Read Matthew 9:1-13
After having been away from His hometown for a while, Jesus has returned. News had been trickling back of the incredible miracles this Jesus, a familiar face in a familiar crowd, had been doing. And now He stood before them. The buzz in the air was electric as everyone pulled for Mary’s grown up Son to perform the miraculous. And what’s even better, He now had the opportunity as someone brought forward a crippled man. The scene was set. This very eclectic crowd, ranging from the curious and hopeful to the “religious” and hateful, was ready to see Jesus in action. However, Jesus surprised them all.
While the crowd wondered at the stony-face of this unfortunate man, Jesus noticed the lonely bow of his head. As they were openly gawking at his lifeless legs, Jesus was vitally aware of his life-seeking heart. And while the crowd was buzzing about what was to come, Jesus was recognizing the bitter fruit of what had already been. Let’s take a seat on the mat, and visit the scene from our friend’s point of view.
All he sees are stares. He hates the stares. Everyone looks at him with either pity or resentment ... or even worse, both. He longs for freedom from this bed, this helplessness, their eyes. His heart’s desire – his longing for wholeness – has gone unfulfilled for so long, that now its roots are embedded in bitterness. And his heart is nowhere to be found.
The bitterness is so widespread that he feels almost controlled by it. Afraid of it. Even his inner voice has changed. It’s deeper now. It’s darker. And it’s pushing him to end his own pain. And he’s afraid. Sure, they’re bringing him to be healed by this “miracle worker.” But he knows why they’re really doing it... one less mouth to feed. Maybe he’ll give them one less mouth to feed. Unless this Man could really be...
He’s jarred back to his surroundings as his portable bed is dropped to the ground. Now he’s in the centre of dozens of pairs of eyes. Oh how he hates the stares. Gawking, mocking, superior stares. His hopes are dashed. This is just another group of heartless people eager to nourish his root of bitterness. Well, let them. Pulling his anger and fear around him like a cloak, our friend begins to lower his head. And that’s when it happens.
With one fluttering glance up, he sees Jesus. Their eyes meet. And hold. Anger meets Peace. Hopelessness meets Hope. Brokenness meets Strength. Repentance meets Forgiveness. And in that instant, he knows he doesn’t have to be afraid anymore. A spark of hope, a ray of light, a glimmer of love in the eyes of One who shows no pity, holds no resentment, offers only Grace. Grace in the form of a hand up, out of his pit of bitterness, away from the spiral of spiritual destruction. And in that moment, Grace has a voice... and it speaks what our friend’s shriveled up heart so desperately needs to hear.
Son, be of good cheer ... ~ Matthew 9:2
Be of good cheer. There is hope. I offer you joy. And then came the words our friend had been longing to hear. The words his poisoned mind told him were impossible. The words the glimmer in his heart knew were just one beat away. And Jesus said,
... your sins are forgiven you. ~ Matthew 9:2
Your bitterness is broken. Your fear is defeated. Your life is brand new. The crowd assumed the “show” would be in the miraculous healing of two crippled legs. Yet Jesus knew the real need, and He performed the greatest miracle of all right under their spectacle-seeking noses. He healed one very broken heart.
By the way, the physical healing – our friend walking on his own two strong legs – did come. But his heart was already soaring with the freedom that comes from forgiveness.
Do you know that kind of freedom? Have you experienced God’s forgiveness? Won’t you give Him the opportunity to lift you out of your pit? He wants to plant your feet on solid ground. He wants to give your heart a gentle cleansing.
He’s just waiting for you to glance up in His direction.
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