Breaking through the Barriers of Preaching the Gospel
Based on a sermon by Jung-Yu Ho—Chang
In one of his final epistles, Apostle
Paul encourages Timothy to preach in season and out of season (2 Tim 4:2). Our
Lord Jesus also encourages us with His actions during His ministry. Whether
through a simple breaking of bread or to stop in the middle of a crowd to ask,
"who touched me," He consistently taught and preached to His
audience, thus leaving behind an important legacy: to be always ready to preach
at any time and in any place.
Mark 2 records one such healing and
teaching event. A crowd had gathered in a particular house to hear Jesus. The
place was so packed that no one could enter, let alone a paralytic lying on a
bed. Nevertheless, his four friends took it upon themselves to help this man reach
Jesus. They carried him, on his bed, to the roof of the house and lowered him
If we associate this incident with
evangelism, we can say that the paralytic had to overcome a number of obstacles
before he could reach Jesus. These obstacles, or barriers, come in various
forms, from physical obstruction like the crowd or the roof that hindered his
passage to Christ, to verbal criticisms of Jesus by the scribes who could hinder
the faith of those listening to Him.
In their own ways, the different characters
from this story, from the owner of the house to the scribes seated before
Jesus, can represent examples in preaching, from the negatives—the obstacles or
barriers to evangelism—to the positives—breaking through barriers.
First, let us look at barriers
that were created: the crowd, the scribes, and possibly, even the paralytic
The crowd had gathered, as a
natural response to what they might have heard regarding the miracles performed
by Jesus. At a time before any live media coverage, anyone who wanted to see
Jesus had to approach Him in person. While it might seem good that many had come
to see Jesus, Mark 2:4 records that these people had become a hindrance because
the paralytic and the four men carrying him “could not come near [Jesus]
because of the crowd.” This suggests that this crowd stopped short of coming to
seek Jesus as the paralytic had. Although it is commendable that they wanted to
see Jesus, their action was not what Jesus wanted; they were just curious and
wanted to witness a sensational event; they did not have any intention of
believing in Him. This does not align with what the Lord wants from those who
seek Him: to believe in Him and acknowledge their need for Him.
Moreover, the crowd was in the same
house as Jesus, and in a way, we could associate the house and the crowd,
metaphorically, to the church. Such a reading brings two things to mind. If a
church congregation is not united in its efforts to seek Jesus and worse, fail to
allow others to seek Him, the church will tragically become a barrier to those
who need Jesus. The crowd, too, can also be likened to a church congregation with
members who do not exhibit exemplary behaviors and do not lead Christ-like
lives; instead of shining for Christ in the way they live their lives, their
conduct becomes a barrier to evangelism, putting off those who may wish to reach
out to Jesus.
This is the second group that hinders
the preaching efforts: the scribes who were seated before Jesus in the house. Despite
being placed in the best seat to listen to the words of Jesus, these scribes
challenged the message: “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive
sins but God alone?” (Lk 5:21) They failed to make
good use of their prime position to maximize their learning; instead, they remained
ignorant and did not believe.
The group of scribes can be
likened to some “long-timers” in church who have listened to many sermons but
are concerned only with the sermon speakers’ presentation style and with the
quality of sermons. Worse, they focus their attention on finding faults with
what they hear. They do not allow the word of God to reach their hearts and
transform their way of life.
The Paralytic Man
The third character who is a barrier
to preaching, some might say rather controversially, is the paralytic himself.
In this reading, let us step away from taking the man as someone in need of
Jesus and instead, take him as someone who is already a member of the church. In
the house of God, being a paralytic would mean that we are not only unable to
help others or bring others to church, we need others to help us.
The paralytic needed four men to
bring him to Jesus. This translates into effort and manpower resources. In
church, if members are weak and need others’ support, then the church resources
will be spent taking care of them.
If the paralytic could get up, walk,
and work, then the efforts of his four friends could be utilized elsewhere.
From the perspective of the church, if every member is healthy and fit, church resources
can be channeled to outreach work: preaching the gospel and saving souls.
Hence as members of the church of
God, we have to ask ourselves: are we like a paralytic who requires constant
care and attention from others? Or are we like the four men who were able to
work together to serve God and bring others to His house?
Characters who overcome barriers
to achieve their goals are the owner of the house and the four men.
The owner gives us a positive
example of breaking through barriers to provide a channel to the preaching work.
This unnamed owner of the house supported the work of evangelism by offering
his house to Jesus, thus providing a venue for others to gather and for Jesus
to preach to them. The owner demonstrated his love when he allowed the four men
to tamper with the roof of his house in order to lower the paralytic before Jesus.
This house owner therefore presents to us a good example of someone who is
willing to make sacrifices in his service for Jesus.
The Bible records many similar
examples of such self-sacrifice for us to emulate. One such case is the couple Aquila
and Priscilla, who similarly offered their house as a venue for the church to
Even though the owner did not personally
carry the paralytic to Jesus, he still offered a precious service by opening
his home to others to come to know Jesus. His gesture illustrates the many ways
available to us to serve God in the work of preaching.
The Four Men
Finally, the four men who carried
the paralytic before Jesus can epitomize the ultimate spirit of breaking through
the barriers of preaching, by bringing others to Jesus. These four men had to devise
a way to get through the barriers—the crowd and the roof—in order to bring the
paralytic before the Lord. Yet, despite these challenges, they did not give up.
Instead, they persevered and demonstrated their love for the paralytic. By
going the extra mile to help the paralytic, they manifested their faith in Jesus
and His power to heal the paralytic.
As God’s workers, we too must have
such faith. It is not only those who seek after God who need faith, the workers
who help to bring them to church also need faith.
From the examples of the characters
recorded in the healing of the paralytic, we learn how we might unwittingly
become barriers to the preaching work, and how we can break through these barriers
and guide those seeking the true path towards Jesus. In short, we should shun
the former and emulate the latter—to be faithful workers of Jesus.