“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:1-5 NIV
Frederick Buechner once wrote:
Faith is better understood as a verb than as a noun, as a process than as a possession. It is on-again-off-again rather than once-and-for-all. Faith is not being sure where you’re going, but going anyway.
This is a passage that has always fascinated me. We have a group led by four carrying a paralytic. We don’t know their story or even their names, and yet, they have been immortalized in Scripture. We have two other groups immortalized for different reasons, and I want to take a moment to describe each and ask you to reflect on which group you and your class has more in common with.
The first group simply watched things happen. All of us have been there at one point in our lives. It is usually a time when we are facing a crisis, and we are looking for God to be a refuge and strength for us. We may be oblivious to the needs of others. Such is the case in this passage as the four bring the paralytic. They are insensitive to the paralytic, because they are in the middle of facing their own crisis or simply waiting to see what Jesus will say or do.
In our busy lives, it is easy for us to go through the motions and miss the needs around us. (For a wakeup call, go see Godtube’s video, “Get Service.”) As a Christian we are called to live out of the Great Commission, and as we go to make disciples. Do we take this seriously? How can we take off the blinders in our self-centered lives and move to how God sees humanity and need? At least they went to the right place and were amazed at what God did (unlike the second group.)
The second group is worried about what will happen. In a time when church attendance, giving and serving is waning in North America, if you are a key leader, it is easy to fall in this trap. We are interested in numbers, nickels and noses as Findley Edge once put it, and we are missing the real focus. The religious leaders in Mark 2 were so focused on orthodoxy that they missed the Messiah right in front of them! They were claiming blasphemy because only God could forgive sins, and they missed the Son of God. To make his point, Jesus healed the paralytic to show he had the power to forgive sins. The religious leaders saw faith as a possession rather than a process.
Before you think we don’t have this attitude, have you ever said, “We haven’t done it that way before.” Tradition is important to know, but not suppose to be a lens for future events. The Spirit wants to do a new thing. Can we not perceive it? (Look at Isaiah 43:19.) Are you looking at the past and what God did, or anticipating God to do a new thing? We have to return to the roots of Sunday School and see that we are to be missional in nature. Sunday School was a missionary endeavor. We need to think beyond Sunday morning and inside the church walls to reach people for Christ.
The third group (squarely focused on Jesus) made things happen. They saw faith as a verb. They didn’t allow the crowd to prevent them from getting the paralytic to Jesus. They weren’t worried about the religious leaders. They would do whatever it takes to get this person to Jesus, no matter the cost. (They would have to pay for the roof.) Faith is about following Christ and finding ways to reach the unchurched. What is your class willing to do? Are you willing to start a new class outside of Sunday morning? (Keep in mind that at least 20% of the population works on Sunday.) Are you willing to pay a little more to start a community project to reach people for Christ? Keep in mind the rewards. Jesus saw their faith and forgave the paralytic. Do you see the power of faith as a verb and a process? Go and do likewise!