All the three evangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, record this miracle. I have noticed that when any two or three of the Gospel writers record a miracle it is to bring out some important truth. It seems to me that the truth the Lord would teach us here is this: The honor He put upon the faith of these four men who brought the palsied man to him for healing. Whether the palsied man himself had any faith we are not told; it was when He saw "their faith" that His power was put forth to cure the sick of the palsy.
I want to say to all Christian workers, that if the Lord sees our faith for those whom we wish to be blessed, He will honor it. He has never disappointed the faith of any of His children yet. You cannot find an instance in the Bible, where any man or woman has exercised true faith in God, where it has not been honored. Nothing that the Savior found when He was on this sin-cursed earth pleased Him so much as to see the faith of His disciples; nothing refreshed His heart so much.
We read in the Gospel narrative that there was a great stir in the town of Capernaum at this time. A few weeks before, the Savior had been cast out of his native town of Nazareth. He had come down to Capernaum, and the whole country was greatly moved. His star was just rising, and His fame was being spread abroad. Peter's wife's mother had been healed by a word. The servant of an officer in the Roman army had been raised up from a sick bed, and the Savior had performed many other wonderful miracles. Men had come to Capernaum from every town in Galilee, and Judaea, and from Jerusalem. They had gathered together to look into these wonderful events that were occurring. The voice of John the Baptist had been ringing through the land, proclaiming to the people that a Prophet would soon make His appearance, whose shoe latchet he was not worthy to unloose. While the Baptist was telling out this message the Prophet Himself made His appearance in the northern part of the country, and all these wonderful things were transpiring.
The Pharisees and doctors of the law had come to Capernaum to look into the reports that were spread abroad. The house where they were gathered was filled to overflowing, and these wise men were listening to the Savior's teaching. Many of them hardly believed a word that He said. It may be there were some believing ones among these wise men. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea may have been there: if so, they were not yet known as disciples of Jesus.
The writer of the Gospel says: "The power of the Lord was present to heal them." We are not told, however, that one of them was healed. So it is very often now. The power of the Lord may be present to heal in these gatherings; yet many will come and go, wondering what it all means, and without being healed of their spiritual diseases. What we need is to have the power of God in our midst.
A man came into one of our meetings in London. He got into a part of the hall where he could not hear a word of what was spoken or sung; he could not even hear the text or the portion of Scripture that was read. There he had to sit through the service, so to speak, shut up alone with himself. A little while after he told some one that as he sat there God had revealed Himself to him, and spoken peace to his soul. There is such a thing as the power of God being present to heal, though men may not hear the voice of their fellowman.
These four men were real workers. They were worth more than a houseful of these Pharisees and doctors of the law who came merely to criticise and look on. I do not know who the four men were, but I have always had a great admiration for them. It may be one of them had been blind and the Lord had given him his sight. The other may have been lame from his birth; when the Master restored him to strength, he thought he would like to use it in bringing some one else to be healed. The third man may have been a cured leper, and he wished to help in getting some other afflicted one cured. Perhaps this palsied man was his next-door neighbor. The fourth man, it may be, had been deaf and dumb, and he thought he would employ his hearing and his speech in helping some one else. These four young converts said to themselves: "Let us bring our sick neighbor to Christ." The palsied man may have said he had no faith in Christ. But these four friends told him how they had been cured, and if the Master could heal them surely He could heal a palsied man.
Now it seems to me nothing will wake up a man quicker than to have four persons after him in one day. People are sometimes afraid that they will entrench on each other's ground if more than one worker happens to call at the same house. For my part, I wish that every family had about forty invitations to each meeting.
I lately heard of a man, a non-churchgoer, who did not believe in the Bible or religious things. Some one who was distributing tickets asked him if he would go to the meetings. He got quite angry. No, he would not go; he did not believe in the thing at all; he would not be seen in such a crowd. A second man came along, not knowing that any one had been before him, and asked if he would accept a ticket for the meetings. The man was still angry, and, as we would sometimes say, he "gave him a piece of his mind." He told him to keep his tickets. By-and-by a third man called and said: "Would you take a ticket for these meetings?" The man by this time had got thoroughly waked up, but yet he declined to receive the ticket. He went into a shop to buy something. The man in the shop put a ticket for the meetings into the packet; when the customer got home and opened it, lo and behold there was a ticket! He got so roused up that he went, not to our meeting, but to a neighboring church. I do not know that he has come clean out, but I believe he is, at any rate, in a hopeful condition.
If one visit does not wake up a man whom you want to reach, send a second visitor after him; if that has no effect, send a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, and a sixth, and a seventh; go on in that way day after day. It is a great thing to save one man, to get him out of the pit, to have his feet set fast on a rock, and a new song put in his mouth. Nothing will rouse an indifferent man quicker than to have a number of friends after him. If you cannot bring him yourself, get others to help you.
