As they moved closer to the crowd their hopes begin to sink, what they thought would be a fairly simple task had taken on monumental proportions. When the suggestion came up to take their lame friend to Jesus everyone thought it was a great idea, all they had to do to get their friend to walk was put him on a stretcher carry him across town and have Jesus touch him. But that plan now seemed doomed to failure. The closer they got to the house Jesus was staying in the larger the crowd got and they realized that it would be impossible to break through the wall of people while they were carrying their friend. Their efforts were wasted, their dreams were dashed and their hopes were shattered.
The story actually begins in the first chapter of the book of Mark. After Jesus had called Andrew, Simon Peter, James and John to follow him they made their way to the town of Capernaum, let’s pull up a map here. Capernaum operated as Jesus Head Quarters while he ministered in the Galilee area, and we are told in that while there he stayed in the home of Peter and Andrew. In the first chapter we see Jesus speaking in the Synagogue, casting out unclean spirits and healing the sick, including Peter’s Mother-in-law. Then we are told that he left town for a few days and continued doing the same thing in a different location. And then he returned to Capernaum, presumably back to Peter’s house and it was in this home that the story picks up in chapter 2.
The people have flocked to the house to see the one called Jesus, the one some called the Messiah. There were the sincere, the religious, the sick, the devoted and the curious, you know the ambulance chaser. And there were those who were there to destroy Christ. That was the only reason they had shown up was to find fault with what he said. And all of these people crowded around the front door of Peter’s home presenting a wall of flesh that could not be dismissed or penetrated.
And into the story walk four men carrying a paralysed friend. We don’t know why he was paralysed, whether it was from birth or the result of an accident or an illness or what had happened all we know is that he was paralysed. And when they got to the house it became very apparent very quickly that they weren’t going to be able to get their friend through the mass of people gathered to see Jesus.
Well you know the rest of the story, at least you should Bonnie read it earlier in the service. The four guys heist their friend up to the flat roof of the house, that must have been some ride, and then they tore a hole in the roof and lowered their buddy down in front of Jesus. Well a little bit of a discussion ensued Jesus and makes this incredible statement; he says “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Do you remember that I earlier said that there were those in the crowd who wanted to destroy Jesus? This was all they were waiting for and they started nattering in the corner. “Like who does he think he is? Forgiving sins? Only God can forgive sins, this is blaspheme”
Well Jesus knew what they were saying and he countered with “What is it easier to do to say, your sins are forgiven or to so pick up your mat and walk?” And then he turns to the guy on the mat and says, “Stand up, take your mat, and go home, because you are healed.” That’s the story.
The entire “Your sins are forgiven you” may seem to be a strange way to respond to someone’s physical ailments but 2000 years ago it was a natural starting place. The Jews saw a direct correlation between sin and suffering. You’ll remember that argument from your extensive study of the book of Job. Or maybe not. One of Job’s friends asked the question Job 4:7 “Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright been destroyed?
The same heresy is around today, just dressed in different clothes, do good and God will bless you.
We are told that the Rabbis of the day had a saying “There is no sick man healed of his sickness until all his sins have been forgiven him.” And the reality is that as important as it was for the man to have a physical healing it was infinitely more important that he have a spiritual healing.
And we all say we believe that but why do more people ask for prayer for their friend’s and relative’s bodies than ask for prayers for their souls? Just wondering. That was what is technically referred to as a tangent, so back to the message.
But who were these four guys? We don’t know, all the Bible tells us is that they brought the paralysed man to Christ. It provides no details at all. It gives no names, no occupations, no addresses. We are left completely in the dark as to their identities. But even though we don’t know who they were we do know that they exhibited certain characteristics. Characteristics that it might not be bad to emulate.
The first thing we need to note about these guys is Their Love. If you read through your New Testament you would discover that Jesus didn’t really lay down new commandments, he simply refined or clarified the old commandments. For example in
Matthew 5:27-28 “You have heard the commandment that says, ‘You must not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
But Jesus did lay down at least one new commandment John 13:34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.
