I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.
Introduction: Faith in the Power of Jesus
I read this story by an anonymous author which came from 'The Christian Harold Magazine.' It went like this:
One Sunday afternoon my wife and I were taking a short walk when we were overtaken by a storm. We took shelter in a neighboring church where we found a special service for Sunday school scholars in progress. The vicar was catechizing the children, and asked: "What is a miracle?" A little girl put up her hand and replied, "Something we can't do, but Jesus can." The minister seemed surprised at this original answer, and pressed for a response in "more dignified English." Several chimed out the set answer he wanted, "A parable in action," and he seemed well satisfied. It left me cold, however, for I was still thinking of the little child's definition, "Something we can't do, but Jesus can."
Our Lord, over and over again in his ministry on this earth, proved that He was more than just a mere man. His miracles demonstrated that He was indeed, God in the flesh, and the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of the Universe.
The story of the paralyzed man being brought to Jesus by his friends portrays, not only his power over the physical creation, but also His ability to forgive sins, bringing people into a relationship with God.
Further, it also demonstrates to us what true friendship is all about. When everything is going well, many of us have lots of friends. But when the going gets tough in life, as it often does, your true friends will stick around and help you in your hour of need. And those that really care will do everything in their power to bring you to Jesus and ask the Lord for His help in your life.
However, I believe that the greatest thing we can see in this biblical story is the power of faith and how it affects the person exercising it but also those who observe it.
This well-known story about our Lord's ministry can be found in Matthew 9: 1-8, Mark 2:1-12, and Luke 5:17-26. Let us begin our exploration of it by recapping what it's about.
I. The Scriptural Account
The story begins with Jesus at a home where He was staying in the town of Capernaum. There was a large crowd of people there to hear our Lord's teaching and probably to experience some of the miracles of healing that they had heard he'd been performing wherever He went.
So when a group of men tried to get their friend to Christ, they couldn't do it because of the crowd. Many would have given up but not these determined friends. They had decided that they'd do whatever it takes to get him to Jesus.
Here is a portion of the account from Luke 5:17-19:
"One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."
It is important to realize in those days that roofs weren't like the ones we have today. You didn't have to rip up tiles and saw through wood in order to make an opening. In first century Palestine, roofs were flat and composed of large stone tiles that were both easy to remove and to replace. And the tiles were sometimes covered with dirt or sod in order to insulate the home and keep the rain out.
Also, on the sides of a home there was a staircase leading up to the flat roof. The roofs were often used for relaxation in the cool of the day and also for sleeping on really hot Palestinian nights. It was these stairs that the men used to take the paralytic man up in order to get him in to see the Lord.
So they carried him up, made a hole big enough for the man's pallet to be lowered through and got him to Jesus. Obviously the man couldn't walk at all since he was lying on a pallet. He might have been a quadriplegic. So he was totally helpless to get himself where he needed to go. It took the love and the faith of his four friends to get him there.
The Scripture indicates in Mark 2:5 that the persistent and aggressive faith of the friends of this man impressed Jesus. It doesn't say anything about the faith of the paralytic, although presumably he had it as well. it was rather the great belief of the men carrying the mat that really impressed our Lord. They truly believed that Christ could heal their friend. So they went to great lengths to get Jesus to help him.
And Jesus answered their faith by saying to him:
"Son, your sins are forgiven."
Many in Jewish culture believed that all disease and affliction were a direct result of one's sins. Although sometimes that is true, it isn't always the case. We see this by looking at another episode of healing when the Master is asked regarding a man that is born blind whether or not he or his parents had sinned because he was blind. Jesus made it clear that neither had sinned. However it happened that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:1-3).
Although it isn't clear in this present passage in Mark whether or not this man became paralyzed by a sinful lifestyle, it is possible. Also, this man certainly might have believed this and would have welcomed having his sins forgiven by the Lord. And this may have played a part in Jesus' forgiving this dear man first. He did it to let him know that his sins would never stand in the way of healing.
However, the primary reason for forgiveness first is to demonstrate that Jesus had the power and the ability to forgive anyone he chose because He was who He claimed to be, the Messiah and God in the flesh.
Sadly, though, many of the Pharisees that were there got upset because they believed Jesus was blaspheming. They got it right what Jesus was attempting to show by forgiving the man. However, they didn't believe His claims. They said:
"How is He blaspheming? Who can forgive sins but God alone!"
Jesus' being deity, knew what they were thinking. Here is what Mark tells us:
"Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them: '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."- 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 have never seen anything like this!" (2:8-12).
