Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

08/17/14 Sermon - Take Your Mat

“Take Your Mat”

Mark 2:1-12

 

Jesus is now, back in the city of Capernaum, the city where he began his earthly ministry. You may recall, Jesus left the city of Capernaum after he had healed nearly every sick person in the town!  They left to escape the frenzy of people flocking to Jesus to see what amazing thing he was going to do next. Jesus realized that his miracles were overpowering his message. So he had left Capernaum to begin a preaching tour through Galilee.

 

Now we come to chapter two of Mark and realize that particular preaching tour is over. Jesus and His followers return to Capernaum. He makes it “home”, which would have been the home of Peter, with little fanfare, but the word soon was spread that the Miracle Worker was back in town. The house was overflowing with people and Jesus chooses to preach the word to them.

 
The next thing we read is
 

“Some men came, bringing to him (Jesus) a paralytic, carried by four of them.”

 

The four men couldn’t get their friend close to Jesus because of the crowd, so they do the obvious! They take their paralyzed friend to the top of the roof, they dig through the roof, and lower the paralyzed friend down in front of Jesus. Okay….

Mark shares Jesus’ response –
 
“When Jesus saw their faith,

He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

 
This verse brings to me, a few questions.
 

Who are the “they”? When it reads, Jesus saw THEIR faith.

 

Was Jesus seeing the faith of the four men carrying the mat?

Or does the “they” include the paralytic as well?
 
And, How could Jesus “see” their faith?
 
What is meant by faith?
 

Whenever Mark uses the Greek word for faith, that he uses here, it is in conjunction with miracles and seems to imply perseverance.

 
This word for faith is described as….
“An overcoming of obstacles in order to get to Jesus”
 
In this text we have such obstacles as:

-       The man’s inability to walk

-       The crowd blocking a normal way to get to Jesus

-       The roof blocking the abnormal way to get to Jesus

The four men refuse to let these things get in their way.

The paralytic agrees to be lowered down from the roof.
 

This Greek word for faith will come up again in Mark when he describes Jesus criticizing the disciples for having no faith (4:40),

Instead, they are afraid of the storm at sea, it became an obstacle to their faith, their trust in Jesus did not persevere in the midst of the storm.

 

Another time in Mark, where this Greek word for faith is used, is when Mark describes how a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhaging for twelve years, encounters the obstacle of a crowd, and her greater obstacle, her uncleanness, but she doesn’t allow the obstacles to keep her from reaching out and touching Jesus. Jesus then comments on her faith, (5:34).

 

Also, in Mark 10:52, Jesus comments on the faith of a blind beggar. The beggar faced the obstacle of not being able to see, as well as, having people around him telling him to shut up, and yet he was loudly persistent.

 

When I think of how this word faith is defined and used throughout the book of Mark, I think Jesus was talking to all the men, four men carrying the man on the mat and the man on the mat. I think he spoke directly to all of them. And yet his response to their actions was, to forgive the sins of the man, lying on the mat.

Okay, I don’t know about you, but if I put myself in the place of one of the four who had just taken the time and effort to carry my friend to Jesus, carry him up to the top of the roof, dig through the roof, and there I was straining to make sure he was safely dropped from the ceiling, I suspect, the purpose for doing so was to have my friend “healed”. My faith would have been that Jesus would heal him and I could walk home WITH my friend, not carry him back!

 

And yet, Jesus forgives his sins first. I suspect this became another obstacle to their faith.

 
Why would Jesus talk about his sins, and not heal him?
 
Jesus obviously has a bigger plan.
 

Let’s look more closely at Jesus’ declaration to the paralytic.

 
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”
 

The word for “Son” or better translated as, “my child” is an address of endearment. Jesus is declaring this paralyzed person to be a member of his family. It could also suggest that the paralytic was a young child.

 

Then we have Jesus claiming his “sins” are forgiven. What were “his sins”? 

Well, the common thought in the time Jesus was on earth, and for some even today, was that suffering and illness are the direct result of one’s sins.

