I have heard this story one thousand times in my life. I have heard preachers use it in countless sermons. I have taught it in Sunday school, read it to my daughter out of her children's bible, and it is the first example of scripture I think of when someone asks for me to “stand in the gap”.
But this time... it’s different. I have been moved by this passage like never before.
The Paralyzed Man...
I have pondered how he even came to be paralyzed. Was this an accident? I’m just speculating here, but he most likely wasn't paralyzed his entire life because he had friends who loved him enough to haul him up a flight of stairs, cut through the roof of a strangers house, and then manually lower him in front of Jesus. I can imagine that these friends were just wanting their fishing buddy back!! (BTW I always giggle to myself as I imagine some of my “outgoing" relatives having a conversation amongst themselves about just how they were going to orchestrate this plan.)
Have you ever been the one who is relying on someone else for help? Have you ever had a need that is too great or too complex for you and your immediate sphere to handle? I have had just a few in my life... nothing like being paralyzed.
Have you ever cared for anyone who is paralyzed? I have. Numerous times. Being a nurse, it is for me the most humbling and rewarding of privileges. Most quadriplegics require total care and the ones I have known were grateful and angry and happy and sad and humorous and loving all at the same time. Attention to every detail, from body position to do they have a wrinkle in the sheets that may cause skin issues, has to be carefully attended to. They expect non-family caregivers, especially if they are in the hospital, to do what is required. But, the sheer gratefulness that is so apparent when you go above and beyond to make the day, or even just the moment, better for them is worth every ounce of demanding effort.
I can just imagine this paralyzed man... lying on a mat that his buddies have tied ropes to the corners of. Carrying him to the house where Jesus was visiting. All along the way looking down at him telling him the plans they have for after he is healed. How they are going to wake up extra early and meet up at the lake at the “usual spot”. They all chuckle and ask the fella if he remembers where that is. There is a quickness to their steps, almost a little bounce of excited anticipation because they know... THEY KNOW... Jesus is going to make their friend whole again. (see Mark 2:5) The man is lying there helpless... he can’t run, he can't stop them, he can't do anything other than maybe verbally object. But would he? He has been afflicted to the point of not being able to care for himself. His illness is so great that he would try anything, and probably had, to obtain healing. So he lies there. Watching the houses and the night sky as they hurriedly walk along the road.
Finally... they get to the street. Oh my... look at all these people. There is no way that they are going to squeeze into the house. (Here is where I picture my family saying “all we gotta do is...”) One of the man’s friends notices the stairway leading up to the roof. They have just carried their poor friend all this way and are too far into this to just turn back. They formulate the plan. The paralyzed man is lying there with thoughts of “you’re going to do what with me???” along with “I have the best friends in the world!!!”. They start up the stairs, making sure that the paralyzed man, the friend that they obviously love dearly, is safe. They lie him just to the side and they start to make an opening.
Can you imagine the response of the people inside the house? They are there to hear the teaching of Jesus and all of a sudden dirt starts falling on their heads. Then a little more, then a little more. Pretty soon, there is light streaming through the rooftop. I can imagine there were some pretty irritated (and dirty) visitors. Have you ever been at a function where you wanted to be fed with teaching and then all of a sudden there is an irritating interruption? I have... but just in this example it turns into an opportunity for Jesus to be revealed. I pray that I will have the patience to invite the Holy Spirit into such situations and open the eyes of my heart for these opportunities.
The men are done with the excavation. Now on to step 3... They gently lower the man thru the opening, past the angry guests covered in dirt and straw, right in front of Jesus’ feet. The man is lying there, as he has been since this adventure began. He has no words, no noted expressions. He cannot move, he cannot (or does not) speak. Jesus looks up at his friends and sees THEIR FAITH. Then he looks, with perfect and complete compassion, down at the man.
“My child, your sins are forgiven.”
Wait, what?? I thought we came for healing. Miraculous healing from paralysis. But wait... Jesus in His perfect love knows we need something greater than just healing from afflictions. We need HIM. We need him to complete our joy, to be our Rock, Redeemer, our Hiding Place, our Hope. We need Him to forgive our sins. And then he heals the man from his affliction but not until after He has looked at the man with love and given him so much more than he ever could have asked for!!
What is paralyzing me? You? Grief, fear, anger, unforgiveness, something else, everything else? Goodness I love this passage more than I ever have before.....