To Be a Paramedic – Matthew 9 Continued

I wrote quite a bit recently about Matthew 9 and Jesus healing the paralytic man and promised to write more about it because there is so much great stuff in this passage that I could not fit it into one post.

I don’t necessarily do devotions as many of you might, going from passage to passage each day.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with jumping around each day, but for me, I tend to let God work through a certain passage with me for as long as He needs to.  I’ll read the same passage over and over and let God really penetrate me with it as I think, pray, and meditate on it.  Sometimes, He keeps me in one passage, even one verse, for weeks, maybe months at a time.  I have been chewing and feasting on Matthew 9 for a few weeks now, not only bringing back the theme to me that He is all I need, but really looking at all the people involved in this passage and how it applies to my walk with Jesus.  I said in my last Matthew 9 post that I could relate to the paralytic man because I am helpless, having the ability to do nothing on my own.  As a helpless human, Jesus knows the best thing to say to me is, “Cheer up, son!  Your sins are forgiven.”

When Jesus said this to the man who was paralyzed, though, it was only the beginning.  The teachers of the law whispered amongst themselves that Jesus was blaspheming.  The passage says that Jesus knew what they were thinking and He calls them out on their thoughts, “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[b] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” With that, Jesus turns to the paralyzed man and tells him to stand up, pick up his mat, and go home.  Verse 7 says the man JUMPED up and went home! There was a reverent fear through the whole crowd when they saw this, according to verse 8, and they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.  Notice we do not hear anything else from the teachers of the law here. Don’t worry, they’ll be back…

But let’s take a look at what happened here with these teachers. We know that they’re a little leery of this Jesus fellow. How awkward must it have been when Jesus calls them out for their thoughts? Then, He immediately follows that up by physically healing the paralyzed man and sending him home.  Luke says in his version of this passage that the man went home praising God.  We do not know anything else about this man; his name, whether he had a family, etc., but I can only imagine that as he went home (I would almost assume he was running), every person he passed on the way was told of this miracle.  And what if this man had a family waiting for him at home? He opens the door and walks through to the delight of his confused family.  This blessing could not be hidden from anyone who had known this man before he met up with Jesus.  I mean, with all that Jesus did there, it’s no wonder we hear nothing else from the teachers.  He may not have convinced them, but He did silence them, leaving them speechless, even if only for a short time.

As little as we know about the formerly paralyzed man, we know even less about the people who brought him to Jesus.  Some versions say that the people were all men, some versions simply describe them as people.  We do not know how many, whether they were family, friends, people who pitied the man…nothing really.  Through the passage, we don’t learn all that much either, but Luke’s version of this event adds a little more fun to the equation:

18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

In both gospels, it is said that Jesus saw the faith of these people who brought this man to him and that is when He utters those beautiful words that his sins are forgiven. We don’t get any insight into whether anyone said anything to Jesus once they reached Him, but these people must have really wanted this man, whether their friend, father, husband, uncle, or whoever he was to them, to be healed if they went through all that trouble just to get him noticed by Jesus in hopes of having him healed. I do not believe that one can be saved through the faith of others and I don’t think that this is what this passage implies, however, I do believe people can be healed of their pain and helplessness when there are people willing to deliver them to the feet of Jesus Christ.

A name that we often give Jesus is “The Great Physician”.  It’s a pretty fitting name and an interesting analogy, one that Jesus appears to use in describing Himself later on in this same chapter.  Of course, as with all analogies when we try to compare human things to divine things (which is all we know how to do, right?) because God is so much bigger than any analogy we can use to describe Him, it breaks down.  It breaks down because He is more than just a doctor, but the cure itself.  He is not administering the antidote, He himself is antidote that we need to be healed.

I have been pretty fortunate that I have only had to take one ambulance ride in my life.  I had hurt my back a few days prior (picking up a shirt off the floor, no less) and one morning as I walked into the bathroom and turned around, I almost passed out from the pain. I could not get my bearings back…I sat on the bathroom floor as my wife called for an ambulance. After a short time, the paramedics delivered me to the hospital so I could see the doctor.  By that time, I was a little more lucid.  The doctor ended up giving me a prescription to help ease the pain and lo and behold, within a few days, the pain had pretty much disappeared.

The people who brought the paralytic man to Jesus were paramedics. He was in need of healing and these people knew where they had to take him in order to get it. They delivered him to the cure.  Think about what paramedics do:

They respond when someone is in trouble. They check vital signs. When something is broken, they try to hold it together. Where there is no heartbeat, they try to revive it. When there is trouble breathing, they try to stabilize it.  When there is blood and bruising, they will try to clean it up the best they can.  They deliver the sick and the helpless to the doctor, who can make them well.

It is often said that the church is a hospital. I think ultimately, though, the hospital is really the feet of Jesus Christ and we as the church are the paramedics, delivering the sick, those in pain, and those dying, to Him for healing.

