Malankara World

Sermons Based on the Lectionary of the Syrian Orthodox Church

Third Sunday in Great Lent (M'shariyo / Paralytic)

Sermon / Homily on St. Mark 2: 1-12

They Come - Sermon Based on Mark 2:1-12

by Jerry Goebel, One Family Outreach

Gospel: St. Mark 2: 1-12

[Mk 2:1] When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. [2] And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. [3] And they *came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. [4] Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. [5] And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." [6] But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, [7] "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" [8] Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, *said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? [9] "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? [10] "But so 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, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." [12] And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this." (NAS)

They come…

Mark 2:2-3a

[Mk 2:2] And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. [3a] And they *came... (NAS)

Gospel Overview

Did you ever wonder what Peter was thinking when four men began to disassemble his roof?

The initial attention of having the Son of God as a house guest must have been somewhat heady. It’s got to be pretty cool to have the Messiah sipping tea on your front porch when the neighbor starts bragging about his new turbocharged grass muncher; the "New Ewe A.D. 0001." Yet, at what point did casual bragging about "being tight with Numero Uno," become a rapidly growing list of home fix-it projects and honey-do’s?

How did you handle that Peter? Mark learned his gospel at your feet; did he ever ask you that question? Certainly, he would have been interested in your answer for the same sort of controlled chaos happened in his bedroom at the Last Supper and at his home on Pentecost. What incredible images come to my mind as I consider what your response might have been to the weight of hosting God’s Beloved?

Still, mostly I imagine that you might have chided Mark: "My dearest son, How I responded to these forgotten ones is of no import compared to how they responded to Jesus. They came. They came and came and came. I could have bolted doors and locked shutters; it just would have cost me more money to replace them. When Jesus came into my house—the poor followed him. Mark, if Jesus truly lives in your life—you will need to take all your doors off their hinges or face replacing them daily."

How do I know if Jesus lives in my heart?

If this reading is any sign, it is because people come into my life broken and leave my life dancing. Or, if my most frequent comment becomes; "You can leave that stretcher out back with all the other empty ones." It is when my visits with Jesus move from pleasant tea parties to taking a daily truck load of walking canes and leper’s rags to the county dump. When the privilege of hosting Jesus becomes the intrusion of having Christ available from my living room to the lepers, demoniacs and cripples of the world. It is when I quit fixing the roof because they are just going to take it off anyway.

What is the sign that Jesus is in my home? "They come..."

Mark 2:1-2

[Mk 2:1] When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. [2] And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. (NAS)

"There was no longer room, not even near the door…"

Jesus sought neither attention nor fame. In fact, we see him frequently outdistancing the crowd so that he can:

1. Hear God clearer; and

2. Teach his disciples without distraction.

Jesus sought only to know and do God’s will. The more intensely he pursued God, the more intensely others sought him. Yet, critical to understanding our Lord is that he remained a leader whether or not people followed him. Christ was not deterred when Peter tried to prevent him from marching to Jerusalem. He was undeterred when slapped and harassed by the indignant chief priests. Jesus did not compromise his beliefs to conform to Pilate’s offer of ideological compromise. Above all, Jesus did not flee the cross even when he carried it alone and in scorn. His purpose never varied, his commitment never wavered; [John 10:17] "For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. [18] "No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father." (NAS)

Our lives need to model our Savior in two ways:

1 Constantly seeking the Father’s will and applying it in preaching, teaching, raising, visiting the forgotten, restoring the excluded (the unclean) to relationship, and healing those who are "dis-eased" in life;

2 We must do as the Lord commands without regard for popularity or approval. [John 12:42] Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; [43] for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God. (NAS)

He was speaking the word to them

Jesus came to pro-claim (a word that can best be captured as ‘taking future possession of an object’).

John 6:38-39

[Jn 6:38] "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. [39] "This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. (NAS)

He came to "forward claim" souls with the legal authority of God’s Name. A Creator, after all, has a right to his creation—even though death had claimed us instead!

Even more, Jesus came to claim the poor:

Luke 4:18-19


The word for poor [GSN4434, ptochos] did in not mean "spiritually poor" (as some might wish it would suggest). It meant to beg, to crouch and cower, to be worthless or experience the pain of hunger so severely that it doubles you over. That is who our Lord came to claim for God; the least of the forgotten. And, how can we, his servants, claim to "do what Jesus would do" if we won’t "go where Jesus would go?"

