Jesus wasn’t the only person who did miracles. He gave that power to his disciples, and thus, by extension, to us. Let us look at this story.
1Now Peter and John were going up together to the temple complex at the hour of prayer at three in the afternoon. 2 And a man who was lame from birth was carried there and placed every day at the temple gate called Beautiful, so he could beg from those entering the temple complex. 3 When he saw Peter and John about to enter the temple complex, he asked for help. 4 Peter, along with John, looked at him intently and said, “Look at us.” 5 So he turned to them, expecting to get something from them. 6 But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, get up and walk!” 7 Then, taking him by the right hand he raised him up, and at once his feet and ankles became strong. 8 So he jumped up, stood, and started to walk, and he entered the temple complex with them—walking, leaping, and praising God. 9 All the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 and they recognized that he was the one who used to sit and beg at the Beautiful Gate of the temple complex. So they were filled with awe and astonishment at what had happened to him.
Can you imagine what would happen if we treated all the homeless and mentally ill people like this? Would they want it? What would happen afterwards? How would they live their lives, after a lifetime of begging?
Would we think we had the ability to do this? Or would we doubt ourselves? Is the fact that we already doubt ourselves why we don’t do it now?
I went into the psych ward of a local hospital a few years ago. This time, I wasn’t a patient. This time, I was a pastoral care student and I was making rounds with the chaplain. We had enough time at the end of my shift that I asked to go back here. I felt that maybe I could be of help because I understand what it is like to be there. Compassion is rooted in empathy.
I met a lady who everybody said couldn’t walk. She was large, sure, but there was something else keeping her from walking. She had fallen a lot. She was able to walk, physically, but something was preventing her from walking. She was sitting in view of the nurse’s station. The chaplain had been called away to talk to them, so this lady and I were left alone to chat.
Only in the psych ward is the nurse’s station walled off with Plexiglass. It is like going to a bank that has been robbed a few times. There is a big wall between you and them, and little holes in the wall so sound can pass through, but nothing else. Certainly not projectiles. Or bodily fluids.
It is a hard job being a psych nurse. You never know what is going to happen to you.
But it is also a hard job being a psych patient. You never know what is going to happen to you.
You never know what you are going to do, and you never know what the nurses are going to do to you. Some of it isn’t charted. Some of it isn’t kind. Some of it isn’t legal. Some of it isn’t humane.
So there is a bit of animosity between the staff and the patients. Everybody suspects everybody. Perhaps the only people who aren’t suspect are the chaplains.
There was no wall between me and this patient. I’ll call her Martha. She was a little rambly, and had friction socks on. I noticed the hospital bracelet around her wrist said “fall risk”. It was to warn the nurses that she could go down at any time. They thought that she fell to call attention to herself – that it was a way of getting people to take care of her. Perhaps that was part of it. Perhaps the story is far deeper than that.
How many people do you know who do something harmful to themselves to make themselves seem helpless? They do this because they want attention. Attention is just love, warped. If you are really get the right kind of attention you don’t need to seek it out. That need is getting filled.
A plant that doesn’t get enough sunlight will grow in very unusual ways to try to get it. It will grow under stairs and through walls to try to reach it. The areas that don’t get the sunlight will be withered and pale.
The areas of people that don’t get love are also withered and pale.
I so wanted to tell this woman that she was loved by God so much that he wanted her to walk. I so wanted to hold her hands and say “Your sins are forgiven. Get up and walk.” Like in this story…
Mark 2:1-12 (HCSB)
1When He entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. 2 So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. 3 Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men.4 Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there, thinking to themselves: 7 “Why does He speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He told the paralytic, 11 “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.” 12 Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
But I didn’t. I didn’t want to cause a scene. I didn’t want to be wrong either. I didn’t want to look like a fool. I didn’t want to try to heal her, only to have her fall and then have to ask for help. I didn’t know if I was being called by God to heal her, or if I was thinking highly of myself.
And I also didn’t know if that was what she wanted. How would she live her life without being “helpless”? She had constructed it around this illness which wasn’t physical. How would she act around the people who she had previously inconvenienced? She had gotten her son and her ex husband to rescue her for years. This was how she related to them. These relationships would have to be renegotiated.
I wonder about the man that Peter healed. Did he want to be healed? At the time he wanted a handout. He was there to beg, not get his life back.
I’ve met so many people who say they want to lose weight, or quit smoking, or leave their abusive boyfriend, but they don’t. They are paralyzed in their lives. They are paralyzed in their growth. They are offered opportunities to change and they don’t. The “devil they know” is better than the unknown. So they stay like they are, unhappy, withered, pale. They stay like they are, only partly alive.
Do we really want healing? Do we really want the healing that God can offer us through Jesus? Do we really believe that we have the power to give that kind of healing to others? Do we trust God that much?
Imagine what kind of world we could have if we all were healed, all were forgiven, all were loved. Imagine.
The seed is now planted. Let us water it.