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Entries in Obstacles (2)

Tuesday
Mar192019

Obstacles to Reaching Jesus

Mark 2:1-12.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on March 17, 2019.

Although we will look at a story where Jesus heals somebody, this story is not so much about healing as it begs the question, What is our greatest need?  It positions a physical healing opposite the forgiveness of sins and questions if we would work so hard to be rid of our sins as we would to be rid of sickness or disease.

I could have entitled this as, “Obstacles to being Healed,” but that is not the true emphasis of the story.  Jesus is asking us to think about why we might come to Him and what really is our greatest need.  If we see Jesus only as a means to an end, then He simply becomes a gumball machine from which we get our gumball and then walk away.  However, Jesus has not left this option open to us.  Even being free of sins can become a means to an end if we are only seeking to assuage our guilt and avoid judgment.  We need more than physical healing and we need more than spiritual forgiveness of sins. 

Ultimately, we need a relationship with Jesus, who is the Lord of all those things and more.  Jesus is not a means to an end.  He is the end or goal for which we must desire and strive.

He had a physical obstacle

We do not know how long this man has been paralyzed nor how he came to be in that condition.  However, it would pose a problem to finding Jesus and asking for a healer.  At least the leper in the previous story could track down Jesus and catch Him on the road, but this man is debilitated to the point that he cannot do this. 

Yet, this man has friends who are willing to help him.  It is important in life that we have people who care about us enough that they will help us when we need them.  Of course, we too should be a friend back towards them, but friendship should not be about an equation of help. 

In this life it is easy to let differences and hurts lead us into isolation from the world, but we still need others.  We need others because we are not enough by ourselves and God desires others to help us.  He created us to be social creatures who work together for the good.  No one person has all the gifts, regardless of how talented they may be.  Eventually they will need others around them.  It is true that there are some people from whom we may be better off dissociating ourselves.  Yet, hurt can cause us to dissociate from people who don’t deserve it and to our own detriment. 

Still, no number of friends can replace Jesus in your life.  Thus, the best kind of friends are those who will help you to come to Jesus for all the needs in your life, not just healing.   Four friends determined to carry their paralyzed friend to Jesus so that he could be healed.

The crowds around Jesus were too large

When the paralyzed man and his friends get to Jesus, there is a problem.  There are too many people surrounding Jesus and they cannot get close enough to ask for help.  We are going to see later in the story that not all of these people are believers in Jesus.  These crowds are themselves a physical barrier, and yet they can also be psychological barrier to people who do not like crowds.  Some people are not interested in Churches and crowds of Christians.  Yet, they still need Jesus. 

In His humanity Jesus was often surrounded by crowds, but in His divinity, He is always accessible to those who will reach out to Him in faith, whether by themselves are with the help of a friend.  Don’t just limit yourself to inviting people to Church to hear the Gospel.  Learn to share Christ with people one on one, or in smaller groups of friends.

Notice that these friends are not easily daunted.  They don’t quit just because they run into an obstacle and it gets hard.  Instead, they devise a way around the obstacle, which involved tearing through the roof and lowering the man down in front of Jesus by ropes.  Their faith or belief that Jesus would heal the man stirred up a determination within them that wouldn’t quit.

Sometimes, whether individually or as a group, we can lose heart because we run into barriers.  If getting people to Jesus was easy then they would already be with Him.  No, this is a difficult job that is full of obstacles.  Am I determined to help my friends get to Jesus?  Of course, in our lives today the answer will not be tearing a whole in a roof.  However, may God help us to see the true barriers that keep our friends and family at a distance from Jesus.  Let’s continue reading at verse 5.

The man is a sinner

This story takes a turn with the response of Jesus.  Here is a man on his sick bed, lowered down by ropes in front of Him.  Yet, Jesus chooses to tell the man that his sins are forgiven.  This is important because it changes the story.  To the man and his friends, his greatest need was to have his paralysis healed.  To Jesus, the man’s greatest need was to be free from his sins.

