The Touch Of The King
One Sunday, several years ago, the Presbyterian Church in Spencerport, New York, was crowded to overflowing. Why? Because, the Sunday before the church bulletin carried this announcement:
“Next Sunday both church choirs will sin together!”
Church bulletins can be a source of great laughter. With the help of Rob Bullock and Skippy Maguire, I have put together a list of announcements which, believe it or not, actually appeared in church bulletins.
- Don’t let worry kill you off—let the church help.
- Thursday night—potluck supper—prayer and medication to follow.
- For those of you who have children and don’t know it, we have a nursery downstairs.
- The rosebud on the altar this morning is to announce the birth of David Alan Belzer, the sin of Rev. and Mrs. Julius Belzer.
- Tomorrow afternoon there will be meetings in the north and south ends of the church. Children will be baptized at both ends.
- Monday at 5:00 p.m., there will be a meeting of the Little Mother’s Club. All ladies wishing to be Little Mothers will meet with the Pastor in his study.
- The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind. They can be seen in the church basement Saturday.
- Next Sunday, a special collection will be taken to defray the cost of the new carpet. All those wishing to do something on the new carpet will come forward and do so.
Well, the church isn’t perfect, not by a longshot, and we don’t claim to be. But there is one thing the church does very well, better than anyone else. The church brings people into the presence of the One who is perfect. The church brings people to Jesus Christ. That’s precisely what this story in the Gospel of Mark is all about.
We are told that when Jesus returned to Capernaum after being away for awhile, He was “at home”. More than likely, He was staying at the home of Simon Peter, who was a resident of Capernaum. In any case, when word got out that Jesus was in town, people came crowding around the house where He was staying. Then we read these words: “Some people came, bringing to Him a paralyzed man carried by four of them.” But they had a problem. The crowd was so large that they couldn’t maneuver their friend into the presence of Jesus. So they improvised. They got creative. They went up the staircase on the outside of the house and onto the roof. They proceeded then to tear a hole in that roof. Sounds like a major thing, but it really wasn’t. Roofs in those days consisted of wooden beams laid flat and side by side with the cracks being sealed by mud, and the whole thing covered over by palm fronds to keep the moisture out. Consequently, a roof was rather easily made, or re-made if necessary. In any case, those four people tore a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down into the presence of Jesus.
I would like for you to think with me about that today, and I’d like to lay it out under four headings: four for one, one for one, one for five, and some for none. If that’s not clear now, I think it will be before we finish.
First, “four for one”.
Obviously, I am referring here to the ministry of the four friends. They were believers. We know that from verse 5 where it says: “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic …” And being believers, they understood that one of their great joys and one of their great responsibilities in life was to bring others to Jesus Christ. They knew Jesus as the Savior, yes, but they also knew Him as the Lord. In other words, they not only believed in Him, they also obeyed Him. Jesus says that we are to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our great task as Christians is to bring those two loves together. The most moving thing you can do for a friend of yours is to get that friend to Jesus Christ—even if it means raising the roof.
I think this morning of a young man named Tim who was going to college in the state of Kansas. He was assigned a roommate—a young man from Africa, whose name was Akori. Akori was not a Christian, and Tim thought it was his responsibility to bring Akori to the Lord. The two of them, Tim and Akori, became good friends and at the end of that year, Akori became a Christian. When he was asked who or what led him to the faith, he replied: “It was Tim. It wasn’t that he forced it on me. It wasn’t that he tried to manipulate me. It wasn’t that he argued with me all the time. What did it was the fact that three times I heard him pray for me while he was asleep.” Imagine that! Akori heard Tim, in his sleep, pleading with God to bring Akori into the fold of the faithful, and that was what melted young Akori’s heart. The best thing a friend can do for a friend is to bring that friend to Jesus Christ. Four for one. Raising the roof if necessary to get that one to the Savior.
Secondly, “one for one.”
Here we have the misery of the unbelieving friend. This is one of the most interesting details of the story. You see, there is no evidence in the story that this paralytic wanted to come to Jesus. He never said a word to Jesus—nothing—not when he was being lowered, not when he was in front of the Lord, not even after he was healed. Not a word. The Scriptures are full of individuals crying out to Jesus for salvation, crying out to Jesus for healing, but this fellow utters not a single word. I think it’s safe to say that he didn’t want to be there. Perhaps he was embarrassed. We can understand that. Usually we don’t mind being the center of attention if what we are receiving is applause, but we are not comfortable being the center of attention when what we are receiving is sympathy. So I think we can assume that this paralytic did not want to participate in what he probably thought was one more fruitless attempt at finding healing. Yet, he did not refuse to go with the four, and I think that the reason that he didn’t refuse to go with them was because he knew they were his friends. He knew their intentions were good. The thing that held the four people and the paralytic together was love. The four loved him enough to want to get him to the one person on earth who could help him.
