By Pastor Glenn Pease
People who survive great dangers and diseases are often creative people who do the unusual. Robert Muller, in his memoirs, Most Of All, They Taught Me Happiness, tells of how creative he became under pressure. In 1943 he was a member of the French Resistance. Using the name of Parizot, he infiltrated a government agency, and was able to gather information on German troop movements. He was tipped off that the Nazis were on to him, and coming to arrest him. He fled to the attic of his office building. Gestapo men were soon searching the premises.
Muller knew he had to come up with a plan to survive. So he took off his glasses, and slick down his hair, and grabbed a file folder, and walked down stairs. He walked right into the office where his secretary was being interrogated. He asked her what all the excitement was about. She didn't bat an eye, but said the gentlemen were looking for Parizot. "Parizot!" He exclaimed. "I just saw him a few minutes ago on the fourth floor." The Nazis rushed upstairs, and Muller was led to safety by his friends.
Cleverness and creativity are the keys to surviving what seem like hopeless situations. We see it in the realm of diseases also. Senator Frank Church of Idaho was told at age 33 that he had incurable cancer, and he was given 6 months to live. He decided to take chances, and he submitted to a new radiation treatment just being developed. He also decided to take chances, and be creative with his life. He went into politics and sponsored risky legislation on civil-rights and the environment. He was the first Senator to publicly oppose the Viet Nam war. He did eventually die of his cancer, but not until 1984, which was 37 years after he was given 6 months.
The point is, people who are clever and creative, and who chose to do the unusual, are the people who experience the exceptional in life. They survive when others parish. They are restored to health when others die. The paralytic in Mark 2 is just such a man. He was bed ridden, and yet he got his body where men with two good legs could not get. Jesus was surrounded by people, and no one could even get through the door into the house, let alone, near to Jesus. Even Zacchaeus's idea of climbing a tree would not work here, for Jesus was in the house. We don't know if it was his idea, or that of his friends carrying him, but they were like an ancient ambulance team who got their patient to the doctor on time. When the normal route is closed, you need to come up with a creative alternative to reach a goal. This team recognized that sometimes you have to start at the top and work down, and that is what they did.
They created a skylight before anybody thought of such a thing, and let their patient down through the roof right into the presence of Jesus. They had no doubt what would happen, for Jesus, as far as the record reveals, never had a sick person in His presence that He did not heal. We have no hint that any sick person ever went away saying, "I am not healed." Nor do we have any record of Jesus ever walking away from a sick person, and not healing them. They knew if they could just get him into the presence of Jesus, their labor would not be in vain. Their faith in Jesus motivated them to be clever and creative.
I've read this account many times, and I always read verse 5 in a restricted sense. Jesus seeing their faith responded and healed the paralytic. Their faith, always meant to me, the faith of the friends who let him down. Some make a big point of this being their faith, rather than his faith. It is true, if it would have said his faith, the friends would be excluded. But saying, their faith, does not exclude his. The their, is plural, and could refer to all five of the team, including the young paralytic himself. There is no reason why he should be excluded, as if he was just a lump of clay, with no say in what his friends were doing. For all we know, he was the coach, and the whole thing was his idea from the start, and the roof route was his creative choice.
All we know for sure is, there were many paralytics who never walked again, but here was one who carried his bed home that day. He was the exceptional paralytic. He was aggressive in his search for a miracle. We have all had experiences where it was hard to get into see the doctor, because he or she was so busy. That was the problem with this paralytic. When he got to the place where Jesus was, he realized he should have made an appointment. The line of those ahead of him was long, and his only hope of seeing the doctor was aggressive cleverness.
This morning we want to look at this event from the point of view of the doctor's response to this most aggressive patient. Keep in mind, it is aggressive patients who are often a pain to the doctor, who are the most likely to get well. Let's begin with a negative aspect from the doctor's point of view, and look at-
I. THE DISTURBANCE OF THE DOCTOR.
I've often thought that one of the hardest aspects of being a doctor is the perpetual interruptions. They can be doing one thing, and get a call to do another, at anytime of the day or night. They can have a waiting room full of patients, and get called away to deliver a baby, or some other emergency at the hospital. Being interrupted can put a lot of stress on people.
In our text, you will note that verse 2 tells us that Jesus was preaching to the crowd. He was preaching the word, and nobody likes to be interrupted in the middle of a message. This is highlighted by the police report concerning the New Testament Baptist church in Stockton, Cal. It seems that Oscar MacAlister interrupted the morning message by shouting at the pastor that he was getting out of hand. After the service pastor Murphy Paskill had an idea on how to prevent further such disturbances. He got a revolver, and shot MacAlister for four times. The pastor was booked on charges of attempted murder. We do not know if he was as poor as preacher as MacAlister thought, but he was obviously a very poor shot.