Think about what the motivating force must have been here. They willing gave of themselves, gave of their time, gave up the opportunity to be in the front row to see Jesus, not only were they concerned about their friend but they were concerned enough to be inconvenienced. Maybe that would be a good definition of love, caring enough to be inconvenienced. You see genuine love is demonstrated by our willingness to be involved regardless of the price tag. There were probably a dozen other things these four guys could have been doing, no doubt they had to clear space on their calendars in order to make time to carry their friend to Jesus, but they were willing to do it.
Back when Cornerstone was just a dream we were told that as a church we should have some things that we stood for, that would help provide a foundation for our new church, so being good little church planters we wrote out what were to become our core values, and number 5 is Cornerstone Wesleyan Church is committed to showing Christ’s love to those who attend in practical and tangible ways. How about it, today, March 14th 2010 Jesus Christ is saying to each person who is here, who claims to have a relationship with him, Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. You understand of course when Jesus Christ was laying the foundation for His Church 2000 years ago one of his core values was that the members of that church would love one another.
And when we don’t demonstrate Christ’s love to one another in practical and tangible ways, not only are we failing to fulfil one of the core values of Cornerstone Wesleyan Church, we are failing to fulfil the core value of the Church of Jesus Christ. When people come to this church, they may enjoy the music, they may want to get involved in a small group, their kids may like Jr. church but what they are looking for are relationships. Today, in an age when the nuclear family is but a distant memory and people move on an increasingly more frequent schedule people are looking to find a community of people who will extend the love of Christ to them. And when we fail to do that, when we fail to love each other, the way Christ loved us then we are in direct disobedience to his commandment.
And you know who holds the primary responsibility for developing relationships between those who make Cornerstone their church home and those who would like to make Cornerstone their church home? Those who are already here. And that relationship may be the one primary factor in a person coming to know Christ as their Lord, because they need to see His love demonstrated through the lives of his people.
In the last book of the bible, the Revelation of John, Jesus speaks to Seven Churches this is what he said to the Church in Ephesus,
Revelation 2:2-3 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?
The problem is the word that the next verse begins with, BUT, and serious students of Biblical exegesis and hermeneutics know that after the but comes the truth. This is what the next two verses say. Revelation 2:4-5 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.
Let’s never forget that it has to come down to love, Love God, Love others. After all if we aren’t here for one another than why are we here?
Their Dream. These guys weren’t content to spend their time in what, was they were willing to travel into what could be. They had a dream of seeing their friend walk again, of seeing him run and jump. And even though they realized that in the realm of the possible it would never happen, that didn’t stop them.
If we are going to be everything that we are supposed to be, if we are to have everything we are supposed to have and if we are to do everything we are supposed to do it will only happen because we first dreamed it would happen. One of my favourite statements is “If you don’t build castles in the air, you’ll never build anything on the ground.”
If you only believe what you can see, you will only see what you can believe. Just because it’s never been done before doesn’t mean it can’t be done. But before you can do it you have to see it.
It is said that Abraham Lincoln shucked corn for three days to buy a copy of the book “Washington’s Life” when someone asked him why he replied, “I don’t always intend to delve, grub, shuck corn, split rails and the like, I am going to be president.” Is it true? Who knows, but it makes a great story.
What are your dreams? Where would you like to be a year from now, five years from now or ten years from now? Can you verbalize your dreams? I want everyone to close their eyes, come on people work with me on this one.
Can you see your dream? You remember what I said, if you can’t see it, you can’t have it? Cause you gotta start with a dream cause dreams are the raw material of reality.
How about it?
These guys had a dream, and not just any dream, they knew what it was to dream the impossible dream and to reach for the unreachable star.
You will never achieve more then you can dream.
