What it Takes to Kick a Hole in the Roof

March 8, 2015

This winter we
decided to re-visit Sunday School to bring you some of the New Testament
Stories that those who were brought up in a traditional Sunday School learned
as children.  So we’ve taken to the flannelgraph
to tell you the stories of how Mary and Joseph lost Jesus in Jerusalem when he
was twelve, how Jesus was baptized by his cousin John and how he healed the
blind man and other stories.

This morning we
are looking at one of my favorite Jesus stories.  (Do Flannel Graph Story)
As they moved closer to the crowd their hopes begin to sink,
what they thought would be a fairly simple task had taken on monumental
proportions.  When the suggestion came up
to take their lame friend to Jesus everyone thought it was a great idea, all
they had to do to get their friend to walk was put him on a stretcher carry him
across town and have Jesus touch him. 
But that plan now seemed doomed to failure.  The closer they got to the house where Jesus
was staying the larger the crowd got and they realized that it would be
impossible to break through the wall of people while they were carrying their
friend.  Their efforts were wasted, their
dreams were dashed and their hopes were shattered.
The story actually begins in the first chapter of the book
of Mark.  After Jesus had called Andrew,
Simon Peter, James and John to follow him they made their way to the town of
Capernaum.  
Capernaum operated as Jesus Head Quarters while he
ministered in the Galilee area, and we are told in that while there he stayed
in the home of Peter and Andrew.  In the
first chapter we see Jesus speaking in the Synagogue, casting out unclean
spirits and healing the sick, including Peter’s Mother-in-law.  Then we are told that he left town for a few
days and continued doing the same thing in a different location.  And then he returned to Capernaum, presumably
back to Peter’s house and it was in this home that the story picks up in
chapter 2.
The people have flocked to the house to see the one called
Jesus, the one some called the Messiah. 
There were the sincere, the religious, the sick, the devoted and the
curious, you know the ambulance chaser. 
And there were those who were there to destroy Christ.  That was the only reason they had shown up was
to find fault with what he said.  And all
of these people crowded around the front door of Peter’s home presenting a wall
of flesh that could not be dismissed or penetrated.
And into the story walk four men carrying a paralysed
friend.  We don’t know why he was
paralysed, whether it was from birth or the result of an accident or an illness
or what had happened all we know is that he was paralysed.   And when they got to the house it became
very apparent very quickly that they weren’t going to be able to get their
friend through the mass of people gathered to see Jesus.
Well you know the rest of the story, at least you should we
just told it with the Flannelgraph. 
The four guys heist their friend up to the flat roof of the
house, that must have been some ride, and then they tore a hole in the roof and
lowered their buddy down in front of Jesus. 
Well a little bit of a discussion ensued and then Jesus makes this
incredible statement; he says “My son, your sins are
forgiven.”   Do you remember that
I earlier said that there were those in the crowd who wanted to destroy
Jesus?  This was all they were waiting
for and they started nattering in the corner. 
“Like who does he think he is? Forgiving sins? Only God can forgive
sins, this is blaspheme”
Well Jesus knew what they were saying and he countered with
“What is it easier to do to say, your sins are forgiven or to so pick up your
mat and walk?”  And then he turns to the
guy on the mat and says, “Stand up, take your mat, and go home, because you are
healed.”  That’s the story.
The entire “Your sins are forgiven you” may seem to be a
strange way to respond to someone’s physical ailments but 2000 years ago it was
a natural starting place.  The Jews saw a
direct correlation between sin and suffering. 
You’ll remember that argument from your extensive study of the book of
Job.  Or maybe not.  One of Job’s friends asked the question
 Job 4:7 “Stop and think! Do the innocent die? When have the upright
been destroyed?
The same heresy is around today, just dressed in different
clothes, do good and God will bless you.

We are told that the Rabbis of the day had a saying “There is no sick man healed
of his sickness until all his sins have been forgiven him.”  And the reality is that as important
as it was for the man to have a physical healing it was infinitely more
important that he have a spiritual healing.

And we all say we believe that but why do more people ask for prayer for
their friend’s and relative’s bodies than ask for prayers for their souls?  Just wondering.  That was what is technically referred to as a
tangent, so back to the message.