The point is, interruptions can be very disturbing. They can add so much stress to life that they become a cause for illness. Rabbi Joshua Liebman wrote the popular book, Peace Of Mind, that started the avalanche of such books. He was so swamped with calls and letters from people who wanted his help to get peace of mind, that he lost his own peace of mind. He tried to help all who interrupted his life with a cry for help, and in just three years he was dead at age 43.
Perpetual disturbance can be deadly. That is why Jesus very wisely got away from the burden of dealing with people's problems perpetually. He was a physician who healed Himself by getting rest for restoration. But we see also, that He handled interruptions in His life as opportunities. It was a radical disturbance to have the roof torn away while you are preaching, but Jesus was not overly disturbed by this disturbance. He was preaching the word of God, but he recognized that even the best things in life can be set aside to deal with the emergency of the moment. If you are having your devotions, and are in prayer, and your child comes crying with a cut finger, it is not an offense to God to leave you devotion to care for the cut.
Jesus was a good emergency doctor. He took this radical disturbance in stride, and gave it His full attention. What Jesus demonstrates here is that we can decide to make an interruption in our life a burden or a blessing. It was a very rude thing to do, to come in through the roof. It is not only not appropriate in polite circles, it is not appropriate in any circle. Jesus could have been offended, and He could have complained, and gotten the whole crowd to be critical of this team of disturbers of the peace. Instead, He turned it into one of His greatest messages. By healing this paralytic, Jesus not only demonstrated His power to heal, but His authority to forgive sin, and even more important, His willingness to do.
The crowd learned more that day about Jesus then they would have had this disturbance never taken place. This paralytic became a powerful object lesson for the Greatest Doctor who ever lived. If we are going to be like Jesus, we need to ask of every interruption in our lives, "How can I use this for a blessing?" Next look at-
II. THE DIAGNOSIS OF THE DOCTOR.
Diagnosis is a Greek word used only once in the New Testament in Acts 25:21. It refers to a judgment based on thorough knowledge. Jesus judged immediately that this young man was a paralytic because of sin, for he did not say this to most of His patients, which He said to Him: "Son, your sins are forgiven."
Jesus called him son, and so he was a young man, and so his illness was not age related nor accident related. He was obviously a victim of a disease somehow related to his life-style. You can break nine out of the ten commandments that do not directly relate to illness, but one does, and that is sexual immorality. Sexually transmitted diseases have been a major health problem all through time. Aids is one of the most talked about diseases of our day. But there is also Herpes, which is epidemic, affecting 20 million Americans.
Gonorrhea is the most prevalent bacteria infection on earth, with over one hundred million cases a year. Syphilis is another major social disease, and this is likely the disease of the young paralytic of our text. Syphilis leads to many other illnesses, and by 1876 it was discovered that if it moved to the spinal cord it could cause complete paralysis. It is the only social disease I could find that could lead to paralysis. The Greek words used to describe this mans disease are paralutikos and paraluomai. Out of 14 uses of these two words in the New Testament, ten of them refer to this young man. He is the most paralyzed man in the New Testament, and Jesus says it was because of sin in his life.
Sin and sickness are sometimes directly linked. Immorality and illness are linked. Defiance of God's laws and disease, often go hand in hand. Here is the immoral man made conspicuous by his paralysis. Note, Jesus said, "Your sins are forgiven." He used the plural of sins, for seldom is an immoral person immoral just once. The man's life-style was an open invitation to infection.
My problem here is, how can Jesus be so forgiving of such an immoral person? It seems that Jesus is just too lenient with some sinners. I think we all feel like the elder brother at times, and wonder how the father could let the prodigal son off the hook so easy, and welcome him home, when he knew he wasted his substance with harlots. He was immoral, and yet dad took him back like he was still a virgin. There are some hard things to grasp about forgiveness, and one of them is, how can you do it, and still escape being soft on sin. Christlike forgiveness almost seems immoral to us at times, and makes being forgiving very hard.
Jesus diagnosed this man immediately as suffering from a sin caused disease, and yet, without a call for repentance, or a lecture on holiness, or at least a brief condemnation, He healed him, and did so by forgiving his sins. It was not his mistakes, his poor judgments, his inadequacies, but his sins. I have stuggled with this for years, for Jesus seems to take sin too lightly at times. Another famous example being the woman taken in adultery. But then I began to look at Jesus in the light of His major role as the Great Physician. A doctor is a healer, and his or her task is not that of judging the patient, but of helping them to be healed. The reason Jesus was 100% successful in the area of healing, when He was not in preaching or teaching, is because in healing there was never a distinction between those who were sick because of their sin, and those who were sick just because they were a part of a fallen world.
