Risky Faith

Do you like to be the center of attention? I know several people who do; whether it’s due to an outgoing personality, a natural bent for leadership, or an innate need to aggravate and tease. When it’s on our own terms, we may choose to be in the limelight, but none of us like to have all eyes fastened on us at a time when we feel demeaned or embarrassed. The only thing that would make us risk humiliation is desperation – a conviction that the path to what we need is the only option, even if it humbles us.

In Mark 2, we find the story of the paralyzed man and his four brave friends who sought out Jesus in an unusual way. Jesus had returned to Capernaum and was staying in a house. Word got out … the Teacher who can heal is in town! A crowd gathered to hear Him speak, filling the house to standing room only. Another person could not have squeezed inside.

A paralyzed man hears about Jesus. We can assume he had tried every doctor, every prescription, every well-meaning neighbor’s advice, but to no avail. He remained unable to walk. We don’t know if he asked them, or if his friends approached him first, but the five of them decide Jesus is the answer. Unfortunately, when they arrive, bearing the man on a pallet, the crowd is unwilling to part to allow them entrance. Undeterred, they make their way to the roof, remove the ceiling tiles, and lower the man down, right in front of Jesus…and in front of the shocked crowd. I imagine Jesus locked eyes with the man as soon as he made his entrance, compassion on Jesus’ face, and hopeful anticipation on the man’s face. I can also picture his four friends peering down to the filled room from the opened ceiling!

Jesus sees their faith. Whose faith? The man’s faith, certainly, to risk humiliation to arrive in such a manner, exposing his need to the crowd. But also, his friends’ faith, who were willing to do whatever it took to bring the man to Jesus. Jesus speaks five simple words, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

This is a strange turn of events. He came for physical healing, but Jesus addresses the underlying spiritual problem – sin. Based on Jesus’ interaction with the man born blind (John 9), I don’t believe Jesus was saying the man had committed a particular sin that caused him to go lame; rather, the presence of sin in the man’s heart – his lost, unredeemed spiritual condition inherited from Adam was the problem. Sin is the root of all our problems – pain, suffering, illness, and death. The wages of sin is death (Romans 3:23). Jesus knew that physical healing would help the man in this life only, but spiritual healing was for eternity.

The Pharisees were outraged, of course, and rightly so, for as they said, Who can forgive sins but God alone? (2:7). Jesus knew their thoughts. He challenges them, asking if it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Pick up your pallet and walk?” To prove His authority to do the first, He does the second. He heals the man, who immediately gets up and walks out in the sight of everyone. The response of the crowd? They were all amazed and were glorifying God (2:12).

Jesus performed miracles of healing during His earthly ministry to prove to all that He is indeed God, able to forgive sins. Why doesn’t He heal all the time now? He has nothing to prove. Physical healing is for this life only, and in His finished work on the cross, He has made possible spiritual healing – the forgiveness of the sins of the world – that will last for eternity.

Jesus’ final “proof” miracle was His resurrection. No more evidence is needed. The testimony of the gospel writers, the Old Testament prophets, and the New Testament apostles bear out the witness of both Jesus’ healing miracles and His resurrection. Nothing else is needed, except our faith to believe.

As we grow closer and closer to the end of the age, those who claim allegiance to Jesus are going to stand out. If we are blending in so as to be unseen, we might need to examine our faith. Three questions to ponder.

* If your faith requires you to be “the center of attention,” i.e. for others to look at you and make a judgment because you claim faith in Jesus, are you willing to be humbled, so that God gets the glory?

* Are you prepared to risk unwanted attention or humiliation in the world’s eyes to access the spiritual healing Jesus offers for your sin-condition?

* And if you’ve already experienced the power of Jesus in your own life, are you willing to be a good friend and bring others to Him, even if it costs you your reputation and your dignity?

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