June 21, 2006

Yours For the Asking

The following article is adapted from the author’s book, Conversations With Jesus (Pacific Press). Editors.
1518 page25 capave you ever witnessed a miracle? A real miracle? My wife’s family has.
When Kitty was young, her father, Dick Barron, was an evangelist. Well known for both his preaching and his singing, he and his family traveled the country inviting people far and near to come to Jesus.
Many readers may remember Elder Barron. They may also remember the shock it was to learn that he had been stricken with a cancerous tumor on his spine. Mercifully, it was a contained tumor—it did not spread. People around the world prayed as he underwent treatment, and with the blessing of God the cancer was defeated.
But nothing could be done about the fact that the tumor had eaten away large portions of his backbone—certainly not in those days, likely not even today. The good news, as the doctors put it, was that he would live. The bad news was that he could never walk again. Even the slightest twist or bump might be enough to shatter the bone that was left and leave him paralyzed.
But Pastor Barron did not believe that his work for God was finished. After several months of recovery, he agreed to speak to a camp meeting gathering while lying on a cot. After that, he preached again and again, each time being carried on a cot onto the platform, each time feeling stronger and stronger.
Then one day he felt so strong that he stood up to preach! And he never went back to the cot. From that day on he walked, drove, piloted his small airplane, and preached like a person with a normal, healthy spine. He was not always free from pain, but he continued on his mission for God.
I never met my father-in-law. He was killed in a plane crash before I even met Kitty. But for the last 10 years of his life he traveled and preached and sang. Ten years of evangelistic series, Weeks of Prayer, and camp meeting services—and every day was a miracle.

When Healing Isn’t Enough

In Jesus’ time Capernaum was a warm and beautiful city, filled with palm and olive trees. But like all vibrant cities, Capernaum had its dark spots. Places where people with cash could have a “good time” and forget their troubles.

Our story involves a man who took full advantage of those sordid opportunities and was now paying the price. His party lifestyle resulted in a diseased body. In fact, he was now paralyzed.
1518 page25He turned to the priests and doctors for help, but they had none to offer. “There is no cure for your disease,” they declared. “Because of your sins, you are cursed by God.”
But the man was suffering from more than just disease. Somehow, the voice of his conscience, which he had tried to drown with drink and drugs, was speaking again in his heart. He was deeply troubled by regrets, not because of his illness, but because he now realized how wrongly he had lived.
The paralyzed man sank into a deep depression and gave up all hope.
I suspect many readers know how that feels. Whether or not our health has been compromised, there are times when depression threatens to pull us all down. And when it’s entirely our own fault that we’re in the situation, it’s even worse.
But this man still had something going right. He had friends—at least four friends who regaled him with tales of Jesus’ miracles. “I saw Jesus touch a blind man and he could see! Jesus even heals lepers!” they would say. With every story, his friends encouraged him to believe that Jesus could heal him, also.
But that didn’t stir him. You see, he didn’t want to be healed so much as he wanted to be forgiven. If he could be sure that God still loved him, dying wouldn’t matter. Could Jesus offer him forgiveness?
Which would you choose? If you could feel completely healthy or completely forgiven—no burden of guilt for anything you’ve ever done—which would you choose?

A Dead End

Willing to risk it at last, the paralyzed man asked four of his friends to carry him to see Jesus. So they picked up his cot and started off through the streets of Capernaum.

With the kind of crowds that followed Jesus, He wasn’t hard to find. He was just hard to get close to! As it happens, Jesus was teaching in Peter’s house that day.1 Maybe it started out as something He was sharing with His disciples. But as always, the crowds grew. Apparently, some Pharisees and rabbis elbowed their way in to listen and report on everything Jesus said.
An enormous crowd packed the streets around the house. People stood or sat arm to arm, shoulder to shoulder, listening and watching for more miracles. The paralyzed man’s friends tried to push their way through the crowd. “Please let us through,” they asked. “Our friend is sick. He needs to see Jesus.” But no one would move. No one would give up the opportunity to see Jesus themselves.
Just as they were about to lose hope, the paralyzed man had an idea. It was a crazy idea—so crazy that it just might work. “Carry me up to the roof,” he suggested. “Then we’ll break through into the house and find Jesus.”2
Now, that was thinking outside the box! If all four sides are cut off, come down from above!

