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Follow Me: So, What's Keeping Us From Christ?

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So, What's Keeping Us From Christ?

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Have you ever heard a noise coming from your roof or attic and wondered what it might be? Many of us have probably said to ourselves, "What's going on up there? Is it a cat, rats, possum, raccoon, kids playing around? Maybe birds that have made a nest somewhere up there?" Sometimes the noise becomes so irritating you are ready to go into action, especially when it seems that whatever is up there might be about to come right through the ceiling!

Thinking about this common occurrence sets us up to learn valuable spiritual lessons in seeking and heeding Jesus' call of "Follow Me." Because 2,000 years ago at a house in a village on the Sea of Galilee something was not only up on the roof, but came right through the ceiling and landed in front of the Teacher from Nazareth!

Understanding the lessons surrounding this story of long ago about someone coming right through a roof can create some valuable breakthroughs in our lives today.

Determination finds a way

There's much to learn here about not allowing people and personal circumstances to become ongoing obstacles between ourselves and what only God can supply. Sound familiar? Perhaps too close for comfort? Well, let's break right into the story.

Important news was sweeping through the small town of Capernaum in which everyone knew everyone else's business. The Rabbi from Nazareth had entered one of the homes and was about to teach (Mark 2:1 Mark 2:1And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
American King James Version×
).

This was the same miracle worker who had recently cast out a demon from one of their own villagers and healed others (Mark 1:21-45 Mark 1:21-45 [21] And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. [22] And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes. [23] And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, [24] Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with you, you Jesus of Nazareth? are you come to destroy us? I know you who you are, the Holy One of God. [25] And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold your peace, and come out of him. [26] And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. [27] And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine is this? for with authority commands he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. [28] And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee. [29] And immediately, when they were come out of the synagogue, they entered into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. [30] But Simon's wife's mother lay sick of a fever, and immediately they tell him of her. [31] And he came and took her by the hand, and lifted her up; and immediately the fever left her, and she ministered to them. [32] And at even, when the sun did set, they brought to him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. [33] And all the city was gathered together at the door. [34] And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him. [35] And in the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went out, and departed into a solitary place, and there prayed. [36] And Simon and they that were with him followed after him. [37] And when they had found him, they said to him, All men seek for you. [38] And he said to them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. [39] And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils. [40] And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying to him, If you will, you can make me clean. [41] And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and said to him, I will; be you clean. [42] And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. [43] And he straightly charged him, and immediately sent him away; [44] And said to him, See you say nothing to any man: but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. [45] But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, so that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.
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). Now He was back! Clearly this Teacher was special, and people didn't want to miss one word of what He was saying. The house in which He spoke was filled, and the overflowing crowd spilled out into the street and blocked any entrance to this spontaneous assembly (Mark 2:2 Mark 2:2And straightway many were gathered together, so that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word to them.
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).

At this point the story transitions from the enthusiastic curiosity of the crowd to one man's quest for access to answers for His life. A quiet procession is making direct movement toward the house where Jesus is teaching, and it will not be derailed or denied.

Four men are walking together while holding the corners of a matted bed bearing a paralytic man unable to come by his own means. But they're confronted by a wall of humanity. There is no access or courtesy to step aside, for in that day people with infirmities were looked down on as being punished for perceived sins. The man's hope is dashed for the moment. He can't see, much less hear, this Man with godly power.

Suddenly his determined friends veer away from the crowd and go around the side of the house to the stairs with access to the flat roof above. What are they going to do?

In ancient Israel, roofs were commonly an extension of the household and used as places for peace and quiet. Up the group ascends, step by step, precariously carrying the lame man. They tap on the roof to find the support beams and then go to work digging into the hard clay exterior, which has been mixed with vegetable fibers, packed, and baked in the sun to create a hard, waterproof surface.

Did Jesus know they were up there? Did He hear the footsteps? I'll let you answer that. But just imagine what happens next as the indoor ceiling starts crumbling and particles start dropping on the crowd and dust comes down, perhaps on Jesus' face as He looks up to see what's going on.

Then suddenly a hole appears in the roof above the startled crowd and a burst of light comes from above. The hole quickly grows larger and larger. Suddenly a man on a matted bed is lowered by rope and lands at Jesus feet! If ever there was collective astonishment this had to be it. And if ever Jesus cracked a wide smile that broke into a grin, this is the snapshot moment!

"Your sins are forgiven you"

While the crowd is brushing off the dust and dirt from their faces and clothes, Jesus doesn't waste a second in this incredible teaching moment. What He is about to proclaim is more bewildering to the audience than everything else leading up to this moment.

He greets the paralytic with an affectionate greeting of "son" or "child" (teknon in Greek). It's a welcoming verbal embrace after such a struggle to gain His acquaintance! Jesus continues by saying, "Your sins are forgiven you" (Mark 2:5 Mark 2:5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the sick of the palsy, Son, your sins be forgiven you.
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). This causes a stir with some in the crowd, because their minds begin to churn: "Who is this man that speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mark 2:6-7 Mark 2:6-7 [6] But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, [7] Why does this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
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).

