Things are super weird. Not all bad, but certainly all weird. I miss that. A couple of months ago, our Kingdom Kids classrooms were filled and we were able to sing together. And now the auditorium is mostly empty. It’s just been a long time since we’ve been together. I miss having people respond to… See more
Things are super weird. Not all bad, but certainly all weird. I miss that. A couple of months ago, our Kingdom Kids classrooms were filled and we were able to sing together. And now the auditorium is mostly empty. It’s just been a long time since we’ve been together. I miss having people respond to the lessons, kindly chuckling at my not so funny jokes. I miss hearing people say ‘amen’ in the middle of a sermon. I miss being able to see you and to speak to you to hear what’s going on in your life. I miss that our hallways were filled with people fellowshipping, having deep discussions, or praying with one another. I miss seeing people in classrooms studying the Bible with one another. I miss being together. I miss the hugs. I miss the laughs. I miss remembering the Lord’s Supper in quiet contemplation.
Things are just not normal.
There’s a phrase I’ve been saying a lot, and I don’t know if you’ve been saying it, if you caught yourself saying it, but there’s this phrase, I’ve been saying a line.
And it’s this phrase here: I cannot wait for things to get back to normal.
Hearing this idea everywhere, and honestly, it’s because we’re ready for some normalcy. I’m ready for some normalcy in our schedule and I’m ready not to have to wear a mask. I’m ready to just watch live sports again. I’m ready to get a haircut. I look like I’m from the 20s. I’m ready to not have to be worried about people being sick or the stock market crashing or losing loved ones.
I know not all of these things are on equal footing, but I’m just ready for things to be back to normal. And because things have been so strange, I find myself just longing and saying this phrase over and over and over again. I cannot wait for things to get back to normal.
You know what I’ve realized? That how much of what I want normal is stuff that I’m kind of being forced to live without. You don’t really realize how much you want normal until you’re forced to live without it. I journal a lot of my prayers and I’m pretty consistent in my journaling of prayers. And what I found is that that I’ve seen the same consistent themes, pretty much every single one of my prayers. Everything I’m praying for falls into these categories. The first one is health. I’m praying a lot about health; the health of the members in our church, the health of our healthcare professionals, the health in the area, to find a vaccine and some treatments for this virus. I’ve been praying a lot for this.
Next thing, too, for finances. Praying a lot for finances; for the finances of our church, for the finances of the people in our congregation who don’t have jobs or people on the verge of retirement who lost a lot of their savings. I’ve been praying a lot about these things. I’ve been praying a lot about relationships that this time somehow, even though we are drawn apart, that somehow God would bring us together.
And the last thing I found myself praying a lot about in my journals is comfort. And I don’t know about you, but it’s just the normal comforts of life. I can’t wait to get a haircut. I’d like to go on vacation. I’d love for school to be open so I don’t have to be with my children nonstop, even though I love them so much. These, I guess, are our normal needs. This is what all of us, I believe, want to be stabilized in order to get back to normal. These are our pressing needs. And the more that normal fades, the clearer it becomes.
I mean, I get on my knees pretty much constantly and beg God for these stuff, take care of my loved ones, you know, take care of my health and my finances and my relationship. And it gives me an opportunity to have some some comfort. God, allow me to have more connections and connections I’ve never had before. The quarantine has certainly shined a light on the idea that these are our pressing needs right now.
Let’s see, there is a principle in scripture that over the next few weeks, I’d like for us to explore.
Over the next few weeks, we’re going to look at some of Jesus’s encounters with people, encounters where Jesus collides into people’s everyday, normal life. And he turns it on its head. And what we will discover is that what Jesus did in those moments for those people, I believe can potentially happen to all of us in this moment in time. As He speaks into their experience, as He speaks into their normal, as He attempts to reshape it by giving them a choice and by giving all of us a choice, we can either embrace what is often a very comfortable truth or a comfortable existence, or we can decide instead to embrace a very uncomfortable truth and an uncomfortable existence, a truth that will cause us to live differently, to think differently. A truth that will potentially cause us to re-prioritize the entirety of our life. We can either embrace that truth, the truth that God gives us and live in the light of what will become our new normal or we can continue to live in the reality of the way our lives have always been.
