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Faith and Determination

The following is supposedly a true story. Shortly after the 911 emergency number became available, an elderly and quite ill lady appeared in a Rochester hospital emergency room, having driven herself to the hospital and barely managing to stagger in from the parking lot. The horrified nurse said, 'Why didn't you call the 911 number and get an ambulance?'

 

The lady said, 'My phone doesn't have an eleven.'

 

That makes you smile doesn't it but there are many in our world who do not know to call on Jesus. And they stagger, barely managing through life. That is our subject for this morning some one not knowing Jesus.

 

It was the first day of basketball practice at Wingate High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Coach handed a ball to each player.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."

Mark 2 : 5

 

The following is supposedly a true story. Shortly after the 911 emergency number became available, an elderly and quite ill lady appeared in a Rochester hospital emergency room, having driven herself to the hospital and barely managing to stagger in from the parking lot. The horrified nurse said, 'Why didn't you call the 911 number and get an ambulance?'

 

The lady said, 'My phone doesn't have an eleven.'

 

That makes you smile doesn't it but there are many in our world who do not know to call on Jesus. And they stagger, barely managing through life. That is our subject for this morning some one not knowing Jesus.

 

It was the first day of basketball practice at Wingate High School in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Coach handed a ball to each player.

 

?Boys,? he said, ?I want you to practice shooting from the spots you might expect to be in during the game.?

 

One of the boys (who was pretty much there as a substitute for the star players - in fact he was substitute #12) immediately sat down on the bench and began shoot the ball toward the basket from there.

 

You might say that boy didn't expect to get to play much. And I suppose he was just trying to get a laugh out of his teammates. But, there are some people who sit on the bench, because that's where they've gotten used to being. They never strive to much more than that - because they don't believe in themselves enough to put in the extra effort and practice to change their status. And because of that: they're always going to sit the bench. And again that is what this morning sermon is all about friends who did not wanted to sit on the sidelines but wanted to be actively involved in letting their friend meet  Jesus.

 

Listening to what Leigh said to us last week in the story of Paul standing before Festus. It's as if we've made Christianity into a spectator sport. Festus did.

 

We just sit back in church and listen to the music, and the sermons and never really get involved in the game. Like the friends did in our Bible Lesson. We need Christians today to get off the sidelines and get on the front lines. There is a special position in the ball game of life, that God has for all those who are in Christ, but we will never discover how great we can be as long as we watch safely from the sideline. We need to put action to our faith and get involved in the spiritual battle that is taking place all around us.

 

And that is what this part in the Bible is all about. Friends of the sick man putting themselves in the front line never mind all you spectators with your criticisms we know that Jesus can heal.

 

As a child and living in the old country Holland we were blessed with having Christian schools, elementary right through university. The first period in school was always Bible, stories when in the lower grades and other Bible related activities in the higher the grades. As a young boy blessed with teachers who were able to tell the stories well. This story as found in Mark 2 was one of my favourites. As a boy I could sit in class and my mind would work overtime in picturing those four men on the roof letting down their friend on a bed right in front of Jesus. In Holland my mind worked overtime I said because in the houses in Holland are built in such a way the friends would have trouble going through the roof. Later sailing the Mediterranean sea I saw the possibilities with the houses they had in Mediterranean countries. Houses were flat roofed and the ceiling was the roof. But this story became not only my favourite because of the roof, also because of the friends and of that beautiful picture Mark gives us of Jesus, who regardless of the opposition did the work for which he had come from heaven's glory, to bring forgiveness of sins.

 

Opposition, it is rather remarkable in Mark's gospel that opposition to himself and his message took only one chapter, going from popularity to opposition. No conflicts in chapter one an almost embarrassing popularity for the one who said; ? Do not think that I have come to bring peace to earth but the sword.

 

In this chapter people still crowd around him for it says the house was full there was not even room at the door. Here was Jesus preaching, ministering to their spiritual needs and when preaching a problem arose. Some men wanted to see Jesus for their friend who was paralysed. Nothing definite can be said about the nature of the man's affliction beyond the fact that he could not walk. The determination of the four men to reach Jesus suggests that his condition was desperate. Whatever his sickness the Bible does not say but it must have been an illness which was a consequence of sin.

 

He was brought to Jesus by his friends. Friends who determination is as a rebuke to us . They were determined to show their friend the power of Jesus. They were determined to make known to their friend the Saviour. There are many in this world in our world  in Churches who profess to be concerned about the spiritual welfare of others, concerned about souls being lost but who do very little toward bringing those  about whom they are concerned to the Lord either by bringing them physically or take them to the Lord in prayer.

 

But the four friends were not to be denied the privilege of letting their sick friend see Jesus.