We see two miracles here. One was unseen and the other seen. The answer to Jesus' question is that it is much easier to say: "Your sins are forgiven you." No human being can prove or disprove it. It is a supernatural occurrence and is invisible. To cause a paralytic to walk is not easy to fake, however. The paralytic's actions would be proof that the miracle happened.
Here we have the man and his friends who saw the miracle-working Jesus. And so did the Pharisees. The first through the eyes of faith. And the second through those of arrogant disbelief. However, only the ones with faith were benefitted by the encounter. God loves and is impressed by our faith in Him.
And their belief in our Lord influenced others as well to glorify God. As we read earlier' Scripture records the results on the crowd after the man left their sight. It says:
" so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this."
And with that, the story is finished. So now that we've heard the account, how can we apply it today? What are the lessons learned from the paralytic and his friends?
II. First Lesson: Jesus Wants to Reward Our Faith in Him
I think that the first lesson that we can glean from these verses is that God is impressed by our faith and longs to reward those who diligently seek Him. These men were willing to go out of their way in order to help their sick friend. They didn't let seemingly impossible situations stand in their way. And Jesus was pleased with them. He was so pleased that He did for their friend even more than they bargained for. They only were asking for bodily healing. He gave them spiritual healing as well by forgiving the man's sins.
Jesus once talked about faith as small as a grain of mustard seed in Luke 17:6. Here is what the Pulpit Commentary has to say about that verse:
"And the Lord said, If you had faith as a grain of mustard seed, you might say unto this sycamore tree, Be plucked up by the root, and be planted in the sea; and it should obey you. The Lord signifies that a very slight real faith, which he compares to the mustard seed, that smallest of grains, would be of power sufficient to accomplish what seemed to them impossible."
If that is true of a small faith in God, how much more could we accomplish if our faith was greater. The lack of power isn't in God, it is in our faith in Him. We could all truly accomplish great and marvelous things if we just trusted God more.
III. Lesson Two: Sometimes We Need the Help of Faith-Filled Friends
The second lesson is that sometimes we need faith-filled friends. Most of the time, what we want to do involves others. And sometimes our faith falters. It is for those times we need to be cultivating good friends that would be willing to go out of their way in order to help us. Like the paralytic we are, at times, powerless to do what we desire to do on our own. It is a blessing to have people that will take us to Jesus in prayer and hold us up before the throne of grace and help us in our projects that require faith.
We see the book of Proverbs talk about this kind of companion. It tells us:
"One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." (Proverbs 18:24).
Within the Church, the Body of Christ there are, or should be, those type of friends. There are those who will stop at nothing to make sure we are cared for and we are able to grow our relationship with Jesus Christ. And, of course, we should be willing to do that with them as well. A local church that does that is one worth going to and worshipping in.
IV. Lesson Three: Our Faith Affects Many Others
The third and final lesson that we can glean from these verses is that our faith affects others. As we saw, the faith of the four men who took the paralyzed man before the Lord, affected many others around them as well. And that's the way it is. Our faith changes, not only us, but the people with whom we come in contact. Some will glorify God as did the crowd. And some will scoff like the Pharisees. But faith always makes a difference in the world.
This reminds me of a story that was in the Sunday School Times Magazine. It goes like this:
There was once a good woman who was well-known among her circle for her simple faith and her great calmness in the midst of many trials. Another woman, living at a distance, hearing of her, said, "I must go and see that woman, and learn the secret of her calm, happy life." She went, and, accosting the woman, said, "Are you the woman with the great faith?" "No," was the answer, "I am not the woman with the great faith, but I am the woman with the little faith in the great God."
It should be our endeavor in life that people see our faith and because of us see that same great God that this good woman had.
In conclusion sometimes we forget that the Jesus that we serve is the one who created and sustains the universe. Nothing is impossible with Him. And if He wants to use us for His glory He can and will. Further, just like the paralyzed man, not even any handicap that we have will get in God's way. Also, like the four friends found out, if you have the faith to seek God's face, He will give you the know-how and the ability to do it, no matter what the obstacles.
The bottom line is that He wants us to trust Him with our lives, all the while helping other people to do the same. You may think that you're too weak, too untalented, too sinful for God to use you. However, Paul tells us:
"But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong" (I Corinthians 1:27).
God's power is indeed made perfect in our weakness (II Corinthians 12:9). The weaker we are the stronger God is shown to be by what He does through us.
I want to see everyone who hears this message develop the faith of those four men who knew that if they just got their friend to Jesus, everything would turn our all right. Let us pray for that faith daily. And as it grows to maturity, we will all be surprised at what God can do through us. God is impressed with our faith. May we begin to impress Him today!!
© 2020 Jeff Shirley