The news was out: help was available for the sick! But a certain paralytic had no way to get to it. Physically disabled people like him were not only immobile, but usually poor. Useless to society and lacking help from the government, they invariably lived as social outcasts.
But some men knew of this man’s dilemma and came to his need. They helped him get to a house where Jesus was teaching. Yet enormous crowds made access impossible. Fortunately, the men were determined and resourceful: they literally tore the roof off in order to connect their friend with the helper.
Luke says that Jesus “noticed their faith”. What made Jesus to take special note of their faith? In today’s sermon I want to share with you three qualities that forms the type of faith that grabs God’s attention.
1. Faith that initiates
Jesus visited this house in Capernaum at a time when news about Jesus’ teachings and miracles had reached every person in the kingdom. On this particular day a large number of people had gathered in the house that Jesus was teaching. His audience was formed of two basic groups of Jewish people. The first group was made of ordinary folks who enjoyed Jesus’ teachings. The other group was made of Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come there to find fault with Jesus’ teachings.
Then Luke makes a very important statement. “And the power of the Lord was present for him (Jesus) to heal the sick” (Luke 5:17c – NIV). He could have healed many yet there’s no evidence to assume that Jesus performed any miracles at this moment of the day.
What was the problem? A safe assumption would be there were no sick, blind deaf, crippled or demon possessed people in that meeting. Probably none had invited a friend or a neighbor in need to this rare occasion. It’s foolishness to ask “Why the Lord did not perform any miracles?” when there were no sick, blind deaf, crippled or demon possessed people in that meeting. There must have been plenty in the neighbourhood. Yet he wouldn’t go from house to house looking for these. Do you want to know why? Because that’s non of Jesus’ business! Rather it was their business to bring these before their God. Miracles are events in which God and man work together. Some one said “Without man God shall not and without God man can not.”
The audience had their faith in Jesus, they were interested in His teachings. Sadly none of them cared to take an initiative to bring the sick, blind, deaf, crippled or demon possessed people into that meeting .
Then there was a third group. A much smaller group of men who had taken great interest in Jesus’ teachings. They heard that the great physician is in their town. They also had faith in Him. These men were and their faith were different however. Unlike others who professed to have faith but did not do anything about it, these men decided to take a course of initiative. They gave careful thought as to how they can use this rare occasion to bless some one. Then they remembered a paralytic who lived in the same neighbourhood and brought him to Jesus.
What does this mean for the Christian believer?
A. The Bible says faith without actions is dead, (James 2:14-26). Any one can believe in the power of God. Any one can claim to have faith. However it remains dead as long as we fail to take an initiative.
B. I know two Christian taxi drivers who provide free transport to the sick and demon possessed people in their community so those people in need of God’s help can easily walk into to the weekly healing meeting conducted in the church. I am not saying every one else must provide means of transport to others so that they can come to church. There are many other means you can help some one to encounter God’s power. For example you can visit the hospital in your area and offer to pray for the resident patients. If you are working in a corporate office you can offer to pray for a sick co-worker.
C. Another option would be to offer to pray for the needy people in your community. Haven’t you done it before? Then now is a good time to take an initiative. Are you afraid God will fail you? The Bible says, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” (Mark 16:17-18)
D. The paralytic in this story received not only physical healing but spiritual healing also. He became a born again Christian! Simply because few men wanted to help him. Helps is a very strong channel that manifests God’s power. It provides opportunities for personal evangelism. Do you think your chances of witnessing are slim? Then help people when they need it. This will definitely open the door for personal evangelism.
E. Besides God expects that we will help people in need. The Bible says “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their misfortune and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27 (NET)
2. Faith that persists
The house in which Jesus was teaching was full because there was a large crowd pushing around and the entrance was blocked. Carrying a paralytic and pushing through the thick wall of humans was virtually impossible. Our heroes of faith had walked into a hopeless situation. At least it seemed so. These were the options available to them. Blame God, Blame each other, Blame the crowd for not letting them through, Blame the paralytic for his misfortune.
They chose none of the above. Their faith was so persistent these men weren’t ready to give up so easily. Like I said before miracles are occasions where God and man work together. They patiently discussed among each other and figured out a very clever plan.
Now this is the layout of a typical Palestinian peasant’s house. It was usually a small, one-room structure with a flat roof, accessible by means of an outside stairway. The roof itself was usually made of wooden beams with thatch and compacted earth in order to shed the rain. Sometimes tiles were laid between the beams and the thatch.