Now, it is easy to let this story become cluttered with the intellectual trappings of healing.  We are not told if the paralysis was due to his sin.  So, we should be careful of making this about the need to have your sins forgiven before you are healed.  Jesus will go on to heal the man, but not because he now has his sins forgiven.  Jesus himself states that he healed the man to prove to them that He had power to forgive sins on earth.

There are many things that we need in life, some of which we only think we need.  However, they all pale next to the need to have our sins forgiven.  Our sins separate us from God and cause us to be guilty before Him.  We do not deserve His grace or His benefits.  We only deserve His wrath and judgment.

The statement of forgiveness in verse 5 is connected to the statement of Jesus in verse 10.  Jesus has the power (both authority and capability) to forgive sins.  As believers we can assist our Lord in helping people to be free from their sins.  This is their greatest need, whether they understand it or not.  What does it profit a man to be healed in this life, but not have their sins forgiven?  Yes, you would think that it would always be good to have both, but one is immensely more important than the other.

There was an unbelieving, religious community there

It is important to recognize that not all who surround Jesus, then and today, truly believe in Him.  You either believe or you don’t.  However, there is a tendency within us as humans to give up faith while attempting to keep remnants of religion.  It can be a security blanket, sentimentality, or even crass opportunism.  Without faith in Jesus, religion is dead and cannot help us, but with faith, religion can be pure and full of life. 

These religious unbelievers think that Jesus is blaspheming because only God can forgive sins.  However, they willfully forget that God had set up a whole system of priests whose job it was to perform rituals through which they could declare that people’s sin was now forgiven.  This delegation of forgiving was not blasphemy.  It was merely obeying what God had sent them to do.  They just weren’t used to seeing this outside of the temple compound and the priests.  Surely, Jesus must be blaspheming.  Yet, the priests over the centuries had been pointing people to the Lamb of God that would one day come in order to take away our sins, once and for all.  Jesus stood as the ultimate High Priest and declares that this man is forgiven.

This leads to a challenge from Jesus.  He asks them which is easier to say to the paralyzed man, Your sins are forgiven, or Arise, take up your bed and walk?  “Your sins are forgiven” is easier in the sense that it can’t be verified.  How can you know it actually happened?  It is not like you get a certificate in the mail stating that God has forgiven your sins.  Yet, “take up your bed and walk” is easier in the sense of actually doing it. 

Do we really understand that healing people is easier for God then forgiving their sins?  Healing is so easy that humans themselves are figuring out ways to get the cells and DNA to do what they are supposed to do in some situations.  I doubt we will ever get to a place where we have conquered all disease.  However, no man on earth has any power to forgive someone’s sin outside of Christ.  The obstacles to being set free from sin are legion: We can be paralyzed to even try and come to Jesus, We can fight with and reject those friends who try to bring us to Him, We can give up when we run into obstacles that make it hard, and We can even believe that our sins are too great to be forgiven.

I pray that today you will see the truth of this passage.  Sin is our biggest issue, and not just getting rid of it.  Sin itself is a barrier to the relationship that God intended for us to have with Him.  There is nothing more important in life than to have Christ declare over us that our sins are forgiven.  If you do not know Christ or you have friends that do not know Christ, I pray that you will not let any of the obstacles of this life and your own heart keep you from coming to Christ.  He will receive you with open arms if you will turn from your sins and run to Him.

Obstacles Audio

Tuesday
Nov052013

Obstacles To Jesus

Today we are going to be in Luke 5:17-26.  Here we will see that there are obstacles that get in the way of us finding Jesus, or being touched by him.  Some of these obstacles are physical and some of them are not.  Some of them have to do with ourselves and others are outside of us.  However, it is faith that overcomes all obstacles in order to be touched by Jesus.  Without faith in God we will never press through these obstacles, nor receive from Jesus what God has for us.

Now this may sound like all the work depends on us.  However, the Truth is that we are only cooperating with the immense work that God has already done.  The Son of God had come to Earth and took on the additional nature of a man.  He had lived a sinless life and had come speaking the Truth and healing.  Thus we should never over estimate the greatness of our actions.  Yet, faith is necessary.  Without faith it is impossible to please God and without it no one will see God.  Let’s look at this story.

