It amazes me that I can read passages that I’ve read many times before, and still see something new. This chapter is full of familiar stories of healing and confrontation, but in the midst of all that He is saying and doing, I find the heart and character of Jesus.
And my own heart is compelled to run to Him all over again.
Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
His paralysis remained but his sins did not and Jesus called it a ‘take heart’ moment. And in those few moments between the spiritual healing and the physical healing, I wonder what the paralyzed man was thinking. Was he disappointed that Jesus gave him what he couldn’t see, leaving his physical need unmet? Did his heart do what mine does sometimes — put the spiritual healing in a pocket and hold out its hand for more of what it really wants?
And I wonder if, a few minutes later, he was blown away by the profound generosity of a Savior who gave him what he desperately needed and then lavished him with what he desperately wanted. Did it occur to him (or me) that the forgiveness of sins was what he needed the most and deserved the least? Me and that paralyzed man have this in common…
Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?'”
Nothing is hidden. No thought. No action. No intent of my heart. But the lump in my throat is not because He knows. It’s there because He’s always known and it didn’t stop Him. He pursued me anyway. Chose me anyway. He is so very different from you and me. He has known all there is to know of me, and still He calls me beloved.
“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?'”
Of course they asked. They needed to make a point. Holy does not mingle with the unholy. Rules were breaking and they didn’t like it one bit. Most of us know at least one pharisee in our lives. Some of us have to look no further than a mirror.
But it is His answer that captivates me.
“I desire mercy”
For three months I didn’t know if there was cancer anywhere in my body other than my uterus. They saw something in my lung and then in my breast and the waiting about did me in. In that waiting, I found myself with one cry, and I raised it every day. “Lord have mercy.” Given the way I had treated and neglected my body, and my family history, I believed that the only way I was not going to have more cancer was through the mercy of God.
Two days before Christmas mercy fell with the words “your PET scan is clean”.
The fact that Jesus eats with sinners means one thing to a pharisee and something else entirely to a sinner.
I love that He can move mountains, that His voice can shake the earth and that He can tell sickness and disease to get out and they have to obey. His power and authority leave me wide-eyed with wonder and awe.
He is profoundly generous, giving me what I desperately needed the most and deserved the least. And then He lavished me with what I desperately wanted. He fully knows me and my every thought. Every motive of my heart, every desire that is less than pure, every prideful, selfish piece of me. And He loves me still. And though judgment and punishment I have well earned, the desire of His heart is mercy.
This is how He captured my heart.