12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy.[a] And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And Jesus[b] stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one, but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” 15 But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with him to heal.[c] 18 And behold, some men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralysed, and they were seeking to bring him in and lay him before Jesus, 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 And when he saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” 21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? 23 Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you’, or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralysed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 25 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. 26 And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
27 After this he went out and saw a tax collector named Levi, sitting at the tax booth. And he said to him, “Follow me.” 28 And leaving everything, he rose and followed him.
29 And Levi made him a great feast in his house, and there was a large company of tax collectors and others reclining at table with them. 30 And the Pharisees and their scribes grumbled at his disciples, saying, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” 31 And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”
Faith That Sits
Those who receive from Jesus beg, dig through a roof, or leave everything, get up and follow him. In each of these scenes the Pharisees sit and evaluate and criticize. One man is desperate to be clean, another group are desperate for their friend, another is desperate for a new way of life. These are the ones who rise up and embrace change. The ones who don’t want change and are comfortable with the status quo do nothing for themselves and nothing for others. In fact they challenge and criticize God himself in the person of Jesus.
Some people value sitting in silence as part of a retreat. However, it is not a critical or jaded sitting like that of the Pharisees. It seeks to find Jesus and pursue him wherever he may lead. It engages the sin in the life of the individual and wants nothing to do with it. Sick hearts are brought to Jesus and healed. Many people today have stalled in their spiritual growth. They are busy and they are empty. They criticize others whose doctrine isn’t quite the same as theirs on every point. They do so to defend their inaction – their lack of growth. We resist growth when we defend our position. We embrace growth when we bring ourselves to Jesus and he heals us. However, to continue in healing is to admit that we are still affected by the flesh and its disease. It is not truly who we are, but it affects us and we need Jesus to lead us deeper. When there is no change and we sit still in our faith, there is pride. The Pharisees’ pride is an example to us. They could not conceive of changing from their traditions and their interpretations of scripture. I have seen bitter Christians who would love nothing better than embrace a sin spread a gospel of misery and restraint rather than a gospel of joy and engagement. In fact atheists in Britain have seen those who are not committed to the joy of a relationship with Jesus, but are just worried about getting their dogma right. They have used it to evangelize in their own way.
May I not be so concerned with being right that I miss the relationship with the one who defines right. May I be able to defend my faith with an atheist, not so much by outarguing them, but by showing the truth in the way that I live. May the reality of your existence and your nature be shown in both the joyful pursuit of you and also the way your existence explains reality more fully.
- What situations does Jesus touch?
- How do those who need Jesus respond?
- How do the Pharisees respond?
- How do atheists and religious bigots both miss Jesus?
- How should we respond to Jesus on his terms?