Don’t Carry It Alone | 07.02.23 | Oh No He Didn’t Pt.1
Have you ever carried something that wasn’t that heavy, but then you’ve been carrying it so long that all of a sudden, it feels super heavy?
For me, this happened when our daughter was born. Emmy came three weeks early, and she was 5 pounds, 15 ounces when she was born.
She was the littlest thing I had ever seen. I was a little worried to hold her, because she was so small and light and seemed like she would float away if I wasn’t careful.
Well, let me tell you, when you’re not used to carrying around a baby, it doesn’t matter how small they are…your muscles feel it!
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I had never lifted my arms like this for so long. My biceps burned. My back burned. My shoulders ached. How could something so small make my body so tired?
Any time anyone came around and asked to hold the baby, I was like YES please take her! I needed help carrying the weight.
And almost 5 years later, I still need help carrying the weight. Two weeks ago, Megan and I were hosting our Life Group at our house. We’re in a group with a handful of other young families, so when we are all able to make it, there are 10 adults and 11 kids between 9 months and 6 years old.
There are a few kids that still like to be carried around, so we help each other carry kids so that we can take turns eating some finger foods and having a moment without a child attached to us.
And Megan and I are super blessed to have some INCREDIBLE people who have become adopted grandparents for our kids, and they usually help us watch the kids in the basement for a bit so that the adults can have some conversation, study, and prayer time.
This most recent gathering had a couple kids who were extra clingy, so we ended up splitting dads and moms. Dads spent the first half upstairs while the moms were down with the kids. Then, the moms said they needed to switch, so we switched to help with the extra clingy kids and carry that burden a bit. And the Fortneys really carried the whole night because they showed up with donuts and crackers for the kids, like the great grandparents that they are.
And it was great, because we were still able to find connection as parents, share about recent challenges and joys, and carry each other in the life stage we are all in.
And today’s Jesus story is going to talk about the importance of carrying others and being carried at different seasons in our life. So let’s open up our Bibles to Mark chapter 2. If you’re using the black seat-back Bible, it’s on page 27 of the New Testament.
Jesus has been beginning his ministry, calling his first followers, and teaching with authority and healing others in powerful ways, and now we get to see how the word has gotten out about him. Let’s read Mark 2:1-12
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Keep those Bibles open because we’re going to investigate the different parts of this story. And I promise you, by the end of this message, you will have learned a Greek word, you will have a new understanding of what “faith” is, and you will find out what God is inviting you to take as your next step. So let’s walk through the passage.
We start with the declaration that when Jesus comes back into Capernaum, where Peter lived, where James and John were from, word gets out. It was REPORTED. It’s NEWS that Jesus is back, and it’s good news.
And so we have many people who come and gather to hear from him, to learn from him, to just be near him. There is a hunger for his words, his presence, his power. And he’s there speaking the WORD to them, teaching them in the same ways that we’ve seen him before, about what life is like when we follow God as our king, rather than the kingdoms of the world, and how we are invited to repent and believe, to hear and do.
Then we have some new characters show up, and they aren’t given names. We don’t know their history, or if they’ve encountered Jesus before. We don’t know the name of the paralyzed man they are carrying, or whether he stayed involved with the followers of Jesus afterwards.
And I’m going to make good on my first promise this morning to teach you a Greek word. The man is described as a paralytic, a paralyzed man. And do you want to know the Greek word for paralytic?
Here it is: paralytikos! That’s right, the greek word for paralytic is paralytikos. Congratulations, you’re multilingual! But what does it mean?
Well the roots of this word are para and luo, which can be translated as “alongside” and “loosen.” It comes from situations when animals are pulling carts, and one side of the cart comes loose. The animal has become unyoked. So now they can’t pull the load as well. They are stuck, because they’ve been disabled at the side, and pulling the broken yoke causes them to be exhausted and lame.
