Sunday, 17 August 2014
So my blog has been rather neglected over the last few weeks, partly because it's summer but also because I've been using any spare time to write, to, well, to write! but just not here.... So as a reminder - here's what I'm writing and how can get get involved... see here
Sunday, 10 August 2014
Luke 5:17-26 TNIV
7 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. 20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." 21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." So he said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today."
Talk // The Faith of Friends
So we are on our 3rd Summer Sunday and over the summer we are looking at some of the parables of Jesus in Luke’s gospel. Last week Will talked about healing after looking at Jesus healing the man with leprosy. This week we see another healing, this time of the paralysed man.
So in prep for this talk, I’ve been reading a book called: Through Peasant Eyes’ by Kenneth Bailey, which looks at the oral traditions of story telling in the middle east and particularly in relation to Luke’s Gospel. Parables and much of the early sharing of the Christian faith were shared orally by people meeting each other, sharing stories, social time.
In his book Bailey says of the parables:
‘The parables of Jesus are a concrete/dramatic form of theological language that presses the listener to respond. They reveal the nature of the kingdom of God and/or indicate how a child of the kingdom should act…’
and I was really struck by this line but just to make it a bit simpler:
We are the children of the kingdom of God right? So then, when we read the parables of Jesus, they should teach us how to act in a general sense but also foster in us some sort of response. Some sort of action.
So as I was looking at this passage, which has so much in it, and thinking on what to talk about today, I thought ok, well what is it that should be the response here? What is the action that we should take away from reading this story?
And what stood out to me and what I want to focus on today, is not in the man who was healed, ‘Matt’, but actually it’s the people who carried him. The people who did something extraordinary for this man, who went way more than the extra mile for him. Not for themselves but for him, for this one guy, lying paralysed on a mat.
Why? Why would they do that?
Well I think it’s simple, the passage tells us that ‘Jesus saw their faith’.
So. Jesus saw their faith. And that’s why we asked you to think about how your faith has impacted others. How have others seen your faith?
I think these men were lovers of Jesus, early followers and they knew what Jesus was all about and they wanted some of that for their friend. We don’t actually know whether the friend wanted it but I guess he didn’t have much choice!
The point is, they loved Jesus enough and they loved this man enough to be pretty radical in getting him to meet Jesus.
And that is what I am going to suggest should be our guide, or our response to this parable. A guide to what our actions should be as children of the kingdom of God. Do we love Jesus enough to enable others to meet him? Do we love others enough to be radical in how we help them to meet him?
There’s our challenge… and it’s a challenge to us as individuals and as a church.
To love Jesus enough and to love others enough.
Another book I’m reading, which I will probably be mentioning a lot in the months to come is this: ‘Being Church, Doing Life’. It’s all about people getting outside the church, being missional, meeting people where they are at. I really recommend it, especially as we start to look at being a transforming presence in Mid Sussex. Anyway, I just want to read you a bit from this book: It talks about a mission heart, but don’t freak out at the term ‘mission’ in this sense, it simply means having a heart for others.
So - Are we up for it? To be part of buildings Gods kingdom?
So, going back to our passage in Luke, what do we actually know about these men? What can we learn from them? Well we don’t actually know that much to be honest but we can use some assumptions too! This parable actually also appears in Mark 2 and a version of it in Matthew 9 as well.
Mark tells us there were 4 men, here in Luke it just says some, but as it says he was lying on mat we can guess that’s one at each corner, carrying it like a stretcher.
So, four men are carrying a paralysed man on his mat.
Now don’t forget this is a culture with little medical provision. There would have been no hope for any cure for this man or any improvement. We don’t know how long he has been paralysed, whether from an accident or injury or from birth. But he would have probably been shunned by society. Often illness and affliction were seen as spiritual – a judgement from God or something demonic. Many people with long term illness or disabilities were reduced to begging in the streets.
So for four men to willingly pick up this paralysed man and carry him to see Jesus, I think we can assume there must have been some quite strong connection – probably family or perhaps friends. Of course as followers of Jesus they could have been simply acting out of compassion but I believe with the lengths they go to it is likely to be someone they know. And I think that is confirmed also when we see what they do. Not only do they bring him to Jesus but they are so desperate to get him before this great healer that they go to really desperate measures don’t they?!
Here’s the other thing about this situation. Here we have a building rammed with people to hear this young Prophet speak. Of course we don’t know who all the people in that house were but we do know that there were a lot of religious leaders there – from every village of Galilee and Judea and Jerusalem. So we’re not talking 2 or 3 here, that’s a lot of religious leaders. (v17)
We also know from what happens later that they are really here to check him out aren’t they. They want to prove him wrong, they want to be able to condemn him.