What should have been a joyous moment was turning sour in the hearts of these religious critics. They smelled blasphemy in the air. They were ready to pounce!

But Christ was undeterred. What those around Him saw was a crippled sinner and a group of his friends, but what Christ saw was "their faith" (Mark 2:5 Mark 2:5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the sick of the palsy, Son, your sins be forgiven you.
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).

Mark, the Gospel writer, comments that Jesus perceived the critics' thoughts (Mark 2:8 Mark 2:8And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said to them, Why reason you these things in your hearts?
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). Therefore, He turned His attention from the men of faith to the scorners and said: "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Arise, take up your bed and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"—He said to the paralytic, 'I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house'" (Mark 2:11 Mark 2:11I say to you, Arise, and take up your bed, and go your way into your house.
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).

This powerful declaration had a twofold purpose. For the audience, Jesus was not only making a bold statement regarding His divine authority to forgive, but demonstrating that it was true and that the man was forgiven—otherwise how could he walk if he were still apart from God?

Also in doing so, Jesus was not only penetrating the callous disbelief of the onlookers, but taking the former paralytic to a deeper state of understanding that when God works with us it is not from the outside in but the inside out, and we are healed in an awesome manner beyond what we even came to request.

Gaining a heart of wisdom

So let's ask ourselves some very personal questions and gain a heart of wisdom to better respond to Christ's invitation of "Follow Me."

The biggest question is this: What's keeping us from Christ?

Is it people? Crowds can block your access if you let them. Just one person standing between you and Christ can seem like an impenetrable wall—again, if you let them.

An important lesson of this story is that Jesus is always ready to receive you in whatever condition you are and from whatever direction you come. You simply have to see the need and pray to God to grant your desire to be greater than the human landscape around you.

One of the first things God told the young prophet Jeremiah when placed into His service was: "Do not be afraid of their faces" (Jeremiah 1:8 Jeremiah 1:8Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with you to deliver you, said the LORD.
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). Why? Because naturally we look at others to see their reaction!

Yet God's answers often lie on the other side of that initial panic we experience. The apostle Peter always strove to be as close to Christ as possible even with some of his well-known foibles. Whether walking on water while everyone else watched, waiting alone in a courtyard while companions were nowhere to be seen or jumping out of a boat and swimming to shore because Christ was there, Peter realized there was no substitute for being close to Christ.

We learn from this story the necessity of selecting friends who will go the distance with you—friends who are not only faithful to you, but also to God. Remember the account says Jesus saw their faith—the faith of the friends as well as the paralytic.

I picture four faces peering down from above and witnessing the healing of their friend. These four are a testament to God's encouragement in Ecclesiasts 4:9-13: "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor. For if they fall, one will lift up his companion. But woe to him who is alone when he falls. For he has no one to help him up. Again, if two lie down together, they will keep warm; but how can one be warm alone? Though one may be overpowered by another, two can withstand him. And a threefold cord is not quickly broken."

What does your current fellowship circle look like? Are you surrounded by acquaintances who draw you closer to Christ or lead you farther from Him?

Followers of Jesus are not only people of faith, but they need to be resourceful. Faith doesn't happen in a vacuum. God expects us to do what we can, while believing He will perform what only He can do.

Christ was more than willing to heal the paralytic man, but the man needed to come to Him. And he needed the help of His friends. Living faith is a joint venture!

Come to expect the unexpected

This simple story constantly reminds those who have heeded Christ's invitation of "Follow Me" to have a state of spiritual anticipation to come to expect the unexpected from Him.

What do I mean? The lame man sincerely came to Jesus to be healed of his paralysis—yet the first thing Jesus did was to grant forgiveness, healing him from within. This allowed him to walk uprightly before God, as well as receive bodily healing and walk physically before men.

God is always molding us to move beyond the confines of even our sincere agendas and grow in grace and knowledge. Be prepared for the next step. It's coming!

When we strive to be wherever Christ is, whether in person with the living Word of God like the lame man or opening the written Word of God today, expect things to happen, and be prepared to immediately do what God says to do.

After forgiving and healing the man, Christ told him, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house." He not only spoke to him, but also gave him something to do. Notice the healed man's response and God's reason for giving that assignment: "Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, 'We never saw anything like this'" (Mark 2:11-12 Mark 2:11-12 [11] I say to you, Arise, and take up your bed, and go your way into your house. [12] And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
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).

God has not gone out of the miracle business in the 21st century. He still forgives sin and miraculously heals those who believe in Him. So, what's keeping you from Christ?

He awaits your arrival, as much as the men of Capernaum long ago. Never limit God and never limit how God might use you to glorify Him before others as you respond to Jesus' call of "Follow Me."

Wise—and yes, persistent—men and women still seek Him!