We're so happy you've joined us for Sunday School today!
It has been a little over ten months since we have met together for Sunday School. It seems like such a long time! When we met in person, we shared our joys and concerns with each other. Take some time this morning to think about what prayer requests you may have. If you would like, you can share them in the comments so that we can all pray.
Today's devotional reading is Psalm 103:1-14. I thought we could use that to build our prayer on. When you are ready, use the prayer below as a guide.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
[Pray in praise for your joys and for any that have been shared]
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits--
who forgives all your sins
[Pray for forgiveness for your own sins]
and heals all your diseases,
[Pray for healing for those who are sick, especially from COVID]
who redeems your life from the pit
[Pray for those people who are suffering from anxiety and depression]
and crowns you with love and compassion,
[Pray for everyone showing love and compassion to make our world better]
who satisfies your desires with good things
[Pray in thanksgiving for a good thing you have experienced today]
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed.
[Pray for those around the world experiencing violence, injustice and oppression]
He made known his ways to Moses,
his deeds to the people of Israel:
[Pray that we all become better at learning the way of God]
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
nor will he harbor his anger forever;
he does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.
[Pray to feel forgiveness towards a person that you have felt angry or upset with]
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his love for those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.
Our Sunday School book says that Jesus was likely at the home of Simon and his brother Andrew. Based on what buildings were like at that time, the house was probably a rectangular, one-story building surrounded by a large, walled courtyard. The roof of the house would have been flat, and accessibly via a ladder or stairway. It would have been thatched, which reeds, branches, and mud or clay. The site where archaeologists believe the house was is about 28 feet long.
In this familiar story, four men carry another man, who is unable to walk, to the house where Jesus is teaching. Clearly, they believed that Jesus could help. They were so determined to get the paralyzed man to Jesus that they lowered him through the roof!
Our book points out how important this is. Jesus noticed their faith. It is not just the paralyzed man who believes he can be healed. So do the people bringing him.
First, Jesus forgives the man of his sins. The Old Testament frequently assumes a direct connection between sin and sickness. For instance, at one point the disciples ask about a blind man, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2). Our book says that, "the sequence of events suggests that Jesus treated the paralysis as being the result of a spiritual malady." I feel conflicted about that idea, because based on this text and the others, the man doesn't seem to have been physically healed yet. He may be forgiven, but he doesn't walk. Rather, I think that this is showing that Jesus came to forgive us first.
The "teachers of the law" who were present did not believe that Jesus could forgive sins because they did not believe he was God. It was simply not within Jesus' power to forgive sins. Notice, though, that they didn't actually say anything. They just thought it. But Jesus knows exactly what they are thinking, and calls them out on it.
Jesus asks the teachers of the law, "Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?" To just say the words out loud, neither requires much effort. But that isn't the point. Anyone could say, "Your sins are forgiven," just like anyone could say to that man, "Get up, take your mat and walk." The point is whether your words are meaningful. Both statements are impossible for human beings, and both statements are easy for God.
Jesus says that the Son of Man has the authority to forgive sins. The phrase Son of Man probably comes from Daniel 7:13-14. The original verse essentially says that a heavenly figure who looked like a human being was given dominion, authority and power that would never end. At the time, though, the phrase didn't have all the connotations that it does today. Instead, it just meant a human being.
Then Jesus follows through. He says to the man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." The man got up, took his mat and walked out. This man was physically healed because of the authority of the Son of Man. This also has the implication that Jesus can, in fact, forgive sins. After all, no one can see forgiveness. But everyone saw the healing.
Our lesson ends with the reaction of the crowd. They are all amazed! This causes them to praise God.
This story is also a reminder of how much we need each other, our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ. The paralyzed man needed his friends to take him to Jesus. We do need to, "carry each other's burdens," (Galatians 6:2). There are also times that we need to follow instructions from James 5:16: "confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed."
We may not always need to pray for physical healing. Sometimes we need to pray for mental, spiritual or emotional healing as well.
Our book has added a ... homework assignment:
As you reflect on Mark 2:1-12 and consider how to applies to your life, write a prayer that bring before the Lord your various needs. Lay out your physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, and material needs -- and your questions about them. Call on the absolute authority of Jesus Christ to make you whole so that you can better glorify, honor, and serve him.
I've found writing the occasional prayer for Sunday School to be a generally fulfilling, reflective practice. Take some time to write a prayer. If you feel comfortable, you could share some or all of it with us this week.
Heavenly Father, we recognize that you have power and authority to both forgive sins and to heal sickness. We present to you every aspect of our lives; may we love you with all our hearts, souls, minds and strength. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Our benediction today comes from the Easy English Bible.
Next week's lesson will be on John 17:14-24.
We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.