Jesus never failed to heal people who deserved what they were suffering, because they brought it on themselves, because of their sin. This explains so many of the mysteries of the world of healing. There is no discrimination in healing. It falls into the same category as the sun rising and the rain falling on the just and the unjust. Healing is not a gift God gives only to His own children. Unsaved people can be healed as well as the saved, for the same laws of health work for them, as for the Christian. They can receive miracles also, for miracles also have laws by which they operate.
In the next paragraph the Pharisees are upset with Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. We are talking about prostitutes here, and people who are immoral, and who spread the sort of diseases that lead young men to become paralytics. Jesus responds in verse 17, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Jesus never asked anything of His patients except the nature of their illness, and if He diagnosed it as sinned caused, He never hesitated to heal, for the sick need to be healed, and that is a need He always met regardless of the cause.
Not only does this mean non-Christians can be healed, it means Jesus supports all the medical efforts to heal all diseases, even those that are caused by sin. Many Christians are involved in ministering to those with aids, a usually sin caused disease. This is a legitimate ministry for those with the compassion of Christ. I abhor the folly that leads to such a disease, but at the same time, I must applaud those who seek a cure for aids. It seems that to do so is to be soft on the sin that leads to it, but it is the spirit of Jesus as the Great Physician. If aids is the judgment of God, then how can a Christian be concerned about healing those who come under His wrath? This has been the same question all through history on leprosy, syphilis, and many other diseases.
We need to see that you can know a disease is a direct result of defiance of God's will, and still seek for the healing of that disease. This is so clearly illustrated in Num. 12 where Miriam is cursed with leprosy for her critical stand against Moses. She was facing a horrible fate, and Aaron, her brother, pleaded with Moses not to hold this sin against them, for he too was a part of the criticism. He pleads, "Do not let her be like a stillborn infant coming from its mother's womb with flesh half eaten away." What a gruesome fate. Moses did not say, "She made her bed let her lie in it. She suffers the just reward of her sin and folly." Instead, knowing it was God's judgment on her sin, He prays in Num. 12:13, "O God, please heal her!" And God answered that prayer, and she was made clean, and only had to suffer 7 days of shame outside the camp.
Jesus had the same attitude toward those clearly under the judgment of God. The paralytic at the Pool of Bethesda was an invalid for 38 years. Jesus did not hesitate to heal him, but after He said to him in John 5:14, "See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you." Sin led to his disease, and again, it was likely a sexually transmitted disease, yet Jesus healed him.
The evidence is clear: Disease discrimination is as inconsistent with Christ likeness as is race discrimination. It does not make any difference if one is suffering from personal sin, or from just being a part of the sinful world, the sick need the physician, and all are to be cared for and healed. A Christian nurse or doctor, or any of us, need not feel we are compromising our faith if we care for, and loving seek the healing of, people who are suffering as a direct result of their sin.
Pat Boone writes about his experience with a Jewish pornographer in Las Vegas. He was facing gall bladder surgery, in feared he would die. He read one of Pat's books and called him up, and asked him to pray for him. Pat not only prayed for this man, so out of the will of God, he got him to pray for himself. When he went in for his surgery they could not find the gall stones on the x-rays, and he was sent home. He was a happy and healed man, and Pat got him to reading the Bible, and learning about the Jesus who healed him. At the time of his writing the man had not yet received Christ as his Savior. Was he right to help a godless man like that to find healing? Would not the world be better off had he suffered a just judgment, and died?
The answer to both questions is yes. Yes the world would be better off without him, and yes it was right to seek his healing, even if he never does come to Christ, and eventually dies as a lost man anyway. Why is this right? Because in healing there is to be no discrimination. Christian, Jew, Moslem, or Atheist: They are all to be dealt with in compassion, and if possible, by medicine or miracle, be delivered from their disease.
The Christian has the right, and even the obligation, to make a distinction between people in many areas of life. You do not have to cooperate with all people in their projects or life-style. You do not have to let your children date unbelievers. You have to discriminate in dozens of ways, and refuse to let homosexuals be Sunday schools teachers, and camp counselors. Life is loaded with valid discrimination, because light and darkness cannot share the same space. But when it comes to healing, there is a universality about it that cannot be escaped.
It is doctor's orders. Whatever the diagnosis, and however related to sin, the Christian healer does not discriminate. The Christian healer heals all. Jesus is the universal physician, and because it is so, the non-Christian may also experience his healing power. Medical missionaries minister to many non-Christians around the world. They heal more non-Christians than anybody, and they always have, because it was the way of, and the will of, our Great Physician.