Monday, February 1, 2016

MAKE SPACE

When Keith and I started our Small Group, we read this story as a way to help our new friends see our vision for, not only our little group, but for the church as a whole.  This story, found in three different books of the Bible [Matthew 9, Mark 2, Luke 5], challenges us to be different, to live eyes wide opened, to create space, and to relentlessly pursue Jesus.

One day Jesus was teaching in a home and a large crowd of people gathered to hear him speak. The power of the Lord was with Him to heal. The house where He was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no place to stand, not even outside the door.

While Jesus was preaching to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat.  They tried to bring him and put him down before Jesus, but there were so many people that they could not find a way.

So they [the four friends] climbed on the roof,
dug a hole above Jesus' head, and lowered the mat into the room
so that the crippled man was lying before Jesus.

Jesus said to the paralyzed man,
"Stand up.  Take your mat and go home."
The man immediately stood up in front of everyone.
He picked up his mat and walked home, praising God.

Every time I read this story, I find myself asking the question...
Who am I?  Am I the crowd, the friend, or the paralytic?

THE CROWD.
They came from all over the area filling the house inside and out.
They heard Jesus was speaking and they wanted to hear what He had to say.
They knew Jesus could heal.

The religious leaders claimed their front row seats closest to Jesus,
but they were shallow in their thinking and blinded to their own needs.
The people filled the house to listen, learn, and see,
but they didn't notice the crippled and hurting people around them.

They shared space with Jesus, but they didn’t have an encounter with Him.
They witnessed four grown men lower their friend from the roof and place him the feet of Jesus, but it never dawned on them that they are just as needy, just a paralyzed.

FOUR FRIENDS.
They were going toward Jesus.
They had a friend who was paralyzed that they wanted Jesus to heal.
They knew getting their friend to Jesus would be hard, but they refused to leave him behind.

They didn’t get discouraged when the crowd refused to make room for their friend.
They were willing to go the distance, carry the weight of their friend, destroy private property, and not stop until their friend was lying at the feet of Jesus.

They were tired and exhausted from carrying their friend, but their hearts were full as they look down through the roof at their friend laying right in front of Jesus.
They did their part, had faith that Jesus would heal, and watched their friend walk home, worshiping God.

THE PARALYTIC.
He was paralyzed and needed help.
He was unable to get to Jesus on his own.
He was needy, struggling, and messy.

He was carried on his bed mat, the mat he lived on.
He and his mat were not able to get cleaned up before meeting Jesus.
If and when he got to Jesus, he needed people to be willing to make space for him.

He was blessed with friends who had their eyes and hearts fixed on Jesus.
He was immediately healed by Jesus and obeyed by getting up and going.
His encounter with Jesus forever changed him.

Who am I?
Who are you?
As a church, who are we?

It is so easy to be the crowd.  It is a role that, if we take our eyes off of the gospel, we innocently slip into.  We can get in the routine of going to church, claiming our seat, saying hello to the familiar faces around us, and without realizing it, go completely blind.

Blind to the lost.
Blind to the hurting.
Blind to the messy.
Blind to those very things in us.

If our Small Group is full of the crowd, the group becomes so inward focused that we make it hard for outsiders to come in, to feel part, to meet Jesus.  They have to work at it.  They have to be willing to keep coming back week after week and to make the hole in the ceiling big enough to fit through.

“How tragic it is when spectators stand in the way
of people who want to meet Jesus.”
{Warren Wiersbe}

To be a friend, like one of the four, is tough.  We have to make our relationship with Jesus our number one priority.  We have to commit to keeping our eyes on Him.  We have to purposefully take a step toward Jesus everyday single day.  If we are going pick up a hurting friend and carry them to Jesus, we need to already be walking in that direction.

It takes love, grace, and mercy.
It takes patience and determination.
It takes faith to trust that Jesus is enough and it provides unspeakable joy when you see your friend stand up and go, praising God.

Photo by Kelsey Tice Photography

The paralytic is a role we will all find ourselves in at some point or another.  When life gets messy and we become paralyzed by our hurts and disappointments, we have to humble ourselves and ask for help.  Lying down, paralyzed, acting like everything is good is just crazy.  It's pride.

There is nothing shameful about needing help.
There is nothing shameful about life being messy.

We often feel defeated because we have an enemy who preys on the hurting.  Satan wants to make us think the mat is comfortable.  He can even make us resentful if the people in our lives refuse to keep carrying us around.  We have to remember that the goal is always to be carried to Jesus.  We are suppose to be left at His feet.  After we've been on the mat a while, getting up is hard.  But we are suppose to get up, take our mat, and begin walking the path of healing, which can be painful.  But, the quicker we get up and go, the quicker the pain and suffering can be redeemed.

I pray that our church looks and acts like the four friends.
I pray that the messy and hurting feel safe in our groups.
I pray that we will make space so that it is easy for people to meet Jesus.

1 comment :

  1. My goodness Jackie! What a beautiful post! Thank you for speaking truth, encouraging us and letting the Holy Spirit speak through you! We are so blessed to have you guys as our group leader!

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