My brothers and sisters, let us be as Christ; take Jesus to the poor. Continue his mission; live his call. Take with everyone you know; anyone who will go. Don’t obsess over those who won’t follow, let your joy be their invitation. Fight against the number one excuse I hear almost daily: "I don’t think I would be comfortable there."

True Christianity has nothing to do with personal comfort; except that which we can provide to the poor.

We are the living the Gospel when the poor cross the street to tell us their Good News.

· "I have been sober for six months."
· "I am finally off probation."
· "I made it through treatment."
· "Thanks for helping me get that job."

Proclaim, forward claim, unabashedly claim the lost; it is the heart of Scripture!

Ps 40:9-10
[9] I have proclaimed glad tidings of righteousness in the great congregation; behold, I will not restrain my lips, O LORD, Thou knowest. [10] I have not hidden Thy righteousness within my heart; I have spoken of Thy faithfulness and Thy salvation; I have not concealed Thy lovingkindness and Thy truth from the great congregation. (NAS)

Isaiah 42:9
[Isa 42:9] "Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth I proclaim them to you." (NAS)

Isaiah 44:7
[Isa 44:7] ‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. (NAS)

Mark 1:14-15
[14] And after John had been taken into custody, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, [15] and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel." (NAS)

Mark 6:34
[34] And when He went ashore, He saw a great multitude, and He felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things. (NAS)

Luke 8:1
[1] And it came about soon afterwards, that He {began} going about from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God; and the twelve were with Him. (NAS)

Luke 9:1-3
[Lk 9:1] And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. [2] And He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to perform healing. [3] And He said to them, "Take nothing for your journey, neither a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not even have two tunics apiece. (NAS)

Acts 8:25
[25] And so, when they had solemnly testified and spoken the word of the Lord, they started back to Jerusalem, and were preaching the gospel to many villages of the Samaritans. (NAS)

Rom 10:8-9
[8] But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart"-- that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, [9] that if you confess with your mouth Jesus {as} Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. (NAS)

2 Tim 4:2
[2] Preach the word; be ready in season {and} out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. (NAS)

People often confide in me and say; "But I wouldn’t know what to tell people in those situations."

That’s not ours to worry about. If we are living in the word and walking with the Holy Spirit, God himself will prepare the words for you:

Mt 10:19-20
[Mt 10:19] "But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say. [20] "For it is not you who speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. (NAS)

If there are no words, don’t force them. Our simple presence will often speak most eloquently on behalf of Jesus, let compassion and prayer be your word. Far too often we try to force words into God’s "Selah" (rest, pray and pause). It is as though we attempt to paint over a Renoir with a black wide-tipped marker.

Study what the Master told the poor and forgotten, particularly in Matthew 5:1-12:

[Mt 5:1] And when He saw the multitudes, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. [2] And opening His mouth He {began} to teach them, saying, [3] "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [4] "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. [5] "Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. [6] "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. [7] "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. [8] "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. [9] "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. [10] "Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. [11] "Blessed are you when {men} cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me. [12] "Rejoice, and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (NAS)

Our Lord does not offer quick fixes or a way out. He offers eternal solutions by inviting God in. I’d be a fool to tell the imprisoned; "God must wait until you are released before you can serve him." Instead, I ask; "Are you a prisoner of the county or a prisoner for the Lord? Your choice will decide whether your time here is spent as a criminal in the system or a disciple of the King."

I don’t argue about the fairness or unfairness of this world. This world is arbitrarily unfair to everyone in some manner. It is our response to the unfairness of this world that tests the caliber of our being.

The Good News that Jesus offers is that the omnipotent, omnipresent, God of the Universe is willing and able to join us anywhere, anytime. At any moment in our lives, God invites us into the most exciting adventure that we could ever imagine. In any circumstance God can make his saints resplendent! Why, oh why, would we ever seek the redundant?

Philippians 4:4-7

[Phl 4:4] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! [5] Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. [6] Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. [7] And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Mark 2:3-5

[Mk 2:3] And they *came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. [4] Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. [5] And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." (NAS)

And they came…

When the doors of your church open wide do they come? Who is the "they" that Mark tells us about?

· Those who left everything to follow Jesus;
· Those seeking healing or relief from lives of pain or shame;
· Those who brought the ones too weary or wounded to walk on their own.
· Those seeking a living faith that could not be found among the lifeless ritual of Jerusalem.

But also, the following people came as well:

· Spies of the defenders of the lifeless rituals of Jerusalem.
· Zealots and the politically motivated who hoped to use Jesus for their purposes.

