Summary: A call to seek Jesus with passion and believe that he welcomes those who seek him.

Whatever it Takes

Mark 2:1-12

Who am I?

I was talking to a pastor friend on the phone recently and he said listen to this – ‘who is this denomination? See if you can guess.

I am a newly formed denomination that has been in existence for a few decades. We came out of the mainstream church because we didn’t believe there was enough emphasis on being ‘born again by God’s spirit’. Our leadership is young (late 20’s – 30’s) and we are working on the cutting edge of ministry. At our leaders meetings we make decisions that require big steps of faith. We emphasise in our teaching the work of the Holy Spirit more than any other denomination in our time. Most mainline churches are suspicious of us and believe we are almost cultish. Its true that some of our churches have gone too extreme, but we are not deterred by this. We push on because we are reaching people for Jesus faster than any other denomination of our time

Who am I?… I am the Baptist church… of the 16th century – I am the first generation of the Baptist movement. Wow!!!! Does that sound like us now? Something changed somewhere didn’t it!

As I read that I thought its like discovering that your dad who works 9-5 at the office and wears a suit used to play centre half forward in AFL football – its almost like discovering that Clarke Kent really is superman!

That’s an exciting picture and yet we would have to say that most of our churches don’t look so much like that any more. Now I’m a baptist with a small ‘b’ – I don’t place a high priority on the name tag that hangs above the door. But that excites me that those things could define the Baptist church – that the Baptist church could be so dynamic – and we did have our roots in non-conformity and adventurous faith and passionate evangelism.

I said to him send that to me – I love that – so he did and the note accompanying the screed said this ‘its ironic that conservatives say we are becoming ‘less’ Baptist by changing. In fact conservatism is an indication we became less Baptist a long time ago.’ Quite true!!!

I have a pretty strong feeling that the church just described is a wee bit closer to the picture that Jesus might have had in mind than much of what we see in Baptist churches today.

A movement that challenges the status quo – that isn’t content just to exist

A movement that is working on the cutting edge of ministry – innovative and risk taking.

A movement where the leaders make decisions that require big steps of faith – where there is a big picture of God.

A movement that emphasises the work of the Holy Spirit and his power.

A movement that is reaching people for Jesus faster than any other denomination of the time.

I want to be part of something like that! A vibrant and faith filled movement that is effective in reaching people with the gospel. I think we all want to be a part of that kind of church. And yet that kind of a church will be a challenge to us and a constant stretch for all of us. It won’t be a comfortable cosy place where all is familiar.

Bible Reading

Two weeks ago after I had finished preaching about the issue of repentance and what it meant, I was sitting at home reflecting on where to go next. Normally I have an idea I want to communicate and then I go from there. And I had a few ideas – but I actually felt God directing me to a particular story in the book of Mark and I started to wonder why???

And it wouldn’t leave me. I felt God was saying ‘preach on this’. It’s a really exciting and intriguing story and its one where I can see now where God wants to speak to us. I think it’s a story that might have excited those early Baptists – it smells like the kind of people they were.

Its in Mark Ch 2.

(Mark 2:1-12 NIV) A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. {2} So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.

Luke adds importantly – Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. So Jesus had a pretty tough crowd to speak to!

{3} Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. {4} Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on. {5} When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." {6} Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, {7} "Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" {8} Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? {9} Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ’Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ’Get up, take your mat and walk’? {10} But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, {11} "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." {12} He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"

I don’t know what strikes you but the first time I read this I was intrigued and inspired – puzzled and dismayed – but drawn to reflect on it more and more.

I saw a fascinating story and over the last two weeks I have probably read it 70 or 80 times as I’ve meditated on it and asked God what he wants us to see in it. If you’ve been around me then you’d know I’ve been digging thru it because I’ve probably asked you for your opinion.

But what do you think its about?

Why would Mark include this story in his Gospel – why did Luke include it in his narrative? They both obviously felt it was worthy of letting people know about. Let’s walk through it together and as we do let’s see what God says to us.

The Setting

Mark tells us that Jesus is in Capernaum in a home – possibly Peter’s home and the place is packed with people – they are spilling out the doors of the small two roomed house – possibly 50 to 70 people are there.

