Four of the Most Important Men in the Bible
“And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.”
May God the Holy Spirit, whose words these are, be our Teacher as we study this passage. May he be pleased to take the things of Christ revealed here and show them to us, effectually applying them to our hearts, that we may be instructed in the gospel of his grace.
The first obvious lesson to be learned from these verses is that those who live under but do not believe the gospel are the greatest and most blameworthy of all sinners in the world. This is a truth that is strikingly illustrated by the history of Capernaum. No other place in Palestine enjoyed so many displays of our Lord’s miraculous power, so much of his presence, or so many words of instruction from his lips as the city of Capernaum. After he left Nazareth, our Master dwelt at Capernaum (Matthew 4:13). Capernaum was the headquarters of his ministry. His sermons were often heard there. His miracles were performed there. He was both well known and very popular there. The people of Capernaum gathered in great crowds to see him and to hear him. They were astonished at his power, dazzled by his words, and awed by his Person.
"And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them" (vv. 1-2).
The opening words of this chapter would be very delightful to read were it not for one sad, sad fact: — Nothing that our Master said or did seems to have had any lasting, spiritual effect upon the hearts of the people at Capernaum.
Isn’t that amazing? The men and women of Capernaum lived under the bright, dazzling, noonday brilliance of the Sun of Righteousness. Yet, they were unconverted. Rather than being melted to repentance, they were hardened against Christ by their spiritually barren familiarity with him. It was against this city that our Lord Jesus pronounced his heaviest curse and condemnation (Matthew 11:23-24).
Capernaum stands before our eyes as a beacon of warning. Never was there a people so highly favored as the men and women of Capernaum. Never was there a people more hardened against the gospel. Never was there a people more severely condemned by our God. Let us beware of walking in their steps!
The same gospel, which is a savor of life unto life to those who believe it, is a savor of death unto death to those who believe it not. The same fire that melts the wax hardens the clay. None are so hardened as those who are gospel hardened. From such hardness may God be pleased to keep us by his grace.
Blessings in Disguise
The paralyzed man in our text shows us a second very important lesson. — Great afflictions, trials, and sorrows are often the forerunners of great blessings.
"And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (vv. 3-5).
I suspect this poor, impotent man spent many hours every day of his miserable life asking, “Why did God do this to me? If there is a God in heaven, if he is good and wise and gracious, why did he give me these bum legs and mangled feet?” And I do not doubt for a moment that, from this day forward, he never ceased to thank God for that lifelong trouble which at last brought him to Christ and brought the forgiveness of sin to his soul! He would never have been brought by his friends to the Master had he not been in such a miserably helpless condition.
“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will.
Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread,
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
Judge not the Lord by feeble sense;
But trust Him for His grace.
Behind the frowning providence,
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour.
The bud may have a bitter taste;
But sweet will be the flower.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan His work in vain.
God is His on interpreter
And He will make it plain.”
Let every child of God understand that the paths of our lives are well ordered; for they are ordered by our heavenly Father, who is too wise to err, too strong to fail, and too good to do wrong.
Use of Means
Third, we learn from the behavior of this man’s friends that faith in a mighty God and Savior produces diligence in the use of means. Read verses three, four, and five again.
"And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee."
The Holy Spirit does not tell us who these men were, where they lived, or what their occupations were. We know absolutely nothing about them except these five things:
1. They had a friend who was in need of mercy.
2. They believed that the Lord Jesus Christ could heal their friend of his terrible paralysis.
3. They brought their needy friend to the place where Christ was working miracles of mercy.
4. They were not deterred by obstacles, hindered by difficulties, or put off by problems.
5. They saw their friend saved by the Son of God.
These four men, Bros. Faithful Fred, Witnessing Willie, Praying Perry, and Diligent Dan, got what they wanted. Their friend was cured, both physically and spiritually. God honored their labors of love, which were the fruit of their faith. — "When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee."
As far as we know, not one of these men was a preacher. None of them wrote a word of inspiration. These four men were not prophets or apostles. They appear to have been insignificant, if not totally unknown among their peers. The names, ages, and birth places of these four men are not mentioned anywhere in the Word of God. Yet, these four men rank among the most important men in the Bible.
These four, unknown nobodies were instruments by which God brought one of his elect sheep to Christ. These four men had a friend who was paralyzed, both physically and spiritually; and they brought their friend to Christ, and Christ both healed their friend and forgave his sin. The story of their remarkable faith and zeal is recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Never in all the world did any mortal perform a more important work than these four men. Because of their labors a sinner was saved and God was glorified.
Try to picture the scene. It is a truly remarkable story. These four men knew who Christ is; and they knew the power of his grace. They knew a man who needed Christ. They knew where the Lord was. They resolved together to bring their friend to the Savior. And, by thoughtful pain, labor, and perseverance, they succeeded in getting their friend to the Lord Jesus.
The work required much pain, trouble, time, and diligence. But they were in dead earnest. They knew that Christ had the power to save their friend; and they knew that their friend needed his grace. They were determined to let nothing stand in their way. They were determined to get their friend to Christ. They could not heal his disease. They could not save his soul. They could not forgive his sin. And they did not know whether or not the Lord would do these things for him. But they could get their friend to Christ. And what they could do they were determined to do. And, as a direct result of their diligent labors, a sinner was saved and God was glorified. Nothing in all the world could be more important. When the Lord Jesus saw their faith, he forgave that man’s sin.
