John Hardie - "Luke 5:12-26" - Rochedale, 1943

This is an old text; in fact it is a Gospel text, if there is such a thing as a text. Whether it be to sinners or to children of God, it is all the Gospel we are preaching. In reading this morning I was reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 13:52, “Therefore every scribe which is instructed unto the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which bringeth forth out of his treasure things new and old.”  It would be a sad and sorry day, whether it is the case of a Worker or you, when we stand up repeating ourselves. Every scribe instructed unto the Kingdom of Heaven does more than that.

In meetings like these or in your church meetings, we find out whether we are being instructed unto the Kingdom of Heaven or not; taking out of our household not only things old but things new. We are so familiar with talking of blessing, but the time comes when we get opportunity of proving whether we are gathering blessing when we go out to face the conflict and find things different. The evidence that we have been blessed is being brought up against something we have not been up against before, and we go through it with victory. I hope there’ll be something deeper done in my heart, that when I face the conflict, there’ll be evidence that I have been blessed as this man was.

These two cases, the leper and the man taken with palsy, are tied up together. The writers of three of the Gospels mention these two cases. Some cases are only mentioned by one writer. It is nice to notice in the word of God, that never in two cases did Jesus act the same way. That’s where our endeavours fail. We help a person in one way and we expect to help another case in the same way. We should be very careful of our statements when we are trying to help someone that is not a child of God. Maybe, instead of helping them we discourage them.

This leper came to Jesus. I hope you’ll feel the leprosy to the extent that you’ll come to Jesus when opportunity arises. In the palsied man’s case, it was different because he couldn’t come. If there hadn’t been someone interested in him enough to take him to Jesus, he would not have got blessed. This is where your responsibility rests. The leprous man was different. Jesus said, “Go and show thyself to the priest and offer for thy cleansing, according as Moses commanded for a testimony unto them.”

Sometimes we take too much liberty in the things of God. The leprous man wasn’t to declare his own case. In some cases it is not for you to declare what has taken place. In the case of the leper, he was so blessed that he couldn’t hold his peace. I don’t think he was telling about the truth but about the blessing he got, the help he got. He felt within himself like David when he said, “Come and hear what the LORD hath done.”  This is the best kind of preaching. Why we don’t have anything to tell is because we can’t tell of what the Lord has done for us.

It was a big ordeal that this man had to go through. He had to pay the price for getting blessed. This is why he was blessed, because he had paid the full price for blessing for his soul. The things of God are without money and without price. The evidence that a person has been blessed is that they return to God.

Jesus had to withdraw Himself. People came out in multitudes, there was so much blessing. Jesus had to withdraw to the desert. There is a time for us to meet people and talk to them and there is a time to evade them. There is a time when we should give evidence of what God has done for us. After Jesus withdrew Himself from the wilderness He evidently came back to Capernaum where people knew Him best. A prophet often has no honour in his own country, but He did in this case. The wilderness is a great preparation ground to be fitted for service. The man or woman who doesn’t know the wilderness experience, God cannot use. The wilderness is a training ground.

The man that was used in helping Saul we don’t hear about any more. Some people are always looking for opportunities and they never come their way. Ananias waited, and when God needed a man, He knew where there was a man He could use. I wonder if you are in the training school. With some people, you don’t know if they are going on at all. There are some you may think are not going on, but there is something about them that makes you feel they are not the same as the other person. Are you holding what you have?

God knew the spot to go to when He wanted a man. It is a great think that we are like that man. Why was Ananias in Damascus? Some might say he was there because his parents lived there.

Let that be granted, but he was there because God wanted him there. All God had to say was, “Ananias...”  Remember how Ananias tried to get out of it? The man who is most ready is the man who is rather slow to put his hand to it, who doesn’t jump in where angels fear to tread.

Ananias felt a little of the work he was about to tackle. He had the fear of God and also the fear of the man he was to try to help. He put up his plea but God said, “You go....”  That is the only thing we hear of Ananias doing, God using him to help Saul. If there’s one thing we should aim at it is not doing many things, but to do one thing that is needed instead of trying two thousand things we would be ashamed of. Ananias had no caused to be ashamed of the work he had done; he had good reason to feel that God was with Him.

In connection with the palsied man we have to say he had to be brought to Jesus. Jesus had to be brought back from the wilderness where He was fitted for the work He had to do. Have you been in the wilderness? You can’t get into the wilderness here. You should have been in the wilderness before God has made it impossible for us to hide. In spite of the crowd God will manifest where we are. Jesus was amongst the scribes and Pharisees who were not a very promising congregation. Are you a promising congregation? Those doctors of the law and the Pharisees took their seats and read Jesus up in a very short time, but the power of God was there to heal and yet it didn’t touch one of them. The attitude and manner of our hearts could be such, that the power of God could be here and not touch one of us.

It would be awful for the Son of God to have a meeting of that kind. He spoke as no other man spoke. My brother, my sister, the power of God may be present here to heal and you may evade it. He reads as no other reads. He doesn’t judge by outward appearance. God gave those men according to their works, so He gave them nothing. That should arouse us lest that should be my lot in meeting like that.