What would they find in the courtyard of Simon Peter? Apparently, each one found what they sought. Those who sought comfort were comforted, those who sought truth were given insight, and those who brought hypocrisy went away with more in measure. Hope or hatred, forgiveness or judgment; Jesus shows us a mirror of our hearts. What we see in Jesus is up to us; but we always walk away with more of what we bring.

Being unable to get to him

The religion of man had made the compassion of God unreachable to the common man. His words had become so twisted; his simple, impassioned love so convoluted by ritual and convoluted by the interpretation of sterile academia. The simple relationship between God and his people—a relationship that manifested itself in uncomplicated discussions between beloved and child—was gone. That is, until Jesus came and the heavens revealed themselves and the voice of God was heard once again in the land.

The first utterance of God to be heard by man in thousands of years was; "Thou art my beloved son in whom I am well-pleased." Then, when the word made flesh spoke to two young men on a lonely road in Israel, the words were no longer a statement of affirmation—they were an offer of invitation; "Come and see."

Yet, there was a shortcoming to a "God in the flesh." Not a mistake, but an indication that—even in Jesus—God’s work was not yet done. For how many people could touch the God made flesh?

It wasn’t that Jesus was either limited by physical or temporal realities; many miracles occurred in the absence of Jesus [Jn 4:46-54]. Yet, humans that we are, we were limited to space and time. The healings that occurred in the absence of Christ’s presence were monumental leaps of faith. Something more was needed so that the love of God could become accessible to all.

In short, Jesus had to die.

John 3:14-16

[Jn 3:14] "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; [15] so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.

[16] "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (NAS)

If Jesus had not freely given his life we could not have freely received the Holy Spirit; the Spirit who gives us the ability to trust that we are in Christ’s presence though he is physically absent.

John 16:7

[Jn 16:7] "But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. (NAS)

John 15:26-27

[Jn 15:26] "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, [27] and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning. (NAS)

John 14:1-3

[Jn 14:1] "Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. [2] "In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. [3] "If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.

The sacrifice that Jesus made broke the barrier between God and man. Throughout the ages many have tried to rebuild that wall—trying to add conditions and addendums to the unfettered law. Yet, God’s love continues to break down walls and tear open curtains [Mt 27:51]; especially where hope is most repressed or choked by half-lies. There is no mistaking the simple directive of Jesus’ offer of salvation; [Jn 13:34] "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. [35] "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another." (NAS)

Seeing their faith…

This is one of the most incredible healings in the entire bible. It is one of, but a few, healings where a person is healed because of someone else’s faith. This healing tells us about the power of community and intercessory prayer while giving us further insight into our Lord’s boundless compassion. Paul tells us that; "Faith [GSN4102, pistis] is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen [Hebrews 11:1]." These men were sure that Jesus could heal their friend and they were willing to risk the appearance of foolhardiness—and even the destruction of property—to bring their friend to the feet of Jesus. Is that the type of faith that I have? The kind of faith that will break down barriers and even risk my dignity for a friend who is in need!

I often have people ask me why I am so willing to go through prison doors to spend time with the imprisoned. All I can say is; "Because Jesus does it constantly for me."

Ephesians 2:8-9

[Eph 2:8] For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; [9] not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (NAS)

There is an additional lesson to be learned in this story about Peter. What do you think he felt as people crowded into his house and even began disassembling his roof?

The truth is; the closer we come to Jesus—the more others will intrude upon our life. To chase them away would be to chase away Jesus himself. What if Peter had said; "That’s enough! Everybody out! This time you’ve gone too far." Would Jesus have sat in a corner of the house in embarrassed silence—or would he have followed the poor out into the street?

If we only understood the import of this question, I do believe that it would radicalize the way we do worship; the way we do church. Does Jesus find my heart an acceptable place for the poor? Does he find my community as open as Peter’s house that day?

There are two places where many communities would lose contact with Jesus in this story:

1 Are we more worried about the roof or the cripple?

2 Are we more worried about "theological accuracy" or healing?

Would my community be more worried about a) the roof, b) the cripple, or c) "how Jesus phrased" his statements?

"Son, your sins are forgiven"

There are some dramatic gems to this healing that won’t be revealed by a "casual read" of the gospel.

First, Jesus addresses the palsied young man as son [GSN5043, teknon]. It is a specific word of familial love not a general term of acquaintance. It literally means "child of mine" as in a blood relationship. Remember everything our Savior does is a digital still of our God. Jesus is what God looks like. To see Jesus is to view a snapshot of our Creator bending near the face of the broken and whispering the most healing words that could ever be said. What were those words? Not, "Get up and walk" – that was only stated because of the muttering scribes. Jesus, the image of God, spoke the most radical words of healing that could ever be offered to some forsaken or wounded. "My precious child, your cry has been heard."

