(I was once again asked to lead a devotional for a group of Christian doctors. Here’s what I shared.)
A man is recovering from surgery after a car crash, and he notices that both his hands are covered in casts. When the doctor comes to check on him, he asks “Will I be able to play piano after this?”
“Yes, we fix all the injuries in your hands, and the casts should come off in a few weeks, then you should be able to play,” the doctor assuringly said.
“O that’s a miracle! Because I couldn’t play piano before the accident.”
Our story for our devotion is also about a miracle, and I entitled it “Miracle on the Roof.”
Last year, when COVID cases started to overwhelm hospitals here in the US by early April, some hospitals around the country began a practice of having their medical staff pray for their patients and their family on hospital roofs. That caught on and was even featured in headline news at that time. I’m not sure it still continuing, but I’m glad this group continues to have this prayer session. For when we pray miracles happen.
Our gospel story is found in Mark 2: 1-5:
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
The story opens when Jesus returns to Capernaum. We were blessed to see this place a few years ago. If you visit it today you will see this sign, “Capharnaum, the town of Jesus.” This is a lakeside town that is surrounded by hills. In one of those hills is where Jesus gave his well-known Sermon on the Mount as we know it today. No place on earth has heard more sermons and teachings of Jesus than Capernaum. No place on earth has seen more miracles of Jesus than Capernaum.
Yet Jesus said in Matthew 11:23-24, that Capernaum is worse than Sodom. For if the miracles that Jesus performed were done in Sodom, it would have believed, but Capernaum did not, and on judgement day, Sodom will be judge better than Capernaum. My friends, our salvation is not based on where we lived or what are we associated with. We may say that we attended church since our childhood, or we are a member of this religious association, but is that enough? What we need is a personal relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.
So there was this four men that brought their sick friend to Jesus. They are really good friends. My fellow doctors we could be like this four men. Sometimes our role being doctors or being a health-care worker is not to heal, but plainly to bring our patients or our sick friends and family and introduce them to someone who can really heal them, and that is Jesus.
Let us examine the characteristics of these four men.
First, they are men of action. They match their intention with their action. They did not just say to their friend, God bless you or we’ll pray for you, but they literally brought him to Jesus.
When they came to the house, they found that the house was full and they cannot enter. They did not say to their friend, sorry bro, hanggang dito na lang, boundary na, or sorry this is as far as we can take you. No, they find a way to bring their friend near Jesus. They did not stop until their mission was accomplished.
So the second trait of these men is that they are dedicated to their mission. Are we dedicated to our mission?
The roof in Biblical times is an essential extension of the living space. We read stories in the Bible where they lay and rest on the roof, or pray on the roof. Rooftops are usually flat and there is a stairway that leads to it. Many times the roof is used for storage, where they dry their flax or wheat, or store their farming equipment or work tools. Today, people hold parties on the roof.
So the four men got up the roof and they made a hole on the roof, which is not a simple thing, that took a lot of effort and maybe even used the work tools stored on the roof. Then they lowered their friend down the roof into the house where Jesus is. I can just imagine each one of them is holding ropes tied to each corner of the mat.
The third characteristic of these men then is that they work together as one. Why do I say that? Well, if one of them is not pulling his own weight, or if they are not coordinated, the mat will capsize and their friend would fall! Already paralyzed and then you add another head trauma, what would he end up – a vegetable!
So after the debris and dust settled, and after the sunlight shone through the hole on the roof, people inside the house saw the four men and their paralyzed friend on the mat. But Jesus saw something more. Mark 2:5 said, “When Jesus saw their faith…” What did Jesus see? Their faith! Whose faith? Their. It is plural. It is the faith of the friends.
The fourth trait of these four men is that they have great faith in God. This just means that with our faith we can bring someone else to God, With our faith we can have someone else be blessed. With our faith someone else can receive healing.
But why did these men have such faith is Jesus? In Mark 1:33-34 (one chapter before our story) it recorded there that Jesus performed a miracle in Capernaum and many were healed, even before our story happened. I may not be able to prove this conclusively, but I want to believe that these four men have already witnessed the healing power of Jesus. Or maybe, one of them, or even all of them, were among those that Jesus healed before, and that’s why the have such a great faith in Him. They wanted to have their friend receive healing too.
My friends, unless we ourselves have witness the power of God, unless we ourselves have been healed, unless we ourselves have that relationship with God, we cannot bring others to Jesus.
If the characteristics of these four men, being men of action, being dedicated to their mission, working together as one, and having great faith in God, will be seen in our church or in our group, we will be successful in bringing others to Christ.
Let us consider now the paralytic man. Let us put on our doctor’s hat or perhaps our doctor’s white coat and examine our patient.
What was the cause of his paralysis? The Bible did not say. Was he a sinner? Jesus told him that his sins were forgiven, right?
During the time of Jesus, people with sickness, like leprosy, paralysis, or blindness are viewed as sinners, as people believe God is punishing them. Remember when the disciples asked Jesus about a blind men, and questioned whose sin it was, the blind man himself or is it his parents that caused the man to be blind?