So the word is a metaphor to describe that this guy is experiencing the same thing, he’s been “set loose” on his side, so he can’t walk. That’s why his friends are carrying him to Jesus.
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But they show up and the crowd is blocking the way to Jesus. And I was studying this passage with some other life group leaders, and it was crazy to me how this shows so much about the human condition in the crowd. They are all there for themselves. They want to see Jesus, or hear from Jesus. And when someone is trying to get through that is clearly in need, they don’t part the crowd to make a way.
But the friends don’t give up. They are loyal to their friend. They are committed to him. They don’t have the power or ability to get through the obstacle, but they look for another way because Jesus has ultimate power.
And SOMEHOW they get up on the roof. I have a hard enough time carrying my 4-year-old inside from the car and getting her up into her bed, but these friends got an adult up onto the roof. We don’t know if there was a stairway to a deck, or a ladder to the roof, but they get up there, and start to dig through the thatch and mud to make a way to Jesus.
Like, seriously, the friends were persistent! They were acting so boldly because they knew that getting to Jesus was worth it, because they knew Jesus could be trusted to help.
[SLIDE 8] Mark 2:5
And our text says in verse 5 that when Jesus saw THEIR faith, he turns to the man and says, “son, your sins are forgiven.”
I want to slow this down and camp out in this verse for a little bit, because I think it’s the central point of our message today.
“When Jesus saw their faith…” the word for faith means faithfulness, fidelity, commitment, assurance. It means that you trust something, have confidence in something.
And so it’s the faith/faithfulness of the FRIENDS that prompts Jesus to address the paralytic. It’s the fact that they are ACTING on their loyalty to the paralytic, and they are ACTING on the trust they have in Jesus to be a reliable source for healing.
That’s what faith is. Faith ACTS. Faith isn’t just about thinking something in your head. True faith motivates us to DO something based on our beliefs.
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What if the paralytic chose to just sit on the street corner and said, “I KNOW Jesus can heal me. I believe it. So I’ll wait for it to happen. I’ll just keep SAYING that truth over and over…”
Or what if the friends came to him and said, “Jesus can heal you! You need to believe that in your heart…so…see you next week!” ??????
That’s not faith! That’s not loyalty or commitment or assurance or trust in the reliability of a truth!
Faith ACTS. Belief requires action. Otherwise, it’s not faith — it’s not belief — it’s just thoughts, opinions, bumper sticker platitudes.
No, the faith of the friends is DEMONSTRATED in the fact that they carried their friend to where he could experience healing and restoration. They DEMONSTRATED their faithfulness and loyalty to him by acting on their love for him.
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I think this is something that is absolutely what we see happen in Life Groups. Whether the life group is a parents group like mine where we do some Bible study and some just hanging out and growing as parents together, or whether the life group is a book discussion, or whether the life group watches movies together and chats about what they’re learning…
Life groups are any group of people who are learning together and carrying each other as they point to Jesus. And that is a demonstration of faith. Not just in discussing “correct” beliefs, but in taking what we’re learning and asking, “What is God inviting us to DO about it?”
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And this group of friends are demonstrating THEIR faith, and THAT’S what Jesus notices. The faith of the FRIENDS is what brings the man to where he needs to be for healing, and Jesus turns to the man and says, “son, your sins are forgiven.”
And if you’re like me, you might wonder, “wait, I thought the guy came to get healed of being paralyzed. Why isn’t Jesus healing him? Doesn’t Jesus know everything? I mean, two verses later, Jesus proves that he’s able to read the minds of the scribes, so surely he’s got to understand why the guy’s friends went to all that trouble to bring him to Jesus!”
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And I think we’ll see that Jesus DID actually know exactly what the paralyzed man needed, and Jesus DID give him the healing he came for.
He starts by saying, “Son.” Child. Dear One. It’s the word used for someone you care about deeply. Why would that matter to the paralyzed man? Why is it meaningful to be called “son”?
