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MARK 2:1-12
Series:  In His Steps - Part Five

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 29, 2004

Please turn with me to Mark 2 - starting at verse 1.

There's a story about a husband who came home from work. As he pulled his car into the driveway he had to avoid driving over 2 bicycles and a doll stroller. When he got into the house, it was chaos - toys all over the place - on the floor - the furniture - piles of clothes laying around.

Trying to avoid dealing with the chaos - he headed into the kitchen for a small snack - expecting to find the snack his wife usually had prepared for him and dinner cooking on the stove. Instead he found the breakfast dishes still on the table and the sink full of unwashed dishes. Needless to say dinner wasn't cooking. There was no snack.

As he headed up stairs in search of his wife - he was nearly knocked over by his 5 screaming kids running down the stairs - in various states of undress. Finally, after making his way past more laundry - more toys - and several new drawings on the walls - all done in permanent ink - he encountered his wife - half asleep in bed.

By this time the husband was really frustrated and angry - so he yelled out, "What have you been doing all day?"

To which his wife answered, "Every day you come home and ask me what I did all day. Well, today I didn't do it."

Partnership - or lack of it - the partnership of a husband and wife. Coming to Mark 2 - as we’re continuing on in our look at what it means to follow in Jesus’ steps - today our focus is on the partnership we have together with Jesus in His ministry.

Its amazing to consider that Jesus - the God of all creation - Savior of mankind - should involve us in His ministry. How can we follow Jesus as partners in His ministry?

Mark 2:1: When He - Jesus - 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 been traveling around Galilee - and he comes back to Capernaum - probably to the home of Simon and Andrew - which was kind of a base-of-operations for Him. 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. They all crowded into this house.

Verse 3: And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet - the stretcher - on which the paralytic was lying.

Wouldn’t you have liked to have been there - to see this first hand?

A typical Palestinian house at 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.

A large crowd packed into this small house - the crowd spills out into the street. Jesus is in the middle of all this - teaching. People outside are trying to hear what’s going on inside. People inside are just trying to breathe.

There’s this noise on the roof - a kind of tearing and scraping. Little pieces of dust start falling on Jesus. Then little chunks of stuff start coming down.

As I imagine this scene - I can see Peter - if this was his house - Peter the burley - rough - fisherman - can you imagine him standing there stressing trying to figure out what to do? “God is here in my living room talking to people and someone’s tearing my roof apart. Do I just stand here and act spiritual or go up on the roof and punch somebody’s lights out.”

Whole sections of roof start coming down. The crowd is trying to move back away from the shower of debris. Then the whole ceiling just gives way.

There’s a hole in the ceiling - four heads peek over the edge. Jesus and everyone else are looking up at the faces in the hole. Then a man on a bed is lowered down. Jesus looks at this man lying on the bed - with expectation looking at Jesus. He sees his four friends on the roof - with pleading eyes - peering down through the hole.

Verse 5: And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Pause there with me and let’s think about the partnership we have in Jesus’ ministry.

A while back I read about two ladies - both of whom were concert pianists - both of whom had had strokes. One was paralyzed on the right side. One was paralyzed on the left side. So that neither of them could play the piano. Somehow they found each other and began to play as partners. One played the right hand part. The other played the left hand part.

In ministry with Jesus there are two parts - two responsibilities. On one hand there are the parts of ministry that Jesus gives us the responsibility for. On the other hand there are the things that Jesus deals with - His responsibility.

In Mark 2:1-5, the focus is on what we’re responsible for. In ministry with Jesus ITS OUR RESPONSIBILITY TO DEAL WITH THE SECONDARY ISSUES OF A PROBLEM.

Share that with at least two people around you: “We deal with the secondary issues.”

There are a number of secondary issues here - the physical need of the paralytic - the huge crowd - transportation - and so on.

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.

Proverbs 18:24 says, "There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother."

There are a tremendous number of examples of this in Scripture:  David and Jonathan and their special friendship and the ways in which they encouraged, supported, and loved each other - even in the face of death (1 Samuel 18).  Aaron and Hur - and how they held up the arms of Moses in the defeat of the Amalakites (Exodus 17).  Paul and the young pastor Timothy (Galatians 6:2).  Peter and his disciple Mark (1 Peter 5:13).

That's 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. These are the secondary issues that Jesus gives us responsibility for.

Let me put this in a more practical way.

All of us have times in our lives when we're like that paralytic - laid out on a stretcher needing to be lifted up. We don't know when those times will come - we can't schedule them - tap them into our Palm Pilot. A death - illness - unemployment - situations at work or at home. They come often without preparation and warning. 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’s no one there to carry their stretcher. Times when its easy to give up on faith and God and life. If there's no one there to carry our stretcher - we’re on dangerous ground.

In your sermon notes there are two pictures of stretchers - a bed with four handles. Do you all have those in front of you?

Notice that the first picture has “me” written on the stretcher and blank spaces on the handles. Put your name in the middle - “me” is you.

In your mind - think about those handles. If you were to put a name on each of those handles - the name of a brother or sister in Jesus who would carry your stretcher - who you could go to for help - or maybe you’ve relied on them in the past - who would they be? Take time - today - tomorrow - to write in the names of those people.