 

And yet, here we have Jesus, again, taking the common thought of the day and turning it upside down.

 

The fact that the paralytic is declared forgiven while he remains paralyzed indicates that his relationship with God is not dependent upon his health or illness. It is dependent on his relationship with Jesus. By forgiving the sins of this man first, without healing him, Jesus attacks the common belief that it was sin that caused his paralysis. His relationship with God, through Jesus is restored, without having to be healed physically first.

 

And if we look at how Jesus’ statement was written, the verb is in the passive tense, “Your sins are forgiven.” We are presuming a divine passive tense, which means God is the one doing the forgiving, and Jesus is the one who gets to announce it.

 
Which leads us to a controversy.
 
The next verse we read:
 

“Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

 

Ah-ha! There are spies in the house! Jewish leaders had made a point to be checking this Jesus guy out. And note, they have twisted what Jesus has said, note, Jesus did not say, “I forgive your sins” He said, “Your sins are forgiven.”

 

But what they are thinking or pondering is correct: No one is able to forgive sins except God alone. They probably were wondering how Jesus could state sins are forgiven, as that was the job of the priests, the head guys of the church, not this Jesus guy. Jesus was undermining the leaders of the temple, and they now had proof.

 

These teachers could have also been pondering how a paralyzed man gets his sins forgiven. For the Jewish leaders, there was an issue of whom will God forgive and under what conditions. As far as they could see, this paralyzed man, did not meet any of the necessary conditions that were established in the Jewish faith, therefore his sins could not have been forgiven.

 

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat. Mark writes that “Immediately” Jesus knew in his spirit what they were thinking in their hearts, so Jesus asks, “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.”

 
Which would have been easier?
 

Jesus starts the controversy by declaring the paralytic free from his sins. Had Jesus healed the man right of the bat, there would have been no trouble. Jesus had been healing people left and right and although the Jewish leaders were there to spy on him and take it all in, they would not have attempted a conflict with Jesus, because they would have been run out of town. Everyone wanted healing and if the Jewish leaders stopped the healing, they would have been seen as evil, not good and the people would have revolted against them. But as soon as Jesus steps into their territory of declaring the forgiveness of sins, the Jewish leaders have ammunition against this man. He was obviously blaspheming.

 

Jesus knew his statement would get him in trouble. Healing the man would have been the easier way out. But as we know, Jesus didn’t come to earth to take the easy path, Jesus’ path to the cross is troublesome and painful.

 

I also want to focus on the words Jesus uses, “the Son of Man” ,  many commentators agree these words would have been a direct correlation to the “son of man” Daniel used in Daniel 7:13-14, who likewise was empowered with God’s authority. The Jewish leaders would have picked up on this reverence right away, and the correlation would have made them even more indignant and given them more proof of their declaration of Jesus blaspheming.

 

Well, the faith of the four friends is fulfilled, as soon as Jesus commands the paralytic to get up, pick up his mat, and go home, that is exactly what he does.

 

Did you notice that Jesus changed the command that he actually gave the paralytic?

 

In verse 9, when he is debating which is easier, Jesus uses the phrase, “rise up, take your mat, and walk” but when he actually speaks to the paralytic he says,

“Rise up, take your mat, and go to your home”.
 

Jesus is always in the business of building and restoring relationships. Jesus did not say, “Rise up, take your mat, and follow me.” He sent the paralytic home. We don’t know what home was like before the paralytic was brought to Jesus, but we do know home life was going to be very different after he was healed.  

 
Then we read,
“This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying,
‘We have never seen anything like this!”
 

I imagine not. If we review what occurred, we can’t help but be amazed as well. And yet, for the people who witnessed this event, Mark records their amazement is associated with Jesus’ authority. Jesus seems to have authority over unclean spirits, over sin and disease. Jesus is demonstrating more than just healing the sick, and will continue to do more and continue to surprise people all the way until the empty tomb.

 

Where is Jesus’ authority for us today? Have you given it much thought? We are on the other side of this story. We know the ending, and hopefully we believe. Yet, where does that belief leave us? I think we could be in one of three places and I am going to take the parabolic approach to explain them.

