Open Your Door and They’ll Come

Jackson Snyder 

 


Mark 2:1-12; Psalm 41:1-3, 8, 11-12

This is Part 3

Go to Part 1 A New Teaching on Authority: Dealing Simply with Demonic Infiltration
Go to Part 2 Where Do We Go From Here? Maybe it's time to pull up stakes and go.
Also see Children, Dogs and Lampreys: Saving Demonized Children 

Summary from Last Two Messages (Mark 1)

   Let me start by summarizing the action in Mark chapter 1 so we can put this latest installment into perspective.  Jesus was the regular teacher at the church (synagogue) in Capernaum where he made his Confronting Powerless Christianityhome (2:1).  One Sabbath Jesus was teaching about how to overcome supernatural evil when a person with an unclean spirit cried out against him.  Jesus then demonstrated his teaching on the man and delivered him from the unclean spirit.  This caused a controversy in the church because the people there had never heard of such a thing.  They called it “a new teaching on authority” and they debated about it (1:27 Greek).  In the meantime, Jesus retired to Simon’s house a short walk away from the church.  There he found Simon’s mother-in-law in the grip of a serious fever.  He blessed her by touching her hand, the fever departed, and she fixed brunch.

  When word got around, the common people of that town clamored for Jesus to deliver and heal them.  When the Sabbath was over at sunset, he healed many and cast out demons.  In the middle of the night, Jesus went away to a deserted place to seek guidance.  “Where do we go from here?” he prayed.  His disciples found him there and he told them he’d received the answer – that they were to leave Capernaum and go on the road, teaching authority in neighboring towns thereabouts. 

   So they traveled on.  When they are on the road, a man with a terminal skin disease, leprosy, approached and asked to be made clean of the disease.  (The law didn’t allow lepers within city limits because they were so contagious.)   In this story, the text reveals that Jesus was “moved to pity” (RSV) for this afflicted man, revealing to us that compassion for others was his motivation for doing good.  Jesus healed him by touching him (!!) then pronouncing him clean. 

   The healing came with two conditions: (1) that the man didn’t reveal the source of the healing, and (2) that he go to the priest to be examined and pronounced disease-free.  This was to confirm the actuality of the healing.  But this man who had been so greatly healed cared not enough about the healer to be obedient to him.  Rather, he disobeyed Jesus on both points.  And so it goes with many who’ve since been healed or saved by faith.  They’re not grateful enough for what Jesus has done for them to be obedient to his words.

 

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Off the Road and Back Home

   Now we take up today’s text.  Jesus and the disciples have just completed their road trip and they return back home to Capernaum, but not to the church with its controversy. They minister instead in Simon’s house.  Jesus began a house church, which became the norm for the early worshipers. House churches are still prevalent today.  So many unchurched people crowd around Simon’s house that the whole place is surrounded and nobody can get in the door.  But a couple of spying inquisitors from denominational headquarters had gotten in, sent to on report whether Jesus’ “new teaching on authority” adhered to their own ministerial standards.

   At this point, five men take a very grave risk.  One of them is paralyzed and is carried to the house by the other four on a stretcher.  A couple of these guys climb to the roof, drag the paralyzed man up there, then begin very quickly to break in enough of the roof to let their friend and his stretcher down into the house.  Imagine the scene from inside – all the noise, then dust and chunks of plaster, mud and sticks falling down on the group jam-packed in the room.  The roof finally caves and down comes the stretcher right before Jesus.  But there’s no mention of the disorder, the mess, the danger, the expense or the illegality of the entry.  We don’t even hear Simon’s opinion about the destruction of his roof.  All the story is concerned with is that Jesus perceived extraordinary faith in these men because they went to extraordinary lengths to get to Jesus.

   When the dust settles, the debris is harmlessly laid aside and everyone becomes quiet again wondering what will happen next.  Jesus says something very simple to the man: “My son, your sins are forgiven.”  Jesus speaks with the voice of Yahweh (since, after all, the paralyzed man wasn’t Jesus’ son) and forgives him of his sin.  Yet Jesus doesn’t heal him of his paralysis.  Why?