The church can be the ambulance that takes the sick and dying to the feet of the Great Physician and its people can be the paramedics who care for them on the ride, but we need to be careful. The way we often treat those who are sick and in pain is similar to a paramedic showing up to your house because you broke your leg tripping over something and having the paramedic telling you to clean up the clutter in your house and driving away.

Sin is a disease; a cancer. People are in pain for so many different reasons, yet we too often treat people like lepers and outcast them when we should be opening up the ambulance door, guiding them in, whether we’re holding their hand or lifting a stretcher, and help deliver them to the feet of Jesus Christ, where the ultimate healing can really happen.

Hiding in Plain Sight

In her prayer journal, author Flannery O’Connor writes:

“I want very much to succeed in the world with what I want to do.  I have prayed to You about this with my mind and my nerves on it and strung my nerves into a tension over it and said, “oh God please,” and “I must,” and “please, please.” I have not asked you, I feel, in the right way.  Let me henceforth ask you with resignation-that not being or meant to be a slacking up in prayer but a less frenzied kind-realizing that the frenzy is caused by an eagerness for what I want and not a spiritual trust.  I do not wish to presume.  I want to love.  Oh God please make my mind clear.  Please make it clean…Please help me to get down under things and find where You are.”

Now, even though I did go ahead and bold two parts of this, I have to say that this whole passage is so beautifully honest and if I can be honest myself, completely sounds like me; at least the first part where she talks about not asking God for things the right way.  I do find myself feeling this same way, frenzied, while praying because of an eagerness for what I want (or think I need or deserve) and wanting it now, rather than in spiritual trust to the One I impatiently ask.

I assume that O’Connor is stating that she does not want to presume that she will simply be handed what she has asked for.  We often do just presume that God will answer our prayers with a “yes” and be done with it.  She is saying that she doesn’t want to do that anymore and just wants to love…love God?  love His people?  love everything?  I’m not sure, but just the fact that this little sentence is the overflow of her heart makes me also want to love and be the overflow of my heart, rather than just sitting around waiting for God to bless me with what I want (especially when what He ends up giving me is so much more than what we had asked for).

The second bolded statement jumped out at me because it reminds me of when my older son is looking for his shoes in the morning before school.  We have a basket in our dining room that we call “the shoe bin”.  It is simply a place where all of our shoes are kept so that they are all in one place.  Now sometimes, a shoe will sometimes make its way somewhere else on our first floor (my younger son has a huge thing for shoes and puts them on his feet ALL the time), but most of the time, the shoes are pretty much contained to the bin. My son will go over, usually even turn the light on to see, look at the top of the shoe pile and quickly exclaim, “Where are my shoes?”  This question is usually answered by either my wife or I going over and moving a shoe (if that) or two, exposing his “missing” shoe.  His response is usually something like, “Oh, there it is,” said with a slightly embarrassed chuckle.  We then respond by telling him that if he just would have looked a little harder, he could have found it on his own.

O’Connor hits the nail on the head here when she prays for help to get down under things and find where God is.  We are so often like my son, only looking to what is on the top; what can be easily seen.  When we don’t see God there, we get frustrated and don’t take the extra time to keep searching.  Sometimes, God can’t be seen right in front of us or at the top of the pile.  We have to keep going in order to find Him.

13-14 “When you come looking for me, you’ll find me.

“Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.” God’s Decree. (Jeremiah 29:13-14 MSG)

If you are having trouble finding God today, whether it’s because you are frustrated by your frenzied prayers based on an eagerness or presumption of receiving the blessing you want or you just aren’t looking deep enough for Him, just keep looking for Him because once you find Him, you’ll realize He was simply hiding in plain sight.

All I Need

Recently, I was reading through Matthew 9 and I was particularly struck by the story of Jesus and the paralytic man.

9 Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. 2 Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.”

3 But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” 4 Jesus knew[a] what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[b] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

7 And the man jumped up and went home! 8 Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority

First, these people brought a helpless man who could not walk to Jesus for healing, even when he was too weak or unable to do it himself.  That hit me because of our need for fellowship.  Many times, it is through the help and efforts of other people that we are lead to Jesus. I was also especially struck by the first words that Jesus says to the paralyzed man…”be encouraged, my child!  Your sins are forgiven.”  In The Message, it says, “Cheer up, son.  I forgive your sins.” I love it!  From the very first words that Jesus says to him, He is telling the man, “I am all you need.”

I relate well to the paralyzed man. I am helpless.  Too often when I am helpless, though, I want to pick myself up and try to figure everything out on my own and keep going.  When we’re helpless, though, we can’t do that.  Sometimes we just have to let other people carry us to Jesus so He can utter those same words to us that He said to the paralytic man;  “Cheer up, son.  I forgive your sins.”  If I have nothing else, I at least have what I need.

More on this passage soon!  Be Blessed, friends…