Well good morning. And thanks for coming! It's good to see you all here as we take our first step in starting a new church here at St Joseph's. To those of you who I haven't had the chance to meet yet let me introduce myself. My name is Ken Matthews and I'm going to be the Minister based here. And to those who do already know me they'll probably tell you that best things about me are:
- My wife Fiona.
- My 3 young children Lucy, Jamie and Kate
- AND of course my incredible dress sense down through the years. Ouch!
Well, you'll be please to hear that I'm not going to show you anymore the photos from the Matthews family album this morning. Instead I'm going to open up and try to unpack for you that Bible reading we had earlier on from Mark Chapter 2. So if you could dig a Bible back out from the chair in front of you and look up that passage, I'm sure it would help you immensely to see what I'm going to be talking about. And as we open up the Bible it's a great idea to pray that God will help us to understand it.
So let me pray: "Father God, we thank you that you don't leave us in the dark, but you love to speak to us from your word the Bible. Help us this morning to understand what you want to say to us, and to apply it to our lives so that we will leave this place challenged and changed to be more like you. Amen."
Well, I wonder if you'd be good enough to think about this for a moment: What is your biggest problem? What would it be? Perhaps it's one you just can't stop thinking about it! So it's been on your mind ever since you walked through the door this morning. If it's not like that then I'm glad, and I'm sorry to remind you of it – but could you please think of it now. Got it?
Now don't worry – I'm not going to ask you to say what it is! But if the people I know are any reflection of a public gathering like this, then I'm guessing that amongst us we would have a range of issues. Like...
- For some of us it will be relational – your spouse or partner, parents or in-laws, a brother or a sister, your children and the choices they are making which upsets or worries you.
- Maybe it's money – or more to the point the lack of it.
- Or work – the troubles in it, or the trouble of being out of it.
- Or it perhaps it's a health problem which has come out of nowhere to torpedo your life or the life of someone close to you. Health issues can knock life seriously off kilter, can't they?
- And in the midst of all this maybe our problem is the sheer variety of choices available to us – that leave us with the paralysis of analysis – What do I do? Who do I trust? Where do I go?
I don't know – it might be something else. Forgive me if I've not touched upon it and forgive me for calling it to mind, but I'd like you also as you think about it, to think about this too: What do you think God would have to say about it? Have you ever thought about that? If God were to come and meet you where you are right now, what would he say to you and what do you think he would want to do for you?
Well, can I tell you that as we come to this bit of the Bible in Mark 2 we have a guy here who has a MASSIVE problem. In fact it's so massive that he's actually called by it. It defines him – he's described by it. Can you see the heading at the start of the chapter: He's a "paralytic". We don't know if he was born like that or he had an accident latter on in life – but as he meets Jesus his whole life is turned upside down and it's my hope that as we look this morning and see what Jesus says and does in this man's life, we will see the kind of thing Jesus wants to do in our lives too. I've got two things this guy discovers from his encounter with Jesus that we need to discover too. Here's the first one...
1. JESUS SEES YOUR DEEPEST NEED (v.1-5)
Take a look at the start of chapter 2 with me would you:
"A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on."
So one thing this guy has got going for him is he's got friends. The Spanish have a saying that means: "Friends are more valuable than Gold." And in my experience of life I think that's right. Especially so for this paralytic – as his mates bring their friend to Jesus, hoping for a healing. Who knows how far they had carried their mate, but when they get there they find that the place is like Northumberland Street the weekend before Christmas. It is packed out, so they can't get their mate to Jesus!
But you've got to love the creativity of these guys. All of a sudden one guy goes, "Hey! Let's take him up on the roof! Let's get him strapped in, then we'll climb on the fence, then we can step on that camel there and push him up onto the roof." You've got to think about the Paraplegic here... "NOOOO! What are you doing? Put me dooowwwnnn!"
But before you know it they're on the roof and they're digging it up. Just picture this if it were to happen here. All of a sudden dirt starts popping through inside, then there's a couple of heads poking down through it grinning inanely, and finally here comes the paraplegic being let down through the roof – down & down – "easy does it there" – before he lands spread out at Jesus feet. And what does Jesus say? Well after all the effort and money that's gone into renovating this place I know what I would say! "Stop it! You'd better be going to fix that!" But not Jesus! Verse 5: "When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Let's press the pause button for a second – If you're the paralytic what would you be thinking here? "My sins? Wait a minute! I want you to do more than that! I didn't go up the fence and onto the camel and up on the roof and then get lowered down face first just to have my sins forgiven! What's going on here? Take a look Jesus! It's my pins, not my sins! I want to walk again. I want to play sports and chase girls and ride my Harley Davidson and do all the things other folks can do!"
