In the healing of the paralytic at
Capernaum, Christ again taught the same truth. It was to manifest His power to
forgive sins that the miracle was performed. And the healing of the paralytic
also illustrates other precious truths. It is full of hope and encouragement,
and from its connection with the caviling Pharisees it has a lesson of warning
Like the leper, this paralytic had lost
all hope of recovery. His disease was the result of a life of sin, and his
sufferings were embittered by remorse. The Desire of Ages, p. 267.
All hope was gone. All self-sufficiency was gone. He was at
the very end of his rope. He could no longer hope in anything he could do to
help himself. “God helps those who help themselves” had lost all of its humanistic
promise. He had given up. He knew, he was convinced, that his disease was the
result of his error. He was at fault; he was guilty. Conviction and
condemnation accused him day and night. Long years of remorse broke down his
immune system and his body fell under the relentless attacks of his conscience. “A broken spirit drieth the bones.” (Prov. 17:22).
He had tried to ask
God for forgiveness. With all his trembling faith he approached the throne of
grace; but, not a word from heaven. No power from above answered his
beseeching. He did not know the love of Christ. This he must discover by complete helplessness
He had long before
appealed to the Pharisees and doctors, hoping for relief from mental suffering
and physical pain. But they coldly pronounced him incurable, and abandoned him
to the wrath of God. The Pharisees regarded affliction as an evidence of divine
displeasure, and they held themselves aloof from the sick and the needy. Yet
often these very ones who exalted themselves as holy were more guilty than the
sufferers they condemned.
The palsied man was entirely helpless,
and, seeing no prospect of aid from any quarter, he had sunk into despair. Then
he heard of the wonderful works of Jesus. He was told that others as sinful and
helpless as he had been healed; even lepers had been cleansed. And the friends
who reported these things encouraged him to believe that he too might be cured
if he could be carried to Jesus. But his hope fell when he remembered how the
disease had been brought upon him. He feared that the pure Physician would not tolerate
him in His presence. Ibid. p. 267.
Why should his hope fall simply by being brought before Jesus? Because
Jesus was a rabbi and a religious leader, and all the other heartless religious
leaders and rabbis had not tolerated him or had infinite mercy upon him. Maybe Jesus would be no different from the other rabbis who apparently spoke for God and represented His disposition toward this suffering wretch.
But, those rabbis were taking God’s name in vain, and the Lord would not hold them guiltless. “For
the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at His
mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye are departed out of
the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant
of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible
and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept My ways, but have
been partial in the law.” (Mal. 2:7-9).
“For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for
men… Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the
way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity. And by reason hereof
he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.” (Heb. 5:1-3).
But these religious leaders had lost all love to God and man. The accusing
of the Lord against their conscience they had silenced by being partial before
God’s Law, releasing themselves from its requirements of mercy to all, but
demanding justice upon everyone else. “Cursed be the man
that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from
the LORD. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when
good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt
land and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose
hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that
spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but
her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought,
neither shall cease from yielding fruit.” (Jer. 17:5-8).
Yet it was not physical restoration he desired so much as relief from
the burden of sin. Ibid. p. 267.
This is what gets Christ’s attention. Not so much the
restoration of the earthly body and restoration to this life and its hope for
success among peers, as acceptance before God. Love and joy in this life is of
great importance and God longs to give it to all of His children. But, He
should receive the greatest love and joy, as our Creator and Sustainer. He
deserves our utmost desire. This the palsied man came to possess because of his
long years of suffering. He was like the vision Zechariah saw.
“And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the
angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the
LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath
chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now
Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he
answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the
filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine
iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And
I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon
his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.” (Zech.
This paralytic had been a brand in the fire. And now the
time had come to pluck him out. By his own admission of his guilt and the
submission to his shame, he was a child of God ready for rebirth. Self was lost
sight of; his justification by the Holy Spirit was just a hair-breadth away, the power of the Highest charged the air.
If he could see Jesus,
and receive the assurance of forgiveness and peace with Heaven, he would be
content to live or die, according to God’s will. Ibid. p. 267.
His will was already enlisted in heaven’s citizenship, he was already
obeying Christ’s key requirement. “If any man will come after me, let him deny
himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life
shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. For
what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own
soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:24-26).
