The Man Sick of the Palsy
Charles McEwen, Exeter
I. The Man—Helpless
Tins man in his helplessness, and the hopelessness A (humanly speaking) of his case, affords a true picture of humanity as seen by the eye of God. It is a representation of the moral condition before God of those around us who are as yet unsaved. But it is a picture also of what God in His grace and mercy can do for a man in his sin and misery through the instrumentality of those who seek to bring the lost to Jesus, and who work in faith for the honour of God and the restoration and blessing of the lost ones around them. It should speak volumes to us who are saved concerning our responsibilities towards our neighbours and fellow-creatures. Dwight L. Moody once said, " If a man tells me that he has been saved and does not desire to work for the honour of God, I doubt his salvation. Laziness belongs to the old creation, not to the new."
II. The Four Helpers
First, these four men were united in action. Working as a team, four bring one to Christ. May we not think of this as an illustration of soul-winners from the four corners of the globe bringing sinners to Christ ? Does it not remind us of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the four evangelists who through their Gospels have been bringing sinners to Christ for more than 1900 years ? And in how many sound cases of conversion has not the work of Christian nurture, instruction, admonition and preaching been shared by parent or friend, Sunday-school teacher, Bible-class leader and gospel preacher ? This too, is teamwork, and should be thought of as such. We note that the four helpers worked together and shared the burden equally. There was no competition. They each took a corner of the couch. What would have resulted had they not worked together? What if they had pulled in contrary directions or if one had dropped his corner of the couch ? It would have meant, for the poor paralytic, disaster, and for God the loss of the glory due to His Name. But their devotion, self-control and unity in teamwork spelt peace of conscience, new bodily powers and glorious freshness of life to the paralytic, and glory to the name of God. For " when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled and glorified God who had given such power unto men." The same can happen today. We are reminded of the occasion of the bringing in of the Ark of God to the newly-completed Temple. " It came to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard . . . that then the house was filled with . . the glory of the Lord " (2 Chron. 5. 13, 14). Similarly we learn that it is where brethren dwell together in unity " there the Lord commands the blessing, even life for evermore " (Psa. 133. 1-3). And yet again, the active principle of unity (" one accord," Acts 2. 1) was seen to be productive of mighty blessing at Pentecost, for as a result of their striving, labouring, helping, working together—not in equality or sameness of tasks, but in unity, each man according to his gift—there were added to the church 3,000 souls. And it was no ' flash in the pan,' for " they continued steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers " (Acts 2. 42).
We must not all expect to be Peters, delivering the powerful address. We may be merely " of the eleven," or, even more inconspicuously, of the hundred and twenty. Joseph Parker illustrated the need to keep our God-given place and to exercise our God-given gift without envy of (he place or gift given to others, by the fable of the lady's watch and the clock of Big Ben. The tiny, delicately-made watch, dissatisfied with its little sphere in the lady's pocket, envied Big Ben as one day it passed with her over Westminster Bridge. " 1 wish i could be up there, I'd then serve the multitude." Said the lecturer, " You shall have your opportunity, little watch," and proceeded to describe dramatically how it was drawn up the tower by a slender thread. When level with Big Ben's great face, it was asked, " Where are you, little watch ? I cannot see you." Its elevation had been its annihilation ! Yet in the lady's pocket it had been always at hand to serve the useful purpose for which it had been made.
Secondly, the four helpers were unmoved by obstacles. The crowd came between them and Christ. They got above the crowd. If men are an obstruction to you in your pursuance of faith's purpose, look up! go up! Then the roof came between them and Christ. This was an obstacle which it would cost time and effort to overcome. But they were men who " sought means " (Luke 5. 18) ; they exercised holy ingenuity. Do we do this in seeking the salvation of others ? Do we watch, pray, visit, exercise care and thought, and employ all the ingenuity of a lover of souls to bring them under the word of Christ ? John Wesley was once walking with a troubled man, who said : " I do not know what. I shall do with all this worry and trouble." At that moment they saw a cow looking over a stone wall, and Wesley asked, " Do you know why that cow is looking over the wall ?" " No." " Why, that cow is looking over the wall because she cannot look through it." So Wesley said, " You must do that with all your wall of trouble—look over it and above it."
III. The Healer
Thirdly, the four members of this team were unwavering in their faith. They knew they must bring the man to Christ. Their confidence in the Lord's ability and willingness to heal was undaunted and unfailing. And their faith was seen and rewarded by Him, for faith is always God-honouring, whereas self-reliance spells disaster (Deut. 8. 17 ; Judges 16. 20 ; 2 Chron. 26. 15, 16 This man was healed. The result was immediate, perfect and complete. For that is how God ever does things, not by halves. The man had healing; glory came to God; and—surely enough—unforgettable encouragement to the four.
IV. The Hinderers
Fourthly, we see that in those days, as in ours, there was much unwarrantable criticism. But we must be prepared for this. The act of faith met with the Saviour's approval, and what does criticism matter, as long as we have His smile ? The building of the Temple in Ezra's day met with both opposition and criticism. This will always be so. We may well afford to ignore detractors and critics. " They that turn many to righteousness " shall be " as the stars for ever and ever." And " in due season we shall reap if we faint not."