This is a time early in Jesus ministry when he was very popular with the crowds. He has been travelling around healing people, and teaching about the kingdom of God and they love him. He can’t seem to get away from them no matter how he tries. But he has begun to upset the religious hierarchy and they are out to silence him.

And Luke makes the point that Pharisees and teachers of the law had come from all over Galilee to be there – there are plenty of them in the room! Word had got out that Jesus was teaching new and dangerous things so they were there to critique and keep an eye on him.

All in all it was probably a very tense and difficult environment – a tough crowd to be speaking to. But Jesus didn’t seem to be perturbed. And when you’re a public speaker you often have to contend with the unexpected – but what happened next was something that not too many speakers will ever come across – nor will they handle with the grace that Jesus did.

Paralytic Enters

Into this packed and tense environment come the four men with their friend on a stretcher. But not thru the door – not like normal people. They couldn’t get in thru the door so they created another way.

This is where my theory begins that they were young people – maybe teenagers

· The first clue is that they were late – the meeting had begun and the place was crowded and they hadn’t go their act together and arrived on time. Or maybe that’s just a sign that they really were really the first true Baptists!

· The second clue is that they were prepared to go to desperate measures to get in – they decided to dig a hole in the roof to get to Jesus. Now – none of us – especially those of us who own homes would ever conceive of that idea! But can you imagine the scene outside the building – “Aw no way – we walked all this way to miss out!!?? What can we do – I know – here’s a plan – let’s go up on the roof and go in that way – you can’t do that – yeh you can – yeh what the heck – what’s the worst that can happen?” They were fairly audacious in their quest to see Jesus. From what we know of middle eastern culture this was not accepted practice! Roof entries at public meetings were not common.

· And finally a clue that is a little more concrete is that when Jesus sees the man lowered at his feet he calls him ‘son’ – the greek word is ‘teknon’ – which means child.

So they were probably young people and I can just see this group of teenagers with their mate walking up the steps to the roof laughing in disbelief at their own plan, but absolutely determined that they are going to see Jesus. They were going to meet with him – no matter what – their desperation drives them to do things that others normally wouldn’t

So they walk up onto the roof and they start to chip away at the clay surface – the roofs were made of reeds and branches laid across beams and then covered with a layer of clay. They start to pull away slabs of clay and you can imagine what would be happening. Bits of dirt are falling on the ground – there is noise as they stomp around and try to break thru – the branches are rustling and twigs are dropping as they try and take them off. And all this in the middle of the world’s greatest preacher doing his thing! This would have caused quite a disturbance.

And once they had cleared a big enough hole to get his bed thru they start to lower him down. Can you see it?! ‘Careful you clowns I might be paralysed but I’m not dead!’ They lower this man right down in the middle of the crowd. And he lands at Jesus feet – “nice shot guys! Well done!” This young man is there in the middle of this crowd on his own – probably feeling a little conspicuous! Probably wondering what’s going to happen next!

Him and his mates destroy the house and then proceed to ask for a favour.

I find myself wondering what is Jesus thinking and feeling while all this is going on? I wonder if he isn’t shaking his head and laughing – maybe even quite impressed with the ingenuity of the friends who cared enough to do something a bit outrageous. I think they reckon Jesus will be alright with this! And he is!

How would you be feeling if you were one of the crowd though? This intruder – this sick bloke and his vandal mates hijacking your meeting? It would be easy to be mad at him! Imagine someone coming in here and disrupting our meeting right now.

But for some reason Jesus welcomes the man. In fact he attends to him immediately.

Do you ever wonder why Jesus didn’t look up and tell them to stop digging and destroying the roof? Ever wonder why he didn’t tell them to rack off? Ever wonder what the Pharisees were feeling while all this was happening?

I think one of the things God wants us to see from this story is that its ok to get desperate in our quest to be with Jesus. In fact Jesus welcomes our desperate attempts to be with him. Mark is letting us see that if we genuinely seek Jesus he will meet with us.

