Which Way Lord – Chapter 16 – Dr Chandrakumar
Grace to Forgive – Power to Heal
And it came about one day when Jesus had come back to His own city Capernaum that He was teaching; and many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, even near the door. There were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present to heal them. And behold, four men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in, and to set him down. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and when they had made an opening, they let him down with his stretcher, right in the middle, in front of Jesus.
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Take courage, my son, your sins are forgiven.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”
And immediately Jesus, perceiving in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? “ Which is easier, to say ‘your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your pallet and walk’? “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say to you, rise, take up your stretcher and go home,” He said to the paralytic.
And at once he rose up before them, and took up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. But when the multitudes saw this, they were all seized with astonishment and began glorifying God; saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (Mat. 9:1-8, Mk. 2:1-12, Lk. 5:17-26).
The discerning power of Jesus is explicitly exhibited by His stinging rebuke: “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?” (Mat. 9:4). The omniscience of the Godhead is clearly seen in His ability to perceive all things. Every thing is open to his eyes, and nothing, not even the unspoken musings of the heart, can be hidden from the Lord. This capability of the Lord brings conviction or comfort, depending on what goes on in our hearts. He measures every single thought that we entertain in our minds.
When Jesus questioned the Pharisees, He asked them: For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise, and walk?” (Mat. 9:5). The question here is not, which is easier to do, but which is easier to say?
Obviously, it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” simply because there is no way to test immediately whether or not they have been forgiven. The religious systems in this world thrive on the simple fact that it is easier to say one’s sins are forgiven. Their followers cannot be sure, until it is too late, whether the religion delivered that promised forgiveness.
It is much more difficult to say, “Rise and walk.” Those words said to a paralyzed man, were immediately subject to a visible test. Either the man would get up and walk immediately or he would not. And whether he did would prove the veracity of the one who said those words. The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.
In so doing, the Lord established the fact that in the same way He visibly demonstrated His power to heal the sick man, He also had the power to forgive sins. This proves that he was and is God Himself.
The Pharisees spent their lives binding themselves and others with their fetters of legalism, so much so that a spiritual paralysis had set in. Jesus broke the pharisaical bonds and brought healing and freedom to the paralyzed man. Like the Pharisees, when your spiritual lists get longer and your negative mentality gets deeper, God gets smaller in your view. Please do not resist God’s action outside your realm of understanding. By doing so, you are actually closing your minds and shutting your hearts to God. When you are not able to trace God in your situation, just trust Him and you will see the glory of God.
In describing the sickness of the man brought to Jesus, Doctor Luke uses a term in strict agreement with that of medical writers and says that he was paralyzed. The technical Greek word is used of pronounced paralysis from disease of some part of the nervous system.
This miracle took place in Capernaum, the city adopted by Jesus after He left Nazareth. Mathew speaks of Capernaum as “His own city.” Chrysostom has the phrase, “Bethlehem bore Him, Nazareth nurtured Him, and Capernaum had Him continuously as an inhabitant.”
From the very moment Jesus spoke His first word, He had forgiven this paralytic man his sins. When the spoken word of absolution was given there was no external sign of it being given, but the greatest and most costly of all God’s mighty and loving acts towards man had taken place- a soul was cleansed and renewed. Everything else that happened to this man that day was secondary, and simply illustrated and complimented what this first great miracle of forgiveness had accomplished.
Jesus demonstrates the fact that forgiveness of sins is an absolute necessity and that healing and other blessings would follow according to the need and purpose of God in every individual’s life. In this passage the paralytic himself had not talked about bodily healing; but as a truly repentant sinner had sought for nothing else but grace and forgiveness; and our Lord, who well knew his heart’s desire, grants at once that on which his longing was directed.
The crowd marveled at the outward miracle, which attracted bolts of interest from all over Palestine. What Jesus wanted them to marvel at was not only the fact that a paralyzed man had been made to walk, but the fact that, his sins were really forgiven, that the Son of man indeed had authority on earth to forgive sins. As surely as His word was, it is even now powerful to release any one from physical weakness and to release you from guilt, from the realm of devil possession and foul disease.
The people recognized that Jesus’ word was powerful enough to work miracles. He was able to trace out those with guilty past, fearful conscience, stained soul and with many other hidden sins. This made everyone to think and wonder about man’s final destiny, the wrath of God, the danger of judgment, hell and so forth.
1. Jesus is Fully God and Fully Man
If you ask people what they consider the most important thing about Jesus Christ, many will answer in terms of something He did or does including His death and resurrection, but actually the most important thing about Him is who He is. If He is not who He claimed to be, then what He has done or does will have no relevance.
