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A. A MAN WHO THE “CHURCH” AND THE “LAW” COULD HELP
This passage also tells of Jesus healing someone. It happened while He was teaching people concerning the things of His Father, because they were ignorant about them. By means of healing of the body He was able to demonstrate God’s power and love.
There were also present Jewish religious leaders – Pharisees and Scribes. Both groups had studied the Law of Moses diligently, and the Pharisees in particular, kept strict watch to see that these laws would be kept by the community. In spite of all their enthusiasm, neither of the two groups could actually help the people of their time, either bodily or spiritually. They received no power from God to heal their ailments and sent them away to be treated by the doctors or just to die. Their teaching also, could not help the people, because all they did was to hold up the Law of God before them like a mirror, so that they could see the ugliness of their lives reflected in it, but they were unable to give them the answer as to how to be delivered from it.
The Law of God is certainly good, faultless, but what does it help to teach a person not to sin, while he lacks the inner strength to stop sinning? It is like whipping a faint horse so that he will get up and carry you on his back. What does it help to tell a drunkard to stop drinking if he lacks the strength to do so?
B. JESUS BROUGHT HOPE TO THIS HOPELESS MAN
Jesus brought new hope, for he healed people physically and taught that when a person opens himself to God, He would enter into him and enable him to have victory over his bad behaviour. Many people laid hold of this opportunity, believed in Him, and even physically began to follow Him so that they could learn more about this wonderful new life that God brought about. The Pharisees were very angry and jealous of Jesus because their followers left them to follow Him.
C. THE PARALISED MAN HAD FOUR GOOD FRIENDS
How does this relate to the incident we read about in this passage of Scripture? Let us allow our imaginations to run free and form something of a picture of what happened there.
It seems that Jesus was sitting in a house or building that could accommodate only a small group of people. In front of the door was a crowd of people pushing each other aside so they could get inside and be healed by Him or just to listen to His teaching.
Then four men arrived in a great hurry. They had walked fast and were sweating profusely. On a stretcher they were carrying a fifth man, completely paralysed, lying helplessly on his back, with his eyes closed tightly against the sharp sunlight. How did he come to be paralysed? It was probably because he had sinned in some way or other for Jesus later on told him that his sins were then forgiven. He might have got drunk, got involved in a fight in which someone had stabbed him in the spinal cord, or hit him on the head with a knopkierie causing paralysis. Now he was suffering as a result of his lifestyle. The doctors just shook their heads sympathetically saying, “Friend, there is no medical practitioner on earth who can help you to stand on your feet again. You must just accept that for the rest of your life, you will need to be dependant on others.” Perhaps sometimes at night when no one would see him, he would weep and reproach himself for his loose living and for the suffering he had brought on himself.
However he did have friends and they had heard about Jesus, the Man from Galilee who did miracles: cleansing people from leprosy, making the blind to see and the deaf to hear. These then decided to take their friend to Him. But, how could they get their lame friend to Jesus? In those days there was only one way, you had to carry him. So they made a stretcher lifted him onto it and took to the road. Probably they ran with him because they did not know how long Jesus would be in the vicinity. How far did they have to carry him? We don’t know, but it could have been quite a long distance – even from a nearby village. On approaching the vicinity where Jesus was, they had to find their way between all the people, donkeys and camels. Often they would have needed to ask the way to the particular building.
Let us give these five men names. The sick man we will call, Sinner and the other four we will call, Love, Hope, Mercy and Faith.
D. THEIR FAITH CAME UP AGAINST A WALL
Great was the five’s disappointment when, dead tired, they arrived, at the building where Jesus was, just to find that there were so many people crowding in at the doorway that it was impossible to take the man in on the stretcher to where Jesus was.
Sinner burst into tears and cried out, “There is no hope for me, I’m going to die.” Hope reacted to that, saying: But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, (Ps 33:18).
