By J.R. Miller
Jesus seems to have entered Capernaum quietly, to escape notice. Perhaps He was weary after His incessant labors, and desired to have rest. So He came quietly, perhaps by night--that His coming might not be known. But it soon became noised about that He was in the house. "He could not keep His presence secret" (Mark 7:24). It was impossible for Him to be long anywhere without His presence becoming known. The people were too eager to get to Him with their needs and their sorrows, to allow Him to remain quiet even for a little while. They were even rude and unmannerly in their crowding upon Him. But really it never can be kept quiet--when Jesus enters any house or any life. There is diffusiveness in Him, like a fragrance, which cannot be hidden.
A young woman tells of being on an excursion in the woods, when she picked up a sprig of sweetbrier and put it in her pocket. She soon forgot what she had done--but all day long she smelled the spicy fragrance. Every woodland path seemed to her to have the same fragrance, even if there were not sweetbrier visible. She climbed over rocks and walked through dark caves, and everywhere she detected the perfume. She would stand beside different people, with all kinds of flowers in their hands--but still she smelled only the sweetbrier.
When she came to retire, the sprig of sweetbrier dropped from her dress. All day long she had been carrying it--and it had perfumed everything. She said to herself, "How good it would be if Christ would so fill my heart--that everyone I meet would notice the fragrance!" One in whose heart Christ lives--has the secret of a sweet life. The sweetness cannot be hidden.
As soon as His presence became known, the crowd gathered about the house where Jesus was. From all over the town they came. It was the kindness of Jesus to the sick, the poor, and the troubled--which drew so many to Him. Among those who came that day, were four men carrying a friend on a stretcher. The man was a paralytic and could not help himself--but he had friends who were ready to assist him.
These four men teach us a lesson. We ought to help one another. The strong should bear the infirmities of the weak. If there is a lame boy in the school, the other boys should lend him their legs. If one girl is sickly and not able to go out, the other girls, her neighbors and friends, should try to brighten her loneliness, calling on her, bringing into her sick room, tokens of love and sympathy, and sharing their joy and gladness with her. Christians who have been healed by Christ, should try to carry their unsaved friends to Him!
It is suggestive, too, that four of this paralytic's friends united in helping to get him to Christ. One man could not have carried the burden, nor could two. But when the four men put their hands to the helpless load, it was easily carried. Four friends may unite in efforts to get a lost one to Christ, at least praying together for him.
The earnestness of these men was shown in what they did. They could not get their friend into the presence of Christ, because of the crowd in the house and around the door. But they would not be discouraged. They carried him up on the roof, and, making an opening for him--let him down right into Christ's presence! In seeking the salvation of our friends--we should be very earnest. If we really care for them--we will never be discouraged or balked in our efforts to get them to Christ. Too many of our efforts are feeble and transient. We should be willing to make greatest sacrifices and endure anything--to get an unsaved friend to Christ.
It is said that Jesus saw their faith. How could He see faith? Faith is not something material. He saw it in what they did. Nobody said a word, so far as we are told; but the four men showed their earnestness and their strong faith--in uniting their strength and carrying their helpless burden up the outside stairs, then in breaking up the roof overhead, and in lowering the poor man into the presence of the Healer. Thus, although there was no spoken prayer, there was a prayer in the men's hearts, which found expression in what they did. It was in their determined overcoming of all obstacles, that Jesus saw their faith. There are wordless prayers which our Lord hears and answers.
We may notice that part, at least, of the faith which Christ saw--was in the hearts of the man's friends. We do not know certainly that there was any faith in the man himself. We may exercise faith in behalf of others. Parents may bring a child to Christ, and He will see their faith. Friends may present a friend unsaved or in trouble, and Christ will see faith and send blessing.
There may have been faith also in the sufferer--at least in the end. There was in the man's very helplessness, as he lay there on his mat--that which appealed to the pity of Christ. There were no words of pleading--but there was faith, and it found expression in wordless supplication, which was more eloquent than the most beautiful human liturgies! Jesus looked down upon this helpless man and saw faith. We must show our faith--in our acts.
It seems at first, as if Christ had misunderstood the wish of the paralytic and his friends. The man had come to have his palsy cured, and instead of doing this--Jesus forgave his sins, leaving him still unhealed! Had Jesus made a mistake? As we look more deeply, however, we see that He made no mistake. Indeed, the prayer was only over-answered. We do not always know what our deepest need is. We think it is the curing of our sickness, the lifting away of our burden, or the bettering of our worldly condition; when our deepest, most real need--is the saving of our soul, the taking away of our sin, and the changing of our relation to God. This man's dumb prayer was for physical healing--he wanted to be able to walk about again, to use his hands and feet, to become active. The Master looked at the paralyzed limbs and quivering frame--and saw deeper, and answered another prayer first, because that was what the poor man needed most to have done.
There are a great many troubles we would like to have removed--but which we can keep--and still be noble and useful. But we must get our sin forgiven--or we shall perish forever! Therefore Christ often does for us--the things we most need, though we do not ask to have them done; instead of the things we would like to have done.
He answers our heart's needs--before He gratifies our mere wishes. Often when we cry for comfort and ease--He looks deeper than we can see and says, "It is your sin, My child which is your sorest trouble." Then he does not give us what we ask--because He wants us to seek for the curing of the deadly heart-trouble first. Nothing else that God can give us would be a blessing--while our sins are still unforgiven.
Then, after Jesus had forgiven the man's sins--He performed the other healing also. He made the man rise, take up his bed, and go to his house. He first answered the deepest need, and then, when peace had filled the man's soul and he was willing now to go home even with his palsy--if that were God's will--since heaven had come into his heart; then Christ gave him the other gift--bodily healing.
The palsy had a mission--it brought the man to the Healer and Savior. When its mission was accomplished, it was dismissed as a servant no longer needed. Jesus never causes pain or suffering, without some purpose of love. He is not pleased to see us suffer. Every pang of ours goes to His heart. In all our affliction, He is afflicted. But He is far too kind to call away the angel of pain--before His beneficent work in us is fully produced. The surgeon would be cruel, not kind; who because of the patient's cries--would withdraw the knife, when his operation was but half done. God's love is not of that sort. He is not too gentle to cause us pain and to leave us to suffer unrelieved, even for years--when suffering has yet a mission incomplete in us. Yet the moment pain's work is finished--God sends the messenger away. When this man's soul was saved, Jesus healed the sickness which had been the messenger of blessing to him--and whose ministry was now completed.
Here again the man was called upon, for an exercise of faith. Jesus bade him rise--and immediately he took up his bed and walked away before all the people. The command to rise, seemed a strange one to give a paralyzed man. He could not lift his head nor walk home. But as we look at the helpless form--he does rise and obey that impossible command. The lesson is--that when Christ gives a command, He always gives strength to do it. We have no power in ourselves to do Christ's will--but as we strive to obey His commands, the needed grace flows into our soul. Whatever Christ bids us do--He will by His grace enable us to do it--if we simply go forward in unwavering faith and unquestioning obedience.