The whole point of this series, this New Normal series, is for us to study the encounters with Jesus that shaped people’s new normal. And by doing so, we should allow ourselves and our circumstances to have the same encounter with Christ. So He would build in our hearts and minds a new normal. And this is what we’re going to discover, that maybe the things we are looking forward to should not be the things that we left behind. Maybe normal was never intended to be a place that we were before.
Today, we’re gonna study an encounter with Jesus. It’s one of the most familiar stories in the Bible. It’s Jesus’s encounter with a paralyzed man. Turn to Mark chapter 2. That’s the story we’re goign to look. There is the blinding, uncomfortable truth in this text.
And I’m gonna just tell you right from the front is this, that oftentimes, our felt needs is not our deepest need. And sometimes our pressing needs is not our primary need. Oftentimes the thing we want the most is not the thing we need the most.
This is what we’re gonna to discover in Mark, Chapter two.
I’m gonna set up a little bit the context. Jesus has just launched his ministry. He’s done a bunch of miracles. He’s done some healings. He’s given some tremendous speeches. People are so intrigued by Him. In this particular story, what happens is Jesus goes back to His hometown in Galilee and in a town that is a little bit north of His of the place where He really was raised in Nazareth. It’s a place called Capernaum. And the story says that He goes to a home to teach.
And when He gets to the home, the whole town has come to the house. The house is still filled, in fact, that it’s standing room only.
Even the doors and the windows have crowds around him and everyone is intently listening to Jesus. And this is where the story begins.
This is Mark, chapter two, starting verse one says, “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers. There was no room left, not even outside the doors. And he preach the word to them. Some some men came bringing to him a paralyzed man carried by four of them.”
We don’t know a lot about this paralyzed man, but we can make some assumptions right from the beginning. This man has some able body friends. We see that he’s carried by four people. And so we can assume that he was recently paralyzed. The reason we can assume he was recently paralyzed is because in that day, if his disability was from birth, he would have been seen kind of as a cultural outsider. He would have been seen kind of as an outcast. It’s if you were an invalid from birth, you would have been almost seen as less than human. But someone who has recently injured themselves would probably have had some able bodied friends. And so we see that he was carried by his four friends. But either way, whether it was from birth or recently, we know this one idea that this guy is trying to get back to normal.
He wants to go back. He wants to be like everybody else. He longs for some normalcy to walk again, to work again, to be normal.
Verse four, “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowds, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was laying on.”
Can you just imagine this picture? There’s all these people, maybe there’s hundreds, maybe there’s thousands of people. The whole town has come to hear Jesus. And so here these four guys, they hear that this miracle worker is coming into town. So they run over their friend’s house. They ask and they say, ‘Hey, come, there’s a miracle worker in town.’ So they put him on a stretcher and they tell their friend, Jesus is in town.
‘He’s a miracle worker. He’s going to get your life back. He could bring you back to normal. You won’t have to lay on this mat for the rest of your life.’
So they show up, but they show up to this whole setting very, very late. It’s like Black Friday, you know, but they show up at midnight. And people have been lining up since 2:00 p.m..
They’re late. They’re like really, really, really late. And so when they showed there’s nowhere for them to go. They’re disappointed. How do you even get close to Jesus? So one of the friends, I imagine, has an idea.
‘Let’s go on the roof.’ Let me tell you a little about the houses that were made in those days. One story, homes, large center rooms, flat roof, external staircases. So the friends would be able to have gone through the external staircase and then they would have gotten onto the roof and the roof would have been made of these beams. And in between the beams, there would have been wood sticks. This thing called thatch, which is like modern straw mixed together. And on top of all that stuff, there would have been tiles. That’s the roof.
That’s why it says they had to dig through the roof because they would have to remove the tile and then just start digging. And so the friends are on the roof. Jesus is teaching inside the house. Everyone is super quiet. And then suddenly they begin to hear scratching noises inside the house.
