“They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"Mark 2:12
Jesus began his ministry with this surprising news: “The time of waiting is over. God is right here, right now, on the move! Turn away from lesser things and commit yourself to what God is doing!” (Mark 1:14-15)
As Jesus launched a movement, the surprises just kept coming. He entered into spiritual warfare and liberated people from demonic powers. He not only healed the sick, but colored outside the lines to do so. He said astounding things, and then backed them up with equally astounding actions.
Soon, Jesus’ surprising behavior began to lead others to do surprising things.
Mark 2:2-12 is the story of how a small group of people got so carried away with their desire to bring a man to Jesus that they carried out a daring plan. They carried him up the side of a house and lowered him through a hole they had dug in the roof, right into the presence of Jesus!
Amazingly, Jesus actually encouraged this surprising, daring behavior.
Far from rejecting those who had covered him with dust and interrupted his teaching, Jesus gave them the desire of their hearts… and much more! Jesus healed not only the paralyzed man’s body, but also his soul.
God, as revealed in Jesus Christ, surprises us continually. But that is not all. God also makes us surprising people. As we give ourselves to the mission of Jesus Christ, we are led to do things we never expected, in ways and places we never expected, with people we never expected.
Just like that day in Capernaum, recorded in Mark's Gospel, God is still very much at work in our world. God continues to meet physical and spiritual needs. God continues to inspire people to take risks and dare to do extraordinary things for the sake of others.
And, God’s surprising mercy continues to provoke a reaction in those who believe they have already gotten God figured out.
So, the story of the friends who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus challenges us. As we encounter the surprising work of God in our midst today,
--Will we be like the scribes, so sure of their understanding of God that they are outraged by the surprising words and actions of Jesus?
--Will we be like the crowd, amazed and impressed, but simple spectators as Jesus accomplishes the mission of God?
--Will we be like the paralytic, touched by Jesus as we are carried along by the faith of others, blessed but passive recipients of God’s grace?
--Will we be like the four, boldly taking risks so that others might have a healing, saving encounter with Jesus?
The 2008 World Mission Offering materials contain many stories of people like the four friends of the paralytic, people whose faith in Jesus Christ has made them creative, risk-taking agents of God’s mission in the world. As you encounter these stories, open your heart to the work of God’s Holy Spirit in your own life. It is not just that our awesome God continually surprises us, nor even that the faith of others leads them to act in surprising ways.
God wants to make us, even us -- you, even you! -- a surprising channel of God’s grace, mercy and love to others.