Greg Laurie — Dead Man Walking
I wonder if you have ever been in a situation that seems hopeless and you feel helpless. Where you feel as though you have hit bottom and there is no way out. Maybe you had certain goals you had set in life and you felt once you reached those goals you knew you would be happy. You knew you would be fulfilled. For many it is the goal of financial success.
I read an interesting article in the paper this week about a young woman named Autumn Radtke. She was a rising star in the virtual currency world, having worked with people like Richard Branson. She was also groomed at Apple and other Silicon Valley tech firms. She just died and it appears to have been a suicide. Her death, according to this article, is one of eight suspected financial sector suicides in 2014 alone. That included a 33 year old J. P. Morgan finance pro who jumped off the J. P. Morgan building in Hong Kong on February 18 of this year. A vice-president with J. P. Morgan's corporate and investment bank technology branch jumped off the bank's canary wharf tower in London July 28 of this year.
What is going on? Here are these young men and women clearly successful in their field who are so despondent. It reminded me of an article I read back in 2009 about a German billionaire. Apparently there was some financial stress. He felt a sense of hopelessness and he killed himself. He was worth $9.2 billion dollars. Wait. Even if he lost half of his fortune he still has like $4.5 billion left. What if he was only left with $1 billion? Do you think you could make it on that? It is insane to me. It is so sad. Actually last month autumn linked to an article on her Facebook page about entrepreneurs suffering depression. She added this comment. "Everything has its price".
Indeed. Everything has its price. Jesus said, "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul". I wish I could have shared the Gospel with every one of these people because they were so despondent. I bring that up because here in Luke 5 are two stories of two people in two separate and desperate situations. One is identified as a leper. That was an incurable disease. His disease was in the advanced stages. As we will read in a moment, "He was full of leprosy". In other words, he had this dreaded disease in the most extreme case at this particular point in his life. But Jesus was in town, and this man believed Jesus could and just might heal him. The other person in our story was paralyzed. He was unable to walk. But he had four very persistent friends who would not take no for an answer. They brought him before Jesus.
We have two different people from different situations but their need was the same. They needed Jesus. And when they came to him, their needs were met. I don't know what your state is right now. Most of you are here today because you want to worship God and you want to study the Word of God. Right. I know that there are some that have come for a different reason. Maybe they were brought by one of you to hear this message. Maybe this is their last shot at finding some truth or answers in their lives. I want you to know what happened to these two men that we are going to read about can happen to you.
There is a place I go to get coffee at every now and then with my family. While I am waiting for my coffee to come right next to it there is a little sunglass store. I would walk in there and look around at the sunglasses. I struck up a conversation with a girl that worked there. I started to share the Gospel with her. Every time I went to get coffee I would talk to her a little bit more. I gave her one of my books. Then one day I noticed that she wasn't there anymore. I didn't know where she had gone to.
Just last week I was having coffee with Levi Lusko who was in town speaking for us. This girl comes walking up. I said, "Hey how are you? I haven't seen you for a long time. Do you still work in that store"? She said, "I don't work there anymore". She was smiling really big. She says, "But guess what happened to me"? I said, "What"? She said, "I became a Christian". I said, "Well tell me how that happened". She said, "I just looked at you and your family and how happy you were. I looked at these other Christians around here. They were all so happy". I thought, "Why do they get to be happy and I am not happy? I want that too". She committed her life to Christ. This is so amazing to me how God gets through to people.
Here now is this man that touches Jesus. He gives us an example of how to touch Christ and be touched by him. 1. This man with leprosy had a realistic awareness of his condition. He had an honest awareness of his condition. He says in verse 12. "Lord, if you are willing, make me clean". He is saying, "Lord we both know what my problem is. We both know I have leprosy we both know I have no hope apart from you". I love this statement. "Lord if you are willing you can make me clean". This poor man acknowledged his condition. Then he asked the Lord, "Only if you are willing". Isn't that amazing? No sense of expectation. No sense of entitlement. "I know you can do it. That is not the issue Lord. I am just wondering if it is in your will. Would you do it for me"? That is the way to pray. Always add that in your prayer.