 

Instructions in Authority

   Though we’re in the grip of a dramatic story, let’s remember that its primary purpose is to instruct us as to Jesus’ new teaching on authority.  So far, Jesus has committed four powerful, authoritative acts to affirm his identity as the Son of Yahweh: he delivered a man from a demon, he blessed a woman and her fever left, he healed a man of an incurable disease and he forgave another man’s sins.  We learn that his authority against these evils derives from Father Yahweh and that his motivations to act include compassion on his part and faith on the part of others.  We also learn that we who are set free by Jesus should be grateful enough to obey his commandments. 

   You see, we’re Jesus’ disciples not because we come to church or pay the preacher.  We’re his only if we love and obey him.  If he saved you, you should love him; and if you love him, you’ll be keeping his commandments every day.  Then, as obedient disciples, we can expect some measure of his authority over evil to be operating in our lives to do the same good deeds he did.  We anticipate using his authority to set the captives free.  Meanwhile, we pray for faith and compassion.  Without these, we can accomplish nothing.

  

Mortal Sins

   So now, hanging from the ceiling before Jesus is a stretcher with a paralyzed man tied to it.  It’s obvious to all that the man needs healing.  When I was a boy reading this passage, I was disappointed in Jesus’ behavior in the face of this man’s condition.  All he did was forgive the man’s sins.  That seemed to be of little consequence to this boy, unaccustomed to the ways of the world.  But isn’t it true that as we grow we learn that there are infirmities we can’t see that afflict us far worse than things we can.  We experience life like the blind: we make mistakes, we sin, we hurt and betray others; sometimes we murder or commit adultery or betray a friendship.  Such sins are called “mortal” because they kill us, even if we show no outward signs of inner destruction.

   Just as our spiritual condition can cause physical ailments, sinful activities can also lead to physical harm.  Suppose this paralytic had been engaged in an affair with the wife of his best friend.  He’s caught in his sin and his erstwhile friend strikes him and breaks his neck, causing his paralysis.  For some, the greater affliction would be the inability to walk.  But for others, finally coming to grips with their betrayal of a friend would be the greater.  So it was for this man.  The forgiveness of some grave sin in his life would have been enough to satisfy him.  He sought spiritual healing.  If his spirit was healed through the grace of Yahweh, perhaps then the broken body might follow.  And that’s what was to happen in the end.  In fact, the man’s forgiveness led to a total healing of both spirit and body.  But not just yet.

 

Spies and Sins

   There were spies in the house -- religious authorities: children of the devil.  They already wanted to do their father’s will by killing Jesus.  They were upset enough about Jesus casting out one of their own in the church; now they are livid when he forgives sin.  “What gives this man the right to forgive anything?  We believe only G-d can forgive sins.”  The words they only imagine in their hearts are heard in Jesus’ spirit.  Everything goes silent as Jesus peers at them.  “Which seems an easier feat to you reverends, forgiving this man’s sin that you can’t see, or healing his broken body that you can?”  Of course, there’s no answer from these pretenders.  Jesus sets a trap – for himself! 

   It’s easy to make an incredible claim that can’t be proved – like the authority to forgive sins.    Sometimes such religious claims are true, but thinking people like to see evidence.  These days we like to say, “The proof is in the pudding.”  What Jesus confidently does now is to prove his claim to spiritual authority by performing a feat that they could all see.  There would be no arguing with that!  “So that you’ll know the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins: I’m telling you, paralyzed man, get up, pick up your stretcher and go home.”  And this is exactly what happened.  However, there could have been no healing in this case had not the crippling burden of sin first been eliminated. 

   This story gives us an idea why our healings are so hindered when we pray, even when we pray in the authority of Jesus’ name.  Sin hinders healing and aggravates disease.  Spiritual sickness is often the origin of physical illness.  Get your spirit right and your body has a better chance of becoming right.  Time after time we have seen people repent and receive forgiveness then turn from their old ways and to their recovery.  This is a good lesson for all of us who seek wholeness.

