Who Are You Moving Toward Christ?

Delivered February 20, 2000 by Dr. Ronald W. Scates.

Sermon Text:
Mark 2:1-12

Were you as amazed as I was about the Super Bowl this year? Not the game, but that commercial where quadriplegic Christopher Reeve comes walking out on the stage to the applause of the crowd. I mean, my jaw dropped. My heart actually welled up within me. The horrible tragedy that man has gone through. Raised as a Presbyterian, but having drifted from the faith, I saw this as maybe hope bubbling up in his life and in mine. There he was walking…

Please turn with me to Mark 2:1-12. This is the word of God:

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins … ” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

Join me as we pray. And now Father, as my words are true to your Word, may they be taken to heart. But as my words should stray from your Word, may they be quickly forgotten, through Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Bible study was packed out. It was standing room only. Everyone was there. They were even spilling out through the front door. Outside people were crowded up against the house trying to listen in through the windows because it was a Bible study that was led by none other than Jesus himself. He was holding forth the Word to them. And suddenly the crowd that was riveted on Jesus’ every word started dodging pieces of plaster and straw that come falling down from above them because up on the roof of the house are four de-constructionists. Busy de-constructing the roof. Opening an ever-widening hole, so like on a cloudy day, when the sun breaks through shafts of sunlight start to break through like spears into that roof from ceiling to floor. Dust particles dancing in the rays. And then unbelievably almost comically like a chandelier being lowered to be cleaned the four de-constructionists lower their friend, their paralyzed friend, their helpless, hopeless friend, down through the opening there to the very feet of Jesus. And Jesus is blown away. He’s simply blown away by the faith of these four de-constructionists. And he looks at the paralytic and he says to him, “My son, your sins are forgiven”.

Now wait a minute, forgiveness of sins? What this guy needs is not forgiveness of sins, he needs to be healed physically. And over in the corner are a bunch of teachers of the Law sitting there smugly and in their hearts they are leveling against Jesus the ultimate charge. The charge of blasphemy. You see, these teachers of the Law want Jesus dead. Now ever the reader of human hearts, Jesus suddenly turn to those teachers of the Law and says, “Why are you thinking like this?”. And he outs their charges against him and he hits them with a rhetorical question, “Okay guys, what’s easier to do? To say to this paralytic his sins are forgiven or for me to say to him, get up and go?” Well he looks at the paralytic and he tells him to get up and go. And the paralytic rises and he walks out of there in front of everybody and jaws are hitting the floor. And Jesus’ Bible study, there in that house in Capernum, ends with a collective gasp of amazement.

That paralytic, Christopher Reeve, you and me. In reality we’re all in the same boat. For you see the reality is that no one can get to Jesus by themselves. That’s why the real heroes of the story in front of us are the four friends. These four friends who unconditionally love this paralytic even in his disease. They love him so much they have an urgency to get healing for him. And these four friends, they believe in Jesus. They think that somehow Christ can actually heal their friend. And they have such a mixture of love for their friend in faith in Christ that these four guys are willing to do something drastic, something radical in order to bring their friend into the presence of the Great Physician. Even to the point of disrupting worship. That’s how much these guys really cared.

Now I need to ask you as I ask myself a question. Where do you and I fit into this real life story? If you’re here this morning and you have never surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, then you are on that same mat with the paralytic. There’s no way anyone ever comes to Christ on their own. And I hope you have some friends who are praying for you. I hope you have some friends who are willing to bring you to Christ, maybe someone brought you here this morning. Because without Christ you have no hope of finding any real meaning in this life. Nor do you have any hope against the eternal death that awaits you in the next life. Or if you’re here this morning and you are a Christian and you love being at worship and you love Bible studies, you love being in the presence of Christ … but evangelism (you know, bringing someone or moving someone towards Christ) … well that’s not your cup of tea. That’s not a part of your lifestyle. It’s not that you don’t love being in church, Oh man you do, you love being with Christ and you love being here this morning. And Christ is here, and He loves you being here this morning.

But if evangelism is not a passion in your life, then your place in this story is as one of the crowd that’s packing out that house. But I want you to notice something. That crowd is really a part of the problem. That crowd is actually keeping this paralytic from getting to Christ. In a large growing church, if there’s not a passion for the unchurched and the lost then what happens is those kind of churches actually become a detriment for the lost to ever really find their way to the Kingdom. Or maybe you’re here this morning, you are a Christian and Central’s mission statement: “Moving people towards Christ,” you take seriously. In fact you take if so seriously you’ve actually made it your own personal mission statement. “Moving people toward Christ.” If that’s where you are then your place in this story is as one of the four friends. Be it in first century Capernum or 21st century Baltimore, these are the real heroes. You need to have a medal pinned on you because you are vital to the kingdom of God. And there are so many people out there depending on yours and my love for them to move them toward Christ.

But I’ve got to ask another question. Central Presbyterian Church as a congregation, you and me as individual believers, how far are we really willing to go in order to move people toward Christ? What are we willing to do? What risks are we willing to take? These four friends, they think evangelistically and creatively outside the box. Do you and I have such a love for the unchurched that we are willing to do likewise? Do those folks who are not here this morning or who are not in any church this morning, do we have a burden for them that’s as great as is the delight that we have over those who are here. If not, then you and I need to do some serious praying that God might give us that kind of burden for them. A burden of love. Everything I read, everything I study, says that the most effective, fruit-bearing form of evangelism is simply inviting someone to come to where there’s a crowd and where Jesus is present. And that happens here on Sunday morning twice every week. In fact, every second Sunday of the month we have what’s called Friendship Sunday. Where we encourage you to invite an unchurched friend to come to worship with you.

I want to leave you this morning with two challenges. Two concrete challenges that can help Central Presbyterian Church become a place that’s more accessible as we continue to grow as we have crowds come here. We have to work overtime to make sure that Jesus is accessible to others. Concrete suggestion number one: That you make a covenant with God today, before you leave here that you are going to be a back pew evangelist. What do I mean by that? Doesn’t mean going out and even talking to anybody about Jesus. It means when you come here on Sunday mornings you are not going to sit in the back two pews. Why? Because when guest come to worship here, they usually come right at the hour the service is beginning or a little bit late. So when a guest has never been here before, comes into this sanctuary I’m sorry they are not about to walk down here where the empty pews are right in the front. Unless there is easy accessibility where they can come right in and slip into the service it’s just like the situation in Capernum. The crowd is blocking them from access to Christ. Be a back pew evangelist.

Second concrete thing: I’m going to ask you to write the ending of my sermon this morning. By taking this church development survey. Which will help your session, your elders and the other leadership of this church mold and shape Central into a more accessible place where people can come. Where Jesus is present. Where there are crowds, but you don’t have to tear a hole in the roof to get someone into the presence of Christ. We are going to ask you to take this survey as an act of worship. As I said earlier, we did one of these eleven years ago. And God has used that mightily to mold and shape this congregation over the past decade. God’s got great things in store for Central. Folks, you’d better believe it. What you do here today is historic. He’s going to honor it, if you do it prayerfully as an act of worship to honor Christ.