Their Commitment. These guys were determined to see their dreams fulfilled. They didn’t just sit around waiting for it to happen, and when something came between their dream and its fulfilment, they climbed over it. Probably 100 people knew about the paralysed man and felt bad that he couldn’t walk. Probably 50 of those thought about taking him to Jesus and eventually maybe 20 of them might have actually gotten around to doing anything about it. But out of all of those how many would have turned around and gone home when they saw the crowd? I bet those four guys were the only four who would have been willing to go to the extremes that they went to for their friend.
The Bible is filled with men and women who dreamed of the great things they could do for God, well actually it is filled with the people who dreamed and then had the stickwithitness to see the dream become reality. Those who just dreamed, dreamed themselves into obscurity.
Abraham had a dream of a new nation under God, Moses had a dream of freeing his people, Deborah had a dream of delivering her people, David had a dream of uniting his people. And each one of them had more than a dream they had a determination to see the dream become a reality. Each of them must have been ridiculed and mocked but they kept at it. They must have come across obstacles and stumbling blocks but they stuck with it.
We can’t wait for our dreams to come to us; we need to go to our dreams. And if something stands in our way, like the crowd stood in the way of these men and their dreams then we need to go around it, and if we can’t go around then we need to climb over it. Because to use a baseball analogy, stopping at third adds no more to the score then striking out.
There are those of you here today who will dream with me of someday expanding this building and reaching even more people for Christ, and you will tell me that you are part of that dream but there will come a day that the dream will cost you something and you’ll make a decision to step away from the dream. How do I know that? Because I’ve been there, done that and got the T-shirt.
Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your goal. These men had a dream and in order to see the dream fulfilled they had to get their friend to Jesus and if that meant climbing a ladder, and digging a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was then that is what they were going to do.
What are you willing to do to achieve your dream?
Their Co-operation Church, this one’s for you. I don’t know how they came to the point that they agreed they should carry their friend to see Jesus. Maybe it started with a discussion and ended with a vote, “All in favour of carrying Fred to see the carpenter raise your hands.” Or maybe it was the result of one strong leader who said, “Come on guys grab the other handles of this thing and let’s get going” I really don’t know where it started but I do know that it took the four of them operating together to make the thing happen.
One of them couldn’t have done it, two of them couldn’t have done it and while three might have carried the stretcher to the house it’s doubtful that they could have gotten it onto the roof top without four.
If we are to accomplish everything that God wants for this church it will only be through the unity of the body, notice I didn’t say uniformity, they are different. Throughout the New Testament, Paul compares the church to a body, made up of different parts, doing different jobs, but all functioning for the common good.
We may not ever all agree on everything, we may never cross our ts and dot our Is the same way but we can agree to put those little differences aside to fulfil the task set before us.
Do you remember one of the most important lessons that we learned from Sesame Street? Video clip, that’s right: Cooperation
Just hours before his death, Christ went to the Father in prayer and part of that prayer is found in
John 17:23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. Jesus was telling us that our unity would be our witness, and you only have to talk to the unchurched for a few minutes before they start asking why there are so many denominations and why we seem to be fighting all the time.
Let’s never allow disunity in the body destroy what we are trying to do in this community. There may be times that we don’t do things the way that you think they should be done. There may be times that we go in a different direction then you think we should go. And I say this, not to be malicious or cocky, but because I am committed to this church being all that it can be. If we ever get the place that we aren’t doing what you think should be done, either co-operate or leave, don’t try to destroy what we are trying to do here.
We are committed to hearing what people have to say, we are committed to allowing people to share their views. But once the body has made a decision don’t campaign against it, because that reveals a split and the truth is united we stand and divided we fall.
There is a great story in the Old Testament in the book of Exodus chapter 17 verses 8-13, the Amalekites attacked the people of Israel at Rephidim. Joshua led the battle for the Israelites and Moses stood on top of the hill and watched the battle, listen to what happened at this point.
Exodus 17:11-13 As long as Moses held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands. So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army of Amalek in battle.
We are in this together, each one of us with a task to do, and it’s only as each one of us holds up our corner of the stretcher that they job will get done. Let me end with Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Rome 2000 years ago.
Romans 15:5 May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other, as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.