Before reading the post, take a quick read through today’s Gospel HERE:
Trying to know the mind of Jesus is a difficult process. Personally, I’ve come to find that I have to battle through so many of my own biases when reading Scripture before I get a glimpse of what is actually happening rather than what I perceive to be happening.
I have come across the story in today’s Gospel reading many times in the past and I had always focused on one thought: Jesus showed up those Pharisees! Specifically, when Jesus forgave the paralytic’s man sins, the following scene:
Then the scribes and Pharisees began to ask themselves, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who but God alone can forgive sins?” Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them in reply, “What are you thinking in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
Luke 5: 21-24
If this was a rap battle, Jesus just dropped the mic and the crowd went wild! I thought about how Jesus perfectly set up the situation to expose the Pharisees by waiting to physically heal the man.
Thankfully, and Praise God, that is not the case. Jesus did not ‘set up’ the Pharisees and He certainly did not leave the physical healing for the end to make a statement. But to understand this we have to look at things from the perspective of the man, who in this story, could not even move until the very end: the paralytic.
I hadn’t given much thought to the paralytic mainly because of the fact that he couldn’t do much of anything until Jesus healed him. I often heard messages about this passage on either the faith of his friends who brought him to Jesus or on how Jesus reaffirms His existence as both God and man.
However, let’s, for a moment, imagine the story through this paralyzed man’s eyes. We aren’t told of whether he was born a paralytic or whether he was victim to misfortune but we can guess that he had to live life as a paralytic for some time. This was at a time in which medicine could not make life easier for paralysis. They could not contribute to their families or society and, in most cases, had to beg on the streets for food or money – a very difficult life.
Yet this man had some GREAT friends! They tore open a roof and put this man in a situation where He could be healed by someone they (probably) barely knew. It may not too far off to think that he felt grateful to his friends. They didn’t give up when they saw that the house was full – they loved their friend too much to give up. He must have been moved to tears as they lowered him down into the house and witnessed their faith in action.
And here is where I find the most interesting part of the story as the paralytic man is let down through the roof and is now face to face with Jesus. He may have felt hope for the first time and thought “This is the man about whom EVERYONE is talking about. He’s healed so many from their diseases. Could this be the day that I’m healed as well?” Let’s pause here to let our imagination sink into this expectation – the paralytic man wanted to be physically healed. Because what Jesus says next confused me:
When he saw their faith, he said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 5: 20
“My sins are forgiven? That’s not what I’m here for. That’s not why my best buds ripped open a roof. I want to be healed!” This is what I imagined may have been going through the paralyzed man’s mind – or maybe he was too stunned to think of anything. Jesus must have known the state of the man’s physical condition so why did He bring up forgiving sins?
At this point my thoughts go back to ‘setting up’ the Pharisees. But then again, Jesus is God. There isn’t an instance in the Bible where Jesus creates a situation to validate Himself. It was always so that glory would be given to God. There are times when Jesus refuses to give the people a sign, when asked to prove Himself, because He knew that miracles and signs are no substitute for genuine faith.
This leads me to conclude that Jesus’ forgiving the paralytic’s sins were deliberately said first for the glory of God. The key here is that Jesus was emphasizing that healing the man’s spiritual health was MORE IMPORTANT than healing his physical health.
The most important thing to Jesus was that paralyzed man’s spiritual state. It was not even the murmuring of the Pharisees that bothered Him. It seems that Jesus reply to the Pharisees resembled a sigh. “Why don’t you fellas get it by now? What more will it take to sink into your heads that I am the Son of God?” As if to give those hardened hearts another chance to believe, He then asks,
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–he said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
Luke 5: 21-24
Getting what we NEED
As I reflect on my own life with the perspective of the paralytic man, I’m reminded of the times I’ve questioned God’s answers to my prayers when I am suffering. I hope for something very specific, usually tangible, and as if God did not even hear my request, He gives me something, seemingly, unrelated to what I wanted. In fact, when I do receive whatever God is giving, I seldom realize that the blessing He gives was actually related to my prayer at all! It is only after the dust has settled and the pain has past that I realize how God answered my prayer with what I needed.
The Mind of God
To know God is to know happiness. This story of the paralytic man has reaffirmed about where God’s priorities lie – the human spirit or soul. Jesus was more concerned about the man’s spiritual well-being than his physical infirmities. It signals to us, as His disciples, about where our priorities should lie as well. This is not to dismiss our physical needs of ourselves or others. The physical needs will cease upon our deaths. It is in caring for the soul that we see eternal impact.
Let us, who are no longer paralyzed, choose to be faithful in our witness to bring others to Jesus. Those who have been emotionally and spiritually maimed, beat up and are hurting. We, who have laid there helpless, being brought to God by the actions and prayers of our parents, grandparents, friends and family, and who are now whole. We can now be the friends who ‘tear open the roofs’ and bring them to the One who knows what we truly need. So that when they are healed we can all join with the, once-paralyzed, man:
He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God.
Luke 5: 25