From time to time disease spreads across the world, from Ebola which ravaged African nations, influenza which killed millions, and now to the Zika virus which is invading South America. Evangelist Billy Sunday used to tell the story of a great plague that swept Paris and killed thousands of people. It baffled the skill of the doctors of that day. After a consultation, several doctors agreed that the only way to diagnose and eventually end the plague was for one of them to examine thoroughly the body of one who had died. This, however, would mean certain death for the examining physician. At first no one seemed eager to volunteer, until a famous French surgeon arose and said, “Gentleman, I will make the examination.” He wrote out his will, stepped into the room of a patient who had just died from the plague, and made the diagnosis. He recorded the results on a piece of paper, which he placed in a jar of vinegar for all to read. Within six hours, the doctor himself was dead, but the lives of thousands were spared through his sacrifice.
Today in our walk through the Gospel of Mark, we come across a story of great compassion, great need, and eventually great perseverance. Our text comes from Mark 2:1-12, where Jesus ministry is really getting off the ground, his reputation and feats of the miraculous are continuing to spread, we find a story of a group of men living near and around Jesus, and see their lives drop right in on Jesus:
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum (This was Jesus main station for operating his ministry), the people heard that he had come home (most likely he is using the home of Simon Peter and his wife). 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. (Remember leading up to Chapter 2, Jesus had a series of miraculous healings, and people are responding!) 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. These four men in order to get to Jesus started Move #1: Digging Down Deep (Mark 2:1-4) 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.
You could almost feel the excitement, the electric atmosphere as more and more people jammed the few small rooms and courtyard, all to see Jesus. People standing shoulder to shoulder, listening to Jesus preach the word, most likely laying out the Good News of what would come. As he preached the word, something started to unfold, literally, the roof. At first a small rustling, until the tiles of the roof started to shake, eventually the sun started to shine through, four men had dug down deep, when getting inside was seemingly impossible. Carrying their friend up the external stairway, they lowered him down, in front of Jesus. Not seeing Jesus wasn’t an option, not getting their friend before Christ, wasn’t an option, not giving him a chance for a better life wasn’t an option, not when they could dig down deep, even if it meant going through the roof.
Melissa Kruger, a ministry coordinator in Charlotte, NC, shared how digging down deeper became a way of life, something her parents modeled for her when her grandpa came to live with them. At first, he was mobile, but after breaking his hip, her parents redesigned their living room into a hospital wing, with a bed, side table, and television…It didn’t stop there when her uncle Jimmy moved in for the last years of his life, and her parents added on to the house to incorporate their needs, drove him to chemo therapy, cared for his needs, and provided the fellowship of family in his last days.
Some of you have found yourself in the very same situation, refusing to stop digging down deeper to meet the needs of others. The apostle Paul takes it to the next level, modeling for us a servant’s heart which refuses to stop, (1 Cor. 9) 19 Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20 To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews… 22 To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. 23 I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Notice that the people had no power to heal the man themselves, but they did everything in their power to get him before the One who did! If we believe Jesus’ words that he is the way, the truth, and the life, that he is the only way to the father, then how far is too far to get someone before him? Is inviting someone to go deeper into God’s word with you, taking it too far? Is inviting someone into your house too much? Is inviting someone into your life too radical?