Conversations With Jesus - #6
Throughout His ministry, Jesus had many conversations with people. A wide variety of people, including fishermen and tax collectors, sinful women and important men.
In those conversations, some were invited to be disciples of Jesus. Some were offered forgiveness, along with the empowerment to do better - To live more righteously in the future. Some were healed.
Two of those healed were a woman who had been suffering a bleeding problem for 12 years and a 12-year-old young woman who actually died before Jesus got to her. Jesus raised the young woman from death
Today, two more conversations centered on the miracle of healing. Both are recorded in the Gospel of Mark. The first one is in chapter 2.
To set the stage, toward the end of Mark 1, Jesus traveled many places in the area of Galilee, which was the northern region of the Jewish homeland. According to verse 1 of Mark 2, after that traveling, during which He preached and cast our demons from many people, Jesus returned to Capernaum, which had already become kind of His headquarters, which continued during the early and middle parts of His ministry.
Jesus returned to Capernaum. Soon it was reported He was at home, which I think refers, not to a house as such, but back in the city He had made His base of ministry.
Mark 2 is obviously very early in Jesus’ ministry. However, He had already done enough preaching and enough healing to have formed a reputation. So already He was attracting large crowds of people wherever He was, including in Capernaum, including on the day reported in Mark 2.
That day Jesus was in a house. In the house, He was preaching the word of God to those who had joined Him there. And yes, it was a very large crowd. The wording is that the house was filled with people. So filled no one else could get into the dwelling. There were so many, some were standing outside the door of the house, listening from there.
That turned out to be a problem for a group of men. Four men who carried a paralyzed man. Four men who wanted to take the paralytic to Jesus so, who I assume was their friend, could be healed.
Remember Jesus had already established a reputation for having healing power. It was healing the men wanted for the paralytic. The group must have been excited about the prospects of healing. Until they neared the house and saw the crowd. Again, it was such a crowd even the door to the house was blocked.
At first sight, the group of men must have been discouraged. The paralyzed man may have suggested they just turn around and take him back home. Maybe he could be healed some other time.
However, those who carried the man were not to be deterred. They were going to get their friend to Jesus, no matter what obstacles they faced, including the huge crowd around Jesus.
To understand how they did what they did, think how houses were constructed back then. Most houses had flat roofs, which were often used for a place of rest and quiet for the home owner and maybe some guests. Most houses had outside stairways to get to the roof. The roofs were built with beams three feet apart. Areas between the beams were filled with brushwood, packed with clay, topped with rocks or stones, which means roofs were easy to dig through.
What the men who carried the paralyzed man did was this. They climbed the stairs to the flat roof. They brushed away the rocks or stones. They dug through the clay and wood between two of the beams. (Because of the type of construction, the hole they made would have been fairly easy to repair, but it was still a sacrifice on the part of the home owner to allow a hole to be dug in the roof). Through the hole, the men lowered the pallet on which the paralyzed man was.
I suspect Jesus, and those closest to Him, had already noticed something was happening. Some of the rocks or stones and some of the clay and some of the brushwood would have filtered down on them.
Jesus no doubt knew something was going on. That was confirmed when, suddenly, right in front of Jesus, a man on a pallet appeared from above.
Upon his appearance, Jesus started a conversation with the man on the pallet. However, listen to how the passage is worded. The words are, “when Jesus saw their faith.”
Their faith. Maybe that included the faith of the paralytic, but it definitely included the faith of the four friends who had gone to extreme measures to get the man to Jesus.
It was their faith Jesus saw. So impressed was He that he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Wait. “Your sins are forgiven.” The man was paralyzed. It was healing he needed, but Jesus forgave that man’s sins. What was that about?
Well, it was the Jewish belief that sin and suffering were connected. That if someone was suffering, he or she must have sinned.
If the paralytic thought that way, Jesus’ wording would have given him confidence of healing. Plus, the greatest need anyone has is spiritual healing, which the wording suggests.
Jesus began His conversation with the paralyzed man by promising that his sins were forgiven.
What immediate impact that had on the man is not known, but there was a reaction from some in the crowd in the house. A negative reaction from some who were scribes. It seems most in the house were there to learn. However, a few - some scribes - some from that group of religious leaders - were there, not to learn, but to try to catch Jesus in saying something wrong. Something by which they could get Him into trouble.
When the scribes heard Jesus forgive the man’s sins, they thought they had caught Him. The scribes immediately questioned what He had said. They questioned Him in their hearts.
In their hearts. That means it is what they thought or felt. They did not speak out loud. Internally they asked, “Why does this man speak that way? It is blasphemy what He just said because God alone can forgive sins.”