I have often been asked how aggressive should you be in talking to someone else about Christ. My answer is always the same: You can go as far as love allows. So this paralytic didn’t want to go to Jesus, but the four took him anyway. They could do that without his protesting in anger and frustration because he trusted them. In Proverbs 27:6 we read: “Faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Sometimes one friend has to wound another, has to go against another’s desires. But when they are genuine friends, the wounds do that which is good.
When Jesus came into this world, He did not come as an alien from another planet. He took upon Himself the full garb of our humanity. Not only that, but He took upon Himself suffering and frustration, and even the burden of our sins. Then most astonishing of all, He died for our sins—and He did it all out of of love. What He calls us to do is to love as He loved. We are to identify with those we are seeking to win. We are to care deeply about them; we are to be involved with them, we are to be vulnerable to them—and love is the key.
Take care to hear me a-right. We are to identify with who they are but not with what they do. We don’t win people by sharing their sins with them; we win people by sharing our love with them. One of the great lies out there in the world is that you can do good by perpetrating an evil act. False. Absolutely false. The Christian way to win is not to do that which is wrong, but rather to overcome wrong with a vulnerable, sensitive, caring, identifying love. Just like Jesus.
That brings me to “one for five.”
I am referring here to the mercy shown by the Master. Here are four men looking down through the hole in the roof, and the paralytic man looking up from his litter. The Bible says: “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic: ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'” I imagine those words came as quite a shock to the paralytic. He thought that he was being brought to Jesus because of his physical problems, not his spiritual problems, and yet all Jesus wanted to talk about were the morals and the ethics of his life. But you see, Jesus knew that it wouldn’t do any good to heal the man’s crippled body until He had healed the fellow’s crippled soul.
You know, sin is rather like toxic, radioactive waste. How do we handle that lethal kind of waste? We encase it in huge blocks of concrete and carry it out to the deepest parts of the sea and drop it in. But sometimes the concrete cracks, and the deadly poison oozes out and rises to the surface, killing everything it touches. It’s like that with some people. They have some poisonous sin submerged in their lives, and it bubbles up through everything they do with its killing touch. Those people will never be different. They will never know the life-giving joy of living until they are exposed before Christ and dealt with by Christ. That’s the way it was for this paralytic. Christ forgave him and he was healed. So when Jesus then said: “Rise up and walk”, he got up and walked. Let me say it as plainly as I know how: You will never know the boundless joy of powerful, positive, exuberant, exciting living until you let Christ deal with the wrong oozing out of little cracks in your life.
The last of my points, “some for none.”
Can you believe it? There were some people who resented what happened there. They were angry at Christ. They were even angry at the healing because Jesus talked about forgiving sin and they said only God could forgive sin.
I used to find it hard to believe that people could become offended when something good is done. But I understand that now. When people raise the roof, there are some who resent it and oppose it! Count on it. Let us in this church take some new initiative to bring Christ and the good of Christ to the world, and there will be some who carp and criticize and try to shoot it down. There’s nothing new in that. One of the interesting archaeological finds of the last decade was on a wall from ancient Rome. On that wall was drawn the picture of a young boy bowing down in worship. In front of him is the object of his worship—a cross, and on the cross is a man and the man has the head of a jackass. Neatly printed below this cartoon are the words: “Alexamanos worships his god.” But here’s the interesting thing. Below the neatly written line is the scrawling of a child and the words read: “Alexamanos is faithful.” No matter how he was ridiculed for his belief, he was faithful. And that’s what we are called to be.
Jesus says in John 15 that if the world persecuted Him, it is going to persecute us as well. That’s the reason that the history of the church is so often written in blood, because the church has stood up for the right in the face of that which was wrong. The church holds its primary allegiance to Jesus Christ.
Back in July of 1746, a small group of Scotsmen were gathered on the northeast shore of Scotland. They were helping their king, “Bonnie Prince Charlie”, escape from Oliver Cromwell to France. There were seven of those men. As Bonnie Prince Charlie boarded the little boat which was to take him out to the larger vessel, those seven men stood before their king and took a vow. In that vow they said: “May our backs be to God, may our faces be to the devil, and may all of the curses of the Scriptures come upon us and our children if in this hour of greatest danger we do not stand firm for our king!” As Bonnie Prince Charlie heard them take that vow, he was so moved that he stepped out of the boat, back onto the shore, and he walked over to the leader of the Scotsmen, a man by the name of Hugh Chisholm. The king shook Chisholm’s hand, and from that day until the day he died, Hugh Chisholm never shook another person’s hand. He said that he never wanted to lose the touch of his king!
Dear friends, if in this hour of greatest danger you take your stand for Jesus Christ; if you put Jesus Christ first in your life, if you commit yourself to the service of this church, if you vow to live with Him and in Him and for Him, then His Spirit will enfold you. And for as long as you live you will never in your life, lose
The touch of the King!