The cry of the dying
man was, Oh that I might come into His presence! There was no time to lose;
already his wasted flesh was showing signs of decay. He besought his friends to
carry him on his bed to Jesus, and this they gladly undertook to do. But so
dense was the crowd that had assembled in and about the house where the Saviour
was, that it was impossible for the sick man and his friends to reach Him, or
even to come within hearing of His voice.
Jesus was teaching in the house of Peter.
According to their custom, His disciples sat close about Him, and “there were
Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town
of Galilee, and Judea, and Jerusalem.” These had come as spies, seeking an
accusation against Jesus. Outside of these officials thronged the promiscuous
multitude, the eager, the reverent, the curious, and the unbelieving. Different
nationalities and all grades of society were represented. “And the power of the
Lord was present to heal.” The Spirit of life brooded over the assembly, but Pharisees
and doctors did not discern its presence. They felt no sense of need, and the
healing was not for them. “He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the
rich He hath sent empty away.” Luke 1:53.
Again and again the bearers of the
paralytic tried to push their way through the crowd, but in vain. The sick man
looked about him in unutterable anguish. When the longed-for help was so near,
how could he relinquish hope? At his suggestion his friends bore him to the top
of the house and, breaking up the roof, let him down at the feet of Jesus. The
discourse was interrupted. The Saviour looked upon the mournful countenance,
and saw the pleading eyes fixed upon Him. He understood the case; He had drawn
to Himself that perplexed and doubting spirit. While the paralytic was yet at
home, the Saviour had brought conviction to his conscience. When he repented of
his sins, and believed in the power of Jesus to make him whole, the life-giving
mercies of the Saviour had first blessed his longing heart. Jesus had watched
the first glimmer of faith grow into a belief that He was the sinner’s only
helper, and had seen it grow stronger with every effort to come into His
presence. Ibid. p. 267, 268.
The all-seeing vision of Christ, had watched the heart of
this poor sufferer. “For behold the Stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon
one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof,
saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one
day. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his
neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.” (Zech. 3:9,10). He watched
over this precious soul just as He had watched Nathanael. “Nathanael saith unto
him, Whence knowest Thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that
Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.” (Jn. 1:48).
Now, in words that fell like music on the
sufferer’s ear, the Saviour said, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven
The burden of despair rolls from the sick
man’s soul; the peace of forgiveness rests upon his spirit, and shines out upon
his countenance. His physical pain is gone, and his whole being is transformed.
The helpless paralytic is healed! the guilty sinner is pardoned!
In simple faith he accepted the words of
Jesus as the boon of new life. He urged no further request, but lay in blissful
silence, too happy for words. The light of heaven irradiated his countenance,
and the people looked with awe upon the scene. Ibid. p. 268.
This harks back to the experience of the author of this book, The
Desire of Ages. She also suffered many years from the relentless accusings of
Satan. Without perfect faith in Jesus, the devil owns us; and God allows his
adversary to drive His children into His arms. For years Ellen Harmon wretched
under a grieving soul. Therefore, in this story of the paralytic, she relives
her difficult experience and its joyful end when God touched her heart.
One evening my brother Robert and myself were
returning home from a meeting where we had listened to a most impressive
discourse on the approaching reign of Christ upon the earth, followed by an
earnest and solemn appeal to Christians and sinners, urging them to prepare for
the judgment and the coming of the Lord. My soul had been stirred within me by
what I had heard. And so deep was the sense of conviction in my heart, that I
feared the Lord would not spare me to reach home.
These words kept ringing in my ears: “The great day of the Lord is at
hand! Who shall be able to stand when He appeareth!” The language of my heart
was: “Spare me, O Lord, through the night! Take me not away in my sins, pity
me, save me!” For the first time I tried to explain my feelings to my brother
Robert, who was two years older than myself; I told him that I dared not rest
nor sleep until I knew that God had pardoned my sins. My brother made no immediate reply, but
the cause of his silence was soon apparent to me; he was weeping in sympathy
with my distress. This encouraged me to confide in him still more, to tell him
that I had coveted death in the days when life seemed so heavy a burden for me
to bear; but now the thought that I might die in my present sinful state and be
eternally lost, filled me with terror. I asked him if he thought God would
spare my life through that one night, if I spent it agonizing in prayer to Him.
