You Were There! (Camp Meeting, 7/16/17)

Posted by on Jul 18, 2017 in Pitman Camp Meeting, Sermons | 0 comments

Rev. Jim Hughes has a unique ministry where he dresses up as a Biblical character and gives a first person account of what he lived through; of how he saw God or walked with Jesus.  Over the years at the Pitman Camp Meeting we’ve seen him portray characters such as Judas, Peter, and John.

Some of those costumes were pretty heavy.  And on a warm July night in the Grove Auditorium, they can be pretty uncomfortable.  There have been evenings where his performance cost him 5-10 pounds from perspiration.

But tonight, we couldn’t blame him  for keeping his wardrobe simple and light.  When he appeared, he was costume consisted of only a hat and a cane.  He began talking about something that is recorded in Mark chapter 2. 

He began speaking about Peter’s house and described how a house of that time would have looked.  But as he started describing how things started to fall from the ceiling and as holes began to appear from above, it was clear he was speaking about the healing of the paralytic.

 

You’re probably familiar with this passage.  If you need a refresher, open the below box to read Mark 2:1-12.

Mark 2:1-12

  2 When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home.  Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them,  four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.  They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.

5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”  But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves,  “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts?  Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’?  So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

 

But who was this man with the hat and cane?  He was speaking about this event as an eye witness.  But who was he?  Was he Peter?  Was he one of the disciples?  Or was he the paralytic?  Maybe his cane was an indication of some lingering effects of his years on the mat.

But as the story went on, it was clear  that he was none of these.  In fact, it turns out that the Bible doesn’t even mention this character.  But, he was there.

When this miraculous healing took place, the man standing before us was only a child.  He had heard about this Jesus, and he heard that he was going to be in this house.  But when he arrived, it was jammed packed.  The adults of the community closed ranks as he tried to squeeze past them.  He just wanted to get close enough to see this Jesus.  As he consistently made his way forward, finding any gap in the crowd that he could squeeze through, he got close enough to the front  of the room to notice all of the “important people” and religious leaders who were sitting in the front row.  First class section.  But he was only a small boy… flying coach (or even less).

But he felt the pieces of the ceiling as particles began dusting his head.  As the pieces got bigger and bigger, everyone’s attention was drawn to the ceiling.  Even Jesus had to stop His teaching.  He watched with love (and maybe even some amusement) as the holes in the ceiling got bigger and bigger.  Eventually the small holes merged into an opening large enough for a man to fit through, and the light streaming through the opening was blotted out as a mat appeared.  The hands and arms of four friends were visible as the ropes lowered the paralyzed man towards Jesus, stopping at chest level. 

Fishermen on the Sea of Galilee

Jesus knew what was happening.  He knew their hearts. 

But the rest of people had other thoughts.  Peter had spent a lot of time preparing his home so that he could host Jesus.  He was pretty upset about the damage.   The important people on the front bench bristled with indignation.  How could this teacher allow such irreverence?!?  The adults in the room were annoyed at the interruption (after all, they had arrived early enough to get a good place to watch.  They didn’t have to barge in). 

Jesus did something amazing- He forgave the man’s sins! 

But the important people and the adults weren’t able to accept that.  So Jesus gave them additional proof; proof that was actually much less significant than forgiving the man’s sins.  After telling the paralytic that his sins were forgiven, Jesus healed him.  The twisted spine snapped into position.  The legs that hadn’t been used for many years suddenly grew muscles.  And perhaps with some initially wobbly motions, the paralytic maneuvered himself off of the mat.  For the first time he stood on his own two feet.  For the first time, he had an identity deeper than just “The Paralytic.”  He had spent  a lifetime looking upwards, but this time, as he peered through the hole in the ceiling, he could see the tears of his four friends who had a bird’s eye view of God’s love and Jesus’ compassion.

 

Were YOU There?

The man before us concluded his story by looking at us and remarking, “But you look familiar.  Haven’t we met before?  I’m sure I’ve seen you.”

Weren’t you there that day?  Who were  you???

The Crowd

You arrived early enough to get inside the house and find a good place to stand.  You planned ahead. You had the right to be there!

But in comes  this latecomer.  A kid.  Maybe the kid of some poor low-life fisherman.  He probably smelled; didn’t have the decency to take a shower before coming to church.  And when this kid tried to push through, you held back.  Not only did you not welcome and encourage him, you made it clear that you didn’t want him there. 

The Important Men

You’re a respected leader in this town.  Not only that, you’re an important person in the church.  You have a responsibility to defend the simple folk against any false teaching, so you’re very suspicious of this Jesus.  He doesn’t have your education, your background. 

How dare he come into my church and try to tell ME something I don’t know?  And then when he started talking about forgiveness (after these scoundrels had just vandalized the house), your dander gets up.  “This isn’t the way we do things around here!”

The Friends

It’s not clear how you became friends with this paralytic when everyone else tried to ignore him.  But for whatever reason, you felt his pain and wanted to help him in any way you could. 

You knew Jesus was the answer to the burden.  You couldn’t understand all the theology, but you just knew there was something special about this Jesus. 

So you carried your friend up the steps to the roof of the house.  With your bare hands you clawed through the roof.  Straining at the ropes you lowered this “Paralytic” to the floor.  Then you cried in joy when the One who you knew was the Answer healed your friend and allowed him to walk.

The Paralytic

Do you really think that you can handle  your problems on your own?  Do you really believe that you’re big enough, wealthy enough, or strong enough to pull yourself through any situation?   The man we know as “The Paralytic” had long stopped looking at things that way.

This man had no other options.  His only hope was Jesus, and so he put himself into a place of surrender:

F Forsaking
A All
I I
T Trust
H Him

 

Yes, this is a story that happened long long ago.  It’s from a different time and place.

And yet, if we’re honest, we really can see ourselves in this story.  Who do YOU want sitting next to you in church?  What if someone tries to sit in YOUR pew?  How many times have you passed by a homeless person?  When you think of your pastor, which have you done more of:  Prayed or Criticized?  When you think of Jesus:  Is it only on Sunday? Or are you so desperate that you’ll claw your way through a roof in order to see Him?  Are you so in Love with the Son of God that you’ll go to great pains to bring others to Him?  Have you given up hope, content to lie in self pity? Or do you seek the risen Christ, who is the only One who can give you purpose and value?

Weren’t you at Peter’s house that day???

 

 

 

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