In this incident Jesus is trying to show the religious leaders and the common people that He is at once fully God and fully man. There is no way he could become a Savior unless He is God and man. A Savior must die in order to pay for sin. Therefore, the Saviour must be a man. But if he were only a man, then that death could not pay for sin. So, an effective Savior must also be God.
In this story there is an atmosphere of dogged antagonism. Jesus had just returned from a tour of Galilee, and interest in his message and ministry was spreading. Also the opposition from the Pharisees that had started earlier in Jerusalem was increasing because of their jealousy over his success (Jn 4:1). Some Pharisees had come from Judea to Galilee to further their campaign against the Lord. But using this incident Jesus publicly claimed to be both God and man.
There are several aspects to be distinguished in the above incident. First of all, there were the four friends who were determined to bring their helpless friend outside to an able master inside. Because of the over whelming crowd around and in the house, they were not able to get to Jesus.
2. Faith Laughs at Impossibilities
They had great faith that he would be healed if they could place him at the feet of Jesus. Hence, necessity being the mother of invention led them to resort to a novel way of getting the bedridden man to Jesus. Faith and the determination of those four men had laughed at impossibilities, and so they even took a great risk of going to the roof and creating an opening in some body else’s house to let him down by ropes with his stretcher, right in the middle, in front of Jesus.
It was their faith, rather than any faith the sufferer may have had, that Jesus honoured and brought healing to the paralytic man. You may not be able to directly pray for some one’s healing or lead some one to salvation experience, but you can do much through your words, actions, and love to give some one a chance to respond. Try to take your friends to a church or to any prayer meeting where he or she may be one day touched by the Lord.
The whole audience must have looked up in amazement at the bold action of the four men. Faith was often the condition for which Jesus waited for before He could do any mighty work. Seeing the inventiveness and perseverance of their faith Jesus even stopped preaching and started attending to them. The scribes and Pharisees must have been very suspicious at what might happen. Jesus quickly responded and rewarded the faith that was penetrating through all obstacles to reach Him.
(i) Faith Works
“God does not expect us to submit our faith to him without reason, but the very limits of reason make faith a necessity,” said, St. Augustine. Men of great faith are often those who are very hard working. The imperfect tense in Luke 5:18 shows that the four friends were making a great effort to get their friend to the Lord. Men of greatest faith are often men of hardest work. Faith is the sight of the inward eye. Life has no questions that faith cannot answer. Works must accompany faith. Once a desert traveler said, “I will loose my camel and commit it to God.” ‘Friend’ said the fellow traveler, “Tie thy camel and commit it to God.”
3. Invincible Determination of Love and Hope
Certainly work accompanied the faith of the men who had brought their friend and had gone through great trouble to place him directly before Jesus. If they didn’t believe their friend would be healed, they would have never carried out this desperate act. They would have turned around and carried him home with the promise, “We’ll try some other time.”
Those faces looking down from the rooftop had great faith in the Master’s power. And then there is the paralyzed man himself. Unless he had completely put his trust on the Lord, he would have protested this craziness of his friends and insisted they take him home to avoid embarrassment
R.H. Schuller says, “Faith is affirming success before it comes; and claiming victory before it is achieved.”
Faith is trusting God for something to happen which we have not seen or experienced before. It is different from belief. We believe some thing that is already known to us. I don’t need faith to believe that I am wearing a wristwatch. Belief is past tense and faith is future tense. St. Augustine said, “Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe.”
In Berkeley’s translation, we read in Hebrews 11:1, that, “Faith is the conviction of unseen realities.” By faith Noah being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark. By faith Abraham obeyed God and went out not knowing where he was going. By faith Sarah herself received ability to conceive beyond human possibility (Heb. 11:7-11).
The object of faith is God himself. We have to trust Him where we cannot trace Him. Nothing is too difficult for Him (Jer. 32:17, 27). Nothing is impossible with God (Lk. 1:37). Jesus said, “The things impossible with men are possible with God.” (Lk. 18:27).
Faith is confidence in action. This is an action word. It not only passively waits on God, but also actively seeks to know and do His will. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”
Doubt sees the wall; Faith sees the way. Joshua and his people went round the wall of Jericho 13 times. There was not even a hair-line crack on the wall till the 12th round. But they saw the mighty wall falling, at their last round.
Naaman could not be healed till he placed his faith on the God of Israel and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan. Faith is persistent. Habakkuk says that even if everything around him, looked like disaster, he would still put his faith in God (Hab. 3:17-19).
Naaman, had to wait to see God at work in his life till he dipped himself in the river the 7th time. It’s God who fights for you. “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his spirit,” says the Bible.
Jesus allowed Lazarus to die. But he brought him back to life. Bringing a man dead for four days, back to life is a greater miracle and brings greater glory to God than healing a sick man. Even the sisters of Lazarus could not understand that. Hence, faith is trusting God while not being able to make any sense out of the circumstances and obeying him regardless of the consequences.
