PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
(Illustration) For many years the cinema and comic book industry have featured the Man of Steel—Superman. As a boy I watched him perform his heroics on a black and white television. He could soar like an eagle, lift trains, deflect bullets, and perform incredible and unheard of feats. I remember two things about Superman. One, his deeds always benefited others, and two, he always appeared just in the nick of time to rescue people from their dilemmas. Someone said, “We need a Superman to appear on earth, take charge of things, and help us through our problems.” Actually, that’s only partially correct. The reason that’s only partially true is because our hardships transcend the talents of a Superman. We need a Supernatural man! And the Good News is, we don’t have to wait for Him to come, He arrived 2000 years ago, and Jesus Christ is His name!
(Transition) Let’s investigate this Supernatural man, and uncover the secret to His success. First let’s discuss, Why people sought to approach Christ? We find the answer in our text when Jesus visited Capernaum.
I. Why People Came to Christ
Jesus probably went to Capernaum so He could rest from His exhausting evangelistic tour, but word quickly circulated that He was home. It took only a short time and the house was thronged with worshipers that squeezed out every inch of space.
As you read the Four Gospels have you noticed that Jesus never lacked for an audience? Throughout His ministry the Apostles write that crowds “thronged him . . . pressed upon him . . . a great multitude followed him . . . [or] so many gathered they could not so much as eat bread.” When Jesus arrived people rushed to Him like the waves rush toward the beach. Why was Jesus so popular? There were several reasons:
1. Jesus was vitally concerned about people.
Compassion characterized Christ. People knew that Jesus took special interest in their problems. When a leper bowed before Him and begged for healing Mark says that Jesus was visibly “moved with compassion” (Mark 1:41). And His compassion compelled Him to stretch out his hand, touch the leper, and wipe away his leprosy. But there’s more to that story than meets the eye.
In Bible times lepers were ostracized from society. The contagion of leprosy forced lepers to colonize outside cities. And when others unsuspectingly approached them, Moses’ Law commanded them to give a cry of warning. But Jesus never broke stride when He saw this leper. Instead of speaking from a distance, Jesus walked within a breath of the man, touched him, and healed him (Mark 1:41). Who else in Scripture do you find attempting something like that?
This is precisely the type person we need today. That’s because everyone here has resembled this leper. We were spiritually unclean and outside God’s fellowship. But Christ pitied us, touched us, and cleansed us by His marvelous grace. Thank God for His compassion.
(Illustration) A number of years ago an acquaintance of mine, Bennie Triplett, wrote a song entitled, “He’s Concerned.” One line of the lyrics says this: “He’s concerned, He’s concerned, nothing matters more you see.” That’s an immutable truth. God cares for you! And people identified with Christ by the thousands because they knew of his concern, compassion, and love.
2. Secondly, people flocked to Christ because no one else offered what He offered.
Jesus arrived when nobody was performing miracles. Nobody was healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, or calming storms. Not even John the Baptist, whom Christ said, “among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John” (Luke 7:28). And so people came to Christ because nobody else could offer what He offered.
I want you to hear what John says about this is in John 6. Jesus had just worked a great miracle by distributing five barley loaves and two small fish to over 5000 people (John 6:9-10). The next day He taught the crowds that He was the Living Bread from Heaven (John 6:35-51). Notice how these events unfolded: First comes the miracle and second comes the message. And when the crowds heard Christ’s words that John says, “many of his disciples turned back, and no longer followed Him” (John 6:66). The crowds gladly received a free meal but they couldn’t handle the truth! (Doesn’t that describe today’s society?)
What happens next is a vivid display of Christ’s humanity. Remember, Jesus wasn’t just the Son of God, he was also the Son of Man. And when the crowds abandoned him, he turned to his Apostles and asked: “Will you also go away; [are you going to leave Me too]”? But I love Peter’s response. He looked at Christ and said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:68, 69).
Peter was saying, “Lord, who else can perform miracles like you? Who else can heal like you? Who else can teach, encourage, strengthen, and help like you . . . Who else offers what you offer?” And that answer holds true today. Should we turn our backs on Christ who can offer what he offers? The answer is no one.
(Transition) Secondly, let’s discuss how people came to Christ.
II. How People Came to Christ
Our text discloses four men carrying a paralyzed man to Christ, but when they arrived they discovered the house was jammed and out of space. Lesser men might have been disheartened and turned back. They might have lamented, “Well, there’s no use. The house is packed and Jesus is unreachable.” But not these men! They were determined to access Christ. They were prime examples of the Scripture, “Faith without works is dead.” It didn’t matter that there were obstacles; they were determined to overcome anything that would obstruct their miracle!
In a flash, they saw the outside stairs that led to the roof of that First Century Israeli house. They grabbed their friend and hauled him to the housetop and began tearing off the shingles. (Aren’t you glad it wasn’t your home?) But this is precisely what delights God! He delights in aggressive faith! He loves the faith that seeks to overturn impossibilities.
James 5:16 says, “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man that avails much.”
Hebrews 11:6 says, “anyone who comes to . . . [God] must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Acts 12:5 reveals that when Peter was kept in prison waiting to be killed, that “but the Church was earnestly praying to God for him.” And in answer to their prayer, an angel of the Lord was dispatched from Heaven, broke Peter free, led him from prison, and delivered him from the hand of Herod.
