Midweek Notes 19.08.2015

 

MW 19.08.2015 The Gospel According to Mark: Reflections on (anonymous) ‘people who met Jesus’

Mark 2:1-12 ...a reflection on Intercession

 

Intercession is shared work

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.” (Mk. 2:3)

              All prayer has power and even an individual’s prayers have power (cp. James 5:16-18 “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.”), but there is a particular power added when numbers are increased (Matthew 18:18-20 “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”). There were clearly more than four men involved in this episode. It tells us that “some men came” and specifies that four of them were carrying the paralysed man. A substantial group was working together and sharing the load for this paralysed man. This made me reflect on the work of intercession. We tend to leave it to individuals who we think of - and talk of - as having a gift as intercessors. I wonder if we sometimes do this as a subconscious way to excuse ourselves our lack of intercessions... we can console ourselves with the thought that “well, it’s not my gift”. But the imagery here is of a group of men sharing a simple task: carrying a friend to Jesus. Surely, at its simplest, that’s a pretty good definition of what intercession is. Intercession is about brining someone or something to Jesus. These men worked together and shared the load involved. I bet none of them refused to take a turn saying, “It’s not my gift. So-and-so there is a much better stretcher-bearer than me.”

In terms of Physics it’s very simple: the more people you have lifting something and carrying it, the less the load each person bears. Ben Fogle (TV presenter) has a TV series on just now in which he goes and lives for a week with people in very different remote areas. One of them was a man living with a river delta community in Laos. There houses are prone to flooding as river levels rise so they are all built up on concrete pillars. When this man decided he was going to stay with the community they allocated him a piece of land to farm. He was wondering how he’d be able to build a house but they told him there was a spare one at the other end of the village that was no longer being used. He was grateful but that was some distance away from everything else he needed. So they moved the house. The whole village turned out and lifted the house off its blocks and physically moved it to a new location.

 Intercession is hard work

“because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof ...and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralysed man was lying on.” (Mk. 2:4)

 We forget how much hard work was involved in this: It’s likely they’d been taking turns as a group of men to carry their friend. It’s easy to underestimate how much work it takes to carry someone on a stretcher. My son Phil is a member of a Mountain Rescue Team and has mentioned that stretchering someone off a mountain ideally needs several teams of four because it’s so physically demanding.

  These men had some hard work getting their friend to Jesus. Add to this that they have to force their way through a crowd, negotiate a stair to a rooftop, and make a gap in the roof big enough to lower someone into the room below. This is a lot of work in a physical sense. Perhaps the same is true in some sense spiritually: it takes a lot of hard, concentrated work to bring someone to Jesus. There are temptations to tire and to give up. It needs a certain amount of spiritual strength and stamina and perseverance. But a team working together can encourage each other to keep going.

 

Intercession is faith work

“When Jesus saw their faith” (Mk. 2:5)

 It’s sometimes said that most men fail to exercise their biggest muscle - the one between the ears. Not sure about that but I do know that an awful lot of Christians fail to exercise their faith muscles. It’s the faith of the men carrying the paralytic - rather than the faith of the man himself - that Jesus notes. They really believed that Jesus could help and so all their effort has gone into getting him there.

 

 
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