Even Jesus when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane anguishing over the impending death he would face at the cross prayed and said, "Father if it is possible let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will but as you will". Lord I really don't want to do this, but I will do it. Your will be done. Jesus even taught us to pray that in the Lord's prayer which is effectively a template for all prayer. "Our Father" he tells us to pray "Who art in haven. Hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven". Then we get to the petition section. "Give us this day our daily bread". Notice before I get to the part where I ask God for things, I say, "Lord I want your will".
Sometimes God will just answer your prayers after you pray it. "Lord will you hear me". The Lord will say, "Yes I will". "Lord would you provide for me"? "Yes I will". "Lord would you get me out of this situation"? "Yes I will". Then are other times when you say, "Lord will you heal me"? "Just not now. I have a work I want to do. I have some changes I want to bring in your life". "Lord will you change my circumstances". "No. I won't. I love you too much. I have a work I am doing through these circumstances". God has his purposes in everything he does. He says, "Lord if you are willing, make me clean". I love that. You bring your prayer requests before the Lord.
2. Jesus will touch those who come reverently and in desperation to him. Look at verse 12. This man was full of leprosy. He saw Jesus and he fell on his face. By the way, that is a good place to be when God is near. On your face. When God came to Abraham, he fell on his face. When Ezekiel saw heavenly visions, again he fell on on his face. When the elders in heaven saw the throne of God, they too fell on their faces. Let me ask you a question? Have you ever fallen on your face before God? I mean I am talking literally now. You are just down on the ground face to the ground in complete desperation. Have you ever gone that low? I have. I will tell you the very day. It was July 24, 2008 when I heard the news that my son had died. My house immediately filled with well-wishers. They all had things to say. Some were helpful. Some were not as helpful. I just thought to myself, "I need God right now. If God doesn't come through for me, I don't know how I can get through this at all". I fell on my face before God. I just said, "God help me". He came through for me. He comes through for me. He will come through for you as well.
In Matthew's Gospel it says the leper knelt before him. I don't know if he started on his face and then got up into a kneeling position or he started in a kneeling position and went down to his face. It is the same idea that is being communicated. The basic meaning of the word knelt here was to kiss as in kissing the ground as one lay prostrate. This is a reverence for Jesus. You are so holy. You are God. Help me. I think sometimes people are a little too flippant when they come to God. A little too casual. Yes he is our friend. Yes he is our Father who loves us. This is God. Don't forget that. That is why we read in scripture, "When you approach God's throne, let your words be few". God is in heaven and you are on earth. Don't say so much. Especially in an irreverent way. This man was reverent and he cried out to Jesus.
3. His faith was active. He had active faith. Look at verse 12. "He fell on his face and implored him saying, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.'" In Mark's Gospel the parallel passage the same story told from Mark's perspective says that he repeated this a number of times. "Lord if you are willing, you can make me clean". Over and over again. Was that necessary? It sure impressed Jesus.
There is a time when we just don't back down in our prayers. Jesus said, "Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and the door shall be opened". In the Greek that could be translated, "Keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking". This guy was going to press forward. If the Lord had said, "I am not willing" that would have been the end of the matter. But until Jesus said that, he was going to go for it. This was a remarkable display of faith that moved Jesus. According to Mark's record of the same incident Jesus at this point was filled with compassion. He was moved. He reached out and touched this man.
By the way, when it says in verse 13, "He put out his hand and touched him" it doesn't mean he touched him like ooh. It was like hand on head touch. That guy probably hadn't felt human touch for a long time. I don't know how long he had leprosy. He may once have been a husband that knew the touch of his wife. Certainly the son who knew the touch of his mother at one time. The father that maybe knew the touch of his children. He had not known a single human touch for years. Jesus touched him and moved him. Immediately now the healing power of God goes over his body. The right color comes back into his skin. The fingers and the toes grow back. The sensation returns. Amazing.
Now in the same chapter we come to another story of a man in a desperate situation. He had lost the use of his legs. He could not move around without the help of others. He, like the other man, heard Jesus was in town and wanted to see him. There was a problem. The crowds were huge. He couldn't get in. Fortunately for this guy he had four very persistent friends. Let's look at Luke 5:17. "Now it happened on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them. Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before him. And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said to him, 'man, your are forgiven you.' And the scribes and the pharisees began to reason, saying, 'who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?' But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered and said to them, 'why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'your sins are forgiven you, or to say, rise up and walk. But that you may know that the Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins' he said to the man who was paralyzed, 'I say to you, take up your bed, and go to your house.' Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God. And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and filled with fear, saying, 'we have seen things today!'
