Once, when Jesus was in one of the cities, there was a man covered with leprosy.
The leper lives a hopeless life. He is alone, living with a disease which banishes him from any human contact. Going along, all day long, crying out, "UNCLEAN, UNCLEAN. Move away from me" - the constant reminder of his lot in life, the obvious deformity of his diseased body. He is responsible for keeping others at a distance. He is hated and feared because of this horrible mystery. He alone carries the burden. He is desperately hanging onto a knot at the end of his rope.
One day he hears about the man called Jesus and the miracles. A spark fires in him. Dare he hope for his own miracle? He imagines a life living with touch and conversation, family and friends.
And then one day he sees Jesus. Hope is walking down the dusty road towards him. The leper bows his head to the ground in awe of possibility. Begging. He is used to begging but this is for his life.
"Lord, if you choose, you can make me clean." His heart must have been racing and his ears pounding. But his words don't come across as frantic. Controlled but bursting with hope. Scared to death. Pick me. Pick me. Make me the next miracle. This is my chance.
Then THE GOD of the universe reaches out his hand to touch this unclean man. Jesus stretches down to reach the man lying in the dust, pleading for his life.
How long is the second before Jesus replies?
"I do choose. Be made clean."
Immediately. No leprosy. The man feels his face, looks at his arms, rubs his hands over his body. No deformity.
Jesus tells him to tell no one and to go straight to the priest to make an offering for cleansing which will be a testimony to the miracle.
The miracle of the leper spreads throughout the community and abroad. Crowds of people come to hear Jesus and to be cured.
The man Jesus withdraws to deserted places. Now he is hanging on the knot, alone, exhausted. So many people demanding much. Give. Give. Give. He would never cry out unclean but he can feel what the man feels, the exhaustion of doing life along the dusty road.
This is the miracle of Jesus. His humanity. Alone and in prayer, he has the ability to be filled back up with with love and giving and life changing miracles as THE GOD of the universe.
The paralyzed man does not ask Jesus for anything. Maybe he doesn't know about miracles. Maybe he can't speak. Or maybe he is just worn out living with his illness. He has an obvious impairment but he doesn't have to shout unclean. He is confined to his dusty mat watching people live their lives. He could give up except for the concern of others. He is not alone.
His friends tell him about Jesus and he has no choice in the matter. They gather up the four corners of his bedding and go to town.
Jesus was speaking to a large crowd and the power to heal came upon him. The Pharisees and teachers of the law had travelled from near and far to hear exactly what he was teaching people.
The friends realize the crowd is too large to push through to the front. They will do everything possible to get their friend to Jesus. Stairs? Why not? Up the stairs to the roof. The paralyzed man has no control. His friends are in charge. Through the roof, literally. God looks up as dust begins to fall from above. More dust. Four men have the corners of a mat and are lowering a man to the ground in front of Jesus. Hope is falling through the roof.
Everyone is speechless. Some people look on in wonder. How wonderful to have such friends. Some people look on in disapproval. How could they tear up the roof? Others were jealous because the man was so close to Jesus. Even in the presence of Jesus, others stand in disgust over a paralyzed man even being brought to Jesus.
"When he saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven you."
The Pharisees and teachers bristle. Who is this blasphemer forgiving sin? Only God can forgive sin.
Jesus asks them which is easier, forgiving sin or making a man walk. To show all of the crowd his authority on both counts, he tells the paralyzed man to stand up and take his mat and go home.
Immediately. He stands up, taking up his own mat and goes home, glorifying God. Finally, he has a response to Jesus.
Jesus didn't touch the paralyzed man. His words were enough. Neither the leper or the paralyzed man expressed any doubt. The Pharisees and teachers were always doubting.
When we see Jesus coming down the road we can begin to hope. Do we fall to the ground and beg? Flat on the floor of a hospital waiting room or the floor of a bedroom? How long is our second before Jesus replies? Lord, if it be your will.
Sometimes we are carried along by our friends. We are so paralyzed by the shock of events we can't speak. Sometimes the pain of nothingness pushes us away from Jesus. We only get to Jesus because of our friends. If you have four tremendous friends, who needs more?
Are we just like the Pharisees? Doubting the miracle of Jesus in our lives? The miracle of Jesus knowing just what our pain is even though we don't shout unclean. Making us clean and whole even though we live in the dust of the road.