Lent Readings: The Story of Jesus, Day 12

The first thing that happened as Jesus and the crowd came toward the town was an encounter with a leper. The man knelt in front of Jesus and said, “Sir, I know You could heal me if You wanted to.”

Jesus laid His hand on the man’s head and said, “Of course I want to. Be clean!” The man’s disease disappeared. Nothing like this had ever happened before, so Jesus instructed him to go to the priest and follow the instructions Moses had prescribed. Jesus knew that this would be startling evidence to the priests. “Oh, and don’t say anything to anyone before you do this,” Jesus told him.

Instead, the man went all over the region spreading his good news. As a result the crowds became so huge that Jesus could rarely go into the cities. He had to stay out in the rural areas, and the people came to Him for healing. Jesus often escaped to the desert to pray.

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One day a Roman centurion who lived in Capernaum heard that Jesus was nearby. He sent some of the influential Jewish leaders to appeal to Him for help; his servant was paralyzed and desperately ill. They approached Jesus, explaining that, even though this was a Roman soldier, he had been very helpful in the community, having built them a synagogue, and was worthy of Jesus’ attention.

Jesus was more than willing to help, so He went with them. He wasn’t far from the house when the centurion sent some friends to convey a message. “Sir,” they explained, “our friend, the centurion, wants You to know that he’s not important enough for You to come into his home or even to personally approach You. He said to tell You that he knows if You would just give the command, his servant would recover. You see, he’s very familiar with how authority works. He’s got men under him who instantly do whatever he tells them to, and he knows You have the authority to do this.”

When Jesus heard this, He was amazed. “This man gets it,” He said to the crowd, “and he’s a Gentile! Take note! When I sit down in the Kingdom of Heaven to feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there will be a lot of folks there who aren’t Jewish, while many who ought to have understood who I am will be banished to outer darkness and filled with regret.”

Having issued that warning, Jesus told the friends that when they went back, they would find that what the centurion believed could happen did happen. Yes, as it turns out, the servant had been healed at the very moment Jesus said that.

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Some days later when Jesus was at home in Capernaum, a crowd gathered. Soon there were so many in and around the place that no one else could possibly get to Him. Among those who were present were many Pharisees and teachers of the Law from nearby towns and from as far away as Jerusalem. Again, Jesus displayed His power and many were being healed.

It so happened that some men whose friend was paralyzed brought him to see Jesus, carrying him on a stretcher; but because of the crowd, they couldn’t get in. That didn’t stop them. Since the houses had flat roofs with stairs leading up, they took their friend onto the roof and proceeded to remove some of the ceiling tiles. Once they had a large enough opening, they lowered their friend on his stretcher right in front of Jesus. Amazed at the determination and faith of the friends, Jesus looked at the paralytic and said, “This is your day, son, your sins are forgiven!”

That wasn’t what anyone was expecting to hear, and the scribes were thinking to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins.”

Jesus perceived by the Spirit what they were thinking, so He rebuked them, saying, “Why are you thinking that? Is it easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? To show that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, I’ll now tell him to get up and walk.”

“Rise up,” Jesus commanded. “Take your bedding and be on your way.”

Immediately the man got up.  He was overjoyed, the crowd was awestruck, and all were thanking God for imparting such power to this unusual Man.