Secondly, the term for forgiven [GSN863, aphiemi], means to send forth restored, to have your deepest cry heard and your deepest sorrow "cast away."

Here is what God most desires to say to us. "I know your pain and I offer you welcome into my family in exchange." To "pick up my mat" is nothing in comparison to "welcome into my family!"

I have known physically healthy people who wailed in complaint and misery and physically broken people whose faces held nothing but the glory of God’s presence. Our God hears our cry and restores us into relationship, of what consequence is my body compared to my soul?

1 Corinthians 15:42-43

[1Co 15:42] So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; [43] it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. (NAS)

The deeper mystery is this; if we offer restoration to others (forgive their debts [GSN3784, opheilo]); God will offer restoration to us. As we take the pain of others and send them away liberated, our Lord liberates us on increasingly deeper levels of our being. To recite the Lord’s prayer; "Forgive us our debts as we have also forgiven our debtors [Mt 6:12]," could most accurately be translated as saying: "God you heard my cry while I was still a hostage to sin so let me hold no man hostage. Let me liberate others as you liberated me."

Do I want to be "sent away" whole and free? Then, I too must send others away whole and free. "My son, I hear your pain and make you family." Imagine a life that was able to reflect that love more powerfully each day; "God, whose debt can I pay today with your incredible mercy? My brother and sister let me share your burden and be your family as God made me his family."

That is when my broken body becomes whole in the new and eternal body of Christ.

Matthew 6:14-15

[Matt 6:14] "For if you forgive men for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. [15] "But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. (NAS)

1 Peter 2:24

[1Pe 2:24] and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

Mark 2:6-12

[Mk 2:6] But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, [7] "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" [8] Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, *said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? [9] "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? [10] "But so 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, get up, pick up your pallet and go home." [12] And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this." (NAS)

Reasoning in their hearts

To reason [GSN 1260, dialogizomai] in the heart [GSN2588, kardia], was more than just listening with a doubtful mind. It was to make a pre-determined decision to despise Jesus. These men saw Jesus, heard Jesus, and witnessed his miracles yet they only had eyes for judgment. They only came to see if Jesus would worship "their truth" and so, they were unable to hear "the truth." We must always be careful that we seek God’s truth and not our own interpretation; especially when our interpretation leads us to be more judgmental instead of more compassionate. God’s truth always leads to greater compassion and less self-righteousness; never the opposite.

These spies of the Chief Priests were terribly lost souls. They actually saw the works of God and chose not to stretch out their hands in humility and receive it. Instead, their hands covered their ears and they profaned Jesus. These men were "too right" to be wrong. They were like men who refused to accept that they were sinking into the irretrievable depths of eternity because they could still feel the ship under their feet.

Their self-righteousness became their undoing just as any righteousness of self will condemn us as well.

The mystery of God is available to those who seek forgiveness through humility. It is invisible to those who expound judgment through righteousness. Let our righteousness be only in the Lord. Let our faith be evident in our humble service. Let us join with the community that broke every wall to carry their crippled friend to the feet of Jesus.

He is blaspheming

Jesus had returned to the town of Capernaum. Remember, this is the town where a man possessed by demons was making unchallenged statements in the synagogue [Mk 1:24]! How is it that a demon was free to profess in a religious gathering while the Son of God was called blasphemous [GSN988, blasphemia] for setting the children of God free from their sin?

To be a blasphemer, was to proclaim malevolent slanders against God. What an incredible contradiction! The Son of God is accused of a crime punishable by death while demons openly preach in religious gatherings.

In his earthly life, Jesus was accused by the religious hierarchy of three counts of blasphemy:

1 Declaring himself to be the Son of God;

There can be no doubt that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. To say that Jesus was merely a good person (like Clara Barton) or a prophet (like Elijah) is a foolish statement. Neither of those people claimed they were THE Son of God. So, we must either count Jesus as 1) a deceiver, 2) a mental case, or 3) the actual Son of God.

The issue that was before the Sanhedrin two thousand years ago and is still before us today is: Was Jesus crazed, lying, or the Son of God?