The Crowd

In verses 17-19 we find Jesus in an unnamed town and he is teaching.  It says that the Spirit of the Lord was present to heal and yet there was a crowd that had formed around him within the building and outside.  The success of Jesus had itself become a wall around him.  This physical issue of Jesus is pointed out in John 16:7, “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.”  The Holy Spirit is not limited to a physical body and can be everywhere at once.  While Jesus walked this Earth, he was limited to a body and only so many people could hear him and get close enough to touch him.  This day it was a problem for a man who was paralyzed.

We also know that the crowd is a mixed crowd.  It is mixed with those who need healing and those who just want to see it.  It is mixed with those who believe in Jesus and those who are looking for means to oppose him.  In fact wherever there is a crowd around Jesus, even in today’s churches, it is mixed in motives.  Some who are taking up room around Jesus do not believe and get in the way of those who do want to believe.  Some who refuse to be touched by Jesus physically block those who are trying to get near.  Is it possible that satan could crowd Jesus with deceivers and false disciples in order to discourage those who truly want Jesus?  You better believe that it happens.  Just remember that not everyone crowding around Jesus and His Church really want Him.

Much of the crowd only want things from Jesus.  They may not be actually resisting him like the Pharisees and Scribes.  But neither do we only want him.  The problem is not that we want things or even healings.  The problem is when our desire to get these things gets in the way of really hearing what Jesus is trying to say to us.  Do I want things from Jesus more than I want Him?  If I received no healing would I still trust Him?  If I have to choose I choose Jesus.  That is what faith is.  It is holding to Jesus because only He has the Words of Life.

Now even though the crowd can be an obstacle and should be challenged to make a choice, the person on the outside also needs to make a choice.  Are you going to let the crowd around Jesus keep you from Him?  Are you really going to say to Him when you stand before Him in eternity, “You didn’t make it easy enough for me.  Or, It was too hard.”  Really?  Do you remember the woman who had a feminine problem where she was bleeding every day?  She had wasted all her money on doctors with no cure.  Decades later she is poor and weak.  Jesus is surrounded by a crowd.  Who could expect her to be able to get through the crowd?  However, she wanted a touch from Jesus so bad that she pushed through the crowd just to touch the hem of his garment.  It is interesting that in that story (Luke 8) we are told that the crowd “thronged” Jesus.  It literally means to suffocate or choke.  I wonder if God is sometimes choking and suffocated by the unbelief and lack of faith of the crowd that has pressed in around Him today, looking for things from Him more than wanting just Him?

Yet in this story the man is paralyzed.  He can’t even do what that poor, weak, bleeding woman could.  Here we see that we do need friends.  Sometimes the obstacle is in me.  But as we explore this aspect, keep in mind that no matter how much we need friends, we need Jesus more.  The best friends are those who help us to get to Jesus.  So don’t let the presence of the crowd or the sin of the crowd keep you from Jesus.  Do you want Jesus?  Then press through the crowd and reach him.  Don’t hold back.

Physical Conditions

Now let’s focus on the fact that the man is paralyzed.  His health is an obstacle to getting to Jesus.  Now bad health can range from paralysis, zero ability, to the sniffles, only hampered.  If I only have small physical issues then I need to find ways around them and press through.  Yet, in this case that won’t work.  He needed help.  This is true if we are the paralyzed man or we are the friends.  People need help to come to Jesus.  No one who has ever been saved became so without the help of people.  So don’t let physical issues keep you or your friends from pressing through to Jesus.

God put us in families with neighbors who should be our friends so that we can care for one another.  His clear command to love our neighbors is best done by doing whatever it takes to help them to know God’s provision for them and receive it.  The heart of the Great Commission (Go into all the world…) is first helping our immediate friends and family and then scoping out to the ends of the earth and those we do not know.  No one will come to Jesus without someone going out of their way to help them.

