TEXT: Matthew 9:1-8
Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. 2 Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” 3 But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” 4 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 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!” 7 And the man jumped up and went home! 8 Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.
Mark gives us more introduction to this story. He tells us that Jesus was in a house preaching and the house was packed. While Jesus 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. Tonight message is centered around this story and I want to plant four words in your mind…
I. THE FIRST WORD IS DEDICATION
This story begins with the four friends who brought their friend to Jesus. Sometimes it takes a team to bring a man to Jesus and as you see in this story, sometimes getting a person to Jesus is not an easy task. I don’t know what these four guys names were but I do know that it takes four things to get a man to Jesus. Understanding that the Spirit of God is the primary agent but I’m talking about four things you and I must do to get people to Christ.
- The first thing is INTERCESSION. We don’t have the power to forgive sins and people certainly can’t save themselves. Jesus is our only hope of salvation and the new birth is a spiritual phenomenon that cannot happen a part from divine intervention which brings us to prayer. I don’t understand prayer; no human understands prayer but God’s word teaches us to pray. Jesus taught us to pray. He commanded us to ask and he taught us to ask like children. Our problem is that we have stopped praying for lost people. I am as guilty as anyone. I grew up the Sardis Springs Baptist Church. I don’t really remember who inspired it but when I was around 17 or so, they started a men’s prayer breakfast. They had it every Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m and our pastor always had a list of lost people that we prayed for by name. One of the joys of that group would be to get to move a name from the lost category to the new believer category. The Grahams and MY HOPE put a lot of emphasis on praying for the lost which seems to be a lost art.
- It also takes COMPASSION to get a person to Jesus. We are going to reach many people from a distance. To reach people, we have to establish a relationship and to do that we have to care and that may be our main problem. Do we even care where our neighbor spends eternity? Once upon a time there were two brothers. Like Cain and Abel, they were raised by the same parents with the same conditioning. One of them stayed in church and became a preacher. He graduated college and seminary and became the pastor of a very large congregation. The other brother also graduated college and became a very successful lawyer. He stopped attending church the day he moved to college. He was attracted to the liberal views of higher education and became an agnostic. He denied the inspiration of scripture, the blood atonement and questioned the goodness of God or if there was a God. These boys grew up and grew a part. After their parent departed, they went for years without seeing each other or communicating. Mysteriously, they both had an inclination to get together and so they rented a cabin on a lake and spent the week together. It went great. They talked about their boyhood days and their grandparents and parents. On the last day, the unbelieving brother said to the preacher brother, “They tell me you are a preacher.” His brother said, “Yes, that is correct.” “What do you preach?” said the unbelieving brother. “Why”, said the preacher, “I preach the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” “So,” said the agnostic, “You believe all that stuff about heaven and hell.” “Yes I do,” said the preacher. “No you don’t,” said his brother, “you are a hypocrite like all the rest.” Frustrated and shaken, the preacher said, “What to you mean by saying I don’t believe what I preach?” “Well” said his brother, “if you believed that I was going to hell, how could you spend a week with me and never once talk to me about it.”
- Thirdly, to get people to Jesus, it takes ACTION. There is a black preacher that has a sermon on YouTube called “Watch Them Dogs.” It is a good sermon and I think you will enjoy listening. He compares the different kind of church folk to different kinds of dogs. We happen to have a lot of “Setters”. The Setter is a bird dog. They sit and point.
Andrew was one of the quiet disciples. He never says much but every time you see him in scripture, he is bringing someone to Jesus. You’ve heard me say this many times before but I had rather have a soul winner than a bible scholar. We all know people that go from conference to conference, listen to tape after tape and yet they never make one single effort to bring anyone to Jesus. As the Unappreciated Pastor on Twitter says, “They think the great commission says, “Go ye therefore and get other churches members and staff.” What ever happened to knocking on doors, to seeking the lost? Oh, that will not work, they say but the folks who say that have never knocked on any doors. I don’t know if anyone has noticed or not but churches don’t attract lost people anymore than jails attract criminals. I getting to the point that I agree with Billy Graham and Joe David: our churches are filled with lost people but they don’t acknowledge that they are lost. It is hard to find a professing lost person and even harder to get them in church. To win people to Christ, we have to work: we have to get off of our seats and get into the streets. What would have happened to this paralyzed man had his friends not cared. We need the DEDICATION of these four friends.
The fourth man must have been DETERMINATION. It is not always easy to get people to Jesus. Unfortunately for these guys it was other people who got in the way and made it difficult. When they got to the house there was no way it; they had to improvise, go to plan B but the key is that they did not give up. It takes determination to bring people to Christ.
II. THE SECOND WORD IS DECLARTION
Jesus saw the faith of the four friends and he said to the man on the mat, “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.” When Jesus said this, the religious crowd got tore up; they were fit to be tied. How dare Him “Declare a man forgiven.” We will get to their flawed thinking in minute, right now we want to focus on power of Jesus to declare us forgiven, healed, righteous and anything else He wishes to declare in our behalf.
III. THE THIRD WORD IS INDIGNATION
The religious crowd was upset. Jesus accused them of having evil thoughts and He should know. This crowd of religious Jews made several mistakes,  They refused to except that Jesus was God’s Son. This is why they accused Him of blasphemy. “Only God can forgive sin” they said and He is not God. They were wrong, dead wrong.  They also rejected Grace. A big part of their religion was to earn forgiveness by ones works. They were offended by what Jesus did: he gave a man perfect standing that had never done a tenth of the good deeds they had done. You spell religion “Do” but you spell Christianity “Done” and Jesus done it, without any help. The problem with religion is that it produces pride and pride causes us to condescend and to despise others. A man was healed and these hypocrites didn’t care. People who get into religion get absorbed with themselves and they set up standards of achievement. To measure up, you have to met their standards and this paralytic had not met any of their standards. Religion hardens the heart and makes the spirit mean and that is why Jesus used the word evil in respect to what they were thinking.
IV. THE FOURTH WORD IS MY FAVORITE…CELEBRATION
There is a lot to celebrate in this story:  Jesus is in the house. Can I get a shout Church, Jesus is in the house. It is His house, why shouldn’t He be here. He is here so why don’t we celebrate His presence.  A man was saved, his sins forgive and healed all at one time. They carried him in and he walked out. I love it. There is enough here to make a liberal Episcopalian shout.  The spirit of awe descends on the place. People are wowed. “Man this guy is something…where did He come from…I know God must have sent him. All eyes are on Jesus. People are praising and glorifying God. Divine electricity was in the air and folks were getting shocked and charged but guess what, not everyone was celebrating. The Jewish religious leaders [the elder brothers] did not take part in the celebration. They preferred condemnation over celebration. While others were celebrating, they were finding fault. Do you think this still happens? I cannot reads minds like Jesus but I can assure you that it still happens.
You have to decide who you want to be: A happy Christian celebrating Jesus or a miserable religious person who majors on minors.