In that interesting encounter between Jesus and the paralytic given to us by Luke, we see a defining reminder of the relationship between evidence and faith, the temporal and the eternal. The friends of this paralyzed man did everything they could to bring him within the sight and touch of Jesus (see Luke 5:17-26). 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 the Savior, they were not expecting an apologetic discussion.
“Which of the two is harder,” asked the Lord, “to bring physical healing or to forgive a person’s sins?” The irresistible answer was self-evident, was it not? To bring physical healing 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. The spiritual is the intangible internal–the objective actuality.
Yet we all 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. Our Savior 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, he did heal that 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. Both are real, but one is the object; the other is the shadow. In this instance, Jesus followed the act of forgiveness with the easier act of physical healing so that the paralyzed man would feel the touch of the Savior from what was more meaningful to what was more felt. If he 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–but 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 greatness of the gospel message–the message that cleanses the soul and heals the inner being. Our world is weighed down with pain, fear, suffering, and poverty. In more than three decades of travel around the world I have seen this reality with my own eyes. 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. Both body and soul are forgotten. The cost in human suffering is beyond computation.
In such a world, the question becomes: Can we shut our eyes to such need and suffering, or is there a role we can play that lifts the tiles of a roof to bring some of them within the touch of the Lord? The overwhelming answer is yes, there is a role that we can and must play. Love is indeed the most powerful apologetic. It is the essential component in reaching the whole person in a fragmented world. The need is vast, but it is also imperative that we be willing to follow the example of our Lord and meet the need. What does this mean for us? It means giving a cup of cold water in the name of Jesus and telling the recipient to thank God and not man for that gift. Only eternity will reveal how deep and how real such an impact is, but our calling is clear: to let our light so shine that men, women, and children will see our good works and glorify our Father in Heaven.
That is apologetics completed. That is confirming to the mind by the visible touch of the body. The mind is to the soul what the body is to the shadow. When we can touch both we have demonstrated the power of both thought and deed. It lifts the message out of the shadow and brings it into the light. Such is the power of love. Unless we understand a person’s pain we will never understand a person’s soul. And what a privilege we have to take the message of the Cross upon which “He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Christ is the best reminder of what is real and what is shadow.
A Slice of Infinity, June 19, 2008
Via: A Slice of Infinity