Let me encourage you to get in touch with these people. You might want to use the Appreciation Card in the bulletin - or a phone call. 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.

Now, look with me at the picture of the second stretcher. On one of the handles is a place for your name - “me” is you. The other three handles are blank.

Have you ever tried to lift a loaded stretcher by yourself? Pretty near impossible. That’s not God’s design for the church. A stretcher has four handles. We get to lift together.

Praise God for what He does through us as a congregation. The Prayer Tree that Dee heads up - how many of you have been on the prayer tree or sent out a prayer request? The Benevolence ministry that Jeanette coordinates. Many of you have been blessed through that ministry. Mary Liz sending out cards on behalf of the church. How many of you have gotten one of those cards? And we could go on naming stretcher bearers in this congregation.

Think about the names that can go on those handles - maybe individuals - people who can go with you as you visit or can pray with you about specific needs - or help meet those needs. Let me encourage you to never hesitate to ask for support and help in caring for others. We lift together.

Share that with person next to you. “We lift together.”

Imagine how the lives of those friends were changed by what happened that day. How would the paralytic remember his friends? Years later the four would remember the day their friend's life was changed forever. They would remember the role they played - their part in that transformation. You can hear them telling their grandchildren about it. "I was there. I carried the stretcher. It was my saw we used to cut open the roof." - the secondary issues.

Its our responsibility - our awesome privilege given by Jesus - to deal with the secondary issues of a problem.

Going on in Mark 2 - starting with verse 5. Then - starting in verse 5 - the focus shifts to Jesus’ responsibility. JESUS ALWAYS DEALS WITH THE MAIN ISSUE OF A PROBLEM.

Say that with me, “Jesus deals with the main issue.”

Its important that we understand the main issue here.

Verse 5: "When Jesus saw their faith" - the trust that these four friends and the paralytic had in Jesus - then Jesus says to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven."

Now, if we think about it - that’s a really strange thing to say. At this point Jesus should have said something like, "Thy paralysis is healed go thou in peace." But the physical problem is a secondary issue.

When Jarius' daughter was dying - Jarius came to Jesus and pleaded with him, "Please come! Heal her! She's dying!" There's an urgent physical need. (Mark 5:21 ff.) When Lazarus was dying, his sisters sent word to Jesus, "Please come and help. He's dying!" - an urgent physical need. (John 11:1-44)

But in Capernaum that day the need was different. This wasn't an urgent life and death situation. If this man continued to be paralyzed tomorrow he'd still be alive.

The main issue here is not physical - its spiritual. Jesus sees past the obvious to the real need of this man. The main issue here is sin - specifically the sin of the paralytic.

One wonders - what burdens this man was carrying - bitterness - depression - despair - guilt? What sins was he bound up in. Reading the text we don't know. But Jesus knew.

Jesus is dealing with the main issue.

Verse 6: But some of the scribes - some of the religious teachers - the local theologians - were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Good question. What right does Jesus have to say this? Only God has the authority to forgive sins.

Verse 8: Immediately Jesus aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven'; or to say, `Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - if you want a physical sign that I have the authority to deal with the spiritual need of your lives - He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We never have seen anything like this."

The whole point of the miracle is the physical demonstration of Jesus' spiritual authority. Jesus heals the paralytic physically to prove that He can heal the paralytic spiritually.

How incredible it must have been - overwhelming - for that paralytic man - walking out of that house - assured that his sins were forgiven - his life transformed forever.

That’s something we need to see for ourselves. Like the paralytic - like those who were there in the crowd - we need to realize what God has done for us. God is passionate about forgiving our sin. He's come in the flesh. He's lived with us. He's died on the cross. He's alive. Jesus has the authority to forgive sins.

We need to hear His message this morning. We're all too aware of our failure - the things about us that we'd be ashamed if anyone knew. We know about our sin and disobedience against God. We want to be set free from guilt. We need to know God's power to heal us inwardly. Jesus has the authority to meet our deepest needs - to change us inwardly - forever.

That's the tremendous reality of what Jesus does when He deals with the main issues in our lives.

One last thought. On your sermon notes - the second stretcher picture - there’s a place to put a name of someone needing to be carried to Jesus.

Thinking about bearing up others we need to be challenged to think outside the walls. It would be so easy to think to ourselves that because we’re doing this within the church that we’re doing this - been there - done that. But the paralytic was outside the walls - seeking - looking for answers to his needs - needing someone to bring him inside to Jesus.

Most people we rub shoulders with during the week really don’t care about our theology or what fellowship group we’re in or whether or not we’re part of a youth group or some kind of Bible study. What most people care about is seeing the love of Jesus Christ tangibly demonstrated by His church. Right? Seeing people that genuinely care about each other. Seeing people who are willing to reach outside the walls of this building and pick up the stretchers laying around our community.

There is no greater thing that we can do for someone than to bring them to Jesus. There is no greater experience in life - no greater joy - than being used by God - to be there as He brings someone to salvation in Jesus Christ.

People around us are waiting for us to pick up their stretchers.

Recommended resource:
Michael Slater, Stretcher Bearers, Ventura, California, Regal Books, 1985

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.