And no one knows where it’s coming from. Maybe it’s some mice or something. They look up. But the lesson continues and the scratching becomes pounding.
And then all of a sudden, they can hear voices that are on top of the roof and everyone looking up.
And as they look up there they see a break in the roof, light is shining through their ceiling and there’s stuff kind of fluttering down on Jesus.
Maybe it gets into his beard, gets into his hair. The branches and the sticks in the mud are all falling down on the ground. And the sermon at this point is obviously over and everybody’s looking up and the hole is getting bigger and bigger and all of a sudden they see faces peering down. And Jesus looks up.
And I can just imagine Jesus, he just starts chuckling. What is going? He knows what’s going on and everyone is wondering what is going on? Everyone’s pulling junk out of their hair and out of their beards.
And the homeowner is outside screaming, trying to figure out what’s happening. And the hole continues to get bigger and bigger and bigger and bigger.
Now it’s like a sun roof. And then something clouds the sun. And down comes this mat. And there’s a paralyzed man on top of the mat.
And Matthew, it says that the paralyzed man is lowered right in front of Jesus.
The roof is open. There is the man lay on a mat in front of Jesus. The Bible doesn’t tell us what happens at that point, but I imagine that Jesus smiles as he looks at this guy and everyone’s wondering, what in the world does Jesus going to say?
The roof is ruined. You have the four guys peering down from the roof giving thumbs up to their friend. And here’s this guy who can’t move.
And all he wants. All he wants is to go back to normal. All he wants is to be normal again.
In my imagination, his lip is fluttering, he’s afraid. As he was looking at Jesus’ face, as he sees these crowds of people who are strangers to him staring at him. He sees his friends. Everybody in the whole room knows exactly why that guy is there. He’s not there to hear a sermon. He’s not there because he needs some teachings. He’s there for one reason. This is his desperate moment for healing, his desperate prayer for care. His desperate prayer for God to take care of his need to heal his brokenness. This is his one shot at it. And in that moment, where the need seems so obvious and when the answer seems so evident and when the next step seems like it’s just so clear, in that moment, Jesus takes an opportunity to shine a penetrating light of truth that is as needed.
I believe in that moment as it was in this moment, the light that He shined in that moment is as needed in this moment as it was in that moment. And it was in that moment Jesus did something that we wouldn’t deem normal.
What Jesus does was he puts this man’s desire for normal and his prayers to get back to normal and his needs to get back to normal and his concerns about being normal, instead of just dealing with them head on, He stretches us and makes us see beyond the immediate and towards the eternal.
Verse five. “When Jesus saw their faith.”
He realizes very clearly that these men had gone to such extraordinary life, so Jesus saw their faith, and continues, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son.” This is such a kind word in the Greek, son. It’s a tender word. It connotes this idea of a little child.
“Son, you’ve done all this to get to me. You’ve done all this to be before me, son. Your sins are forgiven.”
Now, you’re the guy on the mat. You’re like, ‘Wait, what? Thank you. But my sins are forgiven?’
Why did he come? He didn’t come for his sins to be forgiven. He came for a healing. He came to get back to normal. He came to have his life restored to what it once was. His prayer was that he would be able to walk again and we’ll get back to this guy in a second.
But Luke’s account adds kind of another detail and Luke chpater 5, verse 17, it says that the Pharisees were sitting there. So not only do you have the crowd and the man who wants to be healed, but you have all of these Pharisees and it says this in verse 6, “Now, some teachers of the law were sitting there thinking to themselves, why does this fellow talk like that?”
The man came for a miracle. Jesus says your sins are forgiven. These guys are like, ‘why does he speak like that?’.
“He’s blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone.” The religious leaders knew what it took to be forgiven of sins.
That getting your sins forgiven was costly and it was complicated. It was expensive. First of all, if you wanted your sins forgiven, you can’t just say to somebody your sins are forgiven. You need to do is to buy an animal, a spotless lamb. If you didn’t have money for a lamb, you could buy a pigeon. By the way, to buy an animal and you have to go to the temple. If you didn’t live by the temple, you would have to pack up your belongings and take a journey to the temple. And there you would get to the temple and then you would wait in a really long line because you weren’t the only person that sinned. So there was only a handful of experts who could facilitate the forgiveness of sins.
