith. It took courage to lie calmly while people were hauling you up a flight of stairs and then lowering you through a hole in the roof. But perhaps there was even more evidence than that.
There’s this story of a friend who once went through a stressful period. The landlady decided to sell the townhouse the friend was renting. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her husband who had already had one back surgery was facing another. The friend was in a job that had a lot of deadlines. Everything seemed to be coming up at once. The friend was not sure where God was. The friend put a note in the prayer request box at church, asking for prayers. The woman who ran the Stephen Ministry program at church called the next day and asked if they would like a counselor while they was going through this tough time.
My friend has trouble asking for help sometimes. Don’t we all? Don’t we all like people to think we have it together, that we do not need anyone? My friend did the right thing—she swallowed her pride and said okay; it would be helpful to have someone to talk to. I think this is what the man on the pallet did. By letting his friends take him to Jesus, he was admitting his need. Sometimes this takes a lot of faith.
Son, your sins are forgiven. In the Greek, the word here is literally “child.” Jesus claimed first a special relationship with the man—a relationship of love and care. The second thing Jesus claimed was the ability to forgive his sins. While not all physical infirmity is the result of personal sin (John 9:3), it seems in this case that it was. Jesus looked past the physical disability and saw the man’s deeper need.
John 9:3 KJV 1900
3 Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him.
Mark’s Gospel is filled with miracles of healing and exorcisms. This is the only place where a person’s sin is forgiven. Some may take it that Mark views forgiveness as a lesser priority than healing. However, when this is looked at in context—that Jesus was claiming authority to forgive as well as heal—Mark is attesting to Jesus’ identity as God. Without this authority to forgive, the miracles of healing and exorcisms are not as significant. Prophets were often said to heal, but only God could forgive.
The scribes were the keepers of the law (compare 1:22). If anyone knew the import of Jesus’ words, they did. And they were right. By claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming equality with God. Unless he spoke the truth, he was speaking blasphemy.
Jesus knew what the scribes were thinking. The text does not say whether he knew through omniscience or human reasoning. But he knew. The question which is easier was a difficult question for them to answer. On the surface, simply to mutter the words was as easy in one case as in the other. But to accomplish the actions of either, both were equally difficult. Further complicating the matter was the authority that Jesus claimed. If Jesus could perform the bodily miracle, he was claiming authority to perform the spiritual one as well. In that case, the scribes had no other option than to worship him as God. And that was something they were not ready to do.
Then, proving that he cared for the entire man—body and spirit—Jesus healed him, telling him to pick up his mat and go home.
The man verified that Jesus did indeed have authority to forgive sins by walking out of the gathered assembly, his mat in hand. As in 1:22, Mark reports the people were amazed. They had never seen anything like this. Jesus’ inherent authority stood in sharp contrast to the borrowed authority of the scribes.
CLOSINGS
This man — who has been mocked and judged by people who assumed that his damaged body indicated that he was spiritually inferior — is told by Jesus, "You're clean. You're forgiven. You are right with God."
There were critics in that room, too. But I don’t want to get lost in the hardened and arrogant hearts. I wanted to focus on the healing through community. It’s been said when someone comes to our home, the foyer is for guests. It’s where we are more formal and welcome people. Then we move into the living room. That’s the casual room, where friendships are formed. But, it’s when we walk into the kitchen — that’s where we find we’ve become family. Isn’t the kitchen the place you go to when you’re comfortable.
Jesus was concerned for His critics. He loved them, just as He loves the men coming through the ceiling. So He puts His words into action — He turns to the man on the mat: "Get up, take your mat, go home." The guy on the mat, has got to be thinking, “SAY WHAT?!”
Everyone is watching. He had no muscle tone in his legs, the muscles had atrophied. Jesus not only cures paralysis but throws in muscle tone as well. The man stands up. He lifts his mat off the ground. He folds it up. He has spent his whole life on that thing. Now — never again.
His world has dramatically changed. Jesus has given him the gift of life, abundant life. Not just his body has been healed. His heart also. His soul. Every sin has been forgiven. Physically, relationally, spiritually, he’s the healthiest guy in the room.
He begins his journey home, walking, dancing, skipping and running. It’s a celebration! He keeps the mat in a corner of his home. And every time he looks at it, he remembers his amazing community of friends. Those 4 guys who crashed through a roof for him. His greatest gift was knowing Jesus, but he wouldn’t have known Jesus if it weren’t for his next greatest gift — his friends.
The cure of the sick man, and the impression it made upon the people, v. 12. He not only arise out of his bed, perfectly well, but, to show that he had perfect strength restored to him, he took up his bed, because it lay in the way, and went forth before them all; and they were all amazed, as well they might, and glorified God, as indeed they ought; saying, “We never saw it on this fashion; never were such wonders as these done before in our time.” Note, Christ’s works were without precedent. When we see what he does in healing souls, we must own that we never saw the like.
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