“What Does Faith Look Like in a Crisis?”
Preached by Dr. Robert F. Browning
Calvary Baptist Church
March 29, 2020
All the school age children in our state are being home schooled now because of the coronavirus pandemic. Distance learning is being managed by parents and grandparents while public and private schools are closed. This arrangement will continue until April 20, and it could extend to the end of the school year.
I have been reading the posts of friends on Facebook who never imagined this would occur and are woefully unprepared to help their children with their assignments. Some of these posts have been rather humorous.
One mother posted the note her son wrote in his workbook. It appears this little boy named Ben is a third or fourth grader.
The title of his note is “Homed School,” and it was written on March 16. Let me share his perspective on how this home school experience is going in his house.
“It is not going good. My mom’s getting stressed out. My mom is really getting confused. We took a break so my mom can figure this stuff out. And I’m telling you it is not going good.”
I suspect many listening to me this morning can relate to this mom’s frustrations and this little boy’s assessment of how things were going. You may be walking down the same road they are.
Things were not going as planned for the four men who carried one of their friends on a stretcher to see Jesus. Their hopes quickly vanished when they approached the house where Jesus was teaching and saw that it was completely surrounded by people listening to Jesus teach or waiting to ask for his help with their problem.
Listen as I share the details.
This incident occurred early in Jesus’ ministry in Capernaum, a fishing town on the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. By this time, Jesus had moved to Capernaum from his boyhood home of Nazareth. Making Capernaum the center of his public ministry would make travel to towns around the Sea of Galilee much easier.
It is hard to tell if the house Jesus was in was his or Peter’s. Jesus’ decision to move to Capernaum was permanent, and some scholars speculate he secured a place to live on his own. On the other hand, he would be traveling so much during his ministry that he might have been offered space in Peter’s home.
Evidently, word spread throughout the town that Jesus had returned home from a period of time on the road. It was his custom to leave for days to visit surrounding towns where he would teach in their synagogues, listen to people’s stories and respond to their needs by making hope visible.
When the four friends of this paralytic heard that Jesus was nearby, they made the decision to take him to see Jesus. Upon arriving at the house where Jesus was, they were surprised to see a large crowd of people surrounding it.
There was no way to get their friend through that crowd to see Jesus. Every entrance to the house, including the windows, was blocked by people listening to Jesus teach and waiting to speak to him privately.
How easy it would have been for these men to have given up and returned home with their friend. They could have taken comfort in the fact they tried to get him to Jesus but would have to wait until another day to get him in front of Jesus.
They refused to give up this easily. Instead, they climbed the steps to the top of the house, tore an opening into the thatched roof and carefully lowered their friend directly in front of the place where Jesus was located.
So impressed was Jesus with the ingenuity and persistence of these four men, he interrupted his teaching and healed this lame man. Actually, he forgave him of his sins first and then told him to get up, to take up his mat and to go home.
You would think everyone there that day would have rejoiced and been grateful for what Jesus did for this man. Certainly, most were but not everybody.
Some teachers of the law, commonly referred to as scribes, were in attendance, and they were incensed over the forgiveness Jesus granted to this man. They were as angry over the arrogance of Jesus to pardon this man as they were surprised over his ability to heal him.
Their negative emotions were apparently on full display, and Jesus read them well. He chastised them for being critical of him for being God’s agent of mercy and for speaking with authority. Clearly, he wanted the scribes to know this was his divine mission, and he was just getting started.
This morning I want to share with you what I find to be the most intriguing part of this story. It is the reaction and response of Jesus to the way the four men made it possible for their friend to get into that house.
Mark writes, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven…I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home’.” (Mark 2:5,11)
“When he saw their faith…”
It is not uncommon for us to talk about faith or to talk about being a people of faith. Do we ever say to someone, “When I saw his or her faith, I…?”
What does faith look like? In particular, what does faith in a crisis look like?
I pondered this for some time last week in light of the coronavirus pandemic we are facing in our nation and our world. I would like to share some ideas with you.
What does faith look like in a crisis?
Faith looks like…
…people from all walks of life working together to solve a problem.
…people unwilling to leave anyone behind.
…people willing to make sacrifices on behalf of others.
…people getting their hands dirty and their knees sore to help a neighbor.
…people who refuse to give up when confronted with seemingly insurmountable problems.
…people who look for divine help when facing stiff challenges.
These four men showed us what faith looks like, didn’t they? No task was too menial and no sacrifice too great if it would help their friend.
Time and again, they refused to quit and to settle for less than their best. They refused to walk away and take no for an answer.
They chose instead to think outside the box, to get out of their comfort zone, to commit to doing what was necessary to open that roof and later on to repair it, to risk being criticized or even ostracized for their bold actions and to make their friend’s well-being their top priority. Why?
They did these things because their love for this man motivated them to do the difficult and their faith in God compelled them to put the common good above their own interests.
Their faith required them to hear the pleas for help others ignored and to make hope visible at any cost and by any means. To do any less that day would have disappointed God and would have been a misrepresentation of the faith they professed.
These four men stood in stark contrast that day to the religious leaders who were in that house and criticized Jesus for what he said and did. The faith of these four compassionate and resilient neighbors looked quite different than the faith of those religious leaders eager to condemn Jesus.
Jesus made it abundantly clear, though, whose faith was closer to his, whose faith touched the heart of God and whose faith the world desperately needed to see. It was not the faith of the religious elite but the faith of these four stretcher bearers with soiled hands and sore backs.
During this corona virus pandemic, I wonder what your faith and mine will look like to those around us. I pray it will resemble the faith of these four men who made it possible for a paralyzed man to take up his mat and to walk toward a new and better future.
On Sept 11, 2001, a man fell while running from the World Trade Center. He looked behind him and saw buildings collapsing, debris flying and smoke billowing.
He was in shock and unable to move. Another man stopped and knelt beside him, offering aid and comfort. He carefully helped this man to his feet with encouraging words and a strong hand. Walking arm in arm, both men made their way to a safe place where help awaited them.
What was so unusual about this? One man was a Pakistani Muslim, and the other was a Hasidic Jew.
That day, however, they were neighbors who needed one another in order to survive. The ethnicity and religious beliefs that would have kept them from even speaking to one another on any other day stepped aside.
On that day in the middle of a street filled with terror and chaos, they became brothers whose survival depended upon giving and receiving a helping hand.
This is the kind of world I want to live in.
This is the kind of world God wants for us.
This is the kind of world our faith will help us create.
Is this the kind of faith your neighbors will see in you during this crisis?