From the series, "What Jesus Said and Did."
Christ Calls Us To Compassion For Souls
Mark 2:1-12 "And again he entered into Capernaum after [some] days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive [them], no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken [it] up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this [man] thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, [Thy] sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion."
When Jesus went to Capernaum It seems the word got around fairly quickly that a great miracle working Rabbi had come to town. As one might expect, great sensation seeking crowds sought to see Jesus whereever He went. But the masses were not necessarily wanting to repent of their sins and abandon their deadly religiosity. This happening clearly shows they were not necessarily interested in hearing and receiving the truth. That truth that could set them free from the legalistic chains binding them. It is made clear here they are not ready to turn their backs upon centuries of false rabbinical interpretation, teaching and application of their law.
In this happening, we see the deep compassion of our Savior. We see His care for suffering humanity. We see His primary concern for those who are universally afflicted with the deadly diseases inflicted upon man by sin. But more than this, we are shown that His main mission then, as now, was to bring eternal salvation to all who would truly believe. A salvation that transcends time and space. A spiritual healing that gives to the recipient forgiveness and a spiritual freedom and fulfillment reaching far beyond the temporary fix that any healing of the mortal body might bring.
In doing this, He begins to focus more sharply upon the deep and eternal spiritual meaning behind the temporary physical miracles He is performing. As His ministry develops, He will increasingly continue this emphasis.. Surely His miracles were wonderful, but there was something so much greater for people to experience. They could repent of their sins. They could believe upon Him and His fulfillment of all the prophecies predicting the sacrifice He would make as the suffering Kinsman Redeemer. They could believe upon Him as the promised Messiah King. Then they could enter into the eternal Kingdom of God!
It is not surprising to later see these sort of sensation seeking crowds melt away in droves. After the miracle of the fish and loaves, He tells them that His will not be an immediate earthly Kingdom. He makes it clear that they cannot expect an increasing and continuing sensational miracle working ministry. A ministry that will provide all their earthly needs. He challenges them to accept Him as the very Bread of Life. The multitudes depart and He is ultimately left with His little flock of committed and dedicated followers.
Things have not changed. The multitudes are still shallow in their seeking and blind to the importance of their own eternal spiritual needs. Yesterday, as I drove to my study, I heard an advertisement on the radio station about a big tent healing meeting. The things that were being promised were amazing. In the promotion, it was claimed there was documented medical evidence that he had been dead for three days and had then miraculously been raised from the dead. I am sure the word will get around and I will not be surprised if multitudes of sensation seekers go out to hear and be duped by this false prophet.
I am just as sure that those who follow the example of our Savior and preach the real truth will get a radically different reaction. The multitudes will not necessarily flock to hear about the necessity of a real repentance and turning away from the false teachings and ways of the ungodly world in which we live. The masses do not readily warm to the idea that they must abandon their reliance upon their religion and trust totally and exclusively in the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. Those who hold the line on the whole truth and nothing but the truth of the gospel will have to face the reality ultimately faced by our Savior when He said to His little band, "Will ye also go away..?"
But Christ’s compassion for the lost is the primary application the story has for us today. His example in this incident calls us to have a like compassion in the world in which we live. The story symbolizes the task we have before us. The whole world is waiting. Our world is filled with those who are just as helpless and hopeless as those in His world that day. They are without God. They are lost and undone. They are spiritually crippled and lame; unable to come to Him without our concern and witness of the Word. The god of this world has blinded them to the gospel. We are called to compassion and to shine our lights that reflect Christ and His gospel into the dark world of sin that surrounds us.
Christ’s compassion calls us to leave security of the grand walls of our sanctuaries. We are to leave our little holy huddles and turn from our mutual admiration societies. His compassion calls us to go out into the social settings of our day seeking the souls of sinners. We, as these here, are to move heaven and earth to bring them to the feet of our Savior. That He might heal them of their deadly disease of sin and its wages of eternal death.
COMPASSION CALLS US TO CONVICTION. What could move these four men to take such extreme measures to bring this poor needy sinner to Jesus Christ? What could cause them to struggle so hard to get him past those who stood between him and the Savior? What could make them risk the resistance, scorn and ridicule of the crowd? They surely did not expect to win any popularity contest in this way. Some might think their action a bit extreme. Some might laugh at the spectacle of a man being let down through the roof. Some might even call them fanatical Bible Bashers. Besides that, it would require a real sacrifice of their time and energy. They must remove the roof and make a way for this needy one to be healed. It could even cost them financially. Who knows, perhaps money would have to paid for permission to tear off the roof. They might have to stand good for any damage done.
It is clear these men had real conviction. It seems they were convinced there was no other way to get healing for their friend. Surely if there had been an easier way they would have sought it. But their deep conviction drove them to drastic action.
