Summary: What Jesus saw in four men should be seen in our lives as well
There’s a familiar old story that’s told about a tightrope walker who did incredible stunts. All over Paris, he would do tightrope acts at tremendously scary heights. Then, he would do it blindfolded, then he would go across the tightrope, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow.
As the story goes, there was an American promoter who read about this in the newspapers and wrote a letter to the tightrope walker, saying, "Tightrope, I don’t believe you can do it, but I’m willing to make you an offer. For a very substantial sum of money, besides all your transportation fees, I would like to challenge you to do your act over Niagara Falls."
Tightrope wrote back and said, "Sir, I’d love to come." Well, after a lot of promotion and setting the whole thing up, a crowd of people came to see the event. Tightrope was to start on the Canadian side and come over to the American side on this rope suspended over the falls. After a suspenseful drum roll, he came across blindfolded.
The crowds went wild, and he came to the promoter and says, "Well, Mr. Promoter, now do you believe I can do it?" He said, "Well of course I do. I mean, I just saw you do it." "No," said Tightrope, "do you really believe I can do it?" "Well of course I do, you just did it." "No, no, no," said Tightrope, "do you believe I can do it?" "Yes," said Mr. Promoter, "I believe you can do it." "Good," said Tightrope, "then get in the wheelbarrow."
You see, faith is never something just to be talked about. It is something that must be demonstrated in the way we live. Paul Harvey once said, “If you don’t live it, you don’t believe it.” There’s Biblical basis for that statement. James said, “Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” (James 2:18).
There’s a story in Mark 2 that demonstrates this principle. I want us to read and study the whole story, but for now, I want to draw your attention to four short words in verse 5: “Jesus saw their faith”. Most people would say, “You can’t ‘see’ faith. Faith isn’t in the physical, visible realm.” But it is. And Jesus saw the faith of these four men.
It’s an interesting story that begins in verse 1:
"And again He [Jesus] entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that he was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And he preached the word to them." (Mark 2:1-2)
In verse 1, we’re told that Jesus was “in the house.” At least, that’s what the New King James version says. It is generally thought that this was an idiom, a figure of speech, that means he was at home. In fact, that’s the way that the NIV translates it: “the people heard that he had come home.”
Now we know, of course, that Jesus grew up in Nazareth, but Capernaum and Nazareth are not far from each other. Luke 4 tells us that when Jesus went back to Nazareth, after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness, he was so thoroughly rejected by the people with whom he grew up that he left Nazareth and made Capernaum, which was a fishing village on the Sea of Galilee, his home base for the three years of his public ministry.
So what does it mean that this was his home? Perhaps his mother and brothers had also moved to Capernaum. Others have speculated that this may have Peter’s house, that Jesus stayed in a room with the family of Peter and Andrew. Or Jesus may have had his own place, not one that he owned, but one that was made available to him for use as needed.
Regardless of the specifics, when people found out that Jesus was at home, they began to gather in it. Although it was early in his career, Jesus was already starting to be quite a popular fellow. Here was this man who was healing sick people all over the place. What did he have to say? Keep in mind that life in Palestine was a little more public than we are used to. Usually, the door would be opened in the morning and anyone was free to go in or out. It was never shut unless there was some special need for privacy. So, before long, the crowd filled the house and overflowed into the street, everyone trying to get closer to hear Jesus.
"Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. And when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ’Son, your sins are forgiven you.’ But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ’Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ And immediately when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, ’Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven you" or to say, "Arise, take up your bed and walk"? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins’ -- He said to the paralytic, ’I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go your way to your house.’ And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, ’We never saw anything like this!’" (Mark 2:3-12)