It’s the same with believing. We start out simply believing Jesus is amazing; the stories are simple and direct. As we “mature” we think through details, over thinking nuances, exact meanings, parsing the Bible text 15 different ways…. Then the last stage: it’s not that complicated…. Back to the basics of simply accepting…
Today, a new pulpit (house model ~ watch the slide show below)… For me, this was stage one 45+ years ago when I first made a model of the house when I was in Beginners Sunday School and my mother was the teacher. Pinkie has been my friend for over 40 years, given to me as a child when I had my tonsils out at the old St. Luke's Hospital.
I had a teacher that proposed an intriguing theory: “Jesus was hard on the Pharisees,” my teacher said, “because they were very close to the kingdom.” They almost got what Jesus was about, but not quite. We all know people who are close to the Kingdom, close to accepting Jesus as Savior, but they can’t quite do it. Maybe that is your testimony. Maybe you are over thinking Jesus, over thinking sin and forgiveness, over thinking grace. Something is keeping you from making a full commitment. The changes are too much for you to make a full commitment.
I’d like to say that of all the characters in the Bible I am most like Moses, most like Daniel, most like the leper... But in truth, I am most susceptible to being like the Pharisees, investing a lot in matters of faith and then over thinking what it means to be a Christian… those of you who are young in your faith have a wonderful opportunity to grow ~ a full commitment to Christ is more simple than you can possibly imagine. You may have the advantage of less baggage than people like me… Never forget the simple truth of sin and forgiveness and the need for spiritual renewal above all else.
Here’s an example of over thinking: Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson go on a camping trip. After a good dinner, they retire for the night, and go to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes wakes up and asks his faithful friend. "Watson, look up at the sky and tell me what you see."
"I see millions and millions of stars, Holmes" replies Watson.
"And what do you deduce from that?"
Watson thinks for a minute.
"Well, astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and that we are a small and insignificant part of the universe. What does it tell you, Holmes?"
Holmes is silent for a moment. "Watson, you idiot!" he says. "Someone has stolen our tent!"
The Pharisees were over thinking Jesus. Instead of considering the need for the man to be forgiven and healed, the Pharisees go off on a tangent. Instead of appreciating an amazing act of faith, the Pharisess are in danger rejection by over thinking.
Another example of over thinking: I hear it in nature shows. The narrator assumes the theory of evolution and asks why the animal has this behavior, the purpose for that color of the flower, the shape of this plant, and possible answers are proposed with the conclusion “we don’t know why.” Don’t over think it. I know the answers. God made the flower because it is pretty and smells good. God made the elephant to make you and me laugh. God made the lion so we’d never forget fear and respect. God made Mount Baker because she points towards heaven. God made the rainbow as a reminder of his promises. Simple.
Movie Title: “Four men and a sick guy.” Bi-line: “Five determined men that practice the profound depth of simple faith.” All they know is that somebody stole the tent, their friend is hurting and they believe Jesus can do something about it. The sick man is on a stretcher, four at the corners. The man must have been desperately ill because his friends took desperate steps to get him to Jesus. The house itself was typical for those days: one room, with a flat roof and an outside stairway. The roof was made of thatch and tiles laid over thick wooden beams.
Action! I’ve borrowed the telling of the story (Ray Pritchard): “Jesus is teaching inside the house. The room is crowded with eager listeners who lean forward to catch every word. Around the walls sit the Pharisees, silent, impassive, inscrutable, their faces showing no emotion. They are waiting for Jesus to make a mistake. “Suddenly there is a noise above them, muffled words and the sound of tiles moving. More noise, then dirt begins to fall from the ceiling. Suddenly a shaft of light breaks through. Somebody has knocked a hole in the roof! Jesus stops, looks up and smiles.
Everyone else looks up only to see four faces in the hole peering down at them. All eyes are on them. Slowly the four men lower a stretcher through the hole in the roof. No one knows what to say. In a few moments the stretcher comes to rest in the middle of the room. On the stretcher a man lies silently. Even a casual glance tells you that he is very ill. He looks at Jesus expectantly.
A hush falls on the room. What will Jesus do? (See Luke 5:18-19).
Luke gives us the answer: READ Luke 5:20. This is a David vs. Goliath moment: four simple men peering down through the roof vs the heavyweight Pharisees. The Pharisees, the intellectual giants of the day, pounce on Jesus: READ Luke 5:21-23. Slicing and dicing, over thinking… faith in Jesus Christ is not that difficult. The tension of this story is over thinking vs. simple faith. Which will win?