Now not all physical obstacles are in our body.  The building itself was an obstacle.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  What is the problem and how can we get around it?  It was no easy task but the solution that came to them was to lift him up onto the roof, break through the roof and lower him down in front of Jesus.  This is probably not the only thing they could have done, but it is what these friends of the man did.  The key is not the way, but the minds and hearts that partnered together in order to help a friend.  It is a holy task to take the time to discover what it is that keeps and individual from Christ.  IT is a holy endeavor to work to remove those obstacles.  Neither is it a pretty sight.  It will involve hard labor and difficulty.  But these are the sorts of things that love does.

Am I such a friend?  I may not have any paralyzed friends who need me to cut through a roof.  A real friend helps his friend to overcome those obstacles within and without in order to get to Jesus.  Yet, we are going to see that this man was not just a sick man who couldn’t get to Jesus.  He was also a sinner.  Yet, his friends helped him anyways.  Compassion.

Sin

The story builds up to the moment where the man is lowered before Jesus, obviously sick and in need of healing.  Yet, Jesus says the unexpected, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”  What?  I came to be healed of paralysis not have my sins forgiven.  Don’t you know we are in public?  I didn’t want anyone to know I was a sinner.

Sin is our biggest obstacle to reaching Jesus.  O, sure the sin of OTHER people is an obstacle.  But, here we are looking at his own personal sin.  He was a sinner.  He wanted his paralysis fixed, but he needed his heart fixed.  Now there are some people who love to keep others in their sins.  These Pharisees and Scribes who were cynically watching Jesus that day were some of the biggest sinners.  They didn’t need physical healings but they needed their sins forgiven.  They did need touched by Jesus.  They could care less about the suffering of the people and that Jesus was healing them.  They didn’t see a miracle and rejoice.  Instead they went back to their plotting room and said, “We’ve got to kill this guy, or everyone is going to follow him.”  They didn’t care about their brothers and sisters physically and only pretended to care spiritually.  Jesus really does care about both.  Watch your own heart.  As Christians we can become so self-satisfied that we no longer have compassion for those broken by their sins.  We are called to help overcome these obstacles, not rejoice that you don’t have them.  The first way we can do that is to cease sinning against them and then love them despite their sin and try to bring them to Jesus.  Don’t settle for friends and family who are stuck in sin.  Fight for their souls in the name of Jesus.

“Which is easier to say?”  Jesus knows what they are thinking when he tells the man his sins are forgiven.  There is an irony in this question.  If you were a godly person it would be harder for you to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because that is God’s job.  Yet, in a sinful world and as a sinful person, it would be easier to say that you can forgive sins because it can’t be seen.  Forgiveness of sins is an invisible thing.  But physical healing is obvious.  Now Jesus could have healed the man and then forgiven his sins.  But he does it the other way around for emphasis.  We think his greatest problem is paralysis.  In this world we strive to fix real problems, yet just not the most important ones.  Sin was the man’s most obvious problem to God.  If you could choose to have only one thing from God, you would be a fool to choose physical health.  The man’s amazing healing was Jesus way of proving he could forgive sins.  In fact, all of the healings Jesus did were not because he was on a personal mission to wipe out all sickness and disease in the world.  It was always a means to help the faith of those who were hearing him teach amazing things.  Now it wasn’t true because Jesus did a miracle.  The miracle was true because what Jesus was saying was taught all throughout the Old Testament.  The miracles were not supporting a man who was contradicting the word of God, but one who was fulfilling it.  “Behold, the lamb of God!”

This man left glorifying God that day and for good reason.  But notice the affect on the crowd.  Yes they were amazed, but a fear of the Lord had also settled upon them.  “What manner of man is this who forgives sins and proves it by healing paralysis?”  Signs can help us.  But if we do not have a fear of God no multitude of signs will persuade us.  Because we do not fear God, we become lazy in reading God’s Word and internalizing it.  We become lazy and resistant to listening to the Holy Spirit.  And then, when the Truth appears we kill it.  Why?  We do so because we have been saying no to Truth in so many little ways until we are insulated from Jesus.  Friend, don’t let obstacles keep you from Jesus.  He has already done the heavy lifting all you have to do is believe enough to push through these wet paper bags that remain in the way.

Obstacles to Jesus Audio