Then you would wait and you would wait. And you would wait. And you would wait. And you would wait. And you wait. You would wait. And you would wait.
And then after waiting, waiting, waiting and jumping through some other hoops, you’d finally get your turn to be in front of the priest and his white robe, the one that he started the day with, would be crimson stained, bloodied from all the sacrifices he had made throughout the day. A brutal display of the impact of sin.
What would happen is that the priest would take the animal you brought, he would slit the animal’s throat. He would fill the blood that tore from the animal’s throat to fill a bowl. He would dip his fingers in it. He would sprinkle it on the altar. And then you would watch as your sin got for it the penalty: a loss of life is the consequence of your sin.
It would be gross and it would be bloody. And then he would turn to you after brutally murdering this animal and he would say to you, ‘your sins are forgiven.’ But it’s only temporary because when you sinned again, you would have to buy yourself another animal and go through the same steps again. The idea was that the normal way of forgiveness is costly and complicated.
So, the teachers of the law understood this. Who is this guy standing there and saying, ‘you are forgiven?’ You can’t just announce to a stranger that you don’t know anything about, that you’re forgiven? It’s more complicated than that. See, we’ve got one man trying to get back to normal. You have another group of people trying to keep their normal. And Jesus is just brilliant because He set this whole encounter up. He has everybody’s undivided attention. Can you even feel the drama in the room?
A man was lowered from the roof. He says your sins are forgiven and no one’s very excited about the sins that are forgiven. But the one group of people that gets it, is so legalistic, they can’t even see beyond their own experience.
Verse eight, “Immediately, Jesus knew in their spirit that this was what they were thinking. And he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things?'”
He looks right at the religious leaders. He says, I know exactly what you’re thinking. Why are you thinking these things?
Verse nine, “Which is easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk.'”
This is the first time in the story that that he mentioned that he knows exactly why this guy came. He knows. Jesus is not out of touch with this man’s physical needs. He’s not out of touch with what this guy really is looking for. He knows why he did what he did. Why all the friends did what they did. He knows that. He knows the pain of this man. He felt his needs. He understands that this is his felt need, that it is urgent need, that it’s a pressing need. He knows how badly this man wants to get back to normal. But Jesus in that moment gives this man an opportunity to move into a better normal because it gives them an eternal future.
And here’s what’s crazy to me. “You are forgiven.” That’s the line Jesus says. It doesn’t seem to impress anybody. Nobody celebrates the fact. He says “you are forgiven” and everybody seems a little bit disappointed.
“Which is easier to say ‘that you’re forgiven,’ or ‘pick up your mat and walk?'”
This is Jesus setting up this principle, this principle that his pressing need is not his primary need. That what was urgent to him is not actually what’s most important to him, that this felt need is not really what his deepest need is and what he wants the most isn’t really what he needs the most.
Now, I’m in the same boat as the crowd. Sometimes I’m in the same boat as the religious leaders. Because I’m disappointed when God doesn’t meet my felt needs. When He doesn’t heal when I ask Him to heal. Provide, when I ask him to provide. When He feels absent in a world of injustice.
Just look at my list: health, finances, relationship, comforts. This is what has filled my prayer journals. You know what never shows up on this list, if I’m really honest? If I’m really honest, forgiveness never makes it on the list.
This is not urgent to me. This is not a felt need. This is not considered as a primary need, and that’s Jesus’s point in this little story.
He has everybody’s attention. This guy is just trying to get back to normal. He wants health just like all of us. He wants to get back to work. He wants some wealth. He wants to get married. He wants some relationships, and then maybe he’ll get all the human comforts that come with all those wonderful blessing. And that’s all this guy wants. He wants to get back to normal. Do you know why?
Getting back to normal and having Jesus meet these felt needs is so important to us. And I’m just being honest. The reason it’s so important to us is because we don’t see as God sees.