But who were these four guys?  We don’t know, all the Bible tells us is that
they brought the paralyzed man to Christ. 
It provides no details at all.  It
gives no names, no occupations, no addresses. 
We are left completely in the dark as to their identities.  But even though we don’t know who they were
we do know that they exhibited certain characteristics.  Characteristics that it might not be bad to
emulate. 
1) They Saw a Need When
these men looked at their friend they didn’t see him the way he was, they saw
him the way he could be and should be. 
I’m sure that everyone who saw the man would have recognized the fact
that he couldn’t walk.  But it didn’t
register, they never realized how that affected his life or it was so daunting
that they simply ignored it 
We don’t know how long the man had been paralyzed or how it
had happened.  But we need to realize
that being paralyzed 2000 years ago would have been very different than being
paralyzed today. 
For many of my generation when we think of Superman we think
of Christopher Reeves, and I’m sure that many of you remember when Reeves was
thrown from his horse in 1995 and shattered his first and second vertebra
leaving him a quadriplegic.  And over the
next 9 years before his death in 2004 the world marveled at his courage and
were inspired by his strength. 
But realistically speaking had Reeves’ accident happened
2000 years ago or even 200 years ago he wouldn’t have lived 9 hours let alone 9
years.
Life for the paralyzed man would have been completely
dependent on other people.  They would
have gotten him up in the morning and helped him do all the things we take for
granted when we get up then they would have dressed him and fed him and
transported him where it was he wanted to go. 
And his friends realized that unless something happened that
was what the rest of his life would look like, and they also understood that
unless something happened not only would he live the rest of his life totally
helpless the rest of his life wouldn’t be very long.
What are the needs that you see in your world?  Maybe they are personal, areas where you can
help your friends and family or areas where you need to grow, maybe they are
professional goals and aspirations, and hopefully you see the spiritual needs
of those around you, people that need to meet Jesus. Because until you see a
need it will never progress to a solution. 
Until you see that there can be something better you will never strive
for it.  It is said that Abraham Lincoln shucked corn for three days to buy a
copy of the book “Washington’s Life”
when someone asked him why he replied, “I don’t always
intend to delve, grub, shuck corn, split rails and the like, I am going to be
president.”  Is it true?  Who knows, but it makes a great story, and
until you see a need to improve your life your life will never improve. 
As long as you think that people can find their own way to
God or can earn their salvation you will never be moved to the next step, which
is telling them about Jesus.  Because as
far as you are concerned, there is no need.
I’m sure that there were others in the man’s life who
realized that something had to be done, perhaps they felt sorry for him, and
wished there was something they could do. 
It was George Bernard Shaw who wrote “I hear you say “Why?” Always “Why?” You
see things; and you say “Why?” But I dream things that never were; and I say “Why not?”
Let’s go back to the story, Mark 2:2-4 While he
was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on
a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a
hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat,
right down in front of Jesus.
And it was when the men started to ask “Why Not” that 2) They
Were Moved to Action  
It is so easy
to get stuck in the dream stage, and I love to dream.  One of my philosophies of life is If you
never build castles in the air you will never build anything on the
ground.  This church existed in my head
long before we had our first service on April 9 1995, and I walked through this
building dozens of times before the first tree was cut on this lot. 
The Cooper Brothers were a Canadian Country Rock Band who released
their biggest song in 1978, which happened to be the year I graduated from High
School.  And and the words said “The Dream never dies just the dreamer”,
and I loved that song and still listen to it in my head, does that make me
crazy?   But without action a dream just remains
a dream. 
These guys were determined to see their dreams
fulfilled.  They didn’t just sit around
waiting for it to happen, and when something came between their dream and its
fulfilment, they climbed over it. 
Probably 100 people knew about the paralysed man and felt bad that he
couldn’t walk.  Probably 50 of those
thought about taking him to Jesus and eventually maybe 20 of them might have
actually gotten around to doing anything about it.  But out of all of those how many would have
turned around and gone home when they saw the crowd?  I bet those four guys were the only four who
would have been willing to go to the extremes that they went to for their
friend.
The Bible is filled with men and women who dreamed of the
great things they could do for God, well actually it is filled with the people
who dreamed and then had the stickwithitness to see the dream become
reality.  Those who just dreamed, dreamed
themselves into obscurity.
Abraham had a dream of a new nation under God, Moses had a
dream of freeing his people, Deborah had a dream of delivering her people,
David had a dream of uniting his people, Paul had a dream of a church that
would reach across the world that he knew. 
 And each one of them had more
than a dream they had a determination to see the dream become a reality.  Each of them must have been ridiculed and
mocked but they kept at it.  They must
have come across obstacles and stumbling blocks but they stuck with it.
We can’t wait for our dreams to come to us; we need to go to
our dreams.  And if something stands in
our way, like the crowd stood in the way of these men and their dreams then we
need to go around it, and if we can’t go around then we need to climb over it.  Because to use a baseball analogy, stopping
