Summary: Every person needs to be part of something. The call for community within the church.
May 19, 2013
Jackie Robinson was the first black man to play Major League baseball. In his first season with the Brooklyn Dodgers, Robinson faced venom nearly everywhere he traveled. Pitchers threw fastballs at his head. Runners spiked him on the bases, brutal comments were made to him and even to his teammates. Even the home crowds in Brooklyn saw him as an object of reproach.
During one game in Boston, the taunts and racial slurs seemed to reach a peak. During the game, his teammate, a Southern white man by the name Pee Wee Reese, called time . . . and he walked from his position at shortstop toward Robinson at second base, and with the crowds looking on, he put his arm around Robinson’s shoulder. Robinson has no idea what Reese said to him, but the fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that meant so much to him.
Friendships! I’m not talking about simple acquaintances. I’m talking about people who will care about you, people who will love you, encourage you, and stick by your side, even with all of your sins and mistakes. We all need good and great friends like this.
There’s a story in the Bible about some great friends. I want to share that scripture with you. It’s found in Mark 2:1-12 ~
1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.
2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,
7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?
9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to saSLIDEy, ‘Rise, take up your bed 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 say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
It’s one of the great stories in the Bible about community. It involved a paralyzed man and his friends. Imagine what life was like for a paralytic in the ancient world. This man's whole life is lived on a mat three feet wide and six feet long. Someone has to feed him, carry him, clothe him, move him to keep him from being covered with bedsores, clean him when he soils himself. He will never know the sense of independence we fiercely try to maintain.
Nothing can be done medically — no surgeries, no rehab programs, no treatment centers. Anyone in this man's condition has to go through life as a beggar — lay by the side of the road, be dependent on people dropping coins beside him so he could live another day. He has no money, no job, no influence, no family, and seemingly not much of a future.
What's he got going for him? This man had friends, amazing friends!! He’s in one of the most amazing small groups of all time. This whole story takes place because of his friends. Without them, he never makes it to Jesus, never gets forgiven, and never gets healed.
Because of his physical condition, the odds were against this man having any friendships at all. Even in our day, people who wrestle with physical challenges often say the most difficult obstacles they face are the attitudes of so-called normal people. Those are people who don’t know how to respond, sometimes they’re unkind, sometimes they look away. This is a fast-paced world, and it is not a very gracious place for those who can't run as fast as others.
But the ancient world could be even harsher. The Greeks regularly disposed of newborn infants with physical abnormalities. In ancient Israel, there was an assumption that if people were suffering physically, they had brought it on themselves. In another New Testament story the disciples see a man blind from birth and ask Jesus, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"