But there is a partial truth in this belief. Let’s explore the diseases in the Bible.
The word palsy in the Bible is translated from the Greek word paralytikos or paralyo meaning relaxing of the muscles or general weakness.
We know that there are many causes of paralysis. It could be genetics, like muscle dystrophy, or from trauma causing spinal injury, or cerebrovascular accident or stroke. Or it could also be from an infection.
In Biblical times, they have no idea about bacteria or viruses, yet God gave laws and regulation to his people, Israel, on how to prevent diseases from them. Like what we know now as universal precautions – avoid touching blood and bodily fluids or carcass of animal, or else they will be deemed unclean, and they have to wash their clothes and take a bath before they can join again the community. People with transmissible diseases, like leprosy were quarantined. They were also commanded to be faithful to their spouse, no extramarital activities. Why? Because that is how diseases were spread.
One infection that can cause paralysis is Syphilis, caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. In early stages of syphilis, it cause rash and wounds, but in late stages of this disease, it affects the nervous system causing paralysis. I’m sure all of us know how syphilis is transmitted.
There was an article in British Medical Journal, published back in 1949, that reported that syphilis was already rampant during ancient times. The article even claimed that many of the diseases described in the Bible could be caused by syphilis.
With prostitution being widespread during Jesus times, and in addition, pagan worship involves impure rituals and temple prostitution, thus, it is no surprise that this disease was prevalent.
Another STD is gonorrhea. When a pregnant woman is infected with gonorrhea and she gave birth, her newborn can get infected and this can cause blindness. So when the disciples asked Jesus whose sin it was on why the man was blind, there is some truth in it, right?
Back to our patient. Was his paralysis caused by a sinful act, perhaps from an extramarital affair or perhaps from involvement in pagan worship? The Bible did not say. What we know is when Jesus saw him, the first thing that He offered is not healing of his paralysis, but rather forgiveness of his sins.
Jesus said in Mark 2:5, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus saw that what this man needs, more than healing from his illness, is forgiveness of his sins. Perhaps it was the guilt that was really paralyzing him more than his physical disease, so Jesus freed him of his guilt and of his sins. And his healing followed.
My friends, you know what sins you’re hiding in your heart. Are they disabling you to coming to Jesus? Are they paralyzing you to come to the feet of our Lord? My friends there are no sins that great, there are no sins that horrible that our God cannot forgive.
Yes, the healing of the paralytic in our story is a great miracle. But the greater miracle here is that God forgave his sins. That forgiveness is available to all us. And this miracle of forgiveness is happening every single day. We are all witnesses to the miracle, for we are all forgiven sinners.
There is an old gospel hymn that goes: I believe in miracles, I’ve seen a soul set free, miraculous the change in one, redeemed through Calvary.
There were teachers of the law inside that house who were opposing Jesus. The Rabbis have a certain belief and a saying that goes like this: “a man is not completely healed unless his sins are all forgiven.” And Jesus met them where they were, first He forgave the sin, and then he healed the man, for He both have the authority to forgive sins and the power to heal.
Mark 2:11 Jesus said to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” The man stood up, took up his mat, and walked out of that house.
I want to end in telling a personal story that also happened on the roof.
This happened many many years ago, when I was still living in Sampaloc, Manila. Classes just started, and I was a freshman in medical school. I came home one evening and there was a commotion in our neighborhood. As soon as I entered the house, my mother told me to climb up our roof. Why? Because there was an ongoing fire nearby and my mother wanted to know how far it was and if we needed to evacuate.
I have climbed up our roof many times before. That’s where I fly my kite when I was a boy. Also, once I helped my father apply Vulcaseal on our leaky roof.
After I climbed up our roof I saw that the fire was a little far off from our house, so I shouted the message to my mother that we don’t need to evacuate. However, instead of going down the roof right away, I decided to tarry there a little longer. And while I was viewing the fire, I also tried to view what the future is for us.
In fact I just came home from the hospital that night, a hospital where my father laid. I took the CT scan from one place and brought it to the hospital where my father will have his surgery.
His head CT scan showed a large tumor near the brainstem.
The surgery was very risky and success cannot be guaranteed. Yet without surgery, my father have no chance of living but only a few weeks to a few months. He was only 50 years old at that time.
The impending danger that night for us was not the nearby fire. The impending danger is the condition of my father whose life is on the line. What will happen to my father if the surgery will not be successful? What will happen to us as he was the sole bread winner of our family?
While I was on the roof and gazing at the fire, I cried my heart out to our Heavenly Father. I know He is the only one we can run to, and the only one who can help us.
Suddenly, a feeling of serenity came over me. Suddenly, my fears and anxieties were swept away just like a miracle, and was transformed to a feeling of assurance. I was reminded that though I don’t know what the future holds, yet I know who holds my future, and I know He holds my hands.
Three months after I climbed up our roof, my father died. But God have not let go of my hands. And even though I went through more challenging times, God kept holding on my hands. I am here today testifying the many miracles God has done in my life. The miracles may not be what we wanted, but they are miracles nonetheless.
May we witness miracles in our lives, this is my prayer.
(*all photos taken from the web)