These four men found an obstacle in the way. The door of the house was blocked, and they could not get near the Master. They may have asked some of these philosophers to stand aside; but no, they would not do that. They would not disturb themselves about a sick man. Many people will not go into the kingdom of God themselves, and they will throw obstacles in the way of others. After trying probably for some time to get in, these four men began to devise another plan. If it had been some of us, most likely we would have got quite discouraged, and carried the man back to his home.
These men had faith, and perseverance too. They are going to get their friend to Christ some way. If they cannot get him through the door, they will find a way through the roof! "Zeal without knowledge," people say. I would a good deal rather have that than knowledge without zeal. You can see them pulling and tugging away at the burden. If you have ever tried to carry a wounded man up a flight of stairs you will know it is not an easy matter. But these four men were not to be defeated, and at last he is up there on the roof.
Now, the question was, "How can we get him down?" They began to tear up the tiling. I can see those wise men looking up and saying to one another: "This is a strange performance; we have never seen anything like this in the temple or in any synagogue we were ever in. It is altogether out of the regular order. These men must be carried away with fanaticism. Why, they have made a hole large enough to let a man through. Suppose a sudden shower were to come, it would spoil the house."
But these four workers were terribly in earnest. They let the bier, on which the man was lying, down into the room. They laid their friend right at the feet of Jesus Christ; a good place to lay him, was it not? Perhaps some of you have a sceptical son or an unbelieving husband, or some other member of your family, that scoffs at the Bible and sneers at Christianity. Lay them at the feet of Jesus, and He will honor your faith.
"When He saw their faith." I suppose these men were looking down to see what was about to take place Christ looked at them, and when He saw their faith He said to the palsied man: "Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee." That was more than they expected; they only thought of his body being made whole. So let us bring our friends to Christ, and we shall get more than we expect. The Lord met this man's deepest need first. It may be his sins had brought on the palsy, so the Lord forgave the man's sin first of all.
The wise men began to reason within themselves: "Who is this that forgiveth sins?" The Master could read their thoughts as easily as we can read a book. "Is it easier to say, 'Thy sins be forgiven thee,' or 'Rise up and walk?' But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, He said unto the sick of the palsy, 'I say unto thee, arise; take up thy bed and go into thine house.'" The man leaped to his feet, made whole. He rolled up the old bed, swung it across his shoulders, and went to his house. Depend upon it, these philosophers who would not make way in order to let him in stood aside pretty quick to let him go out. No need for him to go out by way of the roof; he went out by the door.
Dear friends, let us have faith for those we bring to Christ. Let us believe for them if they will not believe for themselves. It may be there are those here who do not believe in the Bible, or in the Gospel of the Son of God. Let us bring them to Christ in the arms of our faith. He is unchangeable -- "the same yesterday, today, and for ever." Let us look for great things. Let us expect the dead to be raised, the harlots reclaimed, the drunkards saved, and the devils cast out. I believe men are possessed of evil spirits now, just as much as when the Son of God was on earth. We want to bring them right to the Lord Jesus Christ, that He may heal and save them. Let this cursed unbelief be swept out of the way, and let us come to God as one man, looking for and expecting signs and wonders to be done in the name of Jesus. He can perform miracles to-day, and He will if we ask Him to fulfill His promises. "He is able to save to the uttermost."
And let me say to any unsaved man that God has the power to save you from your sins to-day. If you want to be converted, come right to the Master as did the leper of old. He said, "Lord, if Thou wilt Thou canst make me clean." Christ honored his faith, and said, "I will; be thou clean." Notice -- the man put "if" in the right place. "If Thou will." He did not doubt the power of the Son of God. The father who brought his son to Christ said, "If Thou canst, have compassion upon him." The Lord straightened out his theology then and there; "If thou canst believe." Mother, can you believe for your boy? If you can, the Lord will speak the word, and it shall be done.
It will be a good thing for us to get right down at the feet of the Master, like the poor woman who went to Elisha and told him of her dead child. He asked his servant to take his staff and lay it upon the dead child. But the mother would not leave the prophet. He wanted her to go with the servant, but she would not be satisfied with the prophet's staff, or even with his servant; she wanted the master himself. So Elisha went with her; it was a good thing he did, for the servant could not raise the child.
We want to get beyond the staff and beyond the servant, right to the heart of the Master Himself. Let us bring our palsied friends to Him. It is said of Christ that in one place He could not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief. Let us ask Him to take away from us this cursed unbelief, that hinders the blessing from coming down, and prevents those who are sick of the palsy of sin from being saved.
"The faith that works by love,