We need to be just as deeply convicted about the need to bring people to Jesus Christ the Great Physician. We need to be overwhelmingly convinced that there is no other way for them to be healed. We need to understand that the religions of this world cannot bring real eternal healing of the deadly disease of sin.
I know that many of you were saved by the grace of God out of other religions. Relgions that do not teach the need of real repentance and a spiritual new birth. Some of your closest relatives and dearest friends remain in such religious systems. My heart goes out to you. I know it is difficult to accept that unless they do as you have done they will be eternally lost. That unless they truly repent of their sin and are born again, they will not see the Kingdom of God. But until we see that this is the truth of the matter, we will not have the deep conviction and compassion necessary to effectively bring those we love and care about to the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal spiritual healing. This is also true of all the people in the world Jesus called our neighbors.
Yes, as these men, we need to be convicted there is no other way. We need to accept as absolute fact what our Savior Himself said, "Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6) We need conviction of the essential truth of what Peter preached with boldness to the High Priest of Israel and his relatives that day, " Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:12) We need to be convinced that if we do not bring them to the feet of Jesus to bow before Him in repentance and faith, they will someday bow before Him in judgment. "That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; And [that] every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:10-11)
It seems that all too often God’s people do not take the issues of eternity seriously enough. We seem to fail to understand the frailty of life, the finality of death and the judgment that follows. We seem to live lives of preferences and personal priorities rather than conviction and compassion.
We find it easy to be concerned about many mundane material things. We can worry about the weather. We can fret about finances. We can prate on about politics. We can spout about sporting personalities. Even in our Christian and church life we can major on the minor. We can be more concerned with form than substance. But if we are convinced and compassionate about bringing people to Jesus, we need to take a new look at ourselves. We need to probe our hearts and measure our motives with the Word of God.
I recently came across these words in a sermon a shared in another place some twenty-six years ago. These words still grip my heart today:
"I would like to challenge you as your Pastor today. I have recently had the privilege of making trips to two foreign mission fields in third-word countries. My experience in those places has burdened my heart even more deeply for those who are lost and without Christ in our world. I have once again been reminded that at the most I have such a few short days of ministry remaining upon this earth. If I know my heart, my deep desire is to bring people to know the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior.
I want to challenge you today individually and as a church. Will you join me? Will you men of the church step up and lead in the great enterprise of winning souls? Will you Sunday School teachers work with me to bring our children to a saving knowledge of Him? Will you youth workers get a renewed vision of the need to win the youth of our day? I intend by the grace of God to be used by Him to win and disciple those who are lost. If not here, then some place else. I do not wish to waste the few years God may yet give me to serve Him in a slovenly and unfruitful manner. I just cannot believe God is calling me to preside over a holy huddle of navel inspectors. I am praying God will convict and convince us all in our hearts of our calling to bring people to Christ. Will you pray with me and seek the Lord’s will and calling for your life?"
CHRIST’S COMPASSION OVERCOMES SOME CARPING CRITICS. In this incident we see those who are merely sitting and standing in the way. Evidently they not only refuse to give any assistance to those who are seeking to bring the desperately needed man to Christ, but they seem to be unwilling to move out of the way.
Perhaps it would be appropriate for each of us to ask ourselves are we really being a help or a hindrance in bringing people to Christ? It might be good to examine our relationships at home, at work and at play. Do our words and conversation always glorify God? Can those we relate to know we are Christians by our love and concern for others? An old piece of verse speaks to this matter:
"We are living a gospel, a chapter each day, by the deeds that we do, and by the words that we say. People are reading our gospel, whether faithless or true. Say, what is the gospel, according to you"
When people get excited about the gospel and bringing people to Christ, there will sometimes be those standing on the sidelines who will stand in the way and criticize rather than encourage and cheer them on. The gospel train sometimes has some firemen. Just let a little spark of spiritual revival break out and they will be quick with the extinguisher to try and quell the blaze. If nothing else, they will try to throw a wet blanket over those who are on fire for God.
The gospel train sometimes has those who are brakemen. Just let the train begin to pick up some spiritual speed and those who are in the caboose and seem to be just be along for the ride will pull the panic cord and try to bring the whole train to a stand still again.
I have noticed through my years of ministry that it is not so difficult to get people together to do many special things in the Lord’s work, but it is well nigh impossible to get the same people really committed to bringing people to Christ. I have seen a few dozen people spend hours week after week preparing cantatas and musical concerts to share at Christmas and Easter time, but who did not seem at all convicted about spending an hour or two sharing Christ with the lost. Some seem really bothered by spiritual progress because it convicts them of their lack of concern and compassion. From this position, it is all too easy to take the next step and become a hindrance rather than a help in the great enterprize of bring people to Christ.
