Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Mercy at the House


                                                                           Reflections on Mark 2:1-4


And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd…   
                                                                                                Mark 2:3-4

The man on the mat -- we can’t see his face.

We know nothing about him, not really. We don’t know his name, his age, his background. No idea the nature of his overall medical condition. Of all the lame and crippled in Capernaum – was he the most critical? Was his life in danger?

There’s a reason we don’t know. This story isn’t first about him.

It’s about the four men, one at each corner of his mat. We can almost see their faces. There’s expectation in them – anticipation! They know – today of all days – their prayers for their friend are going to be answered. They know it! They believe it!

We can almost see it in their feet.

It’s not a casual stroll, is it? It’s not like they’re walking in a funeral procession or dragging their feet to someplace they don’t want to go. Isn’t there a briskness about them, maybe even a slow run? They want to get there. They can’t wait.

Are they talking? Are they praying? Are they already singing praise to God for what He is about to do for their friend? Faith is like that, you know. It sees before it happens. It leaps with joy as if what’s promised in the future is already here.

This story is about them – their faith, their confidence!

Already at the house, Jesus is preaching. People are listening. For right now, that’s it. Nothing else has happened, nothing miraculous. Not yet. But there’s already a palpable sense in the house that He’s filled to the fullest with the power to heal. 1 If ever mercy had a source – like the fountainhead of a mighty river – it’s here – in this Person. On His face. In His words. In His heart for the people.

Could those by the door feel it? What about those outside?

The five men were almost there.

Down one street, down another. Was it Simon and Andrew’s house again? And what was it like when they first saw the masses of people surrounding the house? Did their hearts sink? Could they feel disappointment flood their souls?

Just like before, “the whole city had gathered at the door.”  2

They’ll never get to Him -- never. There’s no room inside, no room outside, and too many people in front of them wanting to see Jesus just as much as they do.

So what‘s next? Do they try and muscle their way through the crowd? Do they look for someone who could help them? Maybe a politician, a policeman, a religious official – someone who could wave a magic wand and get them inside. That’s where they had to go.

Nothing.

Not today. Too many roadblocks.

There’s nothing worse. That pit growing in the stomach. That ache in the soul when what we expected from God – what we most believed He’d do – is stolen from us. And we stand there, confused, crushed, not knowing what to do next.

So close to Jesus. So far away.

*       *       *

“For years, Dad and I didn’t talk,” Walt told me. We were still at lunch. “But when Christ came into my life and I met Carol, things changed.”

He smiled at the mention of Carol.

“She wouldn’t marry me, you know. Not until I dealt with my father. She said my anger against him was controlling me. And she was right.”

“Smart woman,” I commented.

“We talked a lot about it,” he went on. “I told her I wanted him out of my life. I figured it was better for me that way – have nothing to do with him. She said she didn’t think my plan was working. I was just as angry, just as resentful. She’d say, ‘You push him away but he’s still there, stronger than ever.”

“It took a while but, eventually, we realized the Lord had another plan in mind. If we wanted to be witnesses of Christ in his life, we needed to pursue him. Get involved – care for him, love him, do whatever we could when we could.”

“That must have been hard for you,” I remarked.

“It was, but it changed me. I didn’t do it perfectly, mind you. There were times, especially early on, when he’d provoke me, I’d react, and we’d fight it out like old times, maybe worse. I had to learn I couldn’t do this without the Lord.

“But here’s the good news,” he grinned, almost playfully.

“Carol married you!” I shot back quickly.

“Yeah! Well, beside that. Being there for Dad made a huge impact on both my mom and sister. Years later, we got to talk to them about faith in Jesus.”

“But not Dad?” I asked.

“Dad’s a different story,” he said painfully.

The sadness, it was still there, etched in his face.

“More than anything, I wanted my father to know Christ. Carol and I prayed all the time. We even went to our pastor and asked him what we should do. He told us two things. First, never stop praying. And second, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit. He said, ‘Watch for Him. Wait till He gives you an opportunity.’

“So, we did. But it was frustrating. My Dad’s a hard man. I’d try to break him out of his routine -- visit him at work, take him to lunch, play golf with him. I told him I wanted time with him, just to get to know him better.”

Walt sat there, shaking his head.

“He had no interest whatsoever. He told me to ‘buzz off.’ If I needed a friend, or some long lost father figure, ‘bleeding hearts are a dime a dozen’, he’d say and tell me to go find one. But not him. He wanted nothing to do with me.”

“Ouch,” I said quietly. “I’m sorry.”

“Yeah, thanks. If it weren’t for Carol, I’d have given up a long time ago. But she kept us going. We never stopped praying for him. Never stopped doing whatever we could for him. And I bet we did that for ten years. Maybe eleven? Anyway, it took that long for me to finally present the gospel to him.”

“So the opportunity came?”

“Yeah, and in a hospital of all places.”

He paused a bit, as if the memory was hard for him.

“When our third child, Zane, was about five his appendix burst. He was in ICU for maybe a week or so. He had all kinds of complications that made it worse for him. At one point, we almost lost him.

“A day or two after his first surgery, out of the blue, my Dad shows up at the hospital. We couldn’t believe it. I can still remember the look on my mother’s face. So he goes over to Zane and just stands there at his bedside. Maybe five minutes or more. Before he leaves, he says to me, ‘You okay, son?’

“I say, ‘Not really, Dad.’

“He nods back as if he understands. He did the same with Carol and my Mom, like he was genuinely sympathetic. We’d never seen him like that before.

“Two days later, when Zane was at his worst, he shows up again. This time, he stands next to Zane and holds his hand. I’m standing on the other side of the bed and I swear I see tears in his eyes. About an hour later, I’m walking out of the ICU and pass the waiting room. I look in and see him sitting there, staring out the window.

“’Dad?’”

“He asks if Zane’s any better. I tell him he’s not – not yet, anyway. And for the next half hour, my Dad opens his heart to me. It’s like this little window popped open up for the first time in our lives. He tells me he’s afraid Zane’s going to die and what then? He says he could never handle something like that.

“Then he asks me, point blank, ‘How do you do it, son? How do you cope?’

“And I knew – this was it. I got to tell my Dad about Jesus Christ. It came with such ease. I can’t tell you how strongly I felt the Lord with me. I told him how Jesus saved me the night I heard Billy Graham speak and how He’s changed my life ever since. I told him I loved him and I wanted him to know Jesus too.”

Walt looked at me, almost wincing with pain.

“But he wanted nothing to do with it. He shut down so fast. His face turned hard. All he could say was, ‘That’s not for me, son.’ And the man I saw in the waiting room that day, I haven’t seen since – which breaks my heart.

“I just want to bring him to Jesus.”


1 see Luke 5:17-26, and especially vs 17.
2 Mark 1:33


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John 15:1-11, the Vine and the branches. "Is He everything to you?