Today we are continuing our conversation on partnership with God. We have looked at God’s partnership, how He doesn’t tell us to wait here while He goes and does the work, and how we aren’t to tell God to wait here while we go and try to do the work. Over the past weeks we have been processing some of the complexities of partnership with God.
The feeding of the 5000:
Sometimes in the face of impossibility, when what you have seems far from enough, just a speck compared to the mega need, God still uses you and what you have. We saw how the disciples served the meal and how the boy’s fish and bread were used. God used the unexpected provisions and people
Joseph providing for his family during a famine:
Sometimes partnership with God will come with incredible ups and downs. Some of those are our own doing, and some are unfair. They thrust us backward or forward, but all of this chaos does not disqualify us from partnership with God. It may actually be part of the process. We saw Joseph’s big head and how he was hated by his brothers and sold into slavery. He had repeated times of rising and falling in Egypt, ending with a position of leadership that allowed him to prepare for famine and be able to provide for his family.
Jacob, who had been promised blessing but then spent his life trying to get what he had already been given:
Partnership with God will repeatedly ask us to trust God. Jacob repeatedly tried to buy, steal, and cheat to get what God had already given. It is easier to trust self more than trust God. It is easy to assume that God doesn’t care or see or won’t help. It can be challenging to know when I should simply wait and trust God for this and when God expects me to do something. I want to build a pattern of trusting God and not turning to self when things are challenging, complicated, or unknown.
And today, we are looking at the man who was lowered through the roof before Jesus. We see that partnership with God does not just impact me. Our partnership with God has impact on others too.
Last week we talked a bit about why we decline help, from God and from others, when it’s offered. And today’s starting question is similar. Why do people not ask for help? There are lots of reasons. Let’s talk about them.
What are some reasons people don’t ask for help?
Today as we look at the story found in Luke 5 and Mark 2 of the paralyzed man lowered before Jesus, we are going to work on some of the logistics or internal math of help and then talk about the challenges and obstacles we all know before we go into the story.
How do you know when you are in a moment of needing help? It could be with a physical task or with an internal struggle. It could be a moment you are working through alone or a moment when you are surrounded by others. But how do you know when you are in a moment when help is needed? What are some of the signs? This sounds like a simple question, but I think you will find it interesting as you start to work it out.
How do you know when you are in a moment of needing help?
One thing that we all have some degree of familiarity with is the power of teamwork: doing things together, helping each other. This can make what was impossible possible. Let’s talk about this, and build a list of moments in human history where teamwork made the impossible possible. Maybe your list includes building the pyramids or digging the Panama Canal or even building out Corner Coffee Northeast.
Build a list of moments in human history where teamwork made the impossible possible.
We have talked about reasons people don’t ask for help; we’ve discussed how you know when you need help; and we’ve built a list of the impossible done by working together. Now let’s bring this all together:
What are some common obstacles you face in helping people in your local?
We know when we need help. We know that help makes things possible. Yet the obstacles to helping overpower the need for help. Repeat.
Because I think context is important–and interesting–I’m going to give you the quick version on what surrounds the story we’re reading today. Jesus was just baptized at the Jordan River by John the Baptist. God spoke from Heaven and said, “This is my son.” Then Jesus went off into the wilderness, fasted for 40 days, and came out speaking to the temple, that He was fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 61–that He was going to release the captives and bring restoration to those that were broken, social outcasts, outsiders, and the poor in spirit. This is mind blowing and beautiful.
After this, in the book of Luke, we have a collection of stories of Jesus fulfilling this promise–bringing restoration by healing and accepting people, and releasing people by forgiving their sins. He was doing what He said He was going to do.
We see Jesus heal a man of leprosy; in our story today He heals a paralytic; and He brings outcasts in as His disciples. It’s a revolutionary moment in Israel's story. And because it’s so revolutionary, there were also obstacles. Many people wanted to see what Jesus was doing. And some people wanted to stop what Jesus was doing. Which brings us to today’s story.
Jesus was teaching a crowd of people in Capernaum, with religious leaders sitting near Him. Immediately there is tension. The religious leaders, feeling the competition with Jesus, scrutinized to find anything wrong with what Jesus was teaching. They wondered if Jesus was going to be in line with their teaching or if He was going to oppose them.