Then Love added: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.(John 3:16). Mercy looked on his friend with compassion and whispered: Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon. (Isa 55:7).
These words calmed Sinner down, and when he was at peace, Faith grabbed the stretcher more tightly, looked at the building and cried out: “I heard that Jesus said: “Have faith in God,…“Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore, I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:22-24)
Right there they prayed together and trusted God for a solution to their problem.
E. THEY APPROACHED THEIR GOAL FROM A DIFFERENT ANGLE
Hope wondered whether the back door of the building would be open. Perhaps they should go and see. Breathlessly they trouped round the corner but, oh my, the backdoor was firmly bolted from the inside. But mercy upon mercy they discovered steps leading up onto the roof. They looked at one another and Hope said: “Let’s go up.” Straight away they gathered all there strength to take him up, with Sinner, pale with fear that he would fall off the stretcher at any moment. Arriving at the top, Faith took the lead, and while looking from one to the other he suggested, “Let’s make a hole in the roof and let Sinner down on the stretcher to where Jesus is”. Mercy, Love and Sinner gasped, but Hope flung his hands in the air and exclaimed, “Let’s do it!”
F. THEY TOOK A VERY BOLD STEP OF FAITH CAUSING SOME PEOPLE TO GET VERY ANGRY
They began enthusiastically to dig with their bare hands through the reeds and clay of the roof. In two ticks there was a hole to peer through and there, right below them, sat Jesus, talking to the tightly packed people around Him. Some of the dirt fell onto his lap. He looked up a little surprised, then smiled and continued speaking. Now the four men attacked the construction with all their might and as the hole got bigger, the people underneath gathered what was happening. They tried to get out of the way, but the place was so closely packed they were unable to move. Powerless, and red with indignation, they just had to watch the hole getting bigger and bigger.
On the roof the men were working with enthusiasm and in no time the opening was large enough for the stretcher to pass through. Each of them took off his outer garment and tied it to a corner of the stretcher. Then, with bated breath, they slowly and carefully let their friend down just about onto Jesus’ lap. Not a word was spoken.
Now the people around Jesus were furious. They had stood in a queue the whole day, in the hot sun, to get their turn to get to Jesus, and here come people pushing in from above, in front of them. These had even broken a hole into the roof of another man’s house. The police should be called in! And on top of that, they were interrupting the Master while He was busy teaching the people. Did they not have any manners or respect? Meanwhile Sinner was lying trembling on the stretcher, staring at Jesus. He had no idea what to expect. Would the Lord cause fire to fall from heaven as Elijah had done, to destroy him?
G. JESUS ENJOYED THEIR FAITH, HEALED THEIR FRIEND AND FORGAVE HIM HIS SINS
Jesus smiled and shook his head in surprise at the faith these five men had in Him. They did not only believe in His power to heal their friend, but also in His love and mercy; assured that He would not reprimand them for tearing up the roof to help their friend. Then He spoke to Sinner saying “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
H. NOW THE JEWISH LEADERS GOT MAD AT JESUS TOO!
The blood pressure of the Pharisees shot up, and they became purple with anger, asking each other: “Who is He who speaks so blasphemously? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus calmly answered them: Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
I. SINNER (AND HIS FOUR FRIENDS) RETURNED HOME FULL OF JOY
And so Sinner jumped up, took his stretcher and with head held high he walked through the crowd and went home. His sins were forgiven and his body was healed! I think that day he and his friends threw a big party to celebrate. (Did they repair the roof? We don’t know!)
J. ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS
- By means of these miracles and by forgiving a person his sins, Jesus showed He was the Son of God.
- We ought to lead other people to Jesus – people who are paralysed as a result of sin. We can do so by bringing them to the throne of God in prayer, and teaching them from God’s Word.
- Faith in Jesus does not only mean believing in His mighty power, but also in His endless love.
- Lastly we see how Jesus honoured the faith of five men. Let us then trust Him more, so that a vaster river of His blessing may flow through us to mankind.