He answered: “I think He will if you ask Him with faith, and I will pray for
you and for myself. Ellen, we must never forget the words we have heard this
Arriving at home, I spent most of the long
hours of darkness in prayer and tears. One reason that led me to conceal my
feelings from my friends was the dread of hearing a word of discouragement. My
hope was so small, and my faith so weak, that I feared if another took a
similar view of my condition, it would plunge me into despair. Yet I longed for
someone to tell me what I should do to be saved, what steps to take to meet my
Saviour and give myself entirely up to the Lord. I regarded it a great thing to
be a Christian, and felt that it required some peculiar effort on my part.
My mind remained in this condition for
months. I had usually attended the Methodist meetings with my parents; but
since becoming interested in the soon appearing of Christ, I had attended the
meetings on Casco Street. The following summer my parents went to the Methodist
camp meeting at Buxton, Maine, taking me with them. I was fully resolved to
seek the Lord in earnest there, and obtain, if possible, the pardon of my sins.
There was a great longing in my heart for the Christian’s hope and the peace that
comes of believing.
I was much encouraged while listening to a
discourse from the words, I will “go in unto the king,” “and if I perish, I
perish.” In his remarks the speaker referred to those who were wavering between
hope and fear, longing to be saved from their sins and receive the pardoning
love of Christ, yet held in doubt and bondage by timidity and fear of failure.
He counseled such ones to surrender themselves to God, and venture upon His
mercy without delay. They would find a gracious Saviour ready to present to
them the scepter of mercy, even as Ahasuerus offered to Esther the signal of
his favor. All that was required of the sinner, trembling in the presence of
his Lord, was to put forth the hand of faith and touch the scepter of His
grace. That touch ensured pardon and peace.
Those who were waiting to make themselves
more worthy of divine favor before they venture to claim the promises of God,
were making a fatal mistake. Jesus alone cleanses from sin; He only can forgive
our transgressions. He has pledged Himself to listen to the petition and grant
the prayer of those who come to Him in faith. Many had a vague idea that they
must make some wonderful effort in order to gain the favor of God. But all
self-dependence is vain. It is only by connecting with Jesus through faith that
the sinner becomes a hopeful, believing child of God. These words comforted me
and gave me a view of what I must do to be saved.
I now began to see my way more clearly,
and the darkness began to pass away. I earnestly sought the pardon of my sins,
and strove to give myself entirely to the Lord. But my mind was often in great
distress because I did not experience the spiritual ecstasy that I considered
would be the evidence of my acceptance with God, and I dared not believe myself
converted without it. How much I needed instruction concerning the simplicity
While bowed at the altar with others who
were seeking the Lord, all the language of my heart was: “Help, Jesus, save me
or I perish! I will never cease to entreat till my prayer is heard and my sins
forgiven!” I felt my needy, helpless condition as never before. As I knelt and
prayed, suddenly my burden left me, and my heart was light. At first a feeling
of alarm came over me, and I tried to resume my load of distress. It seemed to
me that I had no right to feel joyous and happy. But Jesus seemed very near to
me; I felt able to come to Him with all my griefs, misfortunes, and trials,
even as the needy ones came to Him for relief when He was upon earth. There was
a surety in my heart that He understood my peculiar trials and sympathized with
me. I can never forget this precious assurance of the pitying tenderness of
Jesus toward one so unworthy of His notice. I learned more of the divine
character of Christ in that short period when bowed among the praying ones than
One of the mothers in Israel came to me
and said: “Dear child, have you found Jesus?” I was about to answer, “Yes,”
when she exclaimed: “Indeed you have, His peace is with you, I see it in your
face!” Again and again I said to myself: “Can this be religion? Am I not
mistaken?” It seemed too much for me to claim, too exalted a privilege. Though
too timid to openly confess it, I felt that the Saviour had blessed me and pardoned
Soon after this the meeting closed, and we
started for home. My mind was full of the sermons, exhortations, and prayers we
had heard. Everything in nature seemed changed. During the meeting, clouds and
rain prevailed a greater part of the time, and my feelings had been in harmony
with the weather. Now the sun shone bright and clear, and flooded the earth
with light and warmth. The trees and grass were a fresher green, the sky a
deeper blue. The earth seemed to smile under the peace of God. So the rays of
the Sun of Righteousness had penetrated the clouds and darkness of my mind, and
dispelled its gloom.
