Where Does Real Courage Come From?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

‘Tis Mercy All


‘Tis Mercy All                                                    Reflections on Luke 5:25


Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God.
                                                                                                Luke 5:25

                        Then the lame will leap like a deer…
Isaiah 35:6



Did he do it? Did he leap into the air like a deer?

Did he have to resist the urge to fall at Jesus’ feet to worship and thank Him for what He’d done? Did he want – like so many who Jesus healed – to stay and never leave Him, ever?  But no, he knew exactly what to do.

Because Jesus told him: Arise. Take your mat. Walk. Go home.

And he did, quickly. But as he did, was praise already on his lips? From the very second the power of God entered his body, did it begin? Did he start singing, leading everyone in the house to glorify God for “His mercy endures forever”?

            Bless the Lord, O my soul,
            And forget none of His benefits;
            Who pardons all your iniquities,
            Who heals all your diseases;
            Who redeems your life from the pit,
            Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion…
                                                                                    Psalm 103:2-4


He grabs the mat.

Why did Jesus even mention the mat? He didn’t have to. Or, possibly, He could’ve told the man to leave it right where it was and never touch it again. But instead, He orders the man to take it, hold it, and carry it home with him.

A sign and symbol of all he once was.

We don’t know his name. He’s called “the paralytic” five times in Mark’s gospel. He’s the man on the mat. It defines him. He is, and always has been, branded by his sickness. The mat has been his life. It has been his everything.

And now, here it is, in his hands. He’s not on it -- he’s got it! There aren’t four friends on each corner. Or two at both ends. No, look! He’s holding it and he can hold it high – while standing! – showing everybody his days as a “paralytic” are over and a new life has begun by the power and compassion of Jesus Christ.

Out he went. Out the front door. All by himself.

Did his four friends race off the roof to greet him as he came out? Did they embrace him? Did the crowd cheer? Did his friends go with him as he made his way through the masses of people outside? Did they follow him home shouting the praise of Almighty God at the top of their lungs?

And the man -- what was it like for him to run the streets of town, his legs strong, the wind in his face, and the rush of joy filling his heart? All because he can’t wait for everybody at home to see what the Lord had done for him.

He’s an ambassador now. A missionary.

Sent by the Lord Jesus Christ to “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.”  1

Now he can do what his four friends did for him. He can grab the mats of others just like him. He can be on the team that runs the streets, climbs roofs, and breaks right through them -- so he, too, can bring them to Jesus.

And let the mercy of God come.

*       *       *

Time passes way too quickly. A few months after the funeral, Erilynne and I moved to pastor another church in a different state. Walt and I stayed in touch for a while, then not so much.

Hard to believe ten years have gone by.

A few days ago, I got home from work and found a handwritten letter from him. I opened it and saw a newspaper clipping of his mom’s obituary with a photo taken years ago. Before reading it, I turned to his letter.

Dear Thad and Erilynne,

I hope you are well, my dear friends.

Carol and I wanted you to see this. Mom died peacefully about a week ago in the same hospital where Dad died. Her last years were good years.

Soon after you left, Mom moved in with us. All I can say is she surprised us. She never took off her wedding band. When she talked about Dad, she pictured him as the man she first loved and married. The same man she got to see the last week of his life. The years in between, she somehow quietly forgot.

I’ve tried to make sense of it. The best I can do is say: In Dad’s crippling, we were all crippled. In his healing, we, too, were healed.

I know it’s true of me.

I have confidence now. I’m the same old Walt. I’ve never lost my passion for seniors. Micah 6:8 is still my favorite Bible verse. I choose “to love mercy.”

Every day.

I’m convinced the Lord requires us to meet the needs of those around us. No matter who they are, or what they’ve done, or whether they respond to us or not. We never stop. We never forget the practical, hands-on care for all who suffer in this life – especially those who are poor, weak, lonely, sick, and afraid.

But, I’m telling you, Dad’s story changed me.

There’s a joy inside -- an uncontainable joy. I want to see people come to faith in Christ just like Dad. I want the mercy that comes from heaven to touch their souls too. So, at the nursing homes, it just came out of me. I’d find myself telling people my dad’s story and how he came to faith in Jesus the last week of his life. “And if it could happen for a man like that,” I’d say. “It can happen for you!”

I took risks I never dreamed.

Risks that God honored. I got to see His mercy come again and again. Just like with Dad. I got to start Bible studies at the nursing homes. Pastors asked me to come to their churches and teach Christians the basic principles of how to bring people to faith in Jesus. And every time I do, that old hymn wells up in my soul:

            ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
            For, O my God, it found out me.
            Amazing love, how can it be
            That Thou, my God, should die for me! 2

I can’t stop singing it! We’re seeing more and more Christians choosing “to love mercy.” Churches are rising up like a mighty army with all kinds of innovative ways to care for the practical needs of our community. And with it has come a new confidence to share the love of Jesus Christ with people.

Stories! We’re hearing stories everywhere of people giving their lives to Christ. Every time, it reminds me of Dad and fills my heart with thanksgiving and song.

 ‘Tis mercy all!

And in that mercy, Carol and I send you both our love,

Walt


As a postscript, he gave a phone number and said, “Call me sometime?”

Erilynne and I decided to call after dinner. Before we did, we went on the internet and found Walt. Articles, pictures, and a few social media pages. We clicked here, clicked there, and one picture in particular caught my eye.

I could still see it. That frown deeply sculpted in his face.

“A gift from my father,” he used to say.

“So your dad has it too?” I asked.

“No,” he said. “It’s mine. Years of heartache with him, that’s all.”

It’s how I remember Walt. For me, that frown was the picture of the pain he bore because of his dad. And now, I could see, time had not been kind to him. That frown had deepened into an almost angry scowl.

Thankfully, they were home to answer our call.

One sound of his voice and we could hear the difference. There was joy in him like we’d never heard before. The sound – almost what I imagine the man on the mat sounded like when he tore out of the house and onto the streets.

Once crippled – then crippled no more.

And like him, Walt was a man on mission – free, healed, and wanting nothing more than to run the streets telling everybody what Jesus has done for him.

“So, Walt, I have a question,” I said that night.

“Ask away,” he replied.

“I’m looking at your picture on the internet. Why’d you decide to keep that frown on your face?”

He laughed and said, “Because I need it. All by itself, it tells the story of Dad and me and what our life was like together before mercy came. Before mercy surprised us both.” And with that, he started singing loud, singing full.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free;
For, O my God, it found out me.





1 Mark 5:19
2 From Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Can It Be”, public domain, 1738.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Love the way you tell a story, puts me right in the picture. What a good one this was. Also I've always been intrigued by the man on the mat and his friends. Many times I have let others down in prayer with this visual. Thanks for your words and your heart.

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