 

Clearing Out (of) the Hospital

   However, the primary lesson that the author wants us to learn is how we may stand in the place of Jesus and utilize the authority of Yahweh to make our people better and our world a better place.  Acquiring the qualities of obedience, faith and compassion should be the goals of every person on earth, believer or not.  Why wouldn’t someone want to be obedient, faithful or compassionate except they be children of the devil?  No, but we’re children of G-d, children of the light.  We have every right to claim the authority to cast out, bless, heal and forgive those whom we love who come to us for relief.  And you can do these things – Jesus shows us how and especially when they are to be done.

   Twenty-some years ago I was part of an accountability group* made up of other young men who were looking to be disciples of Jesus.  We were very bold and became very “high visibility” in our community within only a couple years.  We experienced “miracles” in those days because our group so earnestly desired to see G-d move.  (Several of these miracles are described on another site.)  One of the fellows made us a plan to converge on the local hospital, heal all the sick there and put the hospital out of business in a few weeks.  He put together a schedule that called for us to go in two-by-two and cover visiting hours seven days a week. 

   We took the hospital by storm, moving room to room in teams, praying for everybody we could.  There were some breakthroughs.  Pretty soon our presence came to the attention of the hospital administrators who wanted us out.  But there was nothing the hospital could do as long as we behaved.  One of the fellows, Greg, was full of faith and wanted to raise the dead.  He was praying for a terminally ill patient he knew of who was nearly comatose.  All of a sudden, the demons in the patient brought him awake, sat him up, and started to scream profanities at Greg.  Though Greg was shook, he held his ground.  He got into a shouting match with the devil right there in the hospital ward.  Security was called; Greg was escorted out and the rest of us were barred from coming back.  But we were glad to hear later that this terminally ill, demon-possessed patient soon went home.

 

Open Door Opportunities

   I’m not advocating trying to go in and clear out a hospital or a mental ward through healing prayer, unless you’re called to do that.  You know why?  Look at the example of Jesus.  With few exceptions, those with serious needs came to him.  They were five layers deep around the door!  We don’t need to go looking for evangelism opportunities unless we’re specifically called.  Every week, opportunities come to you if you open your eyes to them.  I doubt that there’s one person here that hasn’t had a god-given opportunity to help someone with restoration, blessing, healing or forgiving, in the last week.  If you can honestly say that you haven’t had an opportunity like this, it’s only because you haven’t had the compassion to acknowledge that your help is needed.  If you have the compassion but you nevertheless did nothing when you were called upon, it’s because you didn’t have the faith to step out in your gifts.

   Hey, Yahweh wouldn’t have sent that stranger, that grandchild, that friend, your way unless he was sending you an opportunity to exhibit the gifts and graces of the one who saved you.  Watch this next week.  Live intentionally, as Jesus did, and have faith.  If you do, these wonderful opportunities to make a difference, at home, work, school or church, will not pass you by.  Don’t worry about what you will do when they arrive.  Just do something in the name of Jesus and it will ultimately be the right thing, even if that means breaking a hole in the roof to get the mission accomplished!  He will marvel at your faith, even if you don’t have that much.

    There used to be a church motto that was very popular – “Open the doors and they’ll come.”  That was very true of just about any church twenty, thirty or fifty years ago.  But today, times have changed; people just don’t storm the doors of small churches with limited programs anymore.  That’s OK though.  Even Jesus left the church.  But when he did, the needs of the desperate unchurched crowds only increased.  The door of Simon’s house was always open for them, as long as Jesus was there.  Friends, we come together in church as the family of Yahweh to worship and learn of him.  But we go out there … to serve him.  Open your door, and when they come, Jesus will be at your house for those who enter.  That Jesus will be you.  And your people will say, “We never saw anything like this before.”

 



*  This group was chapter 2010 of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship.

February 16, 2003