When I read of these carping critics in this passage I am always reminded of the fact that there are no monuments erected to critics. The following familiar verse says it all too well:
The Builder Versus The Wrecker
I watch them tearing a building down - a gang of men in a busy town;
With a "Ho heave ho" and a lusty yell, They swung a beam and the side wall fell:
I asked the foreman, "Are these men skilled? And the kind you’d hire, if you were to build?"
He laughed and said, "Why no indeed, just common laborers is all I need;
They can easily wreck in a day or two, That which has taken builders years to do."
So I said to myself, as I went on my way, What part in the game of life do I play?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan, Carefully measuring with a rule and square,
Patiently doing the very best I can? Or am I a wrecker, who walks the town,
Content with the labor of tearing down?"
CHRIST’S COMPASSION MOVES SOME COOPERATING CHRISTIANS. In our day of apostasy much is made of the need of bringing together those of different denominations and faiths to advance the Christian faith. I do have a problem with that. First of all, I do not believe in denominations. The Body of Christ cannot be divided. Paul said, "There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all." Eph. 4:4-6) But the unity our Savior calls for is a unity in the truth. "Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth." (John 17:17) Paul tells young Timothy that the local body of Biblically baptized believers who are following the all things of Jesus Christ form the pillar and ground of the truth. (I Tim. 3:15) The unity being called for today could only be based upon a lowest common denominator of Christian truth. Such a polyglot collection of false teaching could not please God.
We are called to a united cooperative effort in the local church and among cooperating churches of like faith and order. But Godly cooperation cannot compromise or abandon New Testament truth nor violate the autonomy of the local church. There is strength in unity. Paul tells the local church at Corinth: "For we are laborers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, [ye are] God’s building." (I Cor. 3:9) He made this statement after pointing out to the carnal Christians in this assembly that there were some divisions among them that seemed to be based upon personalities and personal loyalties rather than loyalty to Christ. If we are to bring people to Christ we must lay aside such divisions and unite in on great common cause to reach that one great common goal.
It is a great honor to be yoke fellows with Jesus Christ in this endeavor. It is a tremendous privilege to be yoked together in such a noble task. As one who grew up on a farm walking behind a team of work horses, the image is beautifully clear. There is nothing any more pleasing, satisfying and productive in that context, than a well matched team pulling together all day long to turn the soil, cultivate plants and gather the harvest.
It is clear these four men were each sharing an equal burden in bring this man to Jesus. No mention is even made of their names. No indication is given that one is more important than another. This is so true of our calling to bring people to Christ.
Some seem to think that the Pastor is called to struggle alone with the load of soul winning. We need to remember the words of our Savior on the matter. He said, "Follow me and I will make of you fishers of men.." (Each one who is following is fishing if we are not fishing we are not following) "Ye are my witnesses.." (All of ye is implied) And the words of Paul as well, ".. we are ambassadors of Christ..." (Each one of us is clearly implied). If each one of is a fisher, witness or personal ambassador for Christ, it becomes clear that no one else can fill our personal role or fulfill our personal responsibility in bring men to Christ.
THE COMPASSION OF CHRIST COMPELS SOME CONTINUING CHRISTIANS. It seems these would not take no for an answer. They were prepared to eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive. If they could not positively move in one direction, they would try another, even if it proved much more difficult. They seemed to have possessed a real holy boldness that could not keep them from keeping on keeping on.
We should pray that God would help us to demonstrate such perseverance in bringing others to Jesus. Many seem to faint and give up at the first set back when they are trying to bring family or friends to Him. Many seem more afraid of what someone might think or who might be offended than they are of someone dying and being eternally separated from God. How would it sound to say at the Judgment Seat of Christ, "But Lord, I thought it would be best if I did not infringe upon their right to religious privacy or did not offend their sensibilities, so I didn’t say anything to them about their need to come to Christ."
Someone has said that if we do not find any doors open to our witness it would not hurt to try to kick one open from time to time. We need to banish our fears of imaginary giants in the land of witnessing. We need to understand we will not pass this way again. Opportunity must be seized in the moment it appears. Do you have a hard case? Someone you have been concerned about and praying for but you can see no prospect of a spiritual break through? We should remember that we can raise the roof and bring people to Jesus if we persevere in our faith, witness and prayer.
CHRIST BRINGS A COMPASSIONATE CONCLUSION. In the end we see the salvation of the Lord. Moses and Jonah both said, "Salvation is of the Lord.." Here we see the only healing for sin. Here we see the great mercy of Jesus Christ extended to a hopeless and helpless sinner. He extends the same compassion and love today to all those who will receive Him: "But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." (Ro. 5:8)