It is not an option to say; "Well, he was a good man." For, you see, that makes him out to be either crazy or lying. To believe in Jesus is to believe his claims and the testimony of the Father, the Spirit, the testimony of his own words and works as well as the testimony of countless martyrs. If we take Jesus with any amount of sincerity we cannot simply call him "good." Jesus makes this point extremely clear to the rich young man: [Lk 18:19] And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. (NAS)

Jesus is pointedly saying; "I’ve made my claim, believe me or walk away—but do not patronize me."

Turn away from him, condemn him, or believe him—but to simply call him "good" is to mock him.

Matt 26:63-68

[Mt 26:63] But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." [64] Jesus said to him, "You have said it {yourself} nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." [65] Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, "He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; [66] what do you think? "They answered and said," He is deserving of death!" [67] Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, [68] and said, "Prophesy to us, you Christ; who is the one who hit you?" (NAS)

2 Restoring the unclean;

To claim the power to forgive was blasphemy—a slander against God. You and I do not have the power in and of ourselves to forgive. Peter, Paul, Francis, Mother Theresa, prophets, priests—they cannot make the claim to do this out of their own power. Only God grants the power to forgive sins.

Job 14:4

[4] "Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one! (NAS)

Isaiah 43:25

[25] "I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins. (NAS)

God has granted the power to forgive to the Son who gave his life for our forgiveness. Then, in the sweetest of all mysteries, Jesus granted us the power to forgive using his account if we serve him.

John 20:23

[John 20:23] "If you forgive the sins of any, {their sins} have been forgiven them; if you retain the {sins} of any, they have been retained." (NAS)

We forgive when we model the love of these four men and carry the despairing to the Lord.

What then is the greatest gift of the Gospel?

· Forgiveness: We are forgiven by faith in Christ and offer forgiveness through obedience to Christ!

What then should be the life of the servant?

· To bring our Lord joy by taking his forgiveness to the ends of the earth! No longer do we have the bear the "unclean" on a litter to the Lord. The Lord sends us out with the power to forgive in his name. Let us not become like Pharisees and Scribes "defending the truth." Let’s abandon any pretense of self-righteousness or judgment and run out to invite the least of these to the feast of God!

Matt 22:4-10

[Matt 22:4] "Again he sent out other slaves saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are {all} butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."‘ [5] "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, [6] and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. [7] "But the king was enraged and sent his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and set their city on fire. [8] "Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. [9] ‘Go therefore to the main highways, and as many as you find {there,} invite to the wedding feast.’ [10] "And those slaves went out into the streets, and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. (NAS)

3 Threatening the temple.

Did Jesus really threaten the temple as he stood accused of doing by the chief priests?

Matt 26:59-62

[Matt 26:59] Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; [60] and they did not find {any,} even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, [61] and said, "This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’" [62] And the high priest stood up and said to Him, "Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?" (NAS)

Jesus was not a threat to the temple but he was a dire threat to the temple authorities. He did not question the authority of the temple; he threatened the authorities in the temple. Why did he threaten them? Because they were cashing false checks. They were embezzlers signing on God’s stolen card. They set themselves up in God’s house and used his name to live in luxury while all around them poverty was institutionalized. They neglected justice, mercy, and faithfulness and taxed the impoverished for ritual and worship. Their offerings were spent on lavish self-indulgence while the world around them wallowed in hopeless abandonment.

The words of the Lord were convicting and condemning to them. The life of the Lord testified to their inner squalor; they had become white-washed tombs. Caves filled with the stench of death but glazed over by a cosmetic facial.

Matt 23:23-34

[Matt 23:23] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. [24] "You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! [25] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. [26] "You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. [27] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. [28] "Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. [29] "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, [30] and say, ‘If we had been {living} in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partners with them in {shedding} the blood of the prophets.’ [31] "Consequently you bear witness against yourselves, that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. [32] "Fill up then the measure {of the guilt} of your fathers. [33] "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell? [34] "Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city. (NAS)

If someone said that to me; I suppose I could say my authority had been threatened. Jesus is a reminder of the Old Testament temple—pre-Solomon. Before the temple [HSN1004, Bayith) was a place, it was a people. It was a home, not a house. It was the people of God, not the place of God. Jesus came to restore God’s people; he was the temple where the family of God would find home.

John 2:19-22

[John 2:19] Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." [20] The Jews therefore said, "It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?" [21] But He was speaking of the temple of His body. [22] When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken. (NAS)

Jesus came to reclaim the temple, not destroy it. Like Nehemiah he came to rebuild the temple of God with a sword in one hand and a shovel in the other. The sword was advocacy and the shovel was compassion.