These young men had the faith to believe that Jesus would welcome them and that Jesus could change their friends’ life. They were willing to take a bold step of faith – they were willing to risk disappointment because they believed Jesus to be that kind of person. They were living in bold faith territory. And Jesus didn’t disappoint.

We see it so many times in scripture – needy people imposing on Jesus – interrupting his plans and then being welcomed by him. There’s the blind guy outside Jericho who keeps on yelling for Jesus, the woman with the menstrual problem who touched the hem of his coat. Lepers begging for healing.

Sins Forgiven

This man has come seeking healing – that’s pretty obvious – he wants to be able to walk. So Jesus first words to him are just a bit puzzling – Mark writes when Jesus saw their faith he said ‘Son – your sins are forgiven’

It is a strange response. What’s that all about? Jesus seems to be redirecting things.

Is Jesus just looking to pick a fight with the Pharisees because he knows that is exactly what that kind of a statement will do? Is he looking to stir them up a bit?

I don’t think so – look at the healing of the leper at the end of Mark Ch 1. Jesus says to the leper he has just healed ‘See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.’ Now you actually ought to mark that in your Bible!! – an occasion when Jesus avoids trouble and tries to do the right thing by the religious authorities!

Jesus wasn’t seeking conflict – but neither was he going to ignore what he felt was the real issue. I just love Jesus willingness to hit things head on – to cut to the chase!

Jesus saw that the man was sick but he also saw beyond that and saw a man who was lost in sin. I don’t think Jesus had to deal with sin before he could heal – he wasn’t playing into the hands of legalists who assumed people could not be healed unless sins are forgiven.

I just think that in this situation Jesus had a moment of insight where he saw that more than anything else this man was a sinner in need of forgiveness. And he spoke to that need first – he saw a problem beneath the problem and he saw a man who certainly seemed to be open to hearing his words.

I have a friend who I meet with regularly who isn’t a Christian and who talks about the issues in his life that he is trying to sort out. And lately I have found myself saying ‘unless you get things sorted out with God – unless you work that relationship out nothing else will ever make sense’. The rest will be a jungle. I can see that and I can’t ignore it. I think that’s kind of what Jesus is saying here.

Here we see someone coming to Jesus with their requests and their agenda and Jesus welcomes them but he then puts his finger on something completely different. He redirects the flow of things. That’s something we need to be prepared for as we meet with Jesus – we need to let him call the shots – we have been learning that as a leadership team over the last few months as we have felt him redirecting our meetings. But it also works at a personal level.

As we come to him – if we are open he might speak to us about stuff we had never considered. He might just show you what’s in your heart if you allow him to.

Prayer meeting at Garry’s home – went there to pray for the church – Lesley’s prayer – feeling unimpressed with God – I found myself confessing that and it has been a question for me ever since – I went there to pray for the church, Jesus just redirected it.

And as he addresses the man the words he uses are actually a term of endearment – ‘son’ doesn’t just refer to the man’s age – it’s an expression of some kind of affection – like when the woman with the menstrual problem came to him and he called her ‘daughter’. He’s saying – its ok – I want to help you – I love you – I’m glad you’re here!

The Confrontation

Of course as soon as Jesus speaks those words of forgiveness the Pharisees get mad Mark writes {6} Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, {7} "Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

They thought he had overstepped the mark. Jesus forgives this man’s sin and the Pharisees arc up. And the questions they ask are legitimate – they are right – only God can forgive sins so who is this man? Jesus senses what they are thinking – Jesus can read a crowd and they are an open book to him. He knows what’s going on in their hearts.

Their problem is that they are not open to God working in a new way – they have fossilised into a form of religion that is tradition bound rather than life giving. This is outside of their existing paradigms and therefore they conclude, it is wrong.

Jesus confronts a right question asked in the wrong spirit – Jesus is concerned for what’s in the heart. Which is a why a young vandal can get his welcome and older religious leaders can incur his wrath.

I must confess that in my more gracious moments I feel for the Pharisees sometimes – I reckon when you’re that steeped in tradition it would be easy to miss who Jesus is. I’m not that convinced that we would fare a whole heap better if he were here today. If I have any fear in my own faith – its that I will end up accepting form rather than substance – that one day I’ll settle for an appearance of faith rather than true faith from the heart.