These four men are held before us as examples for us to follow. They show us the importance and the necessity of those who know the Savior bringing needy souls to him. I know that “salvation is of the Lord.” No man can save himself; and we cannot save other men. It is not possible for us to create a new heart in another person. We cannot give them repentance and faith in Christ. We cannot reveal Christ to a man’s heart. But there are some things that we can do; and what we can do, we must do. These five facts are plainly revealed in the Word of God.
1. All men by nature are totally depraved, helplessly lost, and spiritually dead. No man will ever, of his own accord, by his own, imaginary, free-will, seek the Lord and come to Christ (Romans 3:10-12). Sinners cannot save themselves, make any contribution to their salvation, or even make themselves more likely to be saved.
2. God has an elect people in this world whom he has chosen for himself in eternal love and determined to save; and they must and shall be saved (Romans 8:29-30).
3. The Lord Jesus Christ has redeemed God’s elect by his own precious blood; and all for whom he shed his blood he shall bring into the bliss and glory of eternal life in heaven (Isaiah 53:9-11).
4. God the Holy Spirit shall effectually quicken, regenerate, and preserve all of those who were chosen by God the Father and redeemed by God the Son, calling them to faith in Christ by irresistible grace (Psalm 65:4; 110:3).
5. And God always uses men to reach the hearts of men with the gospel (1 Corinthians 1:18-29; Romans 10:14-17; 1 Peter 1:23-25).
If these facts, plainly revealed in Holy Scripture, mar our theological system, our theological system needs to be marred. It is God’s good pleasure to use sinful men to proclaim the gospel to sinful men. He could use angels. He could speak to men directly. He could even preach the gospel to dead sinners by the mouths of asses, were that his pleasure. But he has chosen to speak to men through men. This is no limitation to God’s sovereignty. It is the marvel of his sovereign grace that he is pleased to use the men he uses to communicate the message of life to dead sinners (1 Corinthian 1:26-29).
The fourth lesson taught in this passage is the fact that there is one man, only one man in all the universe who has power on the earth to forgive sins and speak peace to the hearts of men; but, blessed be his name, there is one man who can forgive sin, the God-man, Christ Jesus.
"But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion" (vv. 6-12).
The Son of Man, our Lord Jesus Christ, has power on earth to forgive sins, because he who is the Son of man is also God the Son. No mere man can absolve the guilty. No Church or denomination can pardon the guilty. Not even God himself can forgive sins apart from Christ. Only the God-man could obtain the forgiveness of sins for us and grant forgiveness to us.
The reasoning of the Scribes and Pharisees was but the venting of their malice toward Christ and their enmity against God; yet, it was precisely the doctrine of Holy Scripture. None but God can forgive sins. When the man Christ Jesus publicly exercised this divine prerogative, he publicly asserted that he is himself God; and, as if to confirm that claim, he healed the sick man’s body, visibly demonstrating his sovereign power over all things.
Christ is the Fountain opened for cleansing from sin. We point sinners to the Fountain; but we cannot forgive sin or even pronounce forgiveness. Only Christ can do that. We must go to Christ, go directly to Christ, and go to Christ alone for absolution. He is our only Priest, our only Mediator, our only Advocate, our only Way to the Father. God’s justice demands satisfaction. Only Christ could give it. God’s holiness demands perfect righteousness. Only Christ could give it. Our guilty consciences demand the same, both righteousness and satisfaction. Only Christ can quieten the guilty conscience.
The palsy with which this man’s body was afflicted is a vivid picture of the palsy of every man’s soul by nature. What a crippled, helpless creature we are since the fall of our father Adam! This poor, needy creature had no ability to come to Christ. So it is with all the fallen children of Adam (John 6:44). But his friends brought him to the Savior with earnestness. They refused to allow the crowd, or the obstructions before them to stop them. If the only way they could accomplish their desire was to tear up the house-top, they did not hesitate to tear it apart.
“Oh! that the Lord’s people, who know, in their own cases, the blessedness of Jesus’ grace, would feel somewhat of the same earnestness for the salvation of others. Methinks I would bring to ordinances, and also in private approaches, to the mercy seat, the whole of my carnal, graceless relations; and do as they did by this man, lay them down before the presence of Jesus. More than this I am not able to do; but thus far I am encouraged to do. And that compassionate Lord, who hath healed my crippled soul, can cure theirs.” (Robert Hawker)
As is ever the case, the Lord Jesus did indescribably more than they desired. They brought their friend to be healed of his physical palsy; but the Son of God, in his great mercy, healed both the palsy of his body and of his soul. — He said, “Son, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
He identified this man as one of the many children the Father gave to him before the world was made, one of those of whom he spoke as a covenant Surety in eternity (Isaiah 8:18), and of whom he will say at the last day, when presenting his church “faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 1:24), “Behold I and the children which God hath given me” (Hebrews 2:13).
Until the Lord Jesus spoke this word of grace to this poor soul, he was completely unaware of his eternal adoption and the covenant relationship which he had with Christ from eternity. So it is with all God’s elect, until called by the omnipotent grace and power of God the Holy Spirit. Though they are Christ’s people, the people he came to save, children of God by eternal adoption, and given to Christ in covenant grace, they are, in their own minds, “children of wrath even as other” (Ephesians 2:3).
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