At the October 2016 General Conference,
Elder J. Devn Cornish
General Authority Seventy
Elder Cornish in his opening remarks said:
“Isn’t it wonderful how many ways our loving Heavenly Father guides and blesses us?He really wants us to come home.” (Elder J. Devn Cornish; Am I Good Enough? Will I Make It? , LDS General Conference, October 2016)
There is a wonderful illustration of this in the second chapter of the Gospel of Mark.
1) And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
2) And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
3) And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
4) And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5) When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. (St. Mark 2:1-5, KJV)
What a strange thing to say!
Lets consider this scene for a moment. Jesus returns from his ministry tour of the Galilee. And word has spread through Capernaum that He is home, in fact, the exact text is “in the house,” so He is once again in the home of Peter wife’s family. This is where Jesus stayed when in Capernaum.
Jesus is the talk of the town that day because he was now known as a great teacher and healer. All the town folk all want to see Jesus speak and maybe perform a miracle or two.
With the house jammed packed and overflowing with people into the street, Jesus is doing what Jesus does, talking and teaching to the people. Then something extraordinary happens. A small group of men carries a man who is sick with palsy to the gathering. He is carried by his friends, through the streets of Capernaum, but to their dismay, the small group sees they can’t get close to Jesus. Stop for a moment and think about the four friends, what do you think they had in mind when the decided to take their sick friend to see Jesus? They know Jesus is a healer. They want their friend to walk again; they are looking for a cure, a miracle
However this small group of men is late to the party, it is not easy trying to carry a grown man through town on a mat. The men don’t stop because of the pressing crowds around Jesus; they simply take another route.
Homes in this area have flat roofs; they did back at the time of Jesus, and they do today. These root tops get used as a porch; people sit and relax on the roof top in the cool of the evening. There are stairs on the outside of the home giving access to roof top.
Remember, there is a meeting going on in the house; people are there to hear and see Jesus.
Think of yourself as part of the crowd, trying to get a view of Jesus, straining to hear His words and then there is a commotion on the roof. Men begin digging through the clay and branches that are supported on wooden beams. Maybe, at first, a little dirt falls below, and then a bit more. The commotion grows and grows until there is daylight pouring into the room.
Now the crowd is not focused on Jesus, but on the commotion. Slowly, the man, sick of the palsy, is lowered to a placed just in front of the Savior. They see each other eye-to-eye, and face-to-face. Then in a sweet and tender voice, Jesus says: “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Why? What does the Lord know that we as readers do not know? Elder Cornish gives us a clue.
Lets think about our friend with the palsy. Anyone can get palsy at any time; maybe his friends were fellow fishermen, their palsy friend may be suffering from an old fishing injury. I have a friend at work that tripped and fell on the stairs because of a toy left on the staircase by one of his children. When he fell, he landed on his son that now has palsy as a result and needs to wear a brace.
What can a man with palsy do while confined to his bed?
Any time he had to move from one place to another, it would be difficult; routine health and hygiene activities would require assistance. And dressing and going out, as we have seen, takes a monumental effort.
What does a man sick in bed lying on his back think about all day?
For whatever reasons our friend with the palsy fixates on his sins; he feels hopeless; unable to repent. How can he make restitution for his past? He might think he is not as good as others, and can’t compete
What about you and me? Each one of us has troubling and difficult times. All of us endure trials. Have you felt like this? Are there times you feel hopeless? At times we may feel like we have “Spiritual Palsy.”
Elder Cornish gave this wonderful advice:
“Please, my beloved brothers and sisters, we must stop comparing ourselves to others. We torture ourselves needlessly by competing and comparing. We falsely judge our self-worth by the things we do or don’t have and by the opinions of others.” (Cornish, Ibid)
Remember the words of the Savior? “thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Those words are similar to when Elder Cornish said:
“Let me be direct and clear. The answers to the questions Am I good enough? and Will I make it?” are Yes! You are going to be good enough and Yes, you are going to make it as long as you keep repenting and do not rationalize or rebel.” (Cornish, Ibid)
When the Lord looked into the face of the one sick of the palsy, and He knew everything about him. He is looking at his heart. He did not only see his outward appearance; He saw into his soul. And Jesus knew the sick mans troubled mind.