 
Maybe you are being asked to, “Take your mat”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Number One:
 

Maybe you are being asked to “Take your mat, over to a friend and help them out.”Maybe you are like one of the four friends. You have faith and you have a friend who needs a mat. Maybe God is calling you to “Take your mat” over to a friend, who needs help and lift them up. Maybe they need a physical hand or maybe they need a spiritual hand, or maybe they just need a friend’s mat to lie on for a while and feel loved. The four friends in our story were the legs for their friend. Maybe you know someone who could use your legs, your arms, your car, whatever. The paralytic in this story would have never met Jesus without the help from a few good friends.

 
Or
 
Maybe you are being asked to, “Take your mat, and lie down.”
 

This is the hardest one for me, and I suspect there are many of you who may find this difficult as well. You see, the Yankee spirit I was brought up with went something like this.

 
“You can tough it out, don’t be weak.”

“Pull yourself up by your boot straps and take care of yourself.”

“Asking for help means you have failed.”

“Shame on you for needing help, now looked who you have bothered.”

These are incorrect messages that New Englanders have been preaching since the Puritans.  I think it has something to do with the harsh winters and most of all Yankee Pride. It is said, “Pride is the mother of the vices.”

 

I also think it relates directly to the same misunderstanding the Jewish leaders had with the paralytic. Somehow we have associated the need for help, with sin. The Jewish leaders believed the state of paralysis for the man in the story was due to someone’s sin, either his or his parents. We believe that if we are in need of other’s help we have sinned, or failed and aren’t worthy. Jesus came to share the truth. The truth is, there will be times when we can’t do it on our own. We are not supposed to be expected to do everything on our own. We are not islands. We are the body of Christ. There are times when parts of the body are hurting and the other parts are called to take the load. We live in a fallen world and bad things happen to good people. So if you are in a place today where you can say, “I can’t do it” maybe God is telling you to “Take your mat and lie down.” Let others help you for a while, it’s okay.

 
Or, thirdly,
 
 
 
 

Maybe you are being asked to “Take your mat, realize your sins are forgiven. So, get up, take your mat, go home, and stop being paralyzed.” Let’s face it, it would have been easier for the paralyzed man in this story to stay paralyzed. He didn’t have to do anything. People got his food for him, people brought what he needed to him. He just had to lie around and be. It may have been easier but it wasn’t as fulfilling. Maybe you are in a place where you have been stuck, stagnant, unable to move? You know you should be doing something else, but it is easier to stay where you are and do nothing. What is the mat you are living on? Your comfortable place to stay? What is it going to take for you to get off your mat and carry it and go?

 

I can’t answer these questions personally for each of you, but I can give you a collective answer.

 

It takes faith, for all three of these scenarios. The type of faith Jesus described in this passage, the type of faith needed to overcome obstacles.

 
The definition of faith, as found in Hebrews 11 is:

“Being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” 

 
 
 

It takes faith to take your mat to a friend and offer help. By doing so, you hope to help the friend and even though you may have an idea of what your friend may need, most of the time what we see is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s what we don’t see that is really the problem.

 

It takes faith to take your mat and lie down. To recognize you are unable to fix something and trust that God will help, you trust there will be someone to assist you, especially if you can’t see anyone around willing to do so.

 

It also takes faith to realize your sins are forgiven and you are able to get up off your mat, carry your mat, and stop being paralyzed. Most of the time we are unable to move because we are afraid of what may happen if we do. At least we know what it is like to stay put. Faith says we hope for something better. Maybe you need to hope and trust in what you can’t see, you need to act on your faith.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Let’s pray….
 
Dear God,

We know you have authority on earth, as it is in heaven. I pray that each person here today stops to think of where your authority fits into their life. I also pray that you speak to each of us, personally, and reveal to us what we should be doing with the mats we have. I pray that we not walk out of here today, paralyzed but that we walk out amazed, that You are able to meet us wherever we are and remain in relationship with us, for eternity. We thank you and praise you. Amen.