Today is the final part of a three part series on Mark 2:1-12. This is the story where some people bring a paralyzed man to Jesus and because they can’t get him to Jesus they dig a hole in the roof and lower him down. The first week we looked at what Jesus did and why He may have done it. Last week we began to see what we might be able to learn about ministry and evangelization from this story. We talked about how these friends loved their friend, worked as a team, and avoided two traps – they realized they couldn’t fix him, and they didn’t stop because there were obstacles. Today we continue this line of thought.
Their Faith Mattered
These people who brought the paralyzed man had faith in Jesus. They knew that only He could offer eternal forgiveness and that only He could heal the man. Not only that, but they had so much faith that they were really to work really hard to do it. They didn’t let obstacles get in the way. They didn’t quit because it was hard. They were sure that if they could get their friend in front of Jesus that good things would happen.
In the account it says that it is when Jesus saw their faith He said to the man, “You sins are forgiven”.
This is a really tough thought. It doesn’t say that Jesus saw the paralyzed man’s faith. He sees the faith of those who had brought him.
One of the interesting things about this story is that we have no idea whether or not this man wanted to be there. I think we naturally assume that he wanted this. But really we don’t know. He didn’t have much choice in a way. I mean he was paralyzed. He couldn’t stop them. Maybe he believed in Jesus and asked them to take him. Maybe he wanted to go the whole time. But maybe he wanted to go at first. But I wonder if when they got there, and saw the obstacle of the crowd, he thought, “ok guys, this was good. I appreciate it. But it’s not going to happen.” What if he was embarrassed or scared. Scared of making a scene. Scared that it wouldn’t work. Scared that Jesus wouldn’t heal him. What if he didn’t want to go at all.
If we love people and want to do evangelization, there are going to be times where we are going to have carry people that, at the particular moment, don’t want to go. And by carry I don’t mean physically carry them. Maybe it means praying for them. Maybe it means loving them when they are defiant and unloving back. Heck maybe it means confrontation. We should be prepared for that.
In the end, when we do evangelization at some level, in some way I don’t understand and can’t fully explain, our faith matters too. Not just that person’s. It’s a piece of the puzzle. How bad do we want someone to know Jesus? How hard are we willing to work for it? What are we willing to do, to give up, to sacrifice for them to get in front of Jesus? At the end of the day, we can’t save anybody. But somehow, our faith matters. Our faith always matters.
It’s About Salvation and Walking Is Good Too
I wonder what the friends reaction was when Jesus led with forgiveness of the man’s sins instead of healing of his paralysis. They carry this guy however far, overcome all these obstacles, dig a hole in the roof, risk everything and Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven”. I wonder if they were thinking, “Wait a minute. Sins? We brought him here so you could make him walk.”
We were created to walk – to have life to the full. But because of the fall of man, we are all paralyzed in a sense. The results look different for each of us, but we are not who we were created to be. No one is. When we do ministry we want to see people not only know Jesus but we want them to flourish. We want them to walk. We want them to stop sinning in a particular way, to experience healing of wounds, to get an improved life. But sometimes that process, what we call sanctification, takes time. It’s not always instantaneous. (Obviously its never completely instantaneous). Sometimes a persons physical condition doesn’t change. At least not right away.
Here are some things I know for sure. First, when a person comes to know Jesus, that person is changed. When He is lifted it up, good things happen. Even if that person’s surroundings and context don’t change right then. It doesn’t mean that we don’t want that or continue to help them get there. But we have to remember that we are in the long game, not just the one that we play in this temporal life.
We have to remember that the number one thing a person needs is Jesus and His salvation. The mistake that a lot people doing evangelization in the past 50 years have made is thinking that you lead someone to Jesus and that’s it. No reason to help a poor person, just get him to pray the prayer. No reason to address sin, just get them to confess Jesus. That’s not a great plan. However, now there is a lot of ministry going on where we do a lot of work to help people and try to change their condition without ever actually evangelizing them. That is also not a good plan. We should do both, because both are loving. If they receive forgiveness and never walk that is far better than walking and never receiving forgiveness. But knowing that doesn’t preclude God from healing them or us from helping them walk.
Bottom line we should not evangelize people while ignoring their physical needs. In fact meeting those needs is often a large part of clearing the path. It can be a part of digging the hole in the roof so to speak. But we should also not hide our desire for them to know Jesus by simply meeting those needs and not tell them why we are doing it. We don’t save a poor person by making them rich or a sick person by making them well or making a drunk sober. There will be lots of rich. healthy and sober people in hell.
Take aways for today.
How much faith do you have? What are you willing to do, to sacrifice, for others to know Jesus?
Which are you more interested in – changing people’s temporal condition (be it physical, behavior etc) or their spiritual condition?