Matt 12:6-7

[Matt 12:6] "But I say to you, that something greater than the temple is here. [7] "But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent. (NAS)

Those who muttered "Blasphemer" had forgotten that they were merely the cleaning staff in God’s hospital. After years of positioning, the servants claimed possession by squatter’s rights. The staff began prohibiting patients from the entrance (what better way to keep a hospital sterile)? The rooms where the wounded should have been cleansed and restored became luxury suites for a new elite. Instead of being advocates for God’s wounded and showing compassion to the neglected, the elite became increasingly distant from the impoverished masses. As a result, how could they recognize the Messiah when he showed up at the door in the form of a commoner?

Sadly, horribly, those who muttered against Jesus closed the door of God to the poor. Their accusations became their own sentence. And for what reason?

Acts 13:44-52

[Acts 13:44] And the next Sabbath nearly the whole city assembled to hear the word of God. [45] But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy, and {began} contradicting the things spoken by Paul, and were blaspheming. [46] And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and said, "It was necessary that the word of God should be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. [47] "For thus the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the end of the earth.’" [48] And when the Gentiles heard this, they {began} rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. [49] And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. [50] But the Jews aroused the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. [51] But they shook off the dust of their feet {in protest} against them and went to Iconium. [52] And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit. (NAS)

They saw the crowds and were filled with jealousy [GSN2205b, zelos]. They wanted to control the power of God—not see it given away!

That power is freely given to all who ask for it in the Lord’s name. Yet, it is unattainable to all who try to take it for their own glory.

Why does man continue to try and possess what God will so freely give? It is the original and ultimate sin; we want to usurp God’s position not glorify it. Slowly, a poison chokes the fiber of our being and the joy that could be ours to give away becomes a jealous hatred for what we cannot control. Such is the strength of the bonds of hell; bonds that only humility can break. I have said it many times—but hell is any universe where I am at its center. Let God be the center; with every fiber of our lives let us live for-giving, not for-taking.

"We have never seen anything like this."

This is the story of three clear responses to Jesus Christ. Jesus demands a response from anyone who seeks to engage life at more than a stimulus / response level. The life of Jesus amazed even his harshest despisers. Yet, how you respond to that solitary, incredulous life is everything. There are three responses to the quandary of this compelling life:

1 Those in Capernaum who lived out their empty daily routines while Jesus was in their midst. They are visible in this story only by their absence—it is as though they never lived;

2 There are the scribes whose response to God’s presence in their presence was scoffing and hatred;

3 There were the four men whose passion to bring healing to their crippled friend made them mount any barrier between him and Christ. These four truly the model what we offer as Christ’s followers.

Acts 4:13-21

[Ac 4:13] Now as they observed the confidence of Peter and John and understood that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus. [14] And seeing the man who had been healed standing with them, they had nothing to say in reply. [15] But when they had ordered them to leave the Council, they began to confer with one another, [16] saying, "What shall we do with these men? For the fact that a noteworthy miracle has taken place through them is apparent to all who live in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. [17] "But so that it will not spread any further among the people, let us warn them to speak no longer to any man in this name." [18] And when they had summoned them, they commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. [19] But Peter and John answered and said to them, "Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; [20] for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard." [21] When they had threatened them further, they let them go (finding no basis on which to punish them) on account of the people, because they were all glorifying God for what had happened. (NAS)

Will I be like group 1, evident by my lack of conviction in the face of God’s presence in life?

Will I be like the religious hypocrites attempting to silence the evidence of lives vividly changed by the touch of Jesus? "You can’t be healed, you didn’t follow the rules."

Or, will I be convicted?

· Of bearing the power of God to the furthest reaches; and
· Of tearing down any barrier between the living Jesus and the crippled man on the stretcher.

Let’s consider this question as we turn our faces towards this day of eternal possibilities: What could I do this day to tear down the boundaries that block anyone from Christ’s healing touch? Especially, what could I do to tear down the boundaries of my own pride? What could I do to be one of the stretcher barriers who would not be deterred from bringing the needy to Jesus’ feet?

Copyright © 2005 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved.

See Also:

The Unreality of God
by the Rev. Dr. Robert Dykstra, Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ

Healing of the Paralytic
by Rev. Dn. Philip Mathew

Forgiveness, Healing and Wholeness
by John Jewell

Jesus' Authority to Forgive Sins
by Rev. Bryan Findlayson

Sermons, Bible Commentaries and Bible Analyses for 3rd Sunday in Great Lent (Paralytic Sunday)

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