Well, if we remember that in that day and age, many people assumed that sickness, illness, disease…all these were CAUSED by sin. They assumed that “if God punished you with this awful thing, you must have done something to deserve it.”
Or, if something happened to a child, maybe it was because the PARENTS did something awful that angered God, so he repaid them with the burden and shame of this thing in their family.
And even though Jesus explicitly denies that in his teaching elsewhere, saying that God doesn’t repay sin with tragedy and disease, but that God extends grace even in the midst of a broken world that is still in the process of being restored…
Even though Jesus tells us that God isn’t vindictive like that, that was a prevalent belief at the time. Which meant that even if you weren’t sure what you did to “deserve” this awful thing, everyone else around you assumed you must have done something to deserve it. Everyone else assumed that they should probably keep a wide distance from you or your family, because they don’t want to get sucked into the punishment and brokenness that is being exacted on you.
So we can guess that there was a lot of shame that this paralyzed man had experienced. His very existence is a reminder of shame for his family because everyone assumed his paralyzed state was an effect of sin. We can imagine that the connection between him and his parents was probably strained, maybe broken.
And so Jesus calling him “son,” dear one, is a gesture of compassion and restoration of the man’s heart and identity. “No, I don’t look at you and see SINFUL ONE. I look at you with love and see a dear, beloved child whom I’m proud to know and be connected to.”
How incredibly HEALING must that have been for the man?!
And then Jesus says, “your SINS are forgiven.” Even though the man can’t walk, Jesus seems to know that the biggest worry in his life is the state of his soul and his STANDING before God. The perception of his supposed sinfulness has brought shame, ostracization, rebuke, and scorn his whole life.
Jesus forgiving his sin is a healing and restoration of his IDENTITY, his place in community, and his connection to God.
How incredible is JESUS?! He knows EXACTLY what we need. The man who was the paralytic, the one who was “unyoked, loosed at the side” had now been SET FREE, loosed from the BURDEN of shame and exclusion.
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But, of course, this doesn’t sit well with the scribes of the law. They quote Isaiah 43 about how “only God can forgive sins,” and so they are asking in their heart if Jesus had just blasphemed against God, if he had just claimed God’s power, God’s place, kicking God out as the one who forgives sin.
Oh no he didn’t! How dare he?!
And Jesus, reading their thoughts, decides that he’s done hiding who he is. Up to this point, he’s healed people and told them to keep it quiet. He’s worked miracles and then moved on before his fame gets too big. He’s not trying to build a platform for himself. He just wants to free people and heal people and help them learn to live a full, abundant life that was previously impossible under the kingdoms of the world.
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But now, he’s going to make it extremely clear to everyone watching: yes, I DO have the power to forgive sins. And it’s not just a phrase I say. That could be a copout. That could be a lie. So I’ll back it up. I’ll prove that my words have the power to forgive sins by showing you that my words have the power to fully heal and restore his physical body as well.
And this isn’t to prove his power and authority for HIS OWN sake. Jesus wants to prove that the paralytic’s sins are forgiven for the MAN’S sake. He wants to ensure the restoration and acceptance of the man. He wants to make sure that the stories told about the man’s forgiveness and healing become even more popular than the rumors about his sinfulness.
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So he looks at the man and says, “stand up.” Rise to the same level as everyone else. No longer are we going to look DOWN on you.
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“Take your mat.” Take that thing that you use to depend on, take the thing that represents the pity you used to receive, take that reminder of your previous life. It doesn’t DEFINE you anymore, but you’re not going to ignore it, either. Tuck it under your arm and WALK.
“Go to your home.” Return to your family. Reconcile with them. Get restored to your place as a member of the family, rather than as an outcast on a street corner.
And I wonder how long the pause was as everyone waited to see what the paralyzed man would do? Would it work? Was Jesus telling the truth? Did he really have the authority on earth to forgive sins and restore health and reconcile us to community?