I mean, the paralytic's need seemed obvious, didn't it?
But Jesus looked right past his legs and saw a greater need. As he says: "Your biggest problem is not your paralysis." And I want to ask you: What do you make of that? That Jesus can heal with a word is obvious if we read back over the previous chapter in Mark's gospel and as we read onto what happens next here – But he doesn't do it straight away. He delays. So I ask again: What do you make of that? Well I'm concluding that in Jesus' mind there is no greater problem greater than sin!
You see this guy could have got the juice going in his legs again, but still be paralysed. Because all of us are crippled by sin in our life. All of us are hindered from living the life God made us for… by not having Him in our lives.
You see that's what sin is. A lot of people think of 'Sin' as a bit of an old fashioned religious word to beat people up with and make them feel bad about themselves. Others see it as something like cream cakes – it's 'naughty, but nice'. But rightly understood there is nothing nice about it, as sin is saying to God: "I know it's your world - I can't explain how everything came about without you. I know you give me each breath and all the great gifts of life, but actually I will put myself first and keep you out of the picture."
Now to us that may seem such a very small thing. But the trouble is, sin causes us to die spiritually. Because every time I insist on my independence in a world where God sustains everything, we cutting ourselves off from the source of all goodness. And so we find ourselves cut off from his wisdom to guide us through the minefields of life; cut off from his love and compassion to comfort us in our hurts; cut off from his transforming power to make you and I the people he created us to be. And though we can survive like that for a while… in the end we'll be cutting ourselves off from God forever. And so Jesus says: "This must be dealt with. Your sin must be dealt with." And he says to the paralytic: "Son, your sins are forgiven."
And the word "forgiven" there in the original language it was written in – which was Greek – it means to send away, to release. To remove a burden which makes possible a friendship. And so Jesus says: "Your biggest problem is that you need your sins sent away, released... so that you can have friendship with God." And if this man was blessed to have four friends who were more valuable than gold to him – surely having the God of the whole word on your side is the most precious thing there could be!
So Jesus says to him: "Actually, you're not going deep enough. By simply coming to me and asking for your body to be healed – You're not going deep enough. You may not realise it, but you need something more than new legs. You need to know the creator of your legs!"
You see this man is saying – as perhaps you were when you thought of your biggest problem: "If only I could get this sorted I'll be fine." This man was saying: "If only I could walk again then my life would be alright. If only I could get that problem sorted I won't be unhappy, I won't be unsatisfied, and I won't complain." Everything will be fine. But Jesus says: "My son you are mistaken. For you underestimate the depths of the longings of your heart. The heart I've made."
Because the roots of discontent in the human heart – and we all know this – the roots of discontent go very deep. They are so deep. So yes, there would be utter euphoria when the problem was solved – new legs, can you imagine the friends up on the roof when they saw it! I suspect they danced around and one of them came back down through the roof himself. New legs – the joy of it! The euphoria! But can I tell you the euphoria is followed by emptiness if you don't solve the sin problem. Euphoria turns to emptiness – that's so often the way of it. Whatever your goal, whatever your achievement. Have you found that? You reach the heights one day… but the next day you feel empty? So you have to chase after the next thing to fill the void!
Now as I say that there will be some of you here who have known that emptiness, but you've never really thought about the fact that this could be because your sin hasn't been forgiven. And I want to try to make that connection with you this morning. Because it's connecting you with your creator – It's connecting you with the one who not only sees your deepest need, but who can meet your deepest need. Which is the second thing I want us to discover here:
2. JESUS CAN MEET YOUR DEEPEST NEED (v.6-12)
For as Jesus says to the paralytic man "Your sins are forgiven" all around the room people are thinking – verse 7: "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And they've got a point haven't they? The only person who ultimately has the right to forgive sins is God, because all wrong-doing is ultimately done against God. God made us, so when we wrong one another, at the same time we're wronging God. We're hurting his creation.
