Heart To Heart: "Why Do You Question; Which Is Easier"

THE DOCTOR IS IN. Remember that sign on Lucy's lemonade stand? Charlie Brown would always come for therapy. Put a sign out, "Flu Shots Here" and there will be a line shortly. Put a price of $2.28/gal. on your gas pumps (the July 5th price as we went on vacation). Then: stand back. People want help. Protection. Relief. They'll come on the run just to wait for it. Well, that's exactly what happens when Jesus comes home to Capernaum. Word gets around. Jesus the teacher and healer: home. The doctor is IN. In short order, it's standing room only to hear and see him. And to hope for his curing caress. At least 5 are men. We know for 2 reasons. First, Scripture says. Second, it's the only way men ever go to the doctor. Five: 1 ailin' plus 2 pushin' and 2 pullin'! (And all the women said? "Amen.") So resourceful and trusting are they. When the door's blocked they go up on the roof, peel it back and lower this broken soul-and-body to the feet of Jesus. Our Lord tells him his sins are forgiven. When that raises questions amongst the crowd, Jesus tells him to pick up his bed and walk! Everyone's amazed. That's the story, right? Not exactly. 'Turns out, when we ask hard questions of Jesus, he answers with grace and glory. But also, with hard questions of his own for us! In this story Christ asks, "Why do you question?" and again, "Which is easier?" Jesus is still asking. Only now, we're the ones who need to answer.

Heart to heart, you see, Jesus wants to know. Why do you question? What are the boundaries of your faith? How open are you to the unbelievable power of God? Would you limit God… to the limits of your own faith? Will you accept the rule of God to: heal as he wills, make new as only he can, and discover that your own faith peels the roof off what is possible for us in this life, in preparation for the next?

Why do you question? Jesus wants to know. What are the boundaries of your faith? I don't know about you, but I'm good at asking God and Jesus questions. It feels pretty natural to me. How about you? This week, people I know and love are in trouble. They come with problems I can't solve and hurts I can't heal. They wanna know, "Why me?" and I wanna know too. The news continues to haunt my nights. It wakes me in the mornings asking, "Lord, what can I do?" My own problems crowd in too. And sometimes I feel like it's a little hard to get a breath. And I wanna know, "Jesus, where have you been when I needed you? How on earth did stuff come down to this?" Well, friends, those folks who went to Jesus' house at Capernaum had all the same questions. And he was there giving answers. But there came a moment. When those faith-filled souls razed the roof just to lower their friend to the feet of Jesus, there came a moment when Jesus turned the tables. Now it was time for Jesus to ask. That time comes with us too. Over and over in all four Gospels, Jesus interrupts our asking with his own. "Why do you question?" he wants to know today.

Back then there were at least two reasons. I think they're still around, and still among us. Sometimes we ask because we really aren't sure just who Jesus is, at least who he is for us. It's one thing to flock to his door looking for wisdom. Helpful hints. "Rules and reg.s" for how to live your life. We do that so easily today. All the self help books at the store, all the radio talk shows. All the talking heads on all the TV news shows, all the hot-shot hucksters on the commercials with just what you need for a happy life. They make it easy to come to Jesus looking for answers, like he's one more option in a world chocked full of them. And then, as to his response, you can take it or leave it, depending on whether or not it feels good or you like what you hear. That's one thing. But it's quite another to come to him as Lord of your life! When Jesus tells this crippled fellow his sins are forgiven, some of the most religious folks in the crowd are left asking about Jesus, "Just who does he think he is?!" Christ turns the question around and asks, "Who do you think I am?" Jesus is right, of course. That's the whole thing in a nutshell. Do we believe, are we ready, today, to accept that he is the Son of God? That he is one with the Father? That all power in heaven and on earth has been given over to him? That more than just the power to forgive sin and heal the wounded soul, he holds the keys of hell and death? And that he is the One who opens the gate of heaven? If we have that settled, we hardly have need to ask more. We trust in all he says and does for us.