These men as they couldn’t push through the crowd, carried the paralytic up the outside stairway to the roof, dug up the compacted thatch and earth, removed the tiles, and lowered the man through now-exposed beams to the floor below. Their faith was a faith of initiatives, their faith was a faith of persistency hence God gave them a way.
What does this mean for the Christian believer?
A. When faced with situations many times we give up very soon, only to find out much later we were inches away from the solution at the time we decided to give up. In Christian ministry many people have faith to initiate but only a few have faith to continue through hardships. The Lord provides a way to those who keeps pushing.
B. Persistency is like pushing against a large rock God ordered us to push, but doesn’t move by half a millimeter. After years of pushing we conclude we have failed because the rock never moved. Such thoughts are grave mistakes because we are called only to push the rock not to move it. God is the one who will move the rock and He will do it in His own time.
C. When you pray do not cease to P.U.S.H (Pray Until Something Happens). Jesus emphasized the importance of persistent prayer in his parable about the widow and the unjust Judge, (Luke 18:1-8). Ceasing to pray indicates a lack of faithfulness in one’s prayer life. The book of James strictly warns against unfaithfulness in prayer, (James 1:6-8).
3. Faith that justifies
Jesus noticed the paralytic’s need for spiritual healing as well as physical healing, something no one else knew. This is why Jesus pardoned the paralytic’s sin, (Luke 5:20). In John 5:14 Jesus warned the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda whom he healed, not to continue in sin and prevent something worse from happening to him.
The teachers of the law and the Pharisees began to say to themselves “Who is this man who speaks blasphemy! God is the only one who can forgive sins!” (Luke 5:21) The Pharisees and the teachers were right in their opinion that God alone can forgive sins. But they were wrong when they said Jesus spoke blasphemy. Jesus is the son of God and is of same essence as God the Father. He has the authority to forgive sin. The Pharisees and teachers of law did not believe that Jesus is God.
What does this mean for us?
A. There’s a very important message for people who have not placed their faith in Jesus as the Lord and saviour. You already believe that Jesus is a great teacher, miracle worker and a good man. The question is can you believe that Jesus is God! Why is this important?
B. Like the paralytic in this incident we too have two kinds of needs. First we have physical needs like healing, financial issues, problems in the marriage etc. Second we have a spiritual need. We are spiritual beings created to have a relationship with God. Unfortunately our sinful nature separates us from God, (Romans 3:23). There are 44 major religions and most of them address the sin problem. Then is it really necessary to accept Christ?
C. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23). It also says that the penalty for sin is death, (Romans 6:23). Religions teach that salvation can be earned through works. The Bible says we can not, (Ephesians 2:8). What must we do then?
D. Romans 10:9 says “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” Now does the Bible means to say that if I just say the words and believe Jesus came back from the dead I’ll be saved? Even if I live a horrible life? Absolutely not! It means I must follow Jesus’ teachings and believe God raised Jesus from the dead. In the Bible, to confess means to agree with the will and word of God, to agree that God is correct in what He says. Lord means that He is the leader and you are a follower.
4. Faith that obeys
In reply to Pharisees and teachers of the law Jesus asked them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? (Mark 2:9). “your sins are forgiven” is easier because no one can tell if it happened or not. You can’t validate it. Therefore, he then tells the man “Get up take your mat and go home” (Mark 2:11). Then the paralytic got up and walked out in full view of the gathering, (Mark 2:12). Jesus forgave the man for his sins and validated it with a miracle. Jesus actually commanded the paralytic to get up his bed and go home to which he obeyed in faith.
What does this mean for us?
There are two implications here. First, it is nothing but foolishness to wait till God does everything. God helps us. But He also demands that we obey Him in faith. For example I have seen that some people think it’s embarrassing to come forward to be prayed for, (some even leave as soon as the altar call is given.) Some are too lazy to get up from their seats and walk forward. They come to the pastor after the entire service is over asking him pray for them. This is an act of disobedience and a sign of laziness.
It is fascinating to see the faith of those four men and their actions. They were willing to bring his friend to Jesus at any cost. I think, as a Christian, we often bring our friends (who do not know Jesus) tantalizing close to Jesus. But the last step of introducing him to Jesus, needs faith and desperation. It requires extreme measures. Are we willing to take that risk and do something which would seem like awkward, strange and often risky?
We often forget about the paralytic man, who is mostly silent in the whole episode. But none of these could have possible without his mutual consent. He was also willing to go to any extent to see Jesus. He received more than he expected. He received spiritual and physical healing.