It's a bit like the mistake I made playing with a young kid on holiday. We were doing the old flying circus routine – and I was swinging him round and round. And I got a bit carried away, went too fast, the kid slipped out of my hands, fell, and skidded quite impressively over the freshly watered lawn and - into a wall. Floods of tears. And just at the precise moment of impact… out of the house comes his Dad. What do I say? 'I'm really sorry.' Who do I say it to? The Dad. Because by wronging his kid, I've at the same time wronged him. I did say sorry to the kid too, I'm not totally heartless!
But it's like that with us and God. Whenever we wrong another person, at the same time we do wrong against God. Only God has the ultimate right to forgive sins. So by claiming to have forgiven the sins of the paralytic man, Jesus is putting himself in God's place. And these religious guys are as angry as a box of rattlesnakes about that – "Blasphemy!" they cry. He's claiming to be God!
Now obviously anyone can claim something. A few years ago a guy called David Icke claimed that he was the Son of God himself. He started life as a Coventry City goalkeeper, then became a BBC sports presenter, then, aged 37, he suddenly realised he was the Son of God and told the News of the World.
So why am I a Christian and not a David Ickeian? Why believe Jesus and not David Icke?' Well my answer is: David Icke never did anything to back up his claim. Jesus, on the other hand, not only claimed what only God can claim – But he backed it up by doing what only God can do. As here's what happens next in verse 8:
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . ." He said to the paralytic,"I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
It's easy to just say something isn't it? But it's harder to prove it. So when the paralysed man jumps up and picks up his mat and strides away through the onlookers. It's undeniable. Jesus has proved it. He's God and he has the power not only to heal, but to forgive.
And it was for that very reason that Jesus had come to earth. And it was for that very reason that he hung on the cross at the end of his life. It wasn't an accident - A promising career in the magic business tragically cut short by a strange twist of events – No, it was him dealing with our sins, so that we may be forgiven. Meeting our deepest need.
So what's our reaction to that? Here are three that I'd like to finish with:
i. Experience The Gift of Forgiveness
Let Jesus deal with your deepest need! It's my hope that this church will be a place where we will share our problems and help one another carry our burdens – But we'll never get our hands around the day to day issues of life, unless we first come to Jesus and let him deal with our hearts. That's the foundations for life. To be forgiven and to have a relationship with God.
In fact I'd say that's the key to happiness. The key to happiness is saying "Lord I'm sorry, I've been away from you, because of your son's death forgive me." And as you say that there is this extraordinary spiritual experience of being enveloped by the love of God. So experience the gift of forgiveness and come back to God. And then…
ii. Don't Let Anything Keep You Down
Can you imagine the paralytic staying lying on his mat when Jesus heals him - Ashe just pulls on the rope and calls up to his mates: "You can winch me up now guys. We're done here!" Do you think this guy went back through the roof? Of course not – Can't you imagine him racing his mates home.
But maybe you've experienced the miracle of God's forgiveness… and you're trying to live God's way, but in a sense, you're still sitting on your mat. You haven't gotten up. You've said yes to God's love, but your life hasn't changed a bit. Maybe it's a habit, an addiction, a person, a grudge – that's still dragging you down. Are you allowing God to heal you and touch you in these broken places? …Or are you still lying paralysed on your mat?
Hear Jesus as he says to you "Your sins are forgiven…" – So 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?
iii. Tear Up The Roof For Others
Here's my thought: Maybe the paralytic didn't even want to go to the house. Maybe all the way along the road he was saying to his friends, "Hey, guys, put me down. I'm not interested." But do you think he was complaining to his friends for bringing him? No way! He was saying "Guys, thank you for your faith!" And I'm guessing that if there was another fella in the town who was paralysed, this guy went home and grabbed him and brought him back. When you've experienced God's love you want to introduce others to it also.
This incredible miracle happened because Jesus showed his power. But it all started because four guys exercised their faith by bring their mate. So the question here is: "Have you got the faith to bring friends to Jesus?" Think right now about somebody in your life who needs God's love. Who could you bring to Jesus?
Father God, you know us even better than we know ourselves. You know how we have not loved you with all our hearts, all of our minds, and all of our strength – AND yet incredibly you are willing to forgive us, embrace us in your loving arms, and give us the foundations we need to deal with all of the brokenness that is part of life here an planet earth. We pray that you would move us to accept your offer of forgiveness and transform us to be more like you. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.