FROM THE city of Capernaum Jesus went forth and visited all the villages on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee and on the mountains near by. He took with him his disciples or followers, that they might see his works and listen to his words. Great crowds of people came to hear him during this journey; and everywhere he cured all kinds of sickness and cast out of men evil spirits that were ruling them.
At one place a man came to Jesus who was covered with a dreadful disease called leprosy and was called “a leper.” No one ever touched a leper or even came near him, for they feared that a touch might cause the disease. A leper was driven out of the home, to live, with other lepers in a camp outside the city. When he saw anyone coming near, he must stand at a distance, must cover his mouth with his garment, not to let his breath reach anybody, and must call out, “Unclean! Unclean!” so that no one might take his disease. Many lepers were in the land when Jesus was preaching; and lepers may still be seen in that country..
This leper who saw Jesus came as near to him as he. dared. He knelt down before Jesus, touching his head to the ground, and called out to him :
“Oh, sir, if you choose to do it, you can take away my leprosy, and make my flesh pure and clean.”
Jesus was not afraid to touch the leper. He went to him and placed his hand upon him. Then he said: “I do choose; be clean!”
And at once all this man’s leprosy passed way. His skin lost its waxen, deadly whiteness, his eyes were bright, his deformed hands became perfect and his voice was no longer hollow and cracked. He was no more a leper, but was a man in perfect health.
Jesus said to him, “Do not tell anyone of your cure; but go to the priest in the temple, let him see that you are clean, and make the offering of thanksgiving to God. Let the priest give you a writing to show that you are well, and then go to your own home.”
Jesus knew that if this man should tell very many of his cure, there would come such a crowd of people having diseases of all kinds, seeking to be made well, that he could have no time nor chance to preach the gospel, and his great purpose was, not to cure diseases, but to teach men the way to God. It is better to be saved from sin than to be cured of sickness.
But this man was so happy at being made well that he could not be still. Everywhere he went he told people of his wonderful cure, and roused such a desire among the people to see Jesus that Jesus could not go to the cities, for so great were the crowds that he could no longer preach. Everybody was eager to be cured of some illness or to see Jesus cure others. Jesus was driven to seek the open country, where few people lived, and even there the crowds sought him, coming from many places.
After some time, Jesus came again to Capernaum, which was now his home. As soon as the people heard of his return, they gathered in great crowds to see him, to hear him and to be cured of their diseases. He stood on the porch of a house, where every room was full of people, and a company was in front of him, crowding the court of the house to its utmost corner. In this throng were some who were ready to believe in Jesus; but there were also some men who had come from Judea to see who Jesus was, what he was teaching and what he was doing. These men did not believe in Jesus, but were there to find some fault with him. They belonged to a class called “the Pharisees,” who claimed to be better than others, because they carefully kept all the rules of the Jewish law; but in their hearts they were far from good, and they were bitterly` opposed to Jesus.
While Jesus was speaking, four men came, carrying on a bed a man who was sick with the palsy, a disease which makes one helpless, unable to use his hands, to walk or to stand alone. They were very eager to bring this man to Jesus to be cured, but on account of the crowd they could not come into the house or even into the yard in front of it. They were bound, however, in some way to get this palsied man to Jesus. They climbed up to the roof of the house and pulled the sick man up. Then they broke open the roof, never minding the dust and litter that fell upon the heads of the people below. When they had made an opening large enough, they let the man down, wrapped in a blanket and lying upon a mattress, right in front of Jesus. All this showed their faith in Jesus. They believed that he could cure the palsied man, and were ready to take any trouble to bring him before the Saviour.
Jesus looked at the man, and said to him:
“My son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!”
Some of these Pharisees, the enemies of Jesus, were sitting near, and as they heard these words they thought in their own minds, though they did not speak it aloud :
`What wicked words are these! This man speaks as though he were God! No man has the right to for-give sins; that belongs to God alone. What wickedness, for this man to pretend to have God’s power!”
Jesus knew their thoughts, for he could look into their hearts. He said to them :
“Why do you think wicked things in your hearts? Which Is the easier to say, `Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, `Rise up and walk’? But I will show you that while I am on earth as the Son of Man, God has given me the power to take away sin.”
Then he turned to the palsied man lying on the couch, and said with a voice of power;
“I tell you, rise up, take up your bed, and go to your house!”
In an instant a new life came to the palsied man. He stood upon his feet in full strength, rolled up his blanket, took up the mattress upon which he had been lying, placed it upon his shoulder and walked out through the crowd, which opened to make a way for him. Through the streets the man went to his home, praising God for his cure.
By this act of healing Jesus had shown that he was the Son of God, with the right to forgive the sins of men. These Pharisees, the enemies of Jesus, could find nothing to say, but in their hearts they hated him more than before, for they saw that the people believed on Jesus. Wonder filled the minds of those who saw this cure; they praised the God of Israel and said to each other, “We have seen strange things today!”