Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 10, 1997
I’d like to begin by having us think about a statement. Actually, how you would complete the statement. Here it is: “The reason I go to church is because __________.”
Each of us makes an investment in time to come here. Why?
There’s another statement which seems to be completely opposite - “The reason I don’t go to church is because __________.”
As I talk with people - and if the people who research these things are right - most people will complete both these statements with the same answer: Relationships. Either we have a relationship with Jesus Christ - or we don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ. Or, our relationship with other Christians - or the lack of love - the hypocrisy that we see in the relationships of Christians.
Most people don’t care what the fine points of our theology are - whether we’re 5 point Calvinists or Weslyan or Arminian. What most people care about is seeing the love of Jesus Christ tangibly demonstrated in His church. Christianity is more than just going to church. Christianity is that intimate relationship with Jesus Christ that we live out with each other.
Ultimately we - here at C.A.C.C. - and what we want to focus on this morning - what we want to be is a church that is focused on encouraging and supporting one another in the name of Jesus Christ. Each of us should be able to gather here - and visitors should be able to come - and see and feel the love of Jesus Christ in us.
Let me encourage you to turn in your pew Bibles to Mark 2:1-12 and I’d like to read this account with you. And then share together some practical suggestions of how we can grow in our relationship with - and support - each other.
And, while you’re turning I’d like to also recommend a book to you. “Stretcher Bearers” by Pastor Michael Slater. Some of what we’re going to look at today comes from Pastor’s Slater’s book and I really recommend it to you.
Mark 2:1-12: And when He returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that He was at home. And many were gathering together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and He was preaching the word to them.
Jesus has been traveling around Galiliee - and he comes back to Capernaum to a home which was kind of a base-of-operations for Him. And when people found out that He was back they all showed up - everyone - His friends - His supporters - His enemies - people curious and hoping to see a miracle - and they all crowded into this house so that the crowd spilled out onto the street. If this had been an Armenian home we could imagine the panic: "How are we going to prepare enough "sourg" for everyone?"
Verse 3: And they came bringing to Him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet - the stretcher - on which the paralytic lay.
A typical Palistinian peasant’s house - of that time - was a small one-room place with a flat roof - the roof was made of wooden beams with tiles set between them - then thatch and earth were placed over them.
Try and picture what this was like: a large crowd in a one room house - Jesus in the middle teaching - and then little pieces of the roof start falling on Jesus. First some dust - and then whole sections - the crowd is trying to move back from the shower of debris. Talk about a trying to hold a crowd’s attention with a few distractions. Even Jesus Himself would have had a hard time with this.
Finally there’s a hole in the roof and a man on a bed is lowered through the hole. Jesus looks at this man lying on the bed - and he sees his four friends on the roof peering down through the hole.
Verse 5: And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in His spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question, thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” - He said to the paralytic - “I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.” And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
The point of this narrative is not the miracle. The point is the authority of Jesus Christ to forgive sins. The miracle takes place to validate the authority of Jesus Christ. What makes all this come together is in verse 5: “When Jesus saw their faith” - the trust that these four friends of the paralytic had in Jesus. They brought him on a stretcher - and He forgave the paralytic’s sin and healed him of his paralysis.
These four men were determined to carry the stretcher of their friend - they were determined to find the answers to each problem as it arose: finding the home, knowing where and how to cut the hole in the roof, and then risking everything to lower their friend right in front of Jesus. Without their caring and support, the miracle might not have taken place.
There is a verse in Proverbs that describes these four men who carried their friend to Jesus - maybe its familiar to you. It challenges us in the quality of our relationships with others. Proverbs 18:24 says, “There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
This is our goal - be a friend that sticks closer than a brother - be a stretcher bearer - be the brother or sister in Christ - the person of encouragement and support who stands by the side of a friend no matter what the difficulty.
Scripture has a tremendous number of examples of what this means - just a few to think about - to help remind us:
And then there’s Jesus Himself. When we read about Jesus we cannot help but see a man who cared deeply about people - all types of people - eating, sitting around a fire, laughing, crying, playing with children.
He had compassion for children - the way He lovingly taught His disciples - and the love and compassion He has for those caught in sin and hopeless - even those who persecuted Him. Imagine what impact that type of caring attitude would have on your life - or in the life of someone else.
To help apply this thought to our lives there are two practical questions I’d like to ask you.
1. If you had your Bible in front of you and you underlined Proverbs 18:24 with a pen - whose name would your write down in your Bible as your special friend?Do we have that special friend - or, are we that special friend to someone else? In Christ, are we really brothers and sisters to one another?
Let me put this in an even more practical way.
All of us have times in our lives when we are on a stretcher and needed to be lifted up. We don’t know when those times will come - we can’t schedule them - pencil them in on our calendar. A death, an illness, unemployment, situations at work or at home - they come often without preparation and warning - and suddenly there we are.
What destroys people - often with suicidal results - is when people find themselves on stretchers and they feel that no one cares - or there is no one there to carry their stretcher - times when it is easy to give up on faith and God and life.
If you have no one to carry your stretcher - you’re on dangerous ground.
In your mind draw an image - a stretcher with four handles. On each of those handles write the name of someone who would carry your stretcher. Maybe you can think of only three - two - one. Let me encourage you to get in touch with these people. Follow through - tell them you believe in them as stretcher bearers. Let them know how much you appreciate their encouragement and support. Tell them what you heard in church today and how you thought of them.
We all have hard times - stretcher times - and we need to open ourselves and affirm those who can support and encourage us. Can you imagine the bond that will be developed when you reach out and tell someone you know that he or she is a person who cares about you.