Summary: Three groups of people who affected this man’s access to Christ. Which one are you in?
Helpers or Hindrances?
Woodlawn Missionary Baptist Church
May 21, 2006
Read Luke 5:16-26.
While I was in Jr. High and High School, mom worked at a state run facility for the mentally retarded called Mexia State School. On occasion I would drop by and visit with her and briefly interact with the residents. After graduating from high school, I too went to work there, and ended up working there for about two and a half years. It was there that I met my wife: not as a resident, but as a new employee!
Some of the residents were mildly retarded. I worked on a dorm for the last several months with some of them. They could dress themselves, go to classes and work, and while they were lacking in some social skills, they interacted relatively well with other people. But around the campus were many residents who were more severely retarded and physically handicapped. I found it hard to imagine what it would be like to live life in that sort of condition: to not be able to walk or talk or rightly reason. What would it be like to be confined to a wheelchair or a bed or a room?
One lady’s brief note to her pastor speaks volumes. “I am a handicapped person in a wheelchair,” she said. “I am very lonely even though I know I’m never alone.” Another said, “I get treated differently because I’m small and have no limbs so people automatically assume I can’t do anything at all or completely ignore me. I hate it because I can do some stuff, but it’s just because I’m different. People don’t know how to act.”
It is an interesting thing that in a world where everyone seems to want to be different and be noticed one of the most precious things we enjoy is to fit in and be like everyone else. We want to be different, but we want to be different like everyone else. If we really are different, by choice or by circumstance, we are instantly alienated and begin to feel excluded from fellowship.
Think about how closely related the word access is to the word barrier. You might think of architectural barriers in church buildings when you consider our ministry to the handicapped. We have barriers here don’t we? Our handicapped parking is on one side of the building and our handicapped ramp is on the other side. When you have the time you ought to sit in a wheelchair and try to go to one of our restrooms or get through the halls and into the classrooms while other people are in the building. While this is surely an important issue, let me remind you that barriers preventing entrance into buildings or rooms symbolize something deeper: exclusion from community or fellowship.
In some instances there may be valid reasons for this exclusion. Israel’s ancient tabernacle with its inner Sanctuary, and the temple with its walls and gates are examples. God did not permit the handicapped to serve at the temple. In a very real way they were cut off and denied access and privileges afforded to “normal” people. Although laws have changed and we’re not concerned with the priesthood today, I wonder if the Lord’s churches haven’t been much slower to change. Are we willing to minister to those with disabilities?
If I am correct, some of you are wondering, “Brother Kevin, why all the discussion about handicapped people this morning? Where did that come from?” Those are valid questions, and here’s my answer: I’m not really talking about handicapped people today. I am however going to talk about access and inclusion and our willingness to allow the Lord to work not only in our lives, but also in the lives of others in need.
You see, in our text we have a man stricken with palsy of some sort encountering Jesus, but it was no easy ordeal to come before him. In fact, were it not for good friends he would not have encountered Jesus at all. But he did, and as a result the man who had been brought to Jesus on a cot left that meeting place a changed man, rejoicing and praising God.
Every day all around us there are people in need of an encounter with Jesus. The Bible points out in verse 17 that “the power of the Lord was present to heal them.” Jesus can change lives, and while He may or may not heal a broken body, He has a great desire today to heal broken spirits and broken hearts and broken lives.
Every day we encounter the lonely, those isolated and alienated because of some thing in their lives. It may just be because of where they are in life: it may be the housewife or the college student. I received a call this week from a lady who sits with an elderly lady. She asked me if we could visit the lady because she was lonely. You may know someone going through a divorce; who has lost a loved one to death; who has had to put a mom or dad in a nursing home, or perhaps is just in need of someone to talk to. A man in Kansas ran an ad in the paper saying that he would listen to anyone talk for thirty minutes for $5. People thought he was nuts, but the phone started ringing – people paying a stranger just to talk to someone.