I had preached on the story of Jesus healing the paralytic before (cf. Matt. 9:2-8, Mk. 2:13-22, Lk. 5:17-26). But this time it struck a different chord. I have been preaching a series through Luke and particularly emphasizing the stories where extreme human need encountered Jesus Christ. The series is called “God in Need,” as in the God who had never known need taking on human need for us.
Anyway, I don’t think I had preached the story of the paralytic since my own struggle with chronic illness. And that struggle has changed the way I experience that story.
I am far from being paralyzed, but I can relate to the intense desire to want Jesus to heal me. I can imagine what it would be like to know that an accredited miracle worker was coming to my town and how a moment with Jesus could change my life forever. No disease was beneath Jesus’ notice. No illness was beyond his power.
Of course, getting to Jesus isn’t very easy for a man who is paralyzed, but his four good friends fought through the crowds and lowered him through a roof right in front of Jesus! Jesus was not annoyed, but instead interpreted their deed as an act of faith. Surely, Jesus would now make this man walk again. Instead he told him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
I know all of us are aware that we are far from perfect. We have sins that need forgiving. I’m sure the paralytic knew that too. But that wasn’t why he came to Jesus. He wanted to walk again. Did he take Jesus’ pronouncement as a refusal to heal him?
We don’t know for sure, because the conversation shifts its focus to the internal thoughts of the Pharisees and Jesus’ surprising remarks (surprising, because Jesus was basically reading their minds!). Jesus does heal the paralytic to prove to the Pharisees (and to others) that he had the authority to forgive sins. The paralytic takes up his bed and goes home praising God! What was he most joyous about? The forgiveness of sins or being able to walk again?
What would I be more excited about? What about you? Our struggle with chronic pain and illness has often left us desperate for God to heal us. We have cried out to God for miraculous intervention, and have not received the answer we were looking for.
So, here’s my question. When Jesus gives you something other than what you have asked, can you trust him enough to know his answer is what you needed more than what you had requested?
The door is still open for Jesus to tell us “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home,” anytime. If he doesn’t do so on this earth, then he will in the world to come. In the meantime, are the words, “Friend, your sins are forgiven,” enough for you?
Your answer to that question illuminates just how much you think your sins really need to be forgiven. Can those words produce even greater joy and praise than “Get up and walk”? May we find in Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness the greatest healing we will ever experience!