To illustrate the importance of community and fellowship, Pastor Danny read from Mark 2: 1-12, the story of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof a house by his friends in order to reach the healing hands of Jesus. Pastor Danny broke down this passage by analyzing each of its characters.
Being a paralyzed person in the ancient world was a very isolating existence.
Being a paralyzed person in the ancient world was a very isolating existence. Not only would this man have had to rely on others to feed him clothe him, move him, and clean him, but there were no treatment centers or surgeries available to him. He was unable to contribute to society in any way and was shunned by his community. In fact, in Jewish culture at this time, any type of physical disability was attributed to one's own sin or the sin of his ancestors. He had no influence, power, or authority-only a mat which symbolized his brokenness and separation from society and from God.
The carriers of the mat:
These four men must have chosen to be friends of the paralytic, for given the societal beliefs of the time, who else would be willing to carry the mat of this dejected man? They did not carry the paralytic just anywhere; they carried him to the feet of Jesus.
They did not carry the paralytic just anywhere; they carried him to the feet of Jesus.
Here Pastor Danny shared a personal story about his own recent struggle with depression. After hiding it for months, he was finally led to share his struggle in a prayer group. Someone prayed that Danny would be able to look up from the "dark valley" he was in and to see God. As Danny was faced with his biggest fear-separation from God-God reassured him with Psalm 23:
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. (verse 4)
Danny realized God was right beside him. He allowed himself to break down and open up, and God began to minister to him. God challenged Danny to seek community in the very ministry he was leading. Within a small, tight-knit group of men, Danny began to experience community, support, prayer, and love like he had never known. These friends carried Danny's "mat" to the feet of Jesus when he couldn't carry it on his own.
When Jesus sees the faith of these men who actually lower their friend through the roof (v. 5), He goes straight to the heart, forgiving the sins of the paralytic.
And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, "Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk' (v. 6-9)
In response to the doubts of the scribes, Jesus heals the man to let us know that He has both the power heal and the power to forgive sins. Jesus does what we can see so that we will know that He can also do what we cannot see. Though we are often consumed with worries about our jobs, or homes, or our finances, Jesus is always more concerned about our spiritual condition than our physical circumstances.
We can become so busy and consumed by the physical that we miss the spiritual point of our existence: community.
We can become so busy and consumed by the physical that we miss the spiritual point of our existence: community. The busy pace of our lives is the single biggest barrier to the connectedness we need. We can't do life-changing community when we're in a hurry; we can't do marriage, be a parent or a friend, mourn, rejoice, heal, worship, or carry somebody else's mat. We must slow down the pace, and we can begin by answering these questions:
- What is your "mat"? What makes you feel guilt and shame? What are you most likely to hide? In what element of brokenness and imperfection are you stuck? Is it fear? Anger? Bitterness? Resentment? Pride? Pain? Abuse?
- Are you willing to carry someone else's mat to the feet of Jesus? To whom in your life can your be a support or encouragement?
- Are you willing to let other people carry your mat when you can't do it yourself?
Jesus risked his life for you and me so that we can have eternal life. He offers that life now, today, so that you can experience healing, redemption, and completion like never before. The devil wants us to believe we are stuck on a mat forever, but that is not true. There are many volunteers available to pray for and help you-to carry your mat, if you will let them. Ask for the help you need!
Everybody's Normal Till You Get to Know Them by John Ortberg
Crazy Love by Francis Chan