Mark 1:21-25, 2:5-11
This week we are following the footsteps of Jesus from his hometown Nazareth to a region known as Capernaum. The two scripture passages read refer to two different healing stories, while the journey from Nazareth to Capernaum most likely involved another healing as well. We will talk about Jesus’ first sermon, his calling to his Father’s work as the Messiah, what the Bible refers to as demon possession, and the faith of friends as we look at a focus on Jesus’ healing ministry. In the video we will visit the City of Capernaum, the synagogue, and the Sea of Galilee. [Play video]
Last week we looked at Jesus’ baptism and briefly touched on his time of temptation in the wilderness. We will focus more on this 40-day trial for Jesus in a few weeks, but from that experience Jesus returned to his mother’s hometown of Nazareth. This town did not have a good reputation. It was extremely small with most residents being related in some way. It is here that Jesus entered the synagogue on the Sabbath and issued his first sermon. After reading the sacred scripture from Isaiah, Jesus boldly proclaimed that the scripture had been fulfilled – he was claiming to be the long-awaited Messiah. Yet those in attendance would have known Jesus as Joseph’s son, the carpenter’s kid. Quickly Jesus realized he would never be welcomed in his own hometown and ventured toward another home base – Capernaum.
In order to venture to this new home base, Jesus would have passed through the area of Magdela. This is significant because Jesus met a woman who was ‘possessed’ with 7 demons. Jesus had just been rejected by his own family and friends, and immediately encounters a woman who most likely was rejected by her loved ones as well because of her afflictions. I wanted to focus a moment on the Biblical idea of demons. We often resort to Satanic possession when referring to demons. Hollywood has taken a specific turn when looking at this idea of demons. In Jesus’ time, demons were accredited to anything that could not be explained by the health experts at the time. I agree with the author of this series when I say that answering the question of whether or not demons exist is complicated. Anything from mental illness, epilepsy, even addictions are referred to as demons.
Mary Magdalene was said to be possessed by seven demons. Perhaps some of those demons included schizophrenia, or depression, or alcoholism, or narcolepsy – we do not know and the Bible does not make this clear for us. But what we do know is that Jesus maintained full power over these demons. When Jesus rebuked these demons, healing occurred. It still does. Perhaps we need to look at our addictions or hang-ups as demons and recognize that Jesus has full authority and dominion over them. Healing can occur when we call on the name of Jesus the Christ.
Jesus spent a great deal of his ministry performing all kinds of healing. From paralytics to those born blind, from lepers to raising the dead, Jesus acted out his faith and his calling by bringing healing to the masses. I love the story presented from Mark’s gospel about the paralytic and his four friends. Unlike Jesus’ reception in his hometown Nazareth, as soon as he healed the man in the synagogue in Capernaum word spread far and wide. People came from all over for the chance to experience wholeness at the hand of Jesus the Messiah.
We are never given the name of the paralytic, but we are told a great deal about his friends. They were so desperate to help their friend, and they had absolute faith that Jesus could provide the healing he needed. I have often thought of Elvis or Beatles fans and the lengths they went through to be in the presence of their idols. I’m sure this still happens today – I wonder what lengths true Redskins fans are going through to secure playoff tickets! Yet I have never heard of someone having friends so dedicated to a person’s cause to be willing to tear the roof off a stadium or concert venue in order to lower a dedicated fan on stage or field with his/her idol. It would be a really great Facebook post!!
These guys were desperate. Their friend was suffering and they saw the answer to his need – the great healer Jesus. So with all their determination they carried their friend to the roof of the house where Jesus was preaching, tore the roof off and lowered their friend to the feet of Jesus. He was so impressed with their faith he forgave the sins of the paralytic and provided freedom from his affliction.
Jesus often welcomed the outcasts, healed their illness, demon or injury, and helped to welcome them back into society. Mary Magdalene was most certainly an outcast, trapped with her ‘demons.’ Yet Jesus provided a freedom that in turn led her to be one of his most faithful followers. She was one of the few that stood at the foot of the cross. She was the one to first witness the resurrection of Jesus just three days after his death. She became a major factor in establishing the Christian church at a time when women were only to have leadership within the home.
The friends of the paralytic were faith warriors. They not only had faith in Jesus, they put their faith into action by serving as stretcher-bearers for their friend in need. The question for us today is this – whose stretcher-bearer are we willing to be? Putting our faith into action requires picking up a stretcher pole and supporting another. Can we do this? There are so many in need. I spent time at Mayo Elementary School this week. I thought the kids were wired before Christmas, only to find they were doubly so now!! I hope at least for a short time I was able to serve as a stretcher-bearer for the teacher I was assisting who was showing nothing but patience and kindness in a very challenging situation! I let her know we are holding all our teachers in prayer!
I urge you to pray about this. Go to Jesus in prayer, open your heart and feel the calling to bring someone in need to Jesus Christ the ultimate healer. Dare to be a stretcher-bearer in a world of those who would just as quickly stomp on a paralyzed person rather than bear him/her up. In the words of Chris Rice,
“Carry your candle, run to the darkness.
Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn.
Hold out your candle for all to see it.
Take your candle, go light your world.
Take your candle, go light your world.” Amen.