The palsied man was not in the meeting. The first thing to notice in connection with the palsied man is the interest some people had in him. It is wonderful the interest we take in people sometimes, but it doesn’t last long. The proof that I have a lasting interest in people is that something is done sooner or later. I don’t know whether those four who took an interest in that palsied man, composed the church. Probably it did. They may have had talks together about the man. Their interest didn’t come in a moment. It wasn’t a flash in the pan. I firmly believe those four had talks about that man, and prayed about him, and it wouldn’t be only one prayer meeting they had. I wonder if you are on friendly enough terms with a brother or a sister in your church, not in some other church, that you could talk things over with. Some people have to go to some other church to get a friend. I love to make new friends, but I doubly love old friends, because it takes something more than something outward to make a friend and keep a friend. It took these four to get this man to Jesus. It may be hard to get four women to play the game like that.

Brothers take a lesson from this little church in Capernaum, the place where Jesus had not many friends, the place to which Jesus said, “And thou Capernaum which art exalted to Heaven, shall be thrust down to hell.”  Take care my brother of your privileges. If we don’t make our privileges what God intends we should make of them, there is danger of us being brought down to hell. Those four men were in hearty fellowship. Some people, if they can’t do the beginning of a thing, and all of it, they won’t touch it at all. There are two motives that can govern the heart when we try to help people: one is the love of power, it gets people to do great things. Jehosaphat joined affinity with Ahab, a friendship that should never have been. Take care of the friendships you make. Let God order your friendships.

Remember that the time came when Ahab and Jehoshaphat went to battle. Ahab came to Jehosahaphat and said, “What about going to battle to Ramothgilead?"  Jehoshaphat answered, “I am as thou art, and my people as thy people, and we will be with thee in the war.” It was because the love of power was governing. Some of Ahab’s men made horns of iron, and went forth and said to the king, “... with these thou shalt push Syria until they be consumed.”  They were going to no end of trouble to make this thing a success, but what happened? The horns of iron were of no value.

If it is the love of power that is behind our actions it will come to naught. God is the deciding factor. Remember in the case of Esther and Mordecai, how Haman who has a lot of power and who goes to all ends to accomplish the act and who seemed successful to a certain distance, but as in our case so in his.  If we are out for power, God will blow upon it, and it will come to naught.

Then we come to these four men, who, instead of being drunk with the love of power, are drunk with the power of love. If there is one thing I covet more in connection with these meetings it is to have instilled in me this power of love to help people. Are you blessed with few in your church? In a great many churches when numbers are added it is only numbers and not the power of love. Why were there four in this case? Why not three? Why not eight? Just this, it needed just that number to make that case complete. That is why we cannot stand on our own. The day came when it was tested what was working in their hearts.

Your test will come. Jesus appeared and the day of opportunity came and down they went to the house of the man who had the palsy. None of them thought of being the head. They just dropped in anywhere. It would have been bad enough to have had this take place in a country place but this was in Capernaum. If only we could do things quietly, but there is a time when we have to come out and be a bit more conspicuous. It is all necessary.

They had to go down the street with this man. We don’t like to have a finger pointed at us. Have you been willing to be identified with them? It is impossible to get away from the gaze of those you know best. If you had seen those men’s faces you would have seen serious faces. The seriousness becomes all the greater as the day of tests draws nigh. Had one of those men let his corner down, it would have been all up with that case. But they were in fellowship. They had agreed to carry things through at all costs.

Fellowship is a dearly bought thing. Why some don’t value it is because they haven’t paid the price for it. You have put your hand to the work and sometimes when it is arranged to carry things through you let your corner down. The reason why I know those people in the crowds were of no help is that when the man arrived they hadn’t even the common sense to make a way for the men to get through. These things are not done in a corner, they are  happening every day amongst us. It is well for us to know how we stand.

It was a test to those men when the way was blocked.  When the crowd was there to keep them back they sought a way out of it; they sought means whereby they could get out of this trouble. Has the crowd turned you away? You may be sort of glad the crowd was there and you made the effort. The Lord won’t accept service of that kind. When Paul was in prison he wrote of the Brother who sought him out very diligently. The proof that he was in earnest was that he sought means to get in when his brother was in dire need. The difficulties in the way show if we are in earnest or not. We defeat our purpose in the way we go about it. Duty goes about it with head down. Faith looks up and sees the way out of the difficulty.

Those men saw the way out. The proof that it was a motley crowd was in them letting those men go up to the roof, up by a narrow staircase. Bits of trouble test your purpose; faith says it can and will be done. Talk about an open home! I don’t think it was the home of Joseph and Mary, but it was an open home because they were willing to have their home upset to let the palsied man through. There’s no better way of providing and testing whether it is an open home, than if the home is allowed to be upset. Is your home an open home? Is it a home that can be upset to have someone helped? It is a great think to have an open home for God’s work.

They took off the roof and let the man down and slowly but surely their efforts are coming to an end. Their idea was, “If we can get this man to the feet of Jesus, there is hope for him being helped.”  When Jesus saw the faith of the four men He said to the palsied man, “Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”  The finish of it is that the crowd began fault finding but Jesus assured these four men and said to the sick of the palsy, “Arise and take up thy bed and go into thine house.”

When they saw what had taken place they said, “We have seen strange things today.”  Well, it has happened here today too. I hope blessing will come to me today in the same way as it came to this man, that I will have to say, “I have seen strange things today.”  And I hope that blessing will come to you in such a way that you will be caused to say, “I never saw that in that fashion.”  I hope our interest will cause us to be more earnest and that you will be able to say, “We have seen strange things today,” and may it be so for Jesus’ sake.