The paralysed man - Mark 2:1-12

This is a family service talk by Nathan Buttery from the morning service on 28th April 2002.

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Now I wonder if you can tell what you think is happening in these three scenes. (Acetate 1- Man and woman in bank). First, it's a man and a woman in a bank. (Acetate 2- Youth pushing lady). Second, a young man is mugging an old lady. (Acetate 3- Person on a stretcher). Third, a person is being taken to hospital. But if we have a look at them from another angle, we see something a little different. (Acetate 1 again- Hold up). We actually see that this one is a hold up. (Acetate 2 again- Youth saving lady). This time we see that the young man is actually saving the lady. (Acetate 3 again- stretcher race). This time we can see that it is actually a fun race. First impressions are not always right are they, and it is easy to leap to the wrong conclusions or get confused.

And often when it comes to Jesus, there is a lot of confusion about exactly who Jesus is and why he came. (Acetate 4- Different opinions about Jesus). Some people might say he's just a good teacher. Some people might say he was just a good man. Others might say he was the Son of God. But we come to the Bible, we find that there is no confusion whatsoever. And this morning we'll find out that Jesus is someone far better than we can imagine and offers us something far beyond even our wildest dreams. And to help us think about Jesus we going to look at the story that Dorothy read to us a few minutes ago, and it is all about a paralysed man who Jesus heals in a flash. So let's look at this story together and you'll find it in the Bibles in Mark chapter 2 vv 1-12.

The Story

Now I want you to try and imagine the scene. Jesus has only been around a short while but already he's got a big reputation and he's an exciting guy to be around, the sort of guy you want at your party. (Acetate 5- People walking). And loads of people are flocking to hear Jesus- men, women, boys and girls, all wanting to find out about him. Jesus is in a small house and the place is packed. There is no room whatsoever. Now that day some men had an idea. You see, their friend was paralysed. He couldn't walk, and no-one could do anything for him. (Acetate 6- friends bringing man). But they'd heard about Jesus and they decided to try and get their friend to him. But when they got to the house, they found there was no room. So what did they do? (Acetate 7- men taking friend to roof!) They did what any sensible person would do and they took him on the roof! Now in those days, houses only had one floor, and their plan was to lower their friend though the roof right in front of Jesus. (Acetate 8- Men on roof lowering friend). Now can you imagine what everyone in the house must have thought? Everyone inside is listening to what Jesus is saying when all of a sudden there's a scuffling on the roof, and a bit of dust falls down. One or two look up, the preacher carries on regardless. Probably just a few pigeons having a fight, they think. But then lots of dust starts falling down. Some are getting slightly concerned, but the preacher continues on regardless, and everyone keeps listening. Then huge chunks of plaster coming tumbling down and every one is looking up to see what's going on, even the preacher. And then (Acetate 9- man lowered into room) to the amazement of everyone, the ceiling is ripped open, the sun comes pouring in and all of a sudden a man is lowered down on an old piece of carpet by four friends with grinning faces. People were amazed. I'm sure the owner wasn't too pleased about his roof, though his insurance probably covered it. And can you imagine how annoying it would be for a preacher like Jesus to have your talk interrupted by four men carrying a friend on a stretcher. (Enter down aisle- four blokes carrying 'paralysed man' Place man in aisle until further notice).

Now that was dramatic wasn't it? I was thinking about having our paralysed man lowered through the roof, but we'd have had to have got permission from English Heritage so it wasn't worth it! But anyway, back to our story. It's a great plan isn't it, because it cannot fail to get Jesus' attention. There is the man right in front of Jesus. Everyone holds their breath. What will Jesus do? What do you think the man wants? He wants to be healed doesn't he? Surely Jesus is going to heal him. Everyone knows he's paralysed. But what does Jesus do? Well Mark tells us in verse 5: 'He says, ' Son, your sins are forgiven.'' There is a stunned silence. What on earth does Jesus think he's doing? He's prescribed the wrong cure! The man needs healing not his sins forgiven!