I love that verse. We have seen strange things today. This was a big deal. Jesus was in town. It is hard for us to envision this. For the sake of a point let's just say that Jesus was walking among us physically right now but he was very busy. He was only in one place at one time. I was able to announce, folks next Sunday our special guest speaker will be wait for it. Jesus Christ. Would you be excited? Do you think there would be any empty seats? There would be people everywhere. There would be people on the floor. There would be people in the balcony. In overflow. Everyone would be tuning into the webcast. Everyone would want to get a glimpse of him. That is what it was like.
Jesus walks into town. His name is on everyone's lips. They all cram into this home. Every square inch of space is taken. These guys have their buddy on the cot. Each one has an end of it. They come walking in. They can't get in the door. These guys will not take no for an answer. I appreciate the fact that he had friends who loved him. Do you have friends like that? A lot of us can't count really that many people we can call true friends. If you could fill both hands with your true friends, you have a lot of friends. Some might say I think on one hand I could count how many real friends I have. I know this much. This guy had four solid friends who took an interest in him. These guys come. The door is closed. What do they do? We will go in through the roof. I love this. Maybe that is what you need to do. You can't get through the door. Have you tried the roof? Verse 19. "They went up to the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus".
Understand these guys are going to be original. They are not going to be conventional. They tried the door. It is not working. They are daring in their faith. Back in these days the roof of a house would be be flat. It wasn't pitched like many of our roofs are. The family would even spend time up on the roof. When it was hot they might sleep out under the open stars. In most homes there would be an outside staircase going up to the roof. These guys have their buddy on the cot. They all have an end. They climb up the stairs. They get up to the roof. It wasn't solid like our roofs are today. It was beams spaced apart with straw and pitch laid in there. They are taking things off.
Meanwhile here is Jesus. He is teaching. All of a sudden a big dirt clod bounces off of someone's head. The guy is looking around. A couple of minutes go by. All of a sudden straw comes floating down. Then there is a shaft of light. Everyone looks up. The hole is getting bigger. The guy's faces are poking through. They are pushing it further apart. It is larger. Now everyone is just looking up including Jesus. They are all watching. What is going on up there? Now the hole is large enough. The guys get the man on the cot and start lowering him down. Pull up the slack. Don't drop him. They are lowering him down. The guy is just lying there. Now it is swinging a little bit. He is in front of Jesus. He is just lying there. He looks at Jesus like hi. This wasn't totally my idea. Am I in trouble? How did Jesus react? He loved it. Look at verse 20. "When he saw their faith he said, 'man your sins are forgiven you.'"
Sometimes we get hung up on methodology and tradition. This is the only way you can do it. This is the only kind of music we can use in worship. This is the only way you can do this other thing. I remember when AL Gore invented the internet. He said he did. When the internet was first coming into being a part of our culture. Now so many of you have been raised with it you have not known a world without it. There was a day when we did not have internet. As it was first coming out, we began to see the potential of it. I will tell you here is when I first knew that God could use preaching over the internet. There was a missionary somewhere in Africa who had set up a computer taking the live webcast we were sending out. This the early 90s by the way. He was taking a live webcast with a funky little modem, set it up with a group of people sitting around it and he told me how so many of them came to Christ. I thought, "We have got to go with this".
Now as the speed of the internet has improved and more people have devices that they can access this information on, it is far more functional to reach a lot of people. That is exactly what we have been doing. I actually had people say, "That won't work. That technology won't work. God won't reach people through that". Yes he will because his word will not return void. When we started our satellite churches, "I am against satellite churches. I don't go to church to watch a TV". Really? Brilliant.
How many of you are looking at the screen right now? Yeah. Hello. I am here. Greg is not here today. We have to watch a screen. You never even look at me anyway. We might as well put a mannequin up here. It just moves around or something. It is not where I am. It is where God is. It is not me. It is his word and it will not return void no matter how you send it out. Here is a question I have for you. Is the door of your heart closed to Jesus right now? Jesus says, "Behold I stand at the door and I knock. If you will hear my voice and open the door, I will come in". Jesus wants to come into your life right now. Think of it as someone standing on your porch knocking at your door. There he is. Jesus. Are you going to leave him standing out there? Are you going to open the door? It is your choice.