The Gospel of Mark Continues:
6) But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7) Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8) And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9) Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10) But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.
12) And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion. (St. Mark 2:6-12, KJV)
Jesus was, and is, a healer!
When two blind men cried out saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us, He healed them. When a man told Jesus his daughter was at the point of death, He healed her. And the man, with a palsy that was unable to walk and was unable ask Jesus what he needed; he is forgiven of his sins and healed from his palsy. By forgiving his sins, the Savior gave the man hope for Salvation.
Elder Cornish’s words rang true to me when he said:
“The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game. He is our perfectly loving Father, who yearns more than anything else to have all of His children come back home and live with Him as families forever.” (Cornish, Ibid)
We all have times of Trial, Doubt, and Discouragement
God does not punish us with an illness. However, illness are used as metaphors and teaching moments in the Bible. Think of leprosy, blindness or Women who can’t bear children. Remember the dramatic event of Lazarus; how he returned to life by a call from the Lord. Our Trials are teaching moments as well!
Twice I have been very sick. At 39 I had a stage III colon cancer. At 49 I had Pancreatitis that put me in the hospital for 100 days. These are not the worst trails in my mind, but they were significant. But that is mortality; we take the good and the bad and the happy with the sad.
When I had cancer, I had to reconcile my testimony with reality. After surgery and chemotherapy my cancer returned, I had a 8% survival rate; I had to come to terms with what will happen with my final step in this life. Would I step into Oblivion? Or would I step into Eternity?
Ten years later when I spent 100 days in the hospital, the question that weighed on my mind was ”Am I good enough?” I was able to settle my mind on both questions. We have the eternities awaiting our return, and we can make it back to our loving Father in Heaven’s presence. You and I will be good enough. I learned more about the Atonement during those two trials than I can articulate. The Saviors Mercy humbles me.
Leprosy was taken very seriously in the Old Testament. It was often a death sentence for several reasons. Jehovah, in the Law, not only made it part of the health code but used leprosy as a metaphor for sin and uncleanness. Imagine if cancer was an infectious disease, how would that change how you interacted with anyone who has cancer?
What if you were an Israelite, with leprosy, what would your life be like? First, the priest would remove you from the community, you would have no chance to say goodbye to friends or family, you would need to leave right then and there. You must
dress in rags that covered your skin. Your hair would be unkempt and covered; so as to not spread the disease by grooming or when your hair fell out. You need to cover your mouth with a cloth. You need to wear a bell, so people hear you coming from a distance. If anyone approached, you must shout, unclean, unclean, as a warning. Your family could bring food or supplies, but they had leave supplies on the ground and keep a 100-yard distance before you could retrieve them. No human contact, of any kind, even with loved ones. It would be a very difficult life.
When a leper left the community, the people mourned for leper as if they died; clothes are rent; morning the loss begins. Sorrow replaces love and family ties are broken; there is a clear separation. Anyone who touches a leper is unclean and must be purified. These laws would protect the community at large and most importantly, your family and loved ones.
After the Sermon on the Mount; in the Gospel of Matthew, we read:
1) When he was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him.
2) And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. (St. Matthew 8:1-2, KJV)
Mark and Luke tell us he knelt in front of the Savior and fell on his face.
Wow…. The leper broke every rule in the book trying to get to Jesus. This spectacle happened in front of the great multitudes. As Jesus is coming off the mount, the leper, obviously in disguise, runs, bumps, jostles to the front of the crowd to be exactly in front of the Savior. The leper pulls down his disguise and uncovers himself to show Jesus the Leprosy. The crowd must be standing there is stunned silence. They must be thinking, Oh no! Did the leper touch me, am I unclean? Where was he standing? Where was I standing? It must have been shocking.
