Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man

Synoptic Accounts of Jesus forgiving and healing a paralyzed man:

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One Reply to “Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man”

  1. As a child in Sunday School I remember the story of the paralyzed man being carried by his friends to Jesus. They couldn’t get close to him, so they broke open the roof and lowered him down for Jesus to heal him. The story honors the friends and their faith as much as the man who was paralyzed. I didn’t really know what it meant to be paralyzed, but I did know a few people in wheelchairs at the time, so I got the idea that it would be a great miracle to be able to walk again…not too hard to understand. What is more difficult to get is Jesus first words to the man as a result of his faith:

    “Take heart, son (friend); your sins are forgiven.”

    Have you come to that place in life where you understand that you need to be forgiven? If not, this passage simply won’t make since. The more I learn about Christ, about God, the Holy Spirit, the Triune nature of God, the more I know that I have much to be forgiven for.

    Understanding my need for forgiveness is key, but that doesn’t give me a right to promote myself to judge. Rather, my role is to work to improve myself while accepting that Jesus died for my sins, for my transgressions, for my sake and he died for you as well. Jesus died once for all. That may be difficult to understand, but that is the key.

    “Get up, take your mat and go home.”

    I believe the separation of the two statements is quite intentional. The man’s sins were not the reason he was paralyzed, but Jesus knew he had desperately wanted two things: forgiveness and the ability to walk, in that order. As a child it was easy to act the part of the man on the mat that gets up an prances about the room. I couldn’t walk, now I can run! The scene is something that children can relate to, so it’s a powerful story from that perspective. I like to think that many who begin to seek Christ are like children, they want to see something sensational, some tangible act to convince them that Jesus is real, that Christ followers are legitimate. While I’m not advocating treating everyone like a child, I am hoping I can have the patience of a father that is teaching his child to walk or ride a bike when I’m conversing with someone who is asking tough questions about my reason for hope and faith in Jesus Christ. Using this story helps with that conversation.

    Reflecting on Jesus’ first words provides greater liberty than the mobility we gain by physical healing. Not surprisingly, the Pharisees that heard Jesus’ words were outraged by his assertion that his sins were forgiven. How could a man say such things? Two thoughts come to mind immediately: 1) there were Pharisees in the house and 2) Jesus knew what they (and probably lots of others) were thinking.

    1. Pharisees were at the house. To be clear, Matthew and Mark both say, “some of the teachers of the law” while Luke adds, “The Pharisees and the teachers of the law…” to clarify, in fact, Luke begins telling this story by stating, “One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there” (Luke 5:17). I read over this insight the first few times, but as I reflect on the story, the significance is beginning to sink in and questions arise: Were the there to learn? Were they there to gather evidence against Jesus? Why were they following Jesus around? Putting myself in their place, I would think they were they there to learn about Jesus, but found themselves trapped. Perhaps they wanted to see for themselves if this was the Messiah (I hope a few of them got it!). If questioned, they could tell their colleagues they were just spying on Jesus to gain evidence. At least they were there.
    2. Jesus knew what they were thinking. Here’s the problem for the Pharisees, for the teachers of the Law: Only God can cleanse us from sin. The entire sacrificial system was in place to provide restoration of people’s sins. The role of priests is to officiate the process and the Pharisees and teachers were there to make sure everyone knew the rules. The words of Jesus must either be true or blasphemy, there is no middle ground. The people knew who the Pharisees were and there’s no doubt Jesus picked up on their thoughts immediately and provided these profound words that rocked the world:

    But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins Matthew 9:6, Mark 2:10, Luke 5:24

    Jesus here provides a riddle, “which is harder…” as well as the answer, “the Son of Man has authority,” but he uses some indirection here that gives the listener a way out if he so chooses. Jesus doesn’t say directly, I am the Son of Man, the Son of God, I thereby heal you. Instead he provides a truth that requires scholars to investigate the claim that God has give authority to the Son to forgive sins. They’re going to have to go back to the scrolls and think about this statement. Is this what Daniel was talking about? (see Daniel 7:13). Here’s an interesting paper on this section of scripture.

    Much is written on this subject, this particular miracle, because of Jesus’ words that accompany the healing. The assertion that the man that stands before them is none other than the long awaited Messiah is too much for many, for most, even to this day. Many must deny Christ because it’s tough to get your mind around the idea that God would come as a baby into the world in order to save us all. I pray we will continue to grow in understanding this truth and help others to do the same. Jesus has that authority and he has trusted us with the responsibility to spread the good news.

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