Faith—It’s a Group Thing

Imagine being inside the house! First, noises on the roof. Then dust and bits of whatever being torn apart begin to drift down. Even Jesus must have had a hard time holding the crowd’s attention when the ceiling began to peel back and sunlight began shining through. Imagine the look on Peter’s face—or on his wife’s face!

But when they saw a sick man being lowered down, everyone knew what was happening. One more person had gone to extreme lengths to reach Jesus, hoping and praying for healing.
Jesus must have stepped back and watched the scene unfold. He already knew this man’s story—the lifestyle, the sins. And He knew what the man really wanted. “When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Young man, your sins are forgiven’” (Mark 2:5).*
These words were music to the paralyzed man’s ears. His depression and despair evaporated, and peace filled his heart. His pain was gone. More than just healed, he was forgiven!
1518 page25But let’s not pass by an important point. When Jesus saw their faith—not just the paralyzed man, but the faith of the whole group of friends—He spoke His words of comfort and healing.
The faith of the whole group had an impact on the man’s healing. I suspect that Jesus knew how much the man had been influenced by his friends. He knew about the stories they had told, the encouragement they had given.
What does that tell us about the value of family and friends? About the value of our church family? Perhaps no one of us can be as strong in the faith as all of us can be.
But they were not all of one accord in faith in Peter’s house that day. No, some rabbis were present. Brushing the dust and debris off their shoulders, they agreed, without speaking, to condemn Jesus for claiming to forgive sin when only God had that authority.
Jesus, reading their faces and their hearts, asked them the obvious question: “‘Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But I will prove to you that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘I tell you, stand up, take your mat, and go home’” (Luke 5:22-24).
Jesus had used that same voice to bring mud to life in the Garden of Eden. This time it re-created the body of a forgiven man. The man jumped up from the floor, picked up his stretcher, waved at his friends through the hole in the roof, and headed out through the crowd toward home.
Forgiven, Healed—It’s All the Same 
There is no question that many people today stress themselves sick. The pressure of family and work, the need to succeed, the drive to keep up with the neighbors—all these things lead to heart attacks, depression, and many other illnesses.
And nothing causes more stress than unresolved guilt. We’ve all stumbled into one of life’s messes or another—sometimes from one to another. We lie to our friends, we cheat on our taxes, we steal from our employers. We eat or drink the wrong things and injure our health. We fill our minds with trivia or trash, then have no time or energy for God.
We carry around the burden of having failed: as parents when our kids act out, as husbands or wives when we neglect the one we claim to love, as Christians when we lash out angrily in traffic or in line at the grocery store.
We carry a burden of guilt because we are guilty. We’ve sinned and fallen short of what would bring God glory. And every day, we suffer because of it. We struggle with dejection or anger. We seek help from mood enhancers: chocolate, burritos, alcohol, television, and drugs—both legal and illegal.
We’re sick. But what we need more than physical healing is the same thing the paralyzed man needed. We need a miracle. We need to hear those same words from Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven.”

Strange and Wonderful Things

The good news is that this miracle is yours today—right now—just for the asking. Jesus still has the same power today to forgive sinners and heal the sick. And accepting His forgiveness and His power to turn your life around is no less a miracle than standing up, picking up your stretcher, and going home.

Back in Capernaum, the crowd shuffled aside as the healed man passed through. They whispered to one another, “We have seen strange and wonderful things today.”
When was the last time you saw strange and wonderful things? When was the last time you saw a miracle? When was the last time you asked for one?
*All scriptural references are from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.
1 See The Desire of Ages, p. 267.
2 Ibid., p. 268.
Jerry Thomas is the communication director for the Southwestern Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists in Burleson, Texas.