Friday, March 16, 2007 Observation:
A few weeks ago in our Gospel Doctrine class I was teaching a lesson about the healing miracles of Jesus using the Gospel of Mark as our primary source. As usual, the poor members of our class were at my mercy as I always select the content we will consider each week. The suggested scriptural content to be covered invariably exceeds the amount of class time available. This particular Sunday I chose to spend some time with Jesus' healing of a paralyzed man in Capernaum -- Peter and Andrew's hometown. The story is well known and is found in Mark 2:1-12. For some reason Mark's account of the healing of the paralyzed man is one of my favorite healing incidents recorded in the New Testament. I wonder why?
News spread like wildfire that Jesus was in town. His reputation had preceded him and the home he was in was thronged with a multitude of people, making it impossible to even get near the door. The paralyzed man had four friends that took him on a stretcher to the home, attached ropes to the stretcher and hauled the man up to the roof top, broke open the roof, and lowered him down at the very feet of Jesus. I like to think that the Savior had a smile on his face as he witnessed the ingenuity and faith displayed by these four men in behalf of their paralyzed friend. Jesus healed the paralyzed man who eventually left the home -- and in my mind's eye I can see the five of them walking arm in arm down the dusty lane -- undoubtedly rejoicing in the great miracle that they had participated in and witnessed. They must have talked about this Jesus and who he really was to be able to have performed such a mighty miracle. Perhaps however, the greatest miracle of all was the miracle of faith, love, kindness, and compassion, exhibited by four friends that brought the paralyzed man to the feet of Jesus so he could be healed.
My focus on this incident is perhaps a bit different from what many others would stress, which would be the faith of these men and the great healing power of Jesus. To me it is all of that, but also so much more. It is a wonderful and inspiring story of love, kindness, compassion, and friendship, involving four unnamed men and their paralyzed friend. I have thought that if Jesus were to come to our "village" I have friends, blessed with faith and ingenuity that would get me to the feet of the Savior so that I could be healed, whatever effort it might take on their part. Having been the recipient of countless acts of kindness and compassion myself during the past 17 1/2 years I have a little feeling for how the now healed paralyzed man must have felt toward his four friends and the Savior.
The other day Jo Anne and I traveled to Kaiser Permanente (our HMO) in Mission Viejo for Jo Anne to visit the dermatologist. It was one of my happiest trips to the doctor in some time because it didn't involve me. Jo Anne's visit didn't last long and we were soon in the pharmacy getting some medication and ointments that had been prescribed by the doctor. Things weren't moving along quickly in the pharmacy and it was cold in the building so I decided to drive my wheelchair out into the parking lot and face the sun which was shining brightly that day. Having the sun hit my face is like being under a giant heat lamp that warms up my entire body. I parked my wheelchair by the side of our van with the unrealistic expectation that Jo Anne would soon be there.
I imagine I was about 100 yards or so from the building, which is not really smart when you are on life-support. I had only been there a minute or two when a very large security guard approached me and politely asked if there was anything he could do to help me. I told him that I was fine and was waiting for my wife to come, an activity at which I was an expert. He laughed but looked very uneasy and wondered if maybe he could escort me back to the building. I hated to leave the sunny parking lot but I sensed that this security guard really had my best interest at heart, so I tooled over to the building to see if Jo Anne was still alive and making some progress in getting her medication from the pharmacy.
Through a large plate glass window that separated the waiting area from the pharmacy I could see Jo Anne standing in line behind a number of other people. I was grateful that I had a place to sit down and at least was rather comfortable in spite of the cold. I hadn't sat there very long when one of the pharmacists, a young lady, came out into the waiting area and asked me if she could help me somehow. She told me she had seen me sitting out there for some time and thought I must certainly need some help. I told her I indeed looked like I probably did need lots of help and if she could have any influence over the other people in line that maybe she could hurry along the process so that Jo Anne and I could eventually go home before they started charging us rent. She gave me a big smile as she disappeared into the pharmacy which was now beginning to resemble in my mind, the Bermuda Triangle.
Shortly after the lady pharmacist had spoken to me an elderly lady came walking out of the pharmacy and saw me sitting there. As she started to pass by she said "Boy, do you have a rough road to travel!" I smiled at her and told her it wasn't that bad, that life was really good, and that it was "good to be alive!" My comment caught her off guard and she stopped to visit with me, eventually leaving with a smile on her face and telling me that I had made her day. I could also tell you about several other people who offered to get me on the elevator while Jo Anne was registering us at the main desk but I won't. They were all kind, considerate, and concerned.
It has been a great learning experience for me to be part of a minority group for the past 17 1/2 years. For much of my life I was fairly "normal" and may not have been very sensitive to the underprivileged, mobility impaired, or those having special needs of one kind or another. I really can't express how acts and expressions of kindness and compassion from family, friends, and from strangers, touches my heart. As the years have passed by, instead of my injury making me cynical and suspicious of others, it has had the opposite effect. There are a multitude of good folks out there of every religious persuasion, nationality, and culture. I am impressed with the basic goodness and decency of so many of Heavenly Father's children.
"And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four." [Mark 2: 3]
Perhaps a worthy goal in all of our lives would be to be one of the "four" who made sure their paralyzed friend was given the opportunity to come under the healing influence of Christ. No one will ever know the feelings of joy and gratitude that must have filled the heart of the healed, formerly paralyzed man, toward his friends and the Savior.