Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Effective faith (Mark 2:1-12)

1.     Community faith

Normally it is one’s own faith that makes the difference.
We have in Mark 2 somewhat of a unique passage that reflects on the effectiveness of community (or proxy) faith.
Verse 5: When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven”.
So obviously there is a special point being made for us to capture.
The paralysed man himself may have had faith, but this was NOT mentioned (apart from his immediate response in standing and walking at the end of the narrative)!

2.     The Kingdom of God is near

Jesus was being mobbed by people in and around the home in which he was staying in Capernaum.
This was early in Jesus’ ministry, and he had just become well-known for his acts of healing.
Jesus wasn’t just about physical healing, for these healings were to be interpreted as signs of something more.
This narrative makes this point clear as well. There was much more to Jesus than just a healer.
It seems from what we read in Mark chapter 1, that Jesus didn’t want to be typecast as a healer, but rather more as a preacher of the good news. This is summed up right at the start of Mark’s Gospel (1:15), where Jesus says, “The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news”. But, at the same time, Jesus found it impossible to resist the needs that presented to him.
From wherever Jesus was situated within the house, we read that Jesus was “speaking the word to them”.
This would be another attempt at bringing more understanding to what lay behind the healings that Jesus was doing.

3.     Four party-crashers

Now entering the scene were some people, and it seems there were four particular people that were most prominent, bringing with them a paralysed friend.
They clearly had in mind, what so many others had in mind, healing for their friend.
A paralysed person in that society would be in the most desperate of circumstances, and have very little opportunity of seeking help for themselves.
So likely this man’s friends had their ears and eyes open for some opportunity to bring some practical help.
Yet why Jesus … we might think that perhaps they had heard enough about Jesus for this to at least be worth a try.
Yet, how we see that this was more than wishful thinking, was in what happened next.
It seems they really believed that if only they could get their friend to Jesus, then there was sure to be a good outcome.
There was a lot of compassion and kindness seen here, yet the more significant dynamic is faith.
For Jesus interpreted their actions precisely as faith!
How so???
(a)  They took decisive action – once they had determined a solution, they went for it!
(b) They refused to be denied – they were not deterred by the massive crowd!!!! The entrance to the house was even completely blocked with other people intent on meeting Jesus. They may had asked the gathered crowd to “Make way” for them, to no avail, but were not deterred by this.
(c)  They went the extra mile – they took radical action to make sure their friend met Jesus. These four party-crashers ruined a perfectly good roof to make sure their needy friend was able to meet Jesus.
(d) They were prepared to work together – none of these could have achieved any of this on their own; it was united effort that worked towards a good outcome.
(e)  They had a singular purpose – they would have taken the stretcher their friend was on, and climbed up the side stairs to the flat roof above. Then they dug through the thatch and mud roof, making a big enough hole through which to fit a stretcher. Then they worked out a system by which they could lower their friend down with ropes right in front of Jesus. They were not deterred by any voices of disdain. You could imagine some of the things that might have been said.

4.     Forgiveness

What was the result???
What is the most pressing human need???
Jesus, with his major message of the good news front and centre, gave this man forgiveness.
Now this man (and his four friends) were just looking for the sort of healing that would allow him to re-enter society and have an improved quality of life. But given that Jesus was not only a healer but actually the ‘Saviour’, Jesus gave him a lot more – a spiritual rebirth. This is the ultimate outcome of anyone’s faith – spiritual rebirth.
Forgiveness is at the centre of our human need!

This of course opened a whole new can of worms for some of the crowd. People described as ‘scribes’ (experts in the Jewish law), who were present that day, took great offence to what Jesus said and did. Why was this so??? Only God could forgive sins! If Jesus claimed to forgive sins, then he was in effect saying that he was God!! Exactly, we say; but many such people were not ready to see nor accept this. Again Jesus was pushing his theme – “the Kingdom of God has come near” … through him!

We go on to see that the man in question received healing anyway. Because people of this time believed there was a direct connection between sin and disability, Jesus was going to take away the disability to prove that this gift of forgiveness was real. Thus the faith of the four friends led to both forgiveness and healing. It is only through Jesus that we can gain the whole package of forgiveness and healing, lifting Jesus way beyond the status of any other healers or prophets.

5.     Glorifying God

So no wonder the closing comment of many observers is, “We have never seen anything like this”! What a scene they had witnessed. Four faith-filled friends who let nothing stand in the way to someone else getting to see Jesus. Jesus then in turn provided a total and complete ministry to this previously desperate individual, which included his sins being forgiven i.e. salvation, as well as physical healing such that he picked up his stretcher and walked off! Now that really is ‘awesome’!! This was not only good news, but also big news! And they “glorified God”!
Can such amazement and awe happen again??

The practical application of our faith leads to salvation for others!!
What possibilities might come up for us where our faith can be expressed practically with the sort of outcome we have here??

What sort of activity should our faith lead us to???

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