Luke 11:9, 10 says: “Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.”
Bold, diligent, roof-ripping faith will ignite Christ’s power!
Let’s go back to Capernaum and see how Christ responded to these four men on the roof with their paralyzed friend. Mark says, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Arise, take up your bed, and go home. And immediately he arose, took up his bed and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed and glorified God saying, We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:11,12).
(Insight) Here’s what those verses teach us. Your need may touch God’s heart, but your faith will move His hand! These four men were perfect examples of what the apostle James said: “Faith without works is dead.”
Zacchaeus had to climb a tree.
The woman with the issue of blood had to fight her way through a pressing mob.
The Canaanite woman had to repeatedly implore Jesus for her daughter’s deliverance.
Simon Peter had to take that first step over the bow of the boat before he could leave tracks on the water.
And when God leads us to believe for something impossible, you can know your bold, undying faith will be rewarded. If you are fearful, fainthearted, or hesitant to claim God’s blessings you probably won’t get anything! Faith coupled with works claims the impossible.
(Humor) If you’re home and you’re hungry, don’t complain about hunger pains, get off the sofa and raid the refrigerator. And if you need an answer to your dilemma, don’t complain of God’s failure to supply, because He’s already given you a “measure of faith.” And that “measure of faith” can either calm the storm or sail through it! “This is the victory that overcomes the world; even our faith” (1 John 5:4).
(Example) Years ago Nancy Jones was the oldest resident of a mid-western community. When she died the editor of the local newspaper wanted to commemorate her death. But the more he inquired about Miss Jones the more he discovered that while she had never done anything terribly wrong neither had she made a striking impression. She had maintained a reclusive, unmarried lifestyle. She never took vacations, was a spendthrift, and held fast to her small, one-bedroom apartment. Since writing an article was difficult, the editor shifted the assignment to the first writer he came across, which happened to be the sports reporter. The sports reporter took the editor’s information and wrote the following: “Here lie the bones of Nancy Jones. Her life held no terrors. She lived without risk; she died without risk. No hits, no runs, no errors.”
Remember, “faith without works is dead”! To receive a miracle, it’s often necessary that you pursue a miracle.
(Transition) I want to show you how the Scriptures illustrate that. The Bible teaches us that God often moves in demonstrable ways when we follow His instructions. Let me show you what I mean.
III. What People Did When They Approached Christ
In John 4, Jesus met the Woman at the Well and gave her a miracle that transformed her life. It was such an incredible miracle that her experience affected the entire region of Samaria. Revival broke out and people accepted Jesus as the Messiah. But before this revival occurred, she had to be willing to obey Christ’s request. And all Jesus asked was that she give Him something to drink. Again, “faith without works is dead.” Christ often requests a visible response to what we profess!
(Example) In the Old Testament God sent Elijah to supply a miracle for a woman and her son during a prolonged famine. But in order to work this miracle Elijah first asked this woman to take her last supply of food and feed him. As difficult as this act appeared, she obeyed, fed the prophet, and God worked a miracle that lasted 3½ years.
Let’s look closer at this miracle. This woman sees Elijah approaching her property and realizes he’s the instigator of this famine. Elijah is the very person that made the prophetic pronouncement for the rains to cease, the dew to disappear, and the earth to crack open. And then Elijah had the audacity to demand her to feed him. She could have said, “What? You’re the very one responsible for this famine. Why should I feed you?” But she didn’t. She knew God’s power resided in Elijah and if she obeyed God’s Word a miracle could be hers. That’s why she surrendered her last meal to him. And her actions also commanded the meal-barrel to never expire during that famine.
(Transition) Let me give you one more example.
Moses and the Fiery Serpent
As Israel journeyed through the wilderness they came to a section where venomous serpents decimated them. Young and old were dying on every hand. Moses became desperate and huddled with God. He said, “Lord, we’re not going to survive. The people have sinned by complaining and now serpents are poisoning the camp. We need help!”
I think it’s interesting to notice what God didn’t tell Moses to do. Did He say, “Moses organize a Committee for the Destruction of Serpents”? Did He say, “I am going to prescribe a pharmaceutical antidote for the snakebites?” No, God made no such suggestion. What He told Moses was odd. He told Moses to “Make a snake, raise it upon a pole, and anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (Numbers 21:8).
Those are strange instructions. Had God informed us to do such a strange thing we might have become a sequence of question marks. “Lord, how can a serpent on a pole remedy the situation?” But Moses didn’t question, he complied with the Spirit’s prompting. And when the serpent was raised, according to promise, all who looked were healed.
Have you gotten God’s methodology yet? He first gives us a command to follow. He then asks us to obey it. And then, we trust Him for the results.
I want to close by pointing out the significance of Moses fashioning that serpent on a pole. The answer came 2000 years later when Jesus hung on the Cross. The Lord said in John 3:14, “Just as Moses lifted the serpent in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up (15) that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.”
But how could God’s sinless Son be compared to a snake? Such a comparison sounds blasphemous! But the answer is found in 2 Corinthians 5:21 when Paul said, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Jesus, who was altogether righteous, became sin, that we might be delivered from sin and cleansed from its poison. If you have not looked with faith toward the Christ of the Cross, I urge you to do so today. He’s waiting for you. Jesus is the God of all our problems!