There are those who have been saved because their parents brought them into that faith. Carlyle used to say, that still across the year there came his mother’s voice to him, “Trust in God and do the right.” When Augustine was living a reckless and immoral life his devout mother came to ask the help of Christian bishop. “It is impossible,” he said, “that the child of such prayers and tears should perish.” This led him to put his trust in the Lord. Many of us would gladly witness that we owe all that we are and ever will be to the faith of Godly parents. I was greatly propelled into a faith life through my mother Fenella Manickam’s strong faith.
a) Faith Persists
The friends of the paralytic man went through great pains in order to find a way around the crowd that prevented them from reaching their goal! The motto, “No gain without pain” applies to many aspects of the Christian life. If you believe that it is important to study the scriptures, pray, and discipline your life, then you will persist in finding the time and the means to accomplish those worthy goals.
It was important to get this man to Jesus, and his friends were not going to let personal inconvenience or the press of time or the roadblock of the crowd get in their way.
When the situation looks hopeless, keep hoping. When everything looks impossible, refuse to accept defeat. You are not defeated until you lose your patience and faith. Jesus said, “The things impossible with men are possible with God.” (Lk. 18:27). For nothing will be impossible with God (Lk. 1:37).
Mountain moving faith has great waiting power. It may seem to you that you have passed the point of no return. But still do not quit or run away, keep going, the victory is yours. Waiting is like faith in deep waters. In every project or problem, there are times when there is nothing that we can do but wait.
Victorious people are those who refuse to accept defeat. Their long-standing and enduring faith generates fantastic bounce-back ability. Patience empowers faith and gives you victory over temptation to quit. Some one said, “If we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we would wait eagerly for it.”
b) Faith Succeeds
Our Lord did not scold the men for the unorthodox way they came to him. He perceived their faith and rewarded it. Imagine not only the joy of the man who was released from his paralysis, but also the joy of his faithful friends. That faith is the confidence that Jesus is able to heal. Jesus acknowledges their faith.
Very often we observe in the gospel accounts that healing and forgiveness are specifically related to faith.
Surprisingly Jesus does not first respond to the person’s ‘obvious’ physical need, and heals him later only to demonstrate his authority to forgive sins. Matthew regards the miracle as having actually happened, and as a demonstration of Jesus’ authority.
Dr. N. Vincent Peale said, “Hope is the great power that can move you to success. Why? Because when a man expects to win, he does not hold anything back, but gives his project all that he’s got.” Such deep commitment to our cause will help us reach our maximum height of potential effectiveness.
Joshua did not use shrewdness to attack Jericho without any death-dealing weapons (Josh. 6:1-20). People may laugh at such insanity, but it worked. Actually, although faith is above reason it is also highly reasonable. There can be nothing more reasonable than a creature trusting its creator.
Is it insane to trust the Almighty God who can neither lie nor fail? It is the most sensible, sane, rational thing a man could do. With a child-like trust, we can storm the gates of heaven.
Faith is daring to face disappointments. If you never try, you may seem never to loose anything. But actually you may be loosing what you could have gained. Victory is not necessarily reaching your goal, but reaching your maximum possibility in the light of the opportunities that come your way. Mountain moving faith is creative and builds self-confidence as we take a chance and make a choice. Self-confidence cannot be taught it must be caught.
Faith is making claims to victory before it is achieved. Boldly talk about your future victory. Affirm victory and you will visualize yourself winning which will in-turn produce in you a new enthusiasm. You must remember that, ‘rats flee from the sinking ship.’ Ask God to give you a faith deep enough to predict victory before it is within your grasp. “All things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted to you.” (Mk. 11:24).
4. Pardon Released Power to Heal the Paralysed
In dealing with the paralytic man, the Lord immediately got to the basic problem, which was not paralysis. Sin was the man’s greatest problem. This is not to imply that the paralysis resulted from sin, but it is to remind us that a spiritual malady is far more serious than any physical affliction. All physical problems end with physical death, but the penalty for sin is eternal death, to which there is no end. So the Lord, attending first to the principal need, announced that the man’s sins were forgiven.
Our sins have offended God unspeakably. The boon that you need to reinstate yourself with God is “forgiveness.” The very purpose for which Jesus came into this world is to forgive sin and give salvation to humankind. In the above incident, forgiveness came before healing. I just wonder about how much the bearers and people alike must have been astonished when they heard Jesus say, “Take courage, My son, your sins are forgiven.” Was that what the crowd was breathlessly expecting?
Perhaps they would have been wondering as to what forgiveness of sins had to do with the paralytic? But Jesus set the spiritual and physical need in their right relationship. By implication, in this particular incident, sin was responsible for the man’s paralyzed condition, so the cause is dealt with first before the effect. Not all sicknesses are caused by sin. But when you have a sickness caused by sin, cure becomes the proof of forgiveness.