I know that’s obvious, but it’s true. We don’t realize that all of those things, health and wealth and relationships and comfort, all kind of fall down, and honestly, it doesn’t even matter if they fall down. That if we get back to normal, which means we have health, wealth, and all those things that it doesn’t matter, then it doesn’t matter because because what actually matters in life, what actually matters in life is forgiveness.
See forgiveness matters. Forgiveness matters. Brothers and sisters, forgiveness is something we should be shouting from the rooftops when we lose our job. We should be OK because we are saved, because we’ve been forgiving of our sins. Forgiveness is the miracle that we should be seeking.
The fact that we could be accepted by a holy God, though we are stained with blood, should be the thing we celebrate more than anything in the world. I’m forgiven. I’ve been forgiven. And maybe look you, yawn at this thought.
‘Look, it’s hard to think that I’m forgiven when I lost my job.’ Maybe you scoff at it and it’s hard for me to think about the fact that I’m forgiven when people around me are suffering. Maybe this thought is a secondary thing because you think, ‘wow, there’s so much injustice in this world.’.
But see, what’s the message? I wonder what’s the message as COVID-19 has collided with the American Dream. What’s the message as death and despair has begun to reproach ties, our dreams of prosperity? What’s the message as fear has ravaged our soul? What’s the message as our normal has been toppled?
I believe that the message is that what matters the most is salvation. What matters the most is forgiveness. What matters the most is justification. What matters the most is being accepted by God, not on the basis of what we’ve done, but on the basis of who He is. What matters the most is not that we’ve lost so much. What matters the most is that we have an opportunity to be given everything in eternity because God was willing to give us salvation and forgiveness. We can have Him eternally.
But until we see, as God sees the matter, if you’re Christian or you’re not, salvation won’t even make the list. Because it doesn’t feel very urgent. Salvation is for them. Forgiveness is for the end of my life. It doesn’t feel like it’s the moment, the thing of our highest need.
This just doesn’t seem to be all that important when you lose your jobs or your relatives are sick or you feel lonely. Doesn’t seem to be all that important when we feel like we can’t get back to the normal comforts of life. But all the other needs and all those other things just kind of trump us, trump our thinking and dominate our lives.
But, you know, I think that that all the dysfunctions in life and all of our wants that go ungiven, all those things are left in the world and left in your life to ultimately drive you to seek the one thing that actually matters. Forgiveness. A connection with a Heavenly Father, with a Savior. Forgiveness. You are given an opportunity by Jesus to have everything that stands between you and Him removed forever so you can have a connection with Him, not simply in this life, but forever. And so Jesus, with everybody’s undivided attention, makes this tremendous statement as He winds down the story.
“But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins. So he said to the man, ‘I tell you. Get up. Take your mat and go home.'”
I want you to know that I have authority to remove sin. So I’m going to show you that I have the authority to remove the consequence of sin. Because as we learn in the scriptures, the consequence of sin is death. The consequence of sin is sickness, it’s poverty, and it’s injustice. I’m not saying individuals sin and that’s why they get sick.
I’m saying that sin came into the world as a consequence of our sin. That’s what Genesis 1, 2, and 3 is all about. To show, though, Jesus has authority to deal with the eternal consequences of sin. Jesus decides that he would remove one of the physical consequences of sin so that you will know that these aren’t simply words.
“I forgive you, but they have authority.” The Bible tells us that when sin entered the world, death and disease and all that stuff were brought with it. They came on the coattails again, that’s Genesis 1, 2 and 3. So if someone says to you, ‘I can forgive your sins,’ then they better be able to demonstrate that they have the authority to remove the consequence of sin.
See, the reason Jesus healed people physically was to demonstrate that He had the authority to heal them spiritually.
This is so important because this idea of healing people physically is a secondary issue. This is the primary issue. The fact that Jesus could heal us forever
Lazarus was healed and then he died. It was all temporary. Jesus didn’t heal people, so they can live forever. There’s not like people who have been living for two thousand years still walking around. He didn’t heal them to show that He could heal, rather, he made them well so that he could show all of us that he could make all of us well. It was temporary evidence that he had eternal authority. Don’t miss this.
