“Caring for the vulnerable is a picture of faith and helps us to never forget our own utter desperation for Jesus.” (Based off Matthew 9:1-8)
Shortly before I left my home town and went off to college, I had a tough conversation that changed my life. This conversation was the best thing that ever happened to my relationship with Jesus. Some friends from another religious set of beliefs started asking me questions that had to do with the reasoning behind the beliefs that I claimed to have. This really challenged me and ultimately led me to a journey of studying the Bible from beginning to end.
The greatest theme I saw through scripture was God’s heart for the poor, oppressed, marginalized, abused, orphaned, widowed and brokenhearted. I found over 2,100 verses. Some of the verses are calling those who believe in God to do things like defend, protect, rescue and speak up on behalf of those who are downtrodden. This is a huge passion on the heart of our heavenly Father.
Let’s take a look at Matthew 9:1-8
Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith,he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
Verse 1 Jesus is in “his own town”.
Mark 6:5 says, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their lack of faith.” It’s interesting to see that Jesus healed the paralytic man while in his own town.
Verse 2 “Their faith” not “His faith”.
Another interesting thing is that Jesus noticed the faith of “Bill’s” friends and not Bills. The healing of Bill doesn’t seem to be dependent on his faith but rather on his friends. At times Jesus does say, “your faith has healed you”, but SOMETIMES, it actually depends on the faith of those around them.
This is a call to each and every one of us. A call to make ourselves available to those hurting around us. To carry and lay their paralyzed hearts, bodies and spirits at the feet of Jesus. Your faith could be the reason why Jesus rescues someone, heals someone or forgives someone.
We need each other. We need one another’s faith. We need our church community. Go ask someone, “Would you be willing to carry me to the feet of Jesus?. I have these lies in my heart that have paralyzed it. I just don’t believe that Jesus would pay any attention to me because of my mistakes. I don’t think I can muster the strength or the courage to make my way to Him. But maybe, just maybe with your help Jesus will see your faith and be merciful to me.”
Sins forgiven not “Stand Up and walk.”
Just picture this, four guys running off to see Jesus and one of them stops and says, “Wait, Bill isn’t able to walk to where Jesus is. Can we go and carry him?” Then Jesus, he looks down at Bill and says, “Your sins are forgiven.”
There are 2 scenarios explaining the main point above:
- In verse 4 it says, “Knowing their thoughts” Jesus addresses the Pharisees. Jesus states what seems to be the main purpose of this miracle. He shows the pharisees His own divinity. It is said that God alone has the power to forgive sin. Jesus is making a clear statement that He has the authority to forgive sin equalling him to God almighty. There may also be other reasons Jesus says this.
- During this time there was a common misunderstanding that sin caused disease. We see this in another story where Jesus is asked “Who’s sin caused this man to be blind, was it his or the parents?” Jesus responds by telling them that it wasn’t sin, but he was born blind for the sole purpose of allowing Jesus to get glory when healing him.
Bill might have said to his friends, “You guys are amazing to think of coming to get me, but as soon as Jesus sees me, he is going to see that my parents sins have caused me to be like this. I haven’t helped my cause because I have also made so many mistakes. Jesus is just going to leave me like this because He knows that I just need to suffer for what I’ve done.”
Jesus always knows the exact thing we need to hear at any given moment. So he also knew Bills’ thoughts. It’s not written in the Bible but Bill could be thinking that he’s too messed up for Jesus to heal him.
Think about someone in your own life or maybe it’s even you that has had a similar thought . “There is no way God could love me because of what I’ve done”. Go before Jesus or find someone to carry you and, “Take heart… your sins are forgiven.”
Before Bill got healed, Jesus liberated 2 men living in a graveyard of demons. They were outcasts and marginalized. Who knows what horrible things these men could have said or done for the community to decide that they should live in a graveyard away from everyone else. Still, Jesus chose save and deliver them.
Next, Jesus calls a tax collector to follow him. Jews saw tax collectors as traitors serving the hated Roman Empire. They were hated and despised. Yet Jesus calls one of them to follow him.
This clearly displays what 1st Cor 1:26-29 says- “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things and the despised things and the things that are not- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”
Any business wants the most powerful, popular and wealthiest people to purchase their products. That way everyone else looks up to them and says to themselves, “I wanna be like them.” Meanwhile God is going after alcoholics, prostitutes, the greedy and homeless people in order to entrust them with His most prized possession.
Shane Claiborne said, “Sometimes I wonder why I’m trying so hard to get to the front of the line, when I’ll only end up being last in the Kingdom of Heaven.”
Blessed are the poor. Blessed are those who mourn, Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty, Blessed are those who are persecuted and hated.
Jesus calls us to seek out the lost, poor, hungry, the weak… so that we never forget our own need for Him. It reminds us what the condition of our heart was before we met Him. Psalm 34:18- “God is close to the broken hearted”. When we are close to them then He is close to us.
About David Peterka:
David is the founder and director of “When the Saints”, a non-profit in Mponela, Malawi whose aim is to see an end to sexual exploitation by:
- Counseling and vocationally training girls aged 5-15 years old who have experienced sexual abuse or trafficked for sexual exploitation.
- Seeing an sustainable end to sexual exploitation through the transformation of men’s hearts in Jesus. If we focus on taking girls out of brothels/unsafe homes, there will be the same number of men wanting to abuse the same girls. Because of the success of our work, more girls who wouldn’t otherwise be abused/trafficked would be sought after to fill in the gap/void we created.
The When the Saints home has been in operation since 2015 and 67 girls have gone through the program.
Together with his wife Esther from Kenya, they work with incredible Malawian staff members, the Mponela police and social welfare to provide a safe home to these vulnerable girls.