READ: Mt. 9:2-8; Mk. 2:1-12; Lk. 5:17-26
What a scene in these passages. Jesus is teaching in a Capernaum home. The crowd is thick, pressing in, listening, attentive. There are those listening with a heart to find error and condemn. There are those listening who drink in Jesus’ teaching as if dying from thirst. And in the middle of this, a noise from above, then debris falling around Jesus and finally, as if delivered by God himself, a paralyzed man is lowered from the ceiling to a place right in front of Jesus. Cirque de Soleil visiting Capernaum! I can’t help but imagine one of my husband Steve’s sermons interrupted by something like this! It would be astounding!
Jesus takes it in stride and addresses the matter of first importance saying, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” I imagine a gasp from the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They are immediately asking themselves who does this man think he is? What blasphemy! And then Jesus asks the question that each of the gospel stories includes “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?” What a question. On one hand, I think – well, yes. Yes it IS easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ because no one could actually prove whether or not the sins were forgiven. This side of eternity there isn’t an obvious test for that. But when someone says ‘Stand up and walk’ to a paralytic, the test, the proof of this is immediate. Either that persons stands and walks or they don’t. But in reality, I think it is far, far harder to forgive sins and have them actually washed away than it will ever be to heal. Only God can forgive and blot out sin. At times He grants the power to heal to a physician or even to the course of time. But sins; sins can only be forgiven by God. Honestly, in the case of this paralytic, perhaps everything medically possible had been tried to no avail. Perhaps his healing could come only from God. In which case, there is no easier thing – forgiveness or healing, both could come only from the hand of God. Whatever answer the Pharisees and teachers of the law might have considered, Jesus gives the real answer – the proof of his power as he brings immediate and complete healing to this man he calls friend.
There is another gift in this passage for me. In Luke 5:20 scripture says “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” This man was much loved. I wonder if his paralysis was a later in life loss? If at one point in time he had worked and played with these friends and they loved him. I wonder if they had turned over every stone trying to find healing for their friend? Whether a late in life loss or a from birth situation, these friends were incredibly determined to bring this man to Jesus. When Jesus calls the paralytic ‘Friend’ it brings tears for me. Jesus was entering into this community of caring. He was one of this band of friends, loving this man, and longing for healing for him. He became the fifth man – the other one to carry the paralytic’s mat. And in doing this he brought a complete healing, body and soul.
I love the way Jesus is stirred by the faith of these friends. I want to be a friend like that.
Lord, Your willingness to enter our lives is an amazing blessing. Thank you that persistent, determined faith blesses you. Thank you that our love for one another draws your favor. Lord, create in us hearts for one another that takes our love and brings it in community to you! Lord, give me a heart that causes you to see my faith as part of a ‘their’ faith community.