Intercession and human effort by others can move God to grant favors to alleviate the suffering of another person. Therefore, a prayer for the needy will likely be more effective if intertwined with human effort to provide goods or service to alleviate the need. Four men, motivated by compassion and driven by faith, persevered to take a paralyzed neighbor to Jesus despite physical difficulties. Their faith, manifest through their effort, moved Jesus to forgive and heal the paralyzed man.
This bible study examines the events of Christ healing a paralyzed man: to understand that intercession and human effort by others can move God to grant favors to alleviate the need of another person. Jesus healed a paralyzed man because of the faith and effort of four men that brought the man to him. The four men recognized the need of the paralyzed man, committed to doing what they could to alleviate the need, believed he would be healed if they took him to Jesus, and persevered to take him to Jesus despite difficulties they encountered. Jesus was moved by their faith to forgive and heal the paralyzed man.
The account illustrates intercession motivated by compassion. The four men and their neighbors decided to take the paralyzed man to Jesus because they had compassion on him and believed that taking him to Jesus would be sufficient to obtain healing for him: “Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them” [Mark 2:3]. They took him to Jesus physically at the time because Jesus was with them in human form. Today, they would have taken him to Jesus by praying for him: that is, by intercession.
Furthermore, the account illustrates that intercession often may need to be intertwined with human effort. That is, a prayer by others on behalf of the needy often will be more effective if intertwined with human effort directed at providing goods or service to alleviate the need. The men were determined to obtain healing for their paralyzed neighbor by taking him to Jesus, organized themselves for the effort, took the man to the site, and persevered against physical difficulties to accomplish their objective of getting him to Jesus. Their intercession, intertwined with human effort, conveyed their faith and compassion to Jesus. He was moved by their faith and effort to forgive the man his sins and heal him from paralysis: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’” [Mark 2:5].
If you recognize a need, care about the needy, and commit to doing what you can to alleviate the need; then you have received a task of God. He will guide you and would perform a miracle as necessary to complete the task. We discuss two examples: one regarding the compassion and faith of a Centurion that invited Jesus on behalf of his servant; and another regarding Jesus’ compassion for a bereaved widow. The events show that God could intervene with miracle to complete human responsibility in a call to compassion.
We discuss two examples from Christ ministry to understand a relationship between compassion and faith. Compassion means a person recognizes the need of another and provides goods or service to alleviate the need. Faith in compassion means a person recognizes that a call to compassion is a task of God and that God will guide him or her to accomplish the objective. He will guide your human effort through and beyond your human capabilities.
In the first example, a Centurion had pity on his servant that was sick and recognized that Christ could heal his servant. He had compassion for his servant and faith that Christ will heal his servant. He invited Christ on behalf of his servant [Matthew 8:8]: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” Christ healed the servant in response [Matthew 8:13]: “Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that moment.” The Centurion’s compassion and faith led to his intercession and resulted in healing for his servant.
In the second example, Jesus encountered the funeral procession for the only son of a widow. He had compassion on the widow, stopped the funeral procession, and restored the dead son back to life. As human, he had compassion for the bereaved widow: “When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, ‘Don’t cry’” [Luke 7:13]. As God, he performed a miracle to restore her dead son [Luke 7:14–15]: “…He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, get up!’ The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.”
The examples illustrate that God can perform a miracle to complete human responsibility in a call to compassion. Therefore, in responding to a call to compassion, focus on your human effort while having faith of God guiding you through and beyond the limits of your human capabilities.
Humanly inexplicable pregnancy of Mary raised dilemma for Joseph that he resolved by compassion: recognizing a person in need and doing what you can to alleviate the need. Further, the interactions illustrate the value of allowing reasonable time to understand events and consider response. Joseph’s compassion for Mary bought him time and provided him opportunity to hear God and understand God’s purpose regarding his marital and parental responsibilities to Mary and the child.
We discuss interactions between Mary and Joseph, the human parents of Jesus; regarding Mary’s pregnancy with Jesus and Joseph’s response to the pregnancy and a Jewish law that appeared relevant. Joseph was engaged to be married to Mary but became aware that Mary was pregnant and he had nothing to do with getting her pregnant. The only human conclusion regarding the development was that Mary committed adultery.
That was a problem, because Jewish law prescribed severe punishment for adulterers. A man and woman that committed adultery were to be put to death. Joseph was expected to refer the matter to the Jewish authority in order to initiate judgment and punishment. However, we will see that Joseph decided he would not seek enforcement of the adultery law against Mary. He would divorce her quietly instead. The word “quietly” is a key part of his decision. It meant he would not expose her to public disgrace in any case.
As he contemplated his intentions, an angel visited him in a dream and explained the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy. Through the dream, Joseph understood God’s purpose regarding his marital and parental responsibilities to Mary and the child. He woke up from the dream, took Mary home as his wife, and began living his responsibility as Mary’s husband and human father of the Son of God. That is, Joseph’s compassion for Mary bought him time that provided him an opportunity to hear God and understand God’s purpose.
John the Baptist preached a message of new life in Christ exemplified by compassion, fairness in public service, and fairness in commercial interactions. The new life begins with repentance from the old way of living characterized by predatory human interactions and relationships. The old way focused on serving self and exploiting others for self-enrichment, not minding any cost to them. His message raised awareness for a lifetime commitment to Living in the Image of God and the promise of Christ ministry, for which he was the Forerunner.
Our program on Living in the Image of God continues this year (2022) with studies focused on understanding Christ teaching on Living in the Image of God based on the gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. In today’s session, we discuss the message of John the Baptist.
The bible provides a brief account of John the Baptist work as the Forerunner for Christ, describing his message of repentance for forgiveness of sins as he baptized people that came to him in the country around the river Jordan. He urged them to prepare for the Messiah by repenting from their current life of predatory human interactions and relationships and committing to a new life in Christ. He described the new life using examples from their community.
His message reflects the essence of his role as the Forerunner for Christ by drawing attention to Living in the Image of God. Christ would subsequently explain the new life in detail through formal teaching, parables, and real-life illustrations during his ministry. Therefore, our study of Living in the Image of God from the gospel begins with a discussion of John the Baptist message.