Jesus has the authority to solve man’s ultimate problem. Verse 12, “The man got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have neer seen anything like this!'”
The temporary healing is what amazed everybody. But the eternal salvation, everybody kind of yawned at. They were amazed by temporary provisions, but passive towards eternal salvation. And that’s what normal is in our world. Even in my own life, I’m amazed by temporary provisions. “Thank you, Lord, for the parking lot. For the parking spot.” Kind of yawning at the idea that people could have salvation forever.
We love temporary miracles, and I just wonder what if instead of the old normal we just started putting spiritual things first. I know it seems like such an easy thought.
But what if that was it? What if in the new normal instead of praying for health and wealth and everything else, we began to put spiritual things at the top of our list. We started praying for the salvation of others, for the salvation of our children, for the salvation of our families, and for our enemies. What is we prayed for the salvation of government officials.
What if the reason that God took away our normal was because our normal was getting in the way of the eternal? What if the reason why God took away our most normal things was because it was just getting in the way of what actually matters?
Brothers, sisters, salvation is what matters. Finding rest in Christ is what matters. Getting to an eternal place is what matters. Getting home, having the war finally being over, meeting our Savior face-to-face, winning the race, and finishing forgiveness. And the defining moment comes, the “aha moment” comes, the brand new perspective of all these things happen, when we begin to embrace that the most pressing need is not health, that the most pressing need in our life is actually not wealth or companionship or comfort. But the thing that we need the most in our life is salvation.
That Jesus has the power when we kneel down to Him, as we are lowered by our friends to His face, that each of us can hear the words, “you’re forgiven.”
That should melt our souls. He looks directly in your eyes, “You’re forgiven. You’re saved from this world.”
Given life, that really matters. It’s a promise that’s for you and for your children, for all who are for off. Parents can be saved. Your hope is no longer in this world, health, and wealth and all those things. They come and go. But you have Salvation.
And not based on how good you are, but how good He is. So, instead of celebrating the miracles, instead of celebrating the temporary justice and finding your job and the doctor saying everything’s going to be OK. Well, I mean, again, we can go ahead and celebrate, those things are fine to celebrate.
But at the end of the day, if you see as God sees, even in the worst moments of human existence, you can fall on your knees and say, beyond all of that, beyond all of the suffering I’m going through, Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you. Because I mean, I have a job tomorrow. But does it really matter? Because I’m with God forever.
If all this stuff falls down, I still have you, Lord. My most urgent need was settled. When you looked at me You said I’m forgiven.
Don’t be confused. In this life, you will have health issues and financial issues and you will see injustice. And there will be some complicated issues. And you’re never going to have all the comforts you want. But let me give you some good news: at the top of God’s list for you is forgiveness, His salvation. And look, you can place your faith in Him. You can repent and you can be baptized if you’ve never been.
And you can get what you need the most. And for the rest of your life, God will be able to look at you. He’ll be able to say, “you are saved.” The rest of your life, the urgent need will simply be a reminder of our ultimate need. Our pressing need of today will serve as a reminder of our primary need. And what you find yourself wanting the most will serve as a reminder that you’ve been given exactly what you needed the most.
And there’s a sense in which your Heavenly Father kneels down in the midst of our issues. He kneels down in the midst of our financial problems and our loneliness and our companionship issues and all those issues, He kneels down. And sometimes the beauty is that He gives you a job. He tells you, ‘pick up your mat and walk.’ Yeah, sometimes He deals with a thing in this world. Sometimes he shows up. But really, those are all just kind of cherries on top of the cake.
He’s already dealt with the most important thing here which is salvation. And what a beautiful normal it would be if for the rest of our lives, instead of having as our primary thing what we wanted, instead of having all those other things, all those other facades, holes, other external things, what if instead we decided to put spiritual matters first, to put salvation first?
I don’t want to go back to a normal where I put temporary things first. I want to move forward into a normal where salvation and eternal things is the most important in my life.