A young Congregational/UCC pastor was visiting an elderly woman in the hospital. She was quite ill, near the end. Surrounded by tubes and bags and machines, the young pastor read Scripture and then asked what she wanted him to pray for. “To be healed,” she responded.
The pastor gulped. He thought, “This poor woman can’t accept the inevitable.” Fortunately, he kept his thought to himself and began to pray. “Lord, we pray for your presence to be with our ailing sister, and if it be your will, we pray she be restored to health.”
Immediately after the pastor put the “Amen” on his timid prayer, the woman opened her eyes and sat up. She threw her feet over the side of the bed and stood. “I think I’m healed!” Before the pastor could react, she walked over to the door, pulled it open and strode down the hall. The last thing the pastor heard before she disappeared around the corner were, “Look at me! Look at me! I’m healed!”
The pastor pushed his mouth closed, got up and slowly walked down the stairs and into the parking lot. He opened his car door and stopped, looked up to the heavens, and said, “Lord, please don’t ever do that to me again!”
We would all like to be healed, or have loved ones healed, but we’re also not sure exactly how we feel about such miraculous healings.
This is the first of a four sermon series on my top four Jesus stories. These are my favorites. This morning is my all time fave! The story of Jesus healing the paralytic man who comes to him with the help of four people who tear apart a roof to get him to Jesus has everything in it. I’ve always loved this one, since I was a kid.
Perhaps you have a favorite Jesus story or passage, something that’s always meant more to you than any other one, or at least stood a little bit above the others.
I love this story because it has so many elements to it. It’s like one size fits all, though it’s more like one size tells all.
The story starts out with so much enthusiasm and energy surrounding Jesus. This is when he is his most popular. People are filling up a home to see him. Nobody else will fit in, which means he is being listened to, and he’s respected, and he’s someone people are turning to. And knowing what will happen later in his life, it always made me feel good that Jesus had a time when he was surrounded by some love.
I know this may not be exactly true because obviously if you love someone then you don’t abandon that person when he needs you the most. Nonetheless, this story shows that Jesus of Nazareth knew he was needed and wanted, and it’s always made me feel good that he got to experience that in his short ministry.
And then the story turns to something very serious—a paralyzed man who lives his life lying on a bed or rather a mat, which of course is incredibly sad. We don’t know how long he’s been like this but we know his life is reduced to nothing to almost nothing.
But there’s more to it than this. He’s not just a paralyzed man. He’s a person who has people who care for him; in fact, they care for him so much that four of them carry him around the town and to this house in order for Jesus to work a miracle for him.
This is one of the things that’s very special about this story. In any of the other healing stories when someone is in need, it’s a father or a mother who is pleading with Jesus to save their child. One time a slave owner begs Jesus to heal his slave, but Jesus is told the slave is like a son to him.
This is the only time we have an older person, a man, not a child brought to Jesus. This is the only time we’re not sure if these are family members. Tradition has always made the four carriers into four friends.
Now here is love. The paralyzed man can be of no earthly good any longer to his family or friends. He’s no longer productive. In fact, he still costs someone money to feed him, time to care for him, energy to think of his needs. He’s a burden, isn’t he? But he’s a burden they’re willing to bear.
Now certainly I can’t judge families when they decide not to keep the older generation, their mom or dad, at home. Mom or dad decides it’s best to live by him or herself after the death of their spouse in an assisted living home. There’s no way I can judge whether it is right or wrong for that one to live alone at this point in their life in a home/facility.
And whenever I ask someone who is living alone how they are really doing, they always say they’re alright, and they don’t want to be a burden to their children, and they’ve adapted to being alone, and they’re kept busy at their place, and they have some friends—though their good friends more than likely have passed away. They say these things to me but still I can’t help but believe there is a deep loneliness in their lives.