Main Point 1: Jesus shows us our greatest problem

(Acetate 10- Titles- Just reveal the first one!). But actually Jesus has hit the nail on the head, in these words to the paralysed man, Jesus shows us our greatest problem. Because this man's biggest problem was not that he was paralysed, though that was a serious problem; but rather an even bigger problem was that he was sinner. Now in the Bible, being a sinner is not someone who is a little bit naughty sometimes, or eats a biscuit when your Mum is not looking. Rather the Bible says that sinners are people who don't go God's way, people who run their lives their way, without God. And all of us are in that boat. It may come as a shock to discover that. But that's the Bible's verdict. Not one of us is perfect. Even little Philippa is not perfect, as I'm sure Bev and Tim will tell you later. In fact, what is one the first words that children learn? 'No'. That tells us a lot about human nature! And no amount of good deeds can overturn that situation. We cannot rescue ourselves. (Acetate 11- Moon). That would be as daft as saying that I can get to the moon by jumping. No, Jesus points out our greatest need when he deals with the man's most serious problem. He's a sinner, a rebel against God. And that is a problem which needs fixing in all our lives, because our sin cuts us off from God. It's like a massive barrier which stops us being friends with God. And unless something is done about it, that is a barrier which will last forever.

Main Point 2: Jesus gives us his greatest gift

(Acetate 10 again- Titles- Reveal both). But Jesus doesn't leave the man in that position. He said to the man, 'Son your sins are forgiven,' and this shows us Jesus' greatest gift- and that is forgiveness. But hang on a minute, some people say. Surely it's God's job to forgive sins? What right does Jesus have to forgive sins? Why should he get involved? And that is exactly what some people were thinking about Jesus. They say to themselves in verse 7: 'Why does this fellow talk like that. He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?' Now to help us understand what Jesus is saying, I'd like two volunteers. (Volunteers come up). Now I want you to imagine that after the service there was a scuffle at the back between x and y and x throws a punch at y. As y's nose is beginning to swell up I step in and say to x 'I forgive you for hitting y.' Now that is bizarre isn't it? What gives me the right to forgive x for something he's done to y. y should be the one doing the forgiving because he's the offended party. Now that's the sort of thing happening in this story. Jesus is taking the position of God in forgiving this man's sins. The man has sinned against God, so God should be doing the forgiving. But Jesus here is acting as God, saying that he can forgive sins.

So why should we believe that Jesus can forgive sins? Where's the evidence? After all people claim all sorts of things. You see, for a long time, I have had the belief that I am the man that the England football manager Sven Goran Erickson has been looking for to take over David Beckham's position in the England team. I believe I have the ability, the physique, and above all the raw talent to take Beckham's spot with the No. 7 shirt. Well it's an extraordinary claim isn't it? What right do I have to make the claim? Where's the evidence to back up the claim? Anyone who has seen me play on a Friday afternoon on Beresford Park knows that my dreams of England glory are somewhat far fetched.

So is Jesus being far fetched when he says I can forgive your sins? Well no, not at all. Because do you remember what happens next in the story? Jesus knows what everyone is thinking. He knows they don't believe him. So he says to them: 'Which do you think is easier: To say to the paralysed man 'your sins are forgiven,' or to say 'get up, take your mat and walk.'' Now which do you think is easier? You see it is easier to say to someone your sins are forgiven because you cannot see it. We cannot open Matt's heart here and see if his sins are forgiven. But it's crystal clear for everyone to see whether a paralysed man has been healed or not. (Acetate 12- Jesus with man) What does Jesus do? He says to the paralysed man: 'Get up, take your mat and go home!' (Acetate 13- Joyful man!) And that's exactly what happens. ('Paralysed man' gets up and walks away!) And everyone is amazed and overjoyed (Acetate 14- Friends peeping through hole).

So Jesus has healed a man who was paralysed. And it shows that Jesus' claim to forgive sins is true. He's not only said he can forgive sins, but he's proved it by doing the impossible feat of healing a paralysed man. And that is why Jesus is so much better than we often make him out to be. Because Jesus is more than a good teacher, more than a good man. He is actually God in person who has come to offer us his hand of friendship, to offer us forgiveness for all that we have done wrong. And that is the best gift you and I can ever know. And it's actually what we most need , even if we are unwilling to admit it. (Acetate 15- Cross) And the wonderful thing is that even today that special gift of Jesus' is available because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.

So I hope that from this story no one will misunderstand who Jesus is. Rather we'll see him as the one who came to offer forgiveness and a fresh start. He's the one who shows us our greatest need, but also the one who gives us his greatest gift. And it is this Jesus that each of us needs to accept personally as our Saviour and King.

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