Think Again: The Ultimate Miracle
Our world is weighed down with pain, fear, suffering, poverty, and unforgiveness. Does Jesus still lift body and soul out of the shadow and bring it into the light?
In an interesting encounter between Jesus and the paralytic given to us in Luke 5:17-26, we see a defining reminder of the relationship between soul and body, the temporal and the eternal. The friends of a paralyzed man did everything they could to bring him within the sight and touch of Jesus. They even disfigured the property of the person in whose house Jesus was visiting in the hope that he would perform a miracle for their friend. I suspect they must have reasoned that if Jesus could make a paralyzed man walk again, then replacing a roof would be a minor problem. But as they lowered this man within reach of Jesus, they were not expecting an apologetic discussion:
Which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. (Luke 5:23-25)
“Which of the two is harder,” asked Jesus, “to bring physical healing or to forgive a person’s sins?” The irresistible answer was self-evident, was it not? To bring physical healing is harder because that would be such a miraculous thing, visible to the naked eye. The invisible act of forgiveness had far less evidentiary value.
Yet, as they pondered and as we ponder, we discover repeatedly in life that the logic of God is so different to the logic of humanity. We move from the material to the spiritual in terms of the spectacular, but God moves from the spiritual to the material in terms of the essential. The physical is the concrete external—a shadow comparatively. The spiritual is the intangible internal—the objective actuality.
Rather than chasing truth, we often chase shadows. We chase them because they are a haunting enticement of the substance without being the substance themselves. It takes a jolt, sometimes even a painful jolt, to remind us where reality lies and where shadows seduce.
I think of a man some years ago who was preoccupied with some activity that was quite trivial while he neglected the care of a little life in his trust. That life was lost in a tragic accident within a few feet away from him. Unaware of what was happening, he was giving his rapt attention to something of far lesser value. I have often thought of his unquenchable grief when he saw the cost of his neglect. We all are prone to doing the same thing and then finding out too late the cost we have paid.
Jesus was so aware of this weakness within us that he often walked the second mile to meet us in order that something more dramatic might be used to put into perspective for us what is more real and of greater importance to God. The Bible says we need a Savior and we need forgiveness. Jesus comes and says to you and me that he is offering forgiveness and doing so through the payment of his life on the cross.
Jesus was so aware of this weakness within us that he often walked the second mile to meet us in order that something more dramatic might be used to put into perspective for us what is more real and of greater importance to God.
Yes, Jesus did heal the paralytic man, but not without the reminder of what the ultimate miracle was. Once we understand this, we understand the relationship between touching the soul and touching the body. In this instance, Jesus followed the act of forgiveness with the easier act of physical healing. If the paralytic was a wise man, he would walk with the awareness that the apparently less visible miracle was actually more miraculous than the more visible one—even as his feeling of gratitude for his restored body would remain a constant reminder to him of the restoration of his soul.
As I have pondered this and the many other examples of Jesus’s acts of mercy, I look at our hurting world that is desensitized to the gospel message—the message that cleanses the soul, heals the inner being, and brings light to the body. Our world is weighed down with pain, fear, suffering, poverty, and unforgiveness. Our world is so broken that if we were to stare reality in the face, we would wish it really were only a shadow and not an actual embodiment. Such is the blind eye people turn to the familiar and dismiss as mere shadows what is tragically real. Sadly, both body and soul are forgotten in the process. The cost in human suffering is beyond computation.
In such a world, the question becomes: Does Jesus still lift body and soul out of the shadow and bring it into the light? I believe he does, and what an answer is the cross upon which “He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). Jesus brought God’s offer of true forgiveness and eternal life while affirming each individual as uniquely created in God’s image. For Jesus, suffering is only symptomatic of the life unhinged from right relationship with God. We have broken away from God, from our fellow human beings, and even from ourselves.
The cross of Christ is definitive and complete, offering forgiveness without minimizing the debt. God’s forgiveness gives us a fresh start. There is a full restoration—the ultimate miracle—in this life and for eternity. Such is the power of God’s love; such is the power of his marvelous mercy and healing touch.
This article appears in the 27.3 edition of our award-winning magazine. Click the button below to download a PDF of this edition.