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Well, remember, faith ACTS. And so the paralyzed man demonstrated his faith, his trust in Jesus, by acting. By standing, taking his mat, and walking out from there in the sight of all of them. The guy that couldn’t get anyone to move for him before when he was being carried is now strutting out amongst the crowd as they are amazed and glorify God.
Because that’s the only real response to God: action. Worship. Saying praises about how good he is because of what you’ve seen.
Faith acts. That’s what I want you to know from this passage today. Faith takes a next step towards Jesus.
So what should we do? How can we respond to what God is showing us in this passage?
Well, looking at our story today, I think we should find some faith-filled friends. Find some faith-filled friends who can carry you in situations where you can’t act on your own. Find some faith-filled friends who can carry your burdens with a listening ear…who can carry you to Jesus in prayer.
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Because all of us have something in our life that cripples us in some way. Maybe it’s crippling anxiety, the unstoppable dread that is always looming that makes it so difficult to move forward. The uncertainty that makes it so difficult to make decisions.
Maybe you feel powerless and crippled against some hidden addiction. On the outside, you seem fine. You go through life fine. You keep up your responsibilities just fine.
But there’s something you don’t share with others because it’s a source of shame. It’s got a grip on you. It’s an addiction to porn that you keep trying to beat, but keep falling back into. It’s a gambling addiction, the rush of adrenaline that grips you every time the paycheck or monthly disbursement shows up.
It’s the bottle that is always within arm’s reach in the pantry. You don’t like to admit how much you feel you need it. You don’t want others to know, because they might judge you, or worse, pity you and look down on you.
Maybe for you it’s some other hidden thing that you feel powerless against. And you know that you can’t overcome it by yourself because you’ve tried already.
But faith ACTS, so find some faith-filled friends who don’t look DOWN on you but lift you UP and carry you to where help is.
That’s why I think community is so important for apprentices of Jesus like us. We need that, we need other people who know us well enough to know when we might need some encouragement, who care about us enough to get involved.
We need that, otherwise we’ll keep living in the same ways with the same loneliness and the same distrust and the same slow fade towards death while feeling powerless to change.
That’s why we talk about Life Groups. Because we want everyone who is a part of the larger New Life family to also have that smaller group of people who can know them and show care for them and figure out together how to take small steps of acting on our faith in our daily lives.
Right now, we have at least 15 different life groups, at least that’s how many I could count. Some of them do Bible study together. Some of them watch videos. Some do book discussions, and some just meet to drink coffee together.
Some are connected because of life stage, and all have young kids, or they are all empty nesters.
Some are for women only, or men only.
Some are always open to new members, and others aren’t looking to add anyone new right now.
But no matter what gathers them together, they are all intended to help people get to know each other better. So that they can put their faith in ACTION by learning together, praying for each other, serving others together, and carrying each other in small ways.
And all of them are mini-expressions of CHURCH.
Our story today has shown us that Faith ACTS. And we need to find faith-filled friends to regularly be with as we learn how to follow Jesus together in our daily lives.
Maybe God is saying something to you today. Maybe God is telling you to join a Life Group. Maybe he’s telling you to talk to Pastor Erik or me because you’re feeling led to START a new life group, a fresh expression of being the church together.
Maybe God is showing you that one of your current groups you’re a part of — a friend group, a social group — is *almost* an expression of church, but you’re not yet engaging in the habits of carrying each other to Jesus in small ways.
Maybe God is encouraging you to begin or end your time with those groups in prayer, if that hasn’t been a part of your rhythm yet. Maybe he’s inviting you to find ways to serve together instead of only sitting and talking when you gather.
No matter where you are, what is God saying to you today? And what is your next step to obey his voice?
Faith ACTS. And we GET to let our faith act on behalf of others. We get to find faith-filled friends who can carry us to Jesus.
Because Jesus has made the way for us to experience full, abundant, transformed life: and it’s through growing together as the family of God.
Isn’t that good news?