Don’t Get Crowded Out

09 Nov

I admire people with determination and drive. I am challenged by leaders who demonstrate focus and persistence to reach their goals. I am encouraged by those who do not let obstacles stand in the way of accomplishing great things.

David_LivingstoneDr. David Livingstone (1813-1873) was a pioneer medical missionary. He was an explorer in Africa. When he expressed his desire to take the gospel to Africa, he stated, “Cannot the love of Christ carry the missionary where the slave-trade carries the trader? I shall open up a path to the interior or perish.” On another occasion, he said, “I am prepared to go anywhere, provided it be forward.”

My favorite Livingstone quote is when he was asked by his missionary society if there was a good road to his location so that they could send workers to join him. Livingstone replied, “If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.”

Dr. Livingstone followed in the determined steps of the four men who tore up a roof in order to bring a paralyzed friend into Jesus’ presence (Mark 2:1-12). They were of the strong opinion that since Jesus can forgive and heal, they should not let any obstacle deter them from bringing their needy friend to Jesus.

On this occasion, the crowds gather to hear Jesus preach. It was another standing-room-only gathering. As the people are hanging onto Jesus’ every word, they notice dust and debris starting to fall from the ceiling. Soon it is followed by dirt and thatch raining down. Shortly afterwards, sunlight streams through a bed-sized hole in the roof. A bed is then lowered into the gathering by four energetic, smiling faces. Laying on the bed is a paralyzed man.

In the gospel of Mark, the crowds listen to Jesus and are the object of his compassion. However, the crowds never turn to Jesus in repentance and belief, as the gospel requires. As this account expresses, what crowds do best is make it difficult for others to come to Jesus (1-2). In contrast, disciples stop at nothing to bring someone to Jesus (3-4).









Express doubt

Demonstrate faith

Focus on maintenance

Focus on ministry

Act cautious and conservative

Act risky, reckless, and in a costly manner

Create obstacles that keep people from Jesus

Remove obstacles to bring people to Jesus

3_16_jesus_paralyticAs Mark continues the story (5-12), these men brought their needy friend to the right place. Jesus has the authority to forgive and heal.

While all illnesses are not the consequences of sin, there are times when the illness is the result of sin. Based on Jesus’ comments, this is one of those occasions. Jesus begins by forgiving the man’s sin before he heals his paralysis. In so doing, Jesus meets him right at his point of need, both physical and spiritual.

Some make the misguided statement that Jesus never claimed to be God. The scribes who were present knew exactly what Jesus was claiming when they said, “Who can forgive sins but God alone? (7)” If Jesus was not speaking the truth, then his words were blasphemy!

Based on his previous miracles, the four men who carried the paralytic believed that Jesus could heal a man of physical paralysis. The unspoken question that hung in the air was this, Could he heal the scribes of spiritual paralysis? Jesus wanted to scribes to know firsthand the authority by which he forgives sins (9-12). He followed his statement of forgiveness with the command, “Pick up your bed, and go home.”

Can you imagine the electricity in the air as people watched the man stretch out his legs, put his weight on his feet, place his bed on his shoulder, and stride out the room? Like everyone present that day, you would have to conclude that Jesus healed AND forgave the paralyzed man. The miracle was proof positive that Jesus had the authority he claimed to possess.

Since Jesus is able to forgive and heal, we should stop at nothing to bring people to him.

Have you asked Jesus to forgive your sins? Heal your hurts? Meet your physical and spiritual needs?

Who can you bring to Jesus? Are there any unnecessary barriers that keep people from coming to Jesus that you can remove? Can you ask God to help you see people’s needs? Could you do a prayer walk in your neighborhood where you pray for the spiritual condition of your neighbors and community? Could you host a birthday party for Jesus and invite the children who live in your cul-de-sac? Can you tell a friend how Jesus answers your prayers?

Since Jesus is able to forgive and heal, we should stop at nothing to bring people to him.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 9, 2014. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.


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