Luke 5:20 contains an unusual phrase: “Jesus saw their faith.” Surely it is the sick man that has agreed to be taken to Jesus, but it is also the faith of the four men. One person describes this as “intercessory faith…faith that benefits another in need.” In another Bible story about intercessory faith a man finds Jesus and begs him to heal his daughter. I love the way one person describes the scene: “The father came to Jesus with as deep earnestness as though he were the sick one.” “as though he were the sick one.” Intercessary faith is a new idea to me, so I need more time to think about it, but it makes sense.
We talk about intercessory prayer, praying on behalf of others, we think nothing of praying for the needs of non-Christians, too. So why not faith. Faith is putting hands and feet on prayers. It’s following God even when you don’t know exactly where he is taking you, like Abraham who was told to leave his homeland and start walking… faith is to go forward with a project, a new life, a new commitment, believing God is leading you, but not knowing how it is going to end up. Faith is not about your head and what you believe, but more about your feet and where you walk. Intercessory faith is to help a lame man dig a hole through a roof and lower him down on a mat so Jesus will do something. Maybe the idea of Intercessory faith is a good description of what so many people are doing in Sumas and the Foothills and the N.V. For some of you this is the takeaway idea for today. Intercessory faith: acting, pleading, going to Jesus as if you are the sick one. As if you are the one in need. Intercessory faith… I need more time to think on it, don’t hesitate to talk to me about it through-out this coming week and months… I sure hope I don’t over think it!
Something even more amazing happens. Jesus did not heal the man at first. Instead he said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Jesus speaks to the man’s deepest need. One person summarizes (Ray Pritchard): “There is more than one kind of paralysis. There is the paralysis of the body caused by disease; there is also the paralysis of the soul caused by sin. This man was sicker than he knew. He was doubly paralyzed and didn’t even know it.”
Sin is the root problem explaining the war of this world, personal demons, the pain and stress, the evil. The Pharisees over thought the situation (READ Luke 5:21). They quickly lost sight of the sick man and instead wanted to prove themselves to be in the right! Way back when I was five years old and I made the mat to be lowered into a cardboard box by yarn, as I witnessed the intercessory faith of the four men, I had such a simple faith and I knew there was only one bottom line: the deepest hurt is internal, it is sin. Don’t over think the deepest hurt. Forgiveness has more healing power for wholeness than healing of the body. We are all sinners and need Jesus. Our greatest needs are spiritual. As important as healing is, it is not as important as forgiveness!!! Forgiveness, letting go of the past and changing your future… forgiveness opens the door to allow a man to be reconciled to God. When you are the one who receives forgiveness, you instantly have an opportunity for a new life!
“Father, forgive them” were among Jesus last words when he was dying on the cross. He didn’t say heal them, give them money, give them long life, perfect health. He said forgive them. There is a message in the madness of Jesus who first forgives the paralyzed man. Forgiveness is enough. Healing ministries are amazing, when prayer is answered in the affirmative and the sick become well. But Jesus is saying forgiveness touches our deepest hurt. Without forgiveness, healing doesn’t really matter. Healing touches upon the temporary, forgiveness thrusts us into the realm of the eternal. Healing may change the body, but by itself, that’s it. Forgiveness, when it is received, changes the character of men and women like nothing else.
The Paralyzed man is also physically healed. Almost as an afterthought. Physical healing is always the bonus. The main thing is inner transformation. The Pharisees pinpoint the right question: “Who is this man?” (Luke 5:21). Everyone who meets Jesus must answer that question. The Pharisees were arguing Jesus is a madman. The men of intercessory faith recognized Jesus as the one who could make everything new.
READ Luke 5:22-25. Both are equally impossible. The difference between forgiveness and healing: forgiveness is transformation within and can’t be seen, physical healing is obvious. Jesus offers visible proof of who he is: “If I don’t heal this man, then I am the madman the Pharisees say I AM, but if I heal him, you must admit that I am who I claim to be.” Notice verse 24: That you may know. Jesus performed the miracle they could see so they might know he answered the deeper need they could not see.
One detail left: Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today” (Luke 5:26). The simple gospel is amazing. Be flabbergasted ~ no more over thinking ~ simply receive the forgiveness of Christ. The greatest message you can give anybody is that in Christ their sins are forgiven.
In our overly complex world we need to get back to root ideas, simple truths. No more over thinking. Four guys, one sick man, intercessory faith, Jesus was impressed and went straight to the deeper hurt: he forgave the man of his sin. Forgiveness from God through Jesus Christ is always an open invitation: will you receive it? Will you walk in a new life?
It’s simple: “Pinkie, God forgives your sins. Now pick up your matt and walk!”