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.
FAITHFUL FOLLOWER AND COMPASSIONATE HOST Lot assisted Abraham on a mission to establish homeland for Christ’s ancestry and earned a stake in God’s promise that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Several generation’s later, his descendant Ruth married Abraham’s descendant Boaz and both became grandparents in the lineage of Christ. Lot performed an act of righteousness by providing food, shelter, and protection in Sodom to angels that he thought were ordinary strangers. His compassion to the “strangers” positioned him to benefit from Abraham’s intercession, whereby God promised to not sweep the righteous away with other inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. God saved Lot on account of Abraham as he destroyed the twin city.
We continue our study series on Ruth by looking back in her ancestry to understand interactions between Lot and Abraham in relation to God calling Abraham (then Abram) to a special mission and Lot’s interactions with his community prior to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. We are interested in Lot because he was father of the Moabites and therefore progenitor of Ruth’s lineage.
FAITHFUL FOLLOWER Lot assisted Abraham on his mission to Canaan and worked with him until their peaceful separation: “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you” [Genesis 12:1]. As we discuss in a previous bible study (Leading or Following: Right Heart for Strategic Alliance), Christ taught several generations later that God rewards faithful followers: people that assist in his mission and contribute to its fulfillment. Therefore, by following and working with Abraham on a mission to establish a home for Christ’s ancestry, Lot placed himself in position to partake in God’s promise to Abraham that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” [Genesis 12:3].
INTERCESSION God revealed himself in human form to Abraham, told him about his judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, and promised to offer the people one more opportunity to repent: “I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know” [Genesis 18:21]. Abraham interceded on behalf of the people and God promised to save the city if enough people showed themselves righteous. Lot was saved on account of Abraham’s intercession because he showed compassion to angels that he thought were ordinary strangers. However, other inhabitants of Sodom did not take advantage as they confirmed themselves wicked by seeking to attack and molest the “strangers.”
COMPASSION Lot’s compassion to the two strangers endeared him to God and contributed to he and his daughters being saved as God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. God offered a final opportunity for repentance to the people through two angels that visited them in human form. Lot saw the two strangers in the evening, offered them shelter and food, and stood his ground to protect them as Sodomites descended on his house from every direction to attack and molest the strangers: “But don’t do anything to these men, for they have come under the protection of my roof” [Genesis 19:8]. God saved Lot and his family when he destroyed the city with all inhabitants.
In this bible study, we examine examples of successful intercession to understand their common characteristics. We relate the characteristics to the principles of living in the image of God and, thus, reach an understanding of the kinds of intercession that have been effective. Several of the examples are drawn from events that occurred during Christ’s ministry. In such cases, intercession consisted of people going to Jesus directly on behalf of other people. Other examples occurred before Christ or after he had left human form. In such cases, intercession consisted of going to God in prayer on behalf of another.
In all cases, we find that successful intercessions were motivated by compassion and were persistent (ceaseless), selfless, and delivered by faith. Motivation by compassion is important for an intercession because such intercession is consistent with God’s purpose of creating every person to be a channel for his compassion. Christ describes this purpose through the 4th Beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled;” and the 5th, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” [Matthew 5:6–7].
God provides input to solving our various problems but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Furthermore, the human effort could be closely tied with and necessary to accepting and utilizing God’s input. Because the strategy and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to place ourselves in position to receive his intervention. That is, we work diligently because we have faith that he will intervene and we want to be ready to accept and utilize his intervention.
Peter’s miraculous escape from Herod’s prison [Acts 12] helps illustrate this aspect of our relationship with God. King Herod started a new wave of persecution of Christians in Jerusalem. After he killed James, John’s brother, and noticed Jews appeared pleased with the killing, he arrested Peter, intending to kill him also. To avoid having to kill someone during the Feast of Unleavened bread, he held Peter in prison under maximum security, intending to try him publicly and kill him after the festival. Members of the church prayed ceaselessly for Peter. They gathered at the house of Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark, and prayed earnestly day and night for Peter. An angel appeared to Peter in prison on the night before his scheduled public trial. The angel freed him, guided him to about one street length out from the prison, and left him. Peter first visited with the church family at Mary’s house where they were praying for him. He told them how God brought him out of the prison. Then he left and went away so Herod and his men could not find him when they looked for him in the morning. We learn several lessons based on Peter’s experience.