Indeed, it was the Jewish teaching that only God can forgive sins, which Jesus knew and agreed with. Anyone else who claimed to do that was guilty of blasphemy against God. The punishment, according to Leviticus in the Old Testament, was to be stoning to death.
Again, Jesus knew all that. But of course He is God, so what He said to the paralytic man was fine. Which He needed to explain to the scribes.
Remember the scribes questioned Jesus in their hearts. They did not say anything out loud. But Jesus knew their thoughts. He perceived in His spirit that they questioned what He had said. He challenged them, “Why do you question Me in your hearts?”
He added, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk’?”
Jesus had not said for the man to rise and walk, which would be words of healing. Actually, He was about to say those very things, but first He made a proclamation to the scribes. Jesus said, “But that you [the scribes] may know that the Son of man [that I] has authority on earth to forgive sins, I now say to the paralytic, rise, take up your pallet, and go home.”
Think of this. Anyone can say words, including, “your sins are forgiven.” And yes, it is blasphemous for anyone other than God - and Jesus, who is God - to say such words since only God can forgive sins. But anyone can say those words since there is really no way to prove whether the words have any effect or not.
But to tell the paralytic to rise, take up his pallet, and walk was and is different. Either there was going to be healing, or there would not be. The effectiveness of those words would be proved or disproved.
And remember the thought back then that suffering and sin were related. If the man was able to rise and walk, it would be proof to the scribes Jesus was able to forgive sins.
I wonder the tension of that moment. Was Jesus going to be caught? And for the scribes, what if the man did rise and walk? How were they going to explain that?
Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.” Immediately he rose. Immediately he took up his pallet. Immediately he walked. He went out of the house in front of all those in the house, including the scribes.
All were amazed, including the scribes. All - at least the normal people in the crowd that day - glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this.”
In a conversation with a paralyzed man and with some scribes, Jesus healed and proved He was God and therefore has the right to forgive sins. What an important conversation that was.
Let’s move over to chapter 5 of Mark, where another conversation is recorded.
Remember the first conversation for today happened in Capernaum, which was a city on the western side of the Sea of Galilee. At the beginning of chapter 5 it is reported Jesus and His disciples had crossed over to the other side - to the eastern shore - of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.
It should be mentioned that toward the end of chapter 4, we are told about a great storm that arose as Jesus and His disciples crossed the Sea from west to east. The storm was so severe, it threatened to capsize the boat they were on. They were in danger until Jesus, who, despite the storm, had been sleeping, was awakened by the disciples, who pleaded with Him to do something.
Jesus did do something. He woke up. He rebuked the wind. He said to the Sea, “Be still.” Immediately upon speaking those words, there was a great calm, which allowed the voyage to continue safely.
The storm needs to be remembered because, I would think, even though the storm had quickly stopped, the nerves of the disciples might still have been at least a bit on edge, which makes what happened on the eastern shore maybe even more scary than it would have otherwise been.
Jesus and His disciples landed on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee. As soon as they came out of the boat, they were met by someone. The someone was a man with an unclean spirit.
There was evidence the man was possessed by an unclean spirit. Some of these things Jesus and the disciples would have noticed. Some the people who lived nearby would have known.
For instance, the man lived among the tombs. It was near tombs where Jesus’ boat had come to shore. It was from the tombs the man came.
People had tried to control the man, including using chains to bind him, but that night, the man was not chained. That is because he was so strong, he was able to break even chains. He was able to snap them apart. Other restraints he was able to break into pieces.
People wanted to subdue the man, certainly for their own protection, but also because he was a danger to himself. He often bruised himself with stones.
As will be suggested later, the man ran around naked.
As he ran around, he cried out, doing so night and day. The crying out must have been moans and groans, and maybe threats to himself and to others.
The man was big, uncontrolled, and dangerous. The man was scary. That is who Jesus and His disciples were met by when they got off the boat. In fact, He did not just come up to Jesus. He ran to Jesus and His disciples.
Can we imagine the fear the disciples felt? Jesus knew the man. Jesus knew the man’s condition. Jesus already knew what He was going to do for the man. So He was not frightened. But the disciples did not know all that. And remember, they had just had a horrible scare with the storm at sea. The disciples must have been terrified when the crazy man ran to them.
But get this. When the man arrived, he stopped and worshiped Jesus. It was then Jesus began a conversation with him. Actually, this part of the conversation was with the unclean spirit, but listen to what Jesus said. He said - He ordered - “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit.”
The spirit answered, “What have You to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure You - I beg You by God - do not torment me.”
Isn’t that interesting. The spirit knew who Jesus was. It knew Jesus was the Son of God. It even called on the name of God for protection. Isn’t that interesting?
Jesus continued the conversation by asking the unclean spirit, “What is your name?” The spirit answered, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”
There are two possibilities about the importance of that name.