The physical infirmity was not such an intolerable weight as the sin of the soul. The need of the hour for the paralytic man was not just the loosening of his stiff limbs but the healing of his wounded conscience. Just the physical healing would not do much without the cure of the disease of sin.
It is easy enough simply to tell a man his sins are forgiven. But by healing him Jesus visibly demonstrates his power in both physical and spiritual realms. When Jesus told the paralytic his sins were forgiven, the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of blasphemy, claiming to be God or to do what only God can do. In Jewish law, blasphemy was punishable by death (Lev. 24: 16).
In labelling Jesus’ claim to forgive sins blasphemous, the religious leaders showed they did not understand that Jesus was hundred percent human and hundred percent God and had the power to heal both the body and the soul.
Forgiveness of sins was a sign that the Messianic age had come (Isaiah 40:2; Joel 2:32; Micah 7:18, 19; Zechariah 13:1). As God’s son, Jesus has the authority to forgive sin, as a man, he can identify with our deepest needs and suffering and help us overcome sin (Mark 2:10).
Jesus Christ exercising His divine prerogative forgave the man his sins and brought healing to his body, fulfilling thereby the prophecy of old, “Who pardons all your iniquities; who heals all your diseases.” (Psalm 103:3). When Jesus frees you from your guilt He automatically delivers you from its service.
In the above incident Jesus makes it loud and clear that, if God honors His declaration of healing that is an indication that God also honors Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness as well. He establishes the fact that, the same divine authority that was necessary for the forgiveness of sins was also necessary for the healing; that according to the Pharisees, if the forgiveness of sins was blasphemy, so also was the healing.
5. A Command of Faith
In the Gospel accounts we often find that Jesus laid his healing hands on each sick person. But in this case He speaks a word of command to the paralyzed man, a command that can only be obeyed in faith: “Rise, take up your bed, and go home.” Peter and John followed the master and spoke similar words at the Beautiful Gate of the Temple to a crippled man: “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene- walk!” (Acts 3:6). Similar words are echoed by Paul to a crippled man at Lystra, “Stand upright on your feet.” (Acts 14:10). In another incident Jesus looked at the man who was sick for thirty eight years and commanded him saying, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” (Jn. 5:8).
In each of the above instances the result is the same. As the paralyzed or crippled man begins to obey the command he is instantly healed and is able to obey further instructions. Obedience is needed to activate your faith before receiving your healing and further obedience to the Word of God is needed to conserve the blessings. So faith and obedience go together.
The paralytic man was instantly healed. The paralysis did not gradually leave him. He did not crawl, then limp and then walk. He rose up and walked then and there, and proved beyond any doubt that he had full strength by even carrying his own pallet. This dramatic proof affected the crowd in three ways: they were astonished, they stood in awe of God, and they glorified Him. Even today as you see and hear of such great miracles that take place in the name of Jesus, respond positively and give glory to God.
The word “Cheer up!” is used in the New Testament only by Christ (see also Matthew 9:22; 14:27; Mark 6:50; Jn 16:33; Acts 23:11). In the Gospel accounts about the paralytic man, Matthew alone recorded that the Lord also said, “Cheer up My son!” (“Be of good cheer,” Matthew 9:2). Probably the Lord used it here to indicate that in the man’s heart there was a longing to receive more than physical healing. And before he could even ask, if he had even dared to, Jesus answered that unspoken request with his “Cheer up!”
6. Compassion for the Lost
Jesus called the paralytic man “son,” or as it literally means, “child.” Jesus always had such a fatherly tone of love and compassion towards sinners and sick people.
You need to have compassion for those who are lost in sin and sickness. By all means make attempts using every opportunity to bring them to Jesus. He will do the rest. Please don’t ever say that you are not getting an opportunity to do that. If there is a deep desire in your heart, the Holy Spirit of God will open up such opportunities to lead others to Christ.
My friend, Are you lying on a bed of sores and sorrows; trials and troubles; heartaches and hindrances; pain and problems? The world may say, “You made your bed, and so you have to lie on it,” but Jesus has said, ‘Take up your bed and walk, your sins are forgiven.”
If you are a disheartened person who seeks to have the weight of your sin lifted, you can find both forgiveness and strength to face your life by trusting Jesus. When Jesus said, “Take up your bed and walk,” in effect it means to you and me in the current century to take up your cross; and then bear your burden graciously as you walk in His strength! God tells us to burden Him with what burdens us.
The Grace of God forgave the sins of the paralytic; the Power of God healed him. The bed in which he was lying for so many years, he bore its weight on him. And as he walked out a completely changed person, the Name of God was glorified.
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