So we have a house full to bursting (no H&S obvs!) with a bunch of cynnics come to check out this guy, responding to reports of a prophet not following their teachings perhaps, ready to catch him out, ready to condemn him. These are not men who need Jesus, they are men who think they are better than him.
And yet outside there is a man, one man, who cannot get in. Possibly the one man who really needs to get in and he can’t. His way is blocked by religious leaders. His way is blocked by a crowd. Perhaps even his way is blocked because of his condition, because of his needs. In other places where Jesus has preached, the bible talks of him healing all their sick but not here. Here it says the spirit is present to heal but until this man comes in no one is healed. Are people repulsed by his needs? Do they keep him out rather than making a way to let him in?
I think that gives us a picture of what the church is often like. A building full of people focussed on what is going on in the inside, whist outside are those that really need to meet Jesus but for one reason or another can’t or won’t come in. Perhaps we are repulsed by the needs of others? Perhaps we don’t want to make a way to let people in? ….
Yet here, outside there are 4 men showing their love for Jesus, showing their love for their friend, absolutely determined to get in. Radically determined I think. I mean that’s hard core isn’t it digging a hole in a roof! (literally hard core!)
Not sure any of our bits of paper will say that!
But anyway they get in and what happens? Jesus saw their faith. HE SAW THEIR FAITH. Not the mans, Matt’s faith, but their faith, the friends faith. IT is the faith of the friends in bringing this man to Jesus that prompts Jesus to say to the man ‘Friend your sins are forgiven’. That is the impact that our faith can have on our friends and those around us. OUR faith… this is so key!!!
In the book: ‘being church, doing life’ – here’s an example from one person:
P;48 ‘Ive become a follower and lover of God, because I was introduced to him like that by people who have God in them, and not the religious stuff..."
That’s what our faith can do for others….
And Jesus didn’t literally see their faith did he, its not like they had a sign around their necks saying ‘full of faith’ – no he saw it in their actions, in their love for their friend. Having faith is one thing, but we usually have to act on it as well. We don’t just sit there waiting for God to wave some magic wand over us do we?
Do people around us, SEE our faith? In our actions, in our lives?
In these friends we see in them, their love of Jesus, they know who he is and what he can do, not just for them but for their friend.
You can just imagine it - They are undeterred. Outside the building. They are so close. They can probably hear Jesus’ voice, they know they are so close. Even the man on the blanket can hear. They are not giving up now!
So they do something so crazy out of desperation, they dig through the roof. Mark tells us: in 2:4 ‘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 paralysed man was lying on.’ Or ‘through the tiles’ as it says here in Luke. Either way it was not an easy task to say the least!
We see their desire to see transformation in their friend
We see their sense of urgency – they don’t give up and say we’ll come back another day – who knows Jesus might not be there another day.
And we see ingenuity. I mean they dig a hole on a roof – how’s that for thinking outside the box!
I just wonder how often we take our faith for granted. You know you don’t have to be standing on a street corner shouting about it, but we are not supposed to be hidden, people should see our faith. Luke 8:16 parable of the lamp on a stand: ‘ no one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under his bed. Instead he puts it on a stand so that those who come in can see the light’…
Can people see your light?
Now I’m sure I’ve stood up here and said this before but we are all different, ok. I know that I am a natural evangelist, I will talk to anyone about my faith but I know that not everyone finds that easy. But we can all find ways to let our lights shine without shouting about it. If We are part of Gods plan to ‘contribute to the salvation of others’ – then Surely God gifts us, prepares us, equips us for all he has for us?
We can all impact those around us with our faith. That’s why I wanted to see what you said – how you have used your faith?
How your faith has impacted those around you – because we are all different. We can all learn from each other.
So how do people see your faith? How has your faith impacted others?
Share some examples….. from the box! and expand on them...
Earlier in the service we had asked people to write down times when their faith had impacted others and put them in a box at the front. Then at this point we read some of them out. It was a powerful time of encouraging each other as individuals and as the body of the church and then we prayed together...
Some examples were:
"Prayed for many in the town, healings are happening here! this town's ready for revival!"
"all my friends were gossiping in the common room at college and I wasn't joking in but instead reading. This started a conversation about why I wasn't joining in and showed Jesus!"
"I did a bible reading at school"
"I was walking down the street and a lady and her dog saw me. The dog approached me. The lady was so surprised that she kept asking what is it about you? Well I told her it was Jesus and I was able to pray for her right there"
"My friends come to me when they've got tough stuff going on in their lives and need advice""By treating anyone who comes into our house as if it was God coming in, we've recently had the theory tested when we found a group of half drunk teenagers partying in our house (as guests of our daughter). We didn't kick off but cooked pizzas and made them all feel welcome"" loved a friend who was going through a really tough time, ended up sharing Jesus with her and eventually she became a Christian!"" Aiming to run a business with kingdom values, creating a supernatural workplace environment"" Telling people at work that I go to church"