Broken Lives

Say you’re driving down the highway and suddenly the check engine light comes on. Everything seems OK; it’s not sputtering and the gauges look good. So what’s that little light all about? Keeping an ear to the motor’s hum and an eye on the vital gauges you continue on to your destination. Since nothing seems wrong we’ll put up with that light, hoping that it goes away. But if it doesn’t go away we’ll eventually take our car to the shop to find out what that little light is trying to say.

The mechanic will plug in a little gizmo that can read the fault code and tell us why the light is on. One time it was just a loose gas cap, who would have thought. Don’t you wish that we had a connector and gizmo like that for our lives? Especially for those times when we know something is wrong but we can’t put our finger on what it is.

The scripture we’re going to use today is when Jesus healed the paralyzed man lowered into the room by his friends. It’s a familiar story to most of us. Luke records it this way, “One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus”.

It doesn’t take a fancy gizmo to diagnose what is wrong with the man on the stretcher. He can’t walk. We aren’t told why or how he came to be that way. All we do know is that he needed the help of his friends to get him to Jesus. We don’t know how the man on the stretcher felt about that. Was he begging to see Jesus?  Was he depressed and silent? Was he embarrassed and mad that his friends were making such a fuss? I kind of like that the gospel writers left some blanks in the story. It keeps us from creating formulas and it allows us to read our own story into the man’s.

The mission of the friends was a success, they got Jesus’ attention. But I wonder how they reacted to what came next. Luke continues, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.” Wait! What? That’s not why we carried him here. I wonder if they thought – “what a waste of time” or “we didn’t bring him for his sins but for his legs”.  

The religious leaders had a different concern about Jesus’ pronouncement, “But the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to themselves, “Who does he think he is? That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Now, the religious leaders reactions and what Jesus said is important but often blinds us to a basic truth. But let’s see what happens next.

Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And immediately, as everyone watched, the man jumped up, picked up his mat, and went home praising God. Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe, and they praised God, exclaiming, “We have seen amazing things today!”” (Luke 5:17–26, NLT) The man was healed! The friends were happy, the man overjoyed, the crowd overawed. But let’s rewind the tape for just a moment.

It’s easy to get a sense that the only reason Jesus pronounced forgiveness and healed the man was to prove a point to the religious leaders and the others crowded in that room. But what if no one was there except the friends that carried the stretcher, the paralyzed man, and Jesus? Would Jesus have done or said anything different? Maybe there would have been more conversation. I contend that Jesus would have touched the man in exactly the same way. You see, Jesus knew something – the man needed forgiveness. He needed to hear that. He needed his heart healed as well as his legs. Jesus didn’t pronounce forgiveness to make a point, He did it because it was what the man needed. We don’t know why the man needed forgiveness but Jesus and the man knew.

Neither can we create a formula saying that forgiveness always comes before healing. Jesus was never predictable on how He touched and healed someone.

The point is that like a car mechanic with the little gizmo that reports what is wrong Jesus knows the broken places of our lives better than we do.

Is your check engine light on?  Or maybe things are running rough. Or your temperature light is stressed out. Or you know that you have a flat tire. Maybe you’ve prayed and prayed but there is no breakthrough or healing. Could it be that we need to get out of the way allow Jesus to say or touch or heal whatever He wants in our lives? Jesus knows better than we do the broken parts of our lives. He also knows what needs to be touched first. The question is whether we will grant Him that permission. You may have any number of problems in your life, allow Jesus to touch whatever He desires even if it seems insignificant when compared with everything else you are facing right now. Do that enough and you will see “amazing things.”

Dale Heinold
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