 

The normal way through the door was blocked by the crowd. Did they give up, did they say to their friend it is no use buddy you can see for yourself there is no way in we never get to see Jesus. Too bad guy but we tried, might as well go back home, wait for a more convienient time, a better season as we piously would say. Did they offer all those excuses? No they were determined that their friend should meet Jesus and should meet Him now.. And up to the roof they went. There usually were stairs leading to the roof for the roof was used to sit on after a warm day in the cool of the evening. David was on the roof in the cool of the evening when he saw Bathsheba, Peter was on the roof when he was told through a vision to go to Cornelius the centurion in Acts 10. And one of my favourite movies is Ben Hur andBen Hur became a slave because of an incident that happened on the roof. Those roofs were made of beams from wall to wall and on these beams were laid mats of reeds or twigs and over that mat was laid a coat of clay, sand and pebbles. When this was done then the roof was rolled to a smooth surface with the roller left on the roof to roll it again and again especially after a rain to keep it from leaking. Grass often grew on the house tops. Psalm 129 : 6May they be like grass on the roof, which withers before it can grow;

 

 So it was not an easy task but again they were determined to let their friend see Jesus.

 

Sometimes I wonder when reading this what those people sitting in the room with Jesus must have thought when all the dirt, dust, sand, pebbles and grass came down on their heads.

 

Grumbling something like now just watch these inconsidered guys, who for Pete's sake do they think they are disturbing the teacher and us with their shenanigans?

 

Did Jesus think or say this, no it is stated when he saw their faith, that is the faith of the sick man's friends, he said the paralytic my son your sins are forgiven. No it was not the sick man's faith only which caused his sins to be forgiven, it was also the faith and determination of the friends. Do you see how important our faith is in regards to us seeking healing for a brother or sister in Christ, friends or acquaintances. How important our faith is for the spiritual as well as the physical well-being of those whom we would like to meet Jesus.

 

The pardon for sin came when Jesus saw their faith. My son your sins are forgiven. This was faith that pleased Jesus. As we read in Hebrews 11: . 6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

 

Reading this chapter reminds us of what James wrote in chapter 5:

 

14Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  

 

Have you noticed in the story the sick man did not say a word. Jesus saw in the heart of the man the desire for healing, no not only for physical healing but more so for spiritual healing. And that is why Jesus spoke to the man those words of pardon and peace. It would have been enough, would it? Jesus message then was as it still is today; physical ills are not as serious as spiritual ills but they did not understand at that time and neither do we now. The crowds then and the crowds now are so slow understanding. When the heart is right all is right. To have the peace and pardon of God, to have the knowledge of having been set free, to be able to meet Jesus at any moment, to be able to look Him in the eyes when He comes or calls and know that all is well, is the most important thing in the world. Son your sins are forgiven. The ones in the room with Jesus, the theologians of that time the scribes, lawyers and pharisees did not see it. It aroused them to anger, this was blasphemy. Who does he thinks he is, God Himself? It is only God who can forgive sins. And they were right in saying this but they did not know that God was sitting there with them. O no they did not say a word but Jesus read the intent of their heart, their secret thoughts:

 

Psalm 139 : 1O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.

2You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.

3You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.

4Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

 

Then Jesus said to them, what is easier, to say your sins are forgiven or to take up your bed and walk? Both required divine power both required divine authority.

 

I don't know, the gospel of Mark does not say, whether he let them stew and think about the answer. But I am going to ask you to think about it for a moment. What is more important, what is of greater everlasting value, what do we seek when ill or even when healthy? Your sins are forgiven or to take up your bed and walk?

 

THINK about that for a moment.

 

But that you may know that the Son of man has authority as the Son of God to forgive sin, He said to the sick man, you are healed take up your bed and go home.

 

The Son of Man, Jesus born to save his people. Save his people from physical illness? No, born to save his people from sin. And the man rose from his bed, walked through the crowd and went home.

 

Is it any wonder that the gospel writer, Mark, adds . This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" No it isn't any wonder.

 

What I do wonder about is our often lack of praise, yes that includes me. Our lack of glorifying God in the assembly when we experience, when we see the mighty acts of God when we hear of the mighty acts of God. We have so much to praise God for. So many reasons to glorify His name, so many opportunities to thank Him for salvation, for the knowledge of sins forgiven, for healing and we are so often so quiet, so hesitant, so afraid to make our feelings known publicly. Is it we don't want to sound to pentecostal?

 

"And Amazement seized them all and they praised and glorified God."

 

Blessed Savior we adore Thee, We Thy love and grace proclaim, Thou art mighty, Thou art holy, Glorious is Thy matchless name.

 

Great Redeemer, Lord and Master, Light of all eternal days, Let the saints of every nation, and that includes you and me, Sing Thy just and endless praise.

 

Pastor Bert Nieuwenhuis is the interim pastor at Somerset Bible Chapel, Manitoba, Canada.

 

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