But It was not just Jesus and the religious authorities. There was also a huge crowd of people pushing to be close to Jesus. The house was packed–standing room only, straining to hear, lined outside the doors and windows, leaning in, pushing and jostling to be close. They were PACKED IN.
And in this story a group shows up late for the festivities. They arrived with their friend or family member crippled and hopeless on a stretcher. They thought that Jesus might help if they could get in front of Him–but that moment had apparently been missed. They tried to be early but this caravan of camels blocked them on their way, so they were frustratingly late. The crowds were overwhelming. There was no way to get into the house where Jesus was teaching.
They’re gonna pause for a minute, and one friend is definitely thinking, we gave it our best shot, but we missed it. The other friend is mad at all his friends because they had to stop at the little market for some groceries before they got there. But the man on the stretcher, he can’t do anything about any of it. He’s completely relying on his friends/family. It’s all out of his control. YUCK.
They see the crowd, see the obstacles, feel how easy it would be to give up… but they also feel the hopefulness of the crippled friend / family member and decide that there has to be a way. They push through the crowd and then they make their way up the ladder on the side of the house onto the flat roof, covered in thatch, to see if they can bring their friend to Jesus. They’re just trying to get their friend up the stairs without dropping him off the stretcher.
Then they finally get to the roof. But now what? There are no stairs leading inside. There is no secret passage. There is no obvious answer. Quit? No, we will just lower him in through a hole we make in the roof. We will drop him down right in front of Jesus.
At this moment, Jesus looks up at these men lowering their friend down from the roof.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” (Luke 5:20)
Interesting statement. Not exactly the response the friends were expecting.
And the second obstacle–the religious leaders–tried to stop Him from forgiving his sin and healing him. They didn’t believe Jesus had this authority. But this didn’t deter Jesus. He kept moving forward to restore the man’s body.
Then the experts in the law and the Pharisees began to think to themselves, “Who is this man who is uttering blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their hostile thoughts, he said to them, “Why are you raising objections within yourselves? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he said to the paralyzed man – “I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher and go home.” Immediately he stood up before them, picked up the stretcher he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. (Luke 5:21-25)
This moment in history was not a great time to be handicapped. Being paralized led to being seen as impure or unclean and being kept from the temple because of that uncleanness. It meant he was an outsider, outcast from his community. A window into this was when Jesus healed the man that was born blind:
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. (John 9:1-3)
Now as he was forgiven, now as he was healed, he was not separate from his community or family, he was not an outcast, he was not a family secret, and he was not carried home. Instead, he was able to stand up, take up his stretcher, and walk home. Let’s process this.
What would be the most challenging part for you in dropping (helping) your friend get before Jesus?
What obstacles that were faced would have been the most daunting to you?
There’s so many things that could have gone wrong. His friends/family could have seen the obstacles and stopped. What if this stressful situation just led everyone to bickering and they gave up? What if just one friend wanted to help him, and he was alone, trying to bring this man up to the roof and lower him down to Jesus? Disaster. What if someone in the crowd refused to let them through?
These men, bringing their friend to Jesus, needed to be committed and determined. They needed each other, and they needed to partner with Jesus. And it was not a partnership for their own gain; it was a partnership for the benefit of another.
This story embodies the calling we have as a church: local, early, and together. It’s easy to see the value of a lone superhero coming in to save the day with big ideas and vision to save the world! But what if something great can be more simple? What if greatness can be a group of people, coming together to care for their community, for their families, for their neighbors? What if greatness is showing up when someone needs a hand? What if greatness isn’t being a lone superhero, but coming together to care for community? What if greatness is persistence when obstacles are prevalent?
What does it look like for you to be a non-heroic helper in your local in this season?
Take It Deeper Questions
- Read Ruth 1.
- Think of a time someone put aside their needs to care for you.
- When have you gone out of your way to take care of someone else?
- Why would Ruth go with Naomi to a place she was unfamiliar with?
- What could have prevented Ruth from going with Naomi?
- What does it look like to care for someone in your local the way Ruth cared for Naomi?
- How does God’s partnership play a part?
- How are you challenged, encouraged, focused, and/or confused by this text?
Bible Reading Plan
- 1 Kings 8
- 1 Kings 9
- 1 Kings 10
- 1 Kings 11
- 1 Kings 12