First, Roman army legions consisted of 6000 soldiers each. The spirit’s name was likely an indication there were many demons from which the man suffered. In fact, that is what the spirit said with the words “for we are many.”
Second, Roman legions were at times guilty of horrible atrocities. So the spirit’s name might also be an indication how vile the man was.
The spirit gave its name. It then added to the conversation with a request. “Please,” it said, “do not send them [all the demons in the man] out of the country,” which was a way of saying they did not want to be destroyed. “Instead, please send us [the demons] to the herd of pigs feeding nearby on a hillside. Send us to the swine. Let us enter them.”
Jesus did what was asked. However, the demons still did not survive because as soon as the demons entered the swine, the herd, numbering about two thousand, which was another indication the man had been possessed by a great number of demons, rushed down the steep hill they were on. They rushed into the sea. All of them drowned.
That certainly caught the attention of the herdsmen of the pigs. The herdsmen fled to their city, where they told what had happened. They told the news, not only in the city, but also to those they met or passed along the way.
The result was that many other people traveled to the spot where Jesus still was. And not only Jesus and His disciples were there. So, too, was the man there. The demon-possessed man who was no longer demon-possessed. Which was clearly evident by the facts he was sitting rather than running around, he had clothes on, and he was talking calmly, clearly, coherently.
The reaction of the people should have been relief, joy, amazement, and celebration. However, that was not the reaction. Instead, the people were afraid. So afraid, either of Jesus’ power or that He had just inflicted a huge economic blow on the pig herders, they asked - they begged - Jesus to depart from them.
What a reaction. Which Jesus honored. As is often stated, He will not force His blessings on anyone. That was the case that morning on the eastern side of the Sea of Galilee.
But the healed man, knowing Jesus was going to leave, went to Him and asked that he be allowed to travel with Jesus.
Jesus answered. This part of the conversation was with the man himself since the demons had left him. He said, “No. Instead, go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how He has had mercy on you.” The call was for the man to be a witness for Jesus. A living, walking, unanswerable demonstration of what the Lord can do for a person.
The man obeyed. He went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis - that area, in which there were ten cities - how much Jesus had done for him. Everywhere he went, all those who heard about Jesus marveled.
* * * * *
Two conversations. One with a man who was paralyzed, the other with a man who was demon-possessed. Both conversations involved healing. Both healed men were given instructions - the formerly paralyzed man to get up and walk, the formerly demon-possessed man to stay in his region and tell others about Jesus.
From those two conversations, what can we learn or be reminded about?
Here’s something. When we know of someone who has a need, may we, like the friends who carried the paralyzed man, let nothing stand in our way of helping that one get to Jesus.
Here’s something else. Remember the man healed from the unclean spirit was instructed to tell others how much the Lord had done for him. Yes, the man had been healed, which he was supposed to make evident, but his goal was to give glory to Christ.
When good things happen to us - healings or other blessings - may we be determined to make sure it is Jesus, not ourselves, who is glorified. May He always be given the praise.
And this. At that time, the teaching was often that God has an attitude of stern, severe, austere justice and continual demand. May we remember that Jesus, who is God, proved the exact opposite. That the attitude instead is one of love, shown in His willingness to heal and His eagerness to forgive.
That leads to a story by a man who, as a boy, saw his dad as frighteningly stern. One Sunday - a hot, drowsy-type morning - when the boy and his father were in church, the boy grew sleepy. He tried to stay awake, but just could not do so.
Just before he dozed off, he saw, out of the corner of his eye, his father’s arm go up. The boy was sure that arm would either shake him or strike him. Instead, the arm went around the boy. The father smiled at his son as he helped the boy rest more comfortably.
That day the boy discovered his father was not as stern as he thought. He learned his father loved him.
Of course the father expected good behavior. Of course there were some times of discipline needed to achieve that. Of course God expects righteousness from us, and He will discipline us to help us achieve that.
But God is, as long as anyone lives, ever willing to forgive and give second and third and fourth chances. Lt’s rejoice over that. Let’s take advantage of it as we, too, tell others about Jesus.
Today’s closing song is a joyful hymn. It is Come, Christians, Join to Sing. As we sing, let’s be joyful about the Lord’s love, His willingness to heal, and His eagerness to forgive. May our joy inspire us to help others reach Him.
"Come, Christians, join to sing;
Loud praise to Christ our King;
Let all, with heart and voice,
Before His throne rejoice;
Praise is His gracious choice:
Come, lift your hearts on high;
Let praises fill the sky;
He is our Guide and Friend;
To us He’ll condescend;
His love shall never end:
Praise yet our Christ again;
Life shall not end the strain;
On Heaven’s blissful shore
His goodness we’ll adore,