at third adds no more to the score then striking out. 
There are those of you here today who will dream with me of
someday expanding this building and reaching even more people for Christ, and
you will tell me that you are part of that dream but there will come a day that
the dream will cost you something and you’ll make a decision to step away from
the dream. 
How do I know that? 
Because I’ve been there, done that and got the T-shirt.
Obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off your
goal.  These men had a dream and in order
to see the dream fulfilled they had to get their friend to Jesus and if that
meant climbing a ladder, and digging a hole in the roof of the house where
Jesus was then that is what they were going to do.
What are you willing to do to achieve your dream?  People say that you need to think outside the
box, my question is:  How did you get in
the box in the first place?
3) They Worked Together 
Church, this one’s for you.  I
don’t know how they came to the point that they agreed they should carry their
friend to see Jesus.  Maybe it started
with a discussion and ended with a vote, “All in favour of carrying Fred to see
the carpenter raise your hands.” Or maybe it was the result of one strong
leader who said, “Come on guys grab the other handles of this thing and let’s
get going”  I really don’t know where it
started but I do know that it took the four of them operating together to make
the thing happen.
One of them couldn’t have done it, two of them couldn’t have
done it and while three might have carried the stretcher to the house it’s
doubtful that they could have gotten it onto the roof top without four.
If we are to accomplish everything that God wants for this
church it will only be through the unity of the body, notice I didn’t say
uniformity, they are different. 
Throughout the New Testament, Paul compares the church to a body, made
up of different parts, doing different jobs, but all functioning for the common
good.
We may not ever all agree on everything, we may never cross
our ts and dot our Is the same way but we can agree to put those little
differences aside to fulfil the task set before us. 
Do you remember one of the most important lessons that we
learned from Sesame Street?  That’s
right: Cooperation
Just hours before his death, Christ went to the Father in
prayer and part of that prayer is found in
John 17:23 I am in them and
you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know
that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.  Jesus was telling us that
our unity would be our witness, and you only have to talk to the unchurched for
a few minutes before they start asking why there are so many denominations and
why we seem to be fighting all the time.
Let’s never allow disunity in the body destroy what we are
trying to do in this community.  There
may be times that we don’t do things the way that you think they should be
done.  There may be times that we go in a
different direction then you think we should go.  And I say this, not to be malicious or cocky,
but because I am committed to this church being all that it can be.  If we ever get the place that we aren’t doing
what you think should be done, either co-operate or leave, don’t try to destroy
what we are trying to do here.
We are committed to hearing what people have to say, we are
committed to allowing people to share their views.  But once the body has made a decision don’t
campaign against it, because that reveals a split and the truth is united we
stand and divided we fall.  Jesus asked
the question “Can a house divided against itself stand?”
There is a great story in the Old Testament in the book of
Exodus chapter 17 verses 8-13, the Amalekites attacked the people of Israel at
Rephidim.  Joshua led the battle for the
Israelites  and Moses stood on top of the
hill and watched the battle, listen to what happened at this point. 
Exodus 17:11-13 As long as Moses
held up the staff in his hand, the Israelites had the advantage. But whenever
he dropped his hand, the Amalekites gained the advantage. Moses’ arms soon
became so tired he could no longer hold them up. So Aaron and Hur found a stone
for him to sit on. Then they stood on each side of Moses, holding up his hands.
So his hands held steady until sunset. As a result, Joshua overwhelmed the army
of Amalek in battle.
We are in this together, each one of us with a task to do,
and it’s only as each one of us holds our corner of the stretcher that they job
will get done.
But the thing that tied all of
these elements together was their faith that Jesus could make a
difference.  They had obviously heard
Jesus speak the words Mark 9:23 “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked.
“Anything is possible if a person believes.”
4) They Had the Courage to Believe. 
If they hadn’t believed that Jesus could heal their friend they
would never have suggested the trip.  If
they hadn’t believed that Jesus could heal their friend they would never have
carried the stretcher across town.  If
they hadn’t believed that Jesus could heal their friend they would never have
thought of climbing to the roof.  And if
they hadn’t believed that Jesus could heal their friend they would never have
broken through the roof.  And listen to
why Jesus healed their friend  Mark 2:5 Seeing
their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are
forgiven.”  And then ultimately
further in the story we read Mark 2:10-12 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the
authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and
said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up, grabbed
his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers.   And it all went back to their
faith. 
There are those who say “I need
to see it to believe it” but the reality of faith is that “You need to believe
it to see it.”
When you leave here today you will leave saying well that was
a nice story or you will leave determined to change your world. 
Let me end with Paul’s prayer for the Christians in Rome 2000
years ago.
Romans 15:5 May God, who gives this
patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other,
as is fitting for followers of Christ Jesus.