It seemed to me that everyone must be at
peace with God and animated by His Spirit. Everything that my eyes rested upon
seemed to have undergone a change. The trees were more beautiful and the birds
sang more sweetly than ever before; they seemed to be praising the Creator in
their songs. I did not care to talk, for fear this happiness might pass away,
and I should lose the precious evidence of Jesus’ love for me. Testimonies for the church, vol. 1, p. 15-18.
But, let it be understood, that no one comes to Christ who
had not previously experienced tribulation. The experience of Joshua the high
priest, of the palsied man, of Martin Luther, of young Ellen, and the similar experience of every
other soul that has finally surrendered to God’s justice and then sought His
mercy with all their heart, is the only path to salvation. Every other easier
way that neglects this difficult rite of passage, whether the substitute is empty emotion or gluttonous intellectual philosophy, is attempting unauthorized entry into heaven.
“He that entereth not by the
door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief
and a robber.… Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you,
I am the door of the sheep.” (Jn. 10:1,7).
There is only one way into the kingdom of God—the “good
fight of faith.” (1Tim. 6:12). At first, and
for a long time, the battle is harsh and wearisome. Self and sin are being plucked
from our heart, as Satan trembles before the God we have approached for
deliverance. “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against
the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do
the things that ye would.” (Gal. 5:17). But, if our desire for holiness
persists, God draws us all the way to His deliverance from the thralldom of
Satan. God has saved another suffering soul!
“Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful
captive delivered? But thus saith the LORD, Even the captives of the mighty
shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I
will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And
I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be
drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that
I the LORD am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob.” (Isa.
49:24-26). The devils must flee!
I don’t write of a long, arduous route to God to discourage anyone
who has already spent their life in long years of spiritual, emotional, and
physical toil and pain, as if they will have many years to go before connecting
with heaven. I write this as good news for those who have spent a long time,
that they can finally rest from their long toil. The divinely inspired message for Israel’s long captivity was,
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye
comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished,
that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double
for all her sins.” (Isa. 40:1,2).
You who have already suffered. You have suffered long
enough; your sins are forgiven. “Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” I
have the authority of scripture to assure you of this. “Whose soever sins ye
remit, they are remitted unto them.” (Jn. 20:23). You were forgiven many
months and years ago; you just wouldn’t believe in God’s mercy. But, peace with
God was available to you the whole time; God is that merciful. We are the ones
who make heaven’s forgiveness difficult, not Jesus. But, as the wise user of
all of His resources, He will even make use of Satan’s obstacles of our return
to God. He turns those mountains into hurdles that can only be overcome by pure trust in His tenderness and love.
He gives us the power to jump high. He says, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit,
saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before [state your
name] thou shalt become a plain.” (Zech. 4:6,7).
“For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way
He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is
broken by mine arms.
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and Thy
right hand hath holden me up, and Thy gentleness hath made me great.” (Ps.
“Good understanding giveth favour: but the way of
transgressors is hard.” (Prov. 13:15). “For
whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth.”
(Heb. 12:6). “As many as I love, I
rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Rev. 3:19).
“Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose
sins are covered.
Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin” (Rom.
“He looketh upon men, and if any say, I have sinned, and
perverted that which was right, and it profited me not;
He will deliver his soul from going into the pit, and his
life shall see the light.” “His flesh shall be fresher than a child’s: he shall
return to the days of his youth:
He shall pray unto God, and He will be favourable unto him:
and he shall see His face with joy: for He will render unto man His
righteousness.” (Job 33:27-28,25-26).
“Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall
fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall
yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no
herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my
salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet,
and He will make me to walk upon mine high places.” (Hab. 3:17-19).
“These are they which came out of great tribulation, and
have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Therefore
are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple:
and He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them. They shall hunger no
more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any
heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and
shall lead them unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all
tears from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:14-17).
“Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep
the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12).