What did the leper say and what does the Savior do?
2) And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.
3) And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.
4) And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. (St. Matthew 8:2-4, KJV)
The leprous skin now looks like the skin of a newborn child, an obvious cure. That was faith in action; the Lord demonstrated to everyone that He is the “Great Healer.” I want you to stop and think right here about what the Savior did, He touched the man and then healed him. The Lord did the one think that would shock the crowd, but would soothe the soul of the leper. The touch of another human, the one thing he would have missed for years and then to be touched by the Savior and be healed. At this point, the leper is sent to the Priest to make an offering for his cleansing.
Remember Leprosy is a “metaphor for sin” and being “unclean.”
Elder Cornish advised:
“All we have to do to receive this heavenly help is to ask for it and then to act on the righteous promptings we receive. The Lords grace is an enabling power for the leper and our sins.” (Cornish, Ibid)
What is the cleansing offering? We read about that offering in Leviticus Chapter 14:
1) And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying,
2) This shall be the law of the leper in the day of his cleansing: He shall be brought unto the priest:
3) And the priest shall go forth out of the camp; and the priest shall look, and, behold, if the plague of leprosy be healed in the leper;
4) Then shall the priest command to take for him that is to be cleansed two birds alive and clean, and cedar wood, and scarlet, and hyssop:
5) And the priest shall command that one of the birds be killed in an earthen vessel over running water:
6) As for the living bird, he shall take it, and the cedar wood, and the scarlet, and the hyssop, and shall dip them and the living bird in the blood of the bird that was killed over the running water:
7) And he shall sprinkle upon him that is to be cleansed from the leprosy seven times, and shall pronounce him clean, and shall let the living bird loose into the open field. (Leviticus 14:1-7,KJV)
Because God uses leprosy as a metaphor for Sin; let’s review the symbolism for the Lepers cleansing offering.
The elements of the offering are as follows:
1) “two birds alive and clean.”
2) “cedar wood,” This wood is reddish in color
3) “scarlet” yarn, Also Reddish in color
4) “hyssop,” A spice that grew in the Land, the scriptures tell us hyssop grew out of walls.
5) “earthen vessel,” Made from the dust of the earth
6) “running water,” Or Living water
Is the symbolism becoming clear?
1) There is a sacrifice of one live bird.
2) Blood and water mix inside an earthen vessel.
3) The Priest dips the other bird, the cedar, and hyssop in the blood and water mixture.
4) The Priest sprinkles the cleansed leper seven times with the blood.
5) And the former leper is pronounced clean before the community
6) And one of the live birds literally gives its life so the other bird can go free.
The cleansing offering is a metaphor; that points to the Atonement and the Savior:
1) The Scarlet yard and red cedar wood represents the blood of Christ
2) The cedar wood is a foreshadowing of the crucifixion.
3) The sacrificed bird gave its blood for the other bird’s freedom
4) The earthen vessel and mortal bodies come from the dust of the earth
5) Blood and water fill the earthen vessel like they do a mortal body
6) Jesus offered his body and blood as a sacrifice and water gushed from his side
Jesus died that we might be free.
We are free because of the Atonement. There are three important take-a-ways from Elder Cornish’s General Conference talk:
1) “Really be trying.”
2) “Don’t rationalize sin”, or in other words, don’t “plan on sinning and repenting later.
3) Don’t be in open rebellion towards God; that will keep us from God’s presence
Elder Cornish said:
“Of course, there is no such thing as “being good enough.” None of us could ever “earn” or “deserve” our salvation.” (Cornish, Ibid)
Elder Cornish also quoted Elder Holland who said:
I testify that you have not traveled beyond the reach of divine love. It is not possible for you to sink lower than the infinite light of Christs Atonement shines. (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, The Laborers in the Vineyard, LDS General Conference, April 2012)
Lets go back to the man with the palsy:
The Man with the palsy received two miracles from the Savior, he was made free from his sins and his palsy left him.
Which one of those miracles truly made him free?