As Jesus perceives what is happening in their hearts he asks them a very penetrating question. A very simple question – but what a confronting and disturbing one it would have been. He said to them, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?’…

"Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?’

He puts them on the spot and questions what is driving them. He confronts their critical spirits head on.

Jesus had been teaching and healing and doing all this stuff and yet they were indignant that he wasn’t who he claimed to be – God had to be created in their image of theological orthodoxy. They were blind and didn’t even realise it – (see John 10) Can you be around Jesus and completely miss Jesus? It seems you can.

And yet…

They knew the law so well – every detail

They had been around much longer than Jesus – this was their show

But the key issue was one of authority – Jesus spoke with true spiritual authority. In Ch 1. Mark writes that during his last stay in Capernaum the people had talked among themselves and agreed that Jesus spoke with authority unlike the teachers of the law (v.22). They were feeling inadequate alongside him – and their authority was in conflict with his.

Jesus was potentially going to undermine the structure they had created – the one that made them powerful. The one that allowed them to demean and control people. They were losing their control and Jesus was stepping on their turf – freeing people – bringing life.

I think Jesus still steps on our turf from time to time – when we start to think that we are in control. I think he still challenges us as to who is in control. I think that’s why we run the risk of turning out like these people. If we reject Jesus authority in our lives then we will end up like the Pharisees. We will have a form of religion but dny its power.

Let me ask you – what unspoken heart attitudes would Jesus confront in you this morning? Because he will not let you sit here and fake it. He will name our issues and challenge us to deal with them. The Jesus we see here is not willing to leave evil hearts unchallenged.

The story ends fairly abruptly. Jesus second question is one with an obvious answer – (Mark 2:9 NIV) He asks “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ’Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ’Get up, take your mat and walk’?” Of course its easier to say ‘sins are forgiven’ you can’t disprove that – but then Jesus goes on and says but so that you know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home."

Jesus healed the man instantly and Mark says the man got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This was a bit if a crowd pleaser! They were absolutely amazed at what had happened.

As Mark tells the story he shows us daring desperate faith getting rewarded and insipid dead orthodoxy getting challenged. We see Jesus siding with the vandals over against the religious establishment. We see Jesus confronting those who think they have it all together and welcoming those who know they don’t.

What is God saying to us?

He saying that Jesus welcomes people who seek him genuinely and courageously – who do whatever it takes to be with him. But, Jesus challenges those who sit content with lifeless religion – whose hearts remain cold and stony.

Someone once said ‘the church exists to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.’ That’s a pretty good picture of what Jesus came to do. Maybe this morning you need comfort – you need to know that you are welcome in Jesus presence – that he calls you ‘son’ or ‘daughter’ – that God loves you – and that is true – no matter who you are or where you’ve been he wants to know you. He wants you to take a step of faith and move towards him – whatever it takes – he will welcome you!

Or maybe today you need to be disturbed – maybe you are resisting Jesus authority in your life. Maybe you see shades of Pharisaism appearing in your character and it worries you. Maybe you see it and it doesn’t worry you. You need to own that disturbance – and deal with it. Confess it as sin and come back to Jesus. Give him the authority that is his. Live your life in submission to him and dependence on him.

As I reflect on those early Baptists – on those dynamic faith filled churches that were around at that time I can imagine they might have preached on this story fairly often. I imagine it might have captured their hearts the way it did Mark’s. And I think they would want to see themselves as those young guys – desperate to be with Jesus – bold enough to step outside the established boundaries – daring enough to do it even in front of those who would condemn them.

I have a feeling that’s the kind of church God wants us to be. One that lives constantly seeking to know Jesus better – doing whatever it takes – one that is inspired by him and one that lives under his authority – that isn’t bound by tradition and religious practice.

I think Jesus is still calling us back to him – to repent of any indifference toward him. He is calling us to do whatever it takes to be with him – to know him and not to let our religious traditions or own egos to stand in the way. Jesus is calling us to follow him with humility and with great passion.