Healing of Paralytic
Long days of teaching and healing were exhausting, and Jesus decided to return to Capernaum and rest at Peters home. They arrived secretly by night, but word spread quickly that he had returned. As always, the sick and afflicted stormed Simon Peters house and the streets around it, but the tall fisherman took strenuous action to keep them away for a while so Jesus could sleep and eat, and have time of fellowship with the men who were closest to him.
Ezra, the coppersmith, had been ill and now lay paralyzed. Having heard people say the size of the crowds following the Miracle Worker was now so great he did not enter cities, Ezra had almost given up hope of ever reaching him. When he was told the Prophet of Nazareth had returned to the home of Peter, his hope was rekindled. Since it was not far away, he immediately sent his twelve-year-old son Samuel to ask Jesus to heal him.
When the boy returned, Ezra saw in his face that he had failed. His son confirmed it, The streets are packed all around the house and I could not even get close.
His father was a determined man and would not accept failure. If the Nazarene did not heal him, he couldnt work at his trade and might as well be dead. He thought a moment and decided on another plan, Go find four of my friends to carry me to the Nazarene.
You still could not get through the crowd to Jesus.
Does Simons house have a stairway to the roof, and is it blocked?
I could see a few people on some stairs in the back, but most of the people are in the street by the front doorway waiting for Jesus to come out.
Ezra thought his plan would work. Now bring me four ropes from the stable, then hurry and find the men before Jesus leaves the house.
Samuel brought the ropes to his father, and immediately ran out into the street to find the bearers. With so many people thronging the streets, he quickly found the four friends who would help carry Ezra on his pallet.
Bearing the frail man, with his son walking alongside, they approached Peters house. It was one of the better dwellings of the middle class; a large two-story stone structure surrounded by a large courtyard. Besides a spacious family room, it contained rooms for Peter and his wife, for his mother-in-law, and an upper chamber for Jesus as the honored guest. An exterior stairway in the back led to the roof and upper chamber, and it was still usable.
At the edge of the multitude, the four carriers heard Jesus teaching inside, and could barely see some Pharisees and teachers of religious law sitting near him. They wondered what would be happening inside to attract these leaders.
Ezra was not concerned; he was happy the Nazarene was still there, and directed his friends to carry him up the stairs to the rooftop of the house. On the roof, he could see the inner courtyard packed with disciples and members of their families listening to Jesus as he stood under a covered gallery between the house and the court.
When the men carrying him stumbled over one of the loose tiles forming the roof of the gallery, he had the solution to his problem. Quickly he directed them to put him down and remove the tiles above the place where Christ stood, and to be as quiet as possible. Since the tiles were laid side by side and were not bound down, a large opening was quickly made. Before Peter realized Ezras strategy, the bearers were lowering him through the opening on his sleeping pallet with long ropes attached at the corners.
There was an abrupt halt of Jesus discourse and the breathless surprise of the crowd as an opening through the tiles appeared, and a pallet slowly let down before them. When those around the Lord saw what was happening, willing hands reached up to support the bed from below and lowered the coppersmith safely to the ground at Christs feet. His open outburst of faith shone brightly from the covered darkness and clouds of unbelief within the hearts of those Jewish leaders who had come to watch and ensnare the Teacher.
Seeing Ezras faith, Jesus told him, Son, your sins are forgiven.
Who does this man think he is? the Pharisees and teachers of religious law said to each other. This is blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins?
The Savior knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, Why do you think this is blasphemy? Is it easier to say, Your sins are forgiven or Get up and walk? The Pharisees had no answer.
I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have authority on earth to forgive sins. Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, Stand up, take up your mat, and go homeyou are healed!
As everyone watched, immediately Ezra felt strength flowing into his wasted limbs like the swift current of the Jordan pouring into the lake. His paralyzed body was instantly made whole again! His soul was healed as well, and with great joy he jumped to his feet and picked up his pallet. As proud and straight as he had ever been, he pushed his way through the stunned onlookers while Samuel and his friends came down from the roof. Meeting outside, the father was now able to hug his son, and they all walked home together praising God.
Everyone was gripped with great wonder and awe. Then they all praised God, exclaiming, Weve never seen anything like this before!
The Pharisees did not share the same opinion, and followed Jesus wherever he went to try and trap him into a charge so he could be arrested.
Matthew the Tax Collector
Tolls, dues, and customs demanded by the Romans were a thorn in the side of any Jew, and the very name of publican or tax collector was loaded with contempt and hatred. Paying tribute to Caesar involved submission to heathen kingship. Galileans looked on the publican as the very embodiment of anti-nationalism. Publicans were disqualified from being judges or witnesses because they were dishonest and exacted more than was due. Repentance was especially difficult for tax gatherers and custom house officers.
Few, other than Levi-Matthew, could have enjoyed better opportunities for hearing and quietly thinking over the teaching of the Prophet of Nazareth. Sitting before his custom house, the despised tax collector frequently heard Jesus as he taught by the lakeshore. He had witnessed the call of the first apostles and the miracle catch on that day. This Teacher was not like those other great rabbis or their self-righteous imitators. There was something about him which not only awakened the conscience, but drew the heartcompelling, not repelling. What he said opened a new world. Now it appeared as if Christ had been brought still nearer. Long before that eventful day which forever decided his life, Matthew had in heart become the disciple of Jesus. Only he dared not, could not have hoped for personal recognitionfar less for call to discipleship.
But now quite another day was dawning on him. Sitting at his tax collection booth, he could see Jesus coming down the road toward him. The Savior stopped and gazed into Levis eyes, searching the inmost longing of his soul. Then he simply said, Come, be my disciple.
It was all Matthew needed. Without a moments thought or consideration, he got up and followed him. The past seemed all swallowed up in the present heavenly bliss. He said not a word, for his soul was in speechless surprise of the unexpected. The former hated and shunned tax collector was transformed into a disciple of love and grace.
That night Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners. The Pharisees who were following Christ were indignant and asked his disciples, Why does your teacher eat with such scum?
When he heard this, Jesus could not leave his disciples to answer for themselves. What could they or would they have to say? The Pharisees should have spoken directly to him. Christ replied, Healthy people do not need a physicianonly the sick. He was their Physician. He came to call the sinners to himself, to the kingdom; and repentance was the beginning of forgiveness.
Then he added, Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: I want you to be merciful; I do not want your sacrifices. For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already righteous.
It was a great day, not only for Levi-Matthew, but for all the poor and needy in Israelthe door of heaven was opened for all sinners, even from among the most despised.