The other reason we continue to ask of Jesus is because we insist on God-in-Christ being just the size and shape we imagine or believe. And we find it hard to believe Holiness is bigger, or some other way. Those old souls in the Book met Jesus standin' on their own two feet. (We see ourselves like that, don't we?) And insistin' on their own way. 'Course, you and I wouldn't know about that! Or would we? Well, when somebody went upstairs and razed the roof, for mercy's sake, and invited Jesus to do more than they expected, they were offended! Or at least confused and unbelieving. Jesus blew them away with his ways. He refused to accept the idea that sin has the right to make you sick and keep you sick forever. He refused to believe that if you're sick you must deserve it. If you're in trouble you must have brought it on yourself. He didn't pretend bad behavior, poor decisions or values don't have sorry consequences. He just said this is not the end of it. He knew it's really not all about me, all about you. He insisted heaven doesn't promise you'll get what you deserve. You'll get what God chooses to give. And if you'll just accept it, heaven will give you healing and give you life! That day some folks in their faith razed the roof, others were left questioning Jesus. Which kind of faith do you want today? The kind that peels back the limits of what God-in-Christ can do, or the kind that insists God-in-Christ can be no bigger than the meager mercies we are inclined to accept?

Jesus wants to know. Which is easier? To accept God's rule to heal as he wills and make new as only he can, or not? Jesus asks, now as then, "You think it's easier to forgive sins, or just tell a crumpled soul to get up and walk?" Jesus' point, I believe, is that, as Paul says, "He is able to do more abundantly than all we ask or think." Whether it's sin that crippled the fellow let down through that roof or not, it appears his friends may think so, certainly the crowd, maybe even the patient. It sounds familiar. We blame the smoker for her illness, the worrier for his ulcer, the Katrina victim for not moving soon enough, the abused spouse who will not leave as soon as we. And all without knowing, as only God does, the full story of the lives we look on. Sometimes we judge so easily. Well… like the best of doctors, Jesus clears away first things first. He forgives. In fact, when Jesus sees deep faith (as in these friends), it moves him to say that because of it, sin and its limb-withering power have already been removed! Is this the kind of faith you've got? What would you be willing to tear away (like tiles on an old roof) that keeps you from coming to Jesus? (Your pride, your self-control, your insistence on looking before you leap in faith. What holds you back from him?) Would you be willing to lie still, and trust others praying for you, literally pulling for you, to let you down to the very feet of Jesus? You know, some scholars write that fellow-on-the-pallet was already forgiven and healed by the sheer power of believing that his friends showed Jesus. Our Lord simply, promptly announced what Heaven had already granted. Does your faith have that kind of power for others, for you?

Are you ready? Jesus wants to know. Can you embrace a faith that razes the roof on what's possible for you in this life, in preparation for the next? I've read this story many times. 'Heard it many more. 'Preached it repeatedly. But it comes to me afresh this time. I see something here I haven't seen before. The guy who gets up and walks isn't the only one healed here. He may not be the toughest case Jesus faces making this "house call". No, the friends experience healing too. They expect only a healing of the body. They get a healing of the soul as well. Those who gather, maybe even the ones who question Jesus, receive a healing too. Christ lifts from them the burden of their own narrow expectations of heaven, heaven on earth. "Look what God can do in him," they say. Jesus wants to know, are you ready for this?

I heard the stories yesterday at the work camp breakfast. Stories from folks who believed life, even God himself, had passed them by without notice. Like those in Louisiana of late, convinced God was not big enough for their need, and Jesus was an uncertain Savior. But then our kids built the ramp that set them free from some little house, for the first time in eight years! Or somebody boated them to safety in the name of him who calmed the storm. From every such heart comes this question, "For me?!" Jesus answers with forgiveness as needed and healing as required. And with questions of his own. "Why do you question? Do you know who I am? Is it still a secret to you to know what God can do? Are you ready for a Savior who forgives and a heaven that heals, sometimes, ready or not? Do you trust enough to lay your friends at my feet, and your heart at my heart?" Can you see that all things are possible for those who love him, and are called according to his purpose?" Jesus wants to know. Today's your day to answer!

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