Reading Time: 8 Minutes
Jesus and the disciples have returned to Capernaum. Matthew writes about another episode of healing.
Matthew 9.1-7 – And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
One of the ways we can meditate on an event in the gospels is to think about how each person who was present may have seen what happened.
Let’s begin with the paralyzed man. If you were him, you would most certainly feel some of these emotions: sadness, anger, hopelessness, helplessness, decrease in self-esteem, and more. Before 1940, the average lifespan of a paralyzed person was two years. It goes without saying that we should add desperation to our list of troubling issues for this man.
His family and he had heard about Jesus, who seemed to be very successful in healing various diseases. As you feel with him, are you willing to hope, just a little bit, that you won’t be confined by paralysis for the remainder of your difficult life?
When people are faced with life-threatening illnesses, they are frequently desperate for any kind of hope to get better. Let’s assume this is the case for this paralyzed man.
The Paralytic’s Helpers
The wife of Christopher Reeve, Dana, had this to say about her role as a caregiver of her paralyzed husband. “After my husband Christopher was injured, it became obvious that paralysis is a family issue.
“We mourn our loved one’s loss of mobility and independence. We also mourn our own losses: We feel isolated; we have no personal time; we feel exhausted, overwhelmed. And we feel no one else understands the demands placed upon us.”
The paralyzed man’s family did what any loving family would do. They found a way to carry the man they loved to Jesus. By doing so, they gave all of us a helpful example of prayer.
Prayer is nothing more, nor nothing less, than bringing someone to Jesus. If you are concerned for the welfare of a loved one, bring that person to Jesus. Use your words and ask Jesus to bring healing and salvation to the person you love.
One Bible student wrote his dissertation on the healing ministry of Jesus. He recorded 22 separate instances of healing in Matthew, Mark and Luke. His study did not consider the Gospel of John.
I doubt if the disciples ever got tired of seeing the absolute joy that took place as lepers were cleansed, demons were cast out, and people learned the good news of God’s kingdom. We are privileged to see many miracles at Maywood Baptist Church. Let’s never take them for granted. Let’s rejoice with each one of them.
Jesus saw himself as a physician of the soul (Luke 5:30-32). He often used the body to reach the soul. When he saw the man being carried to him, he knew they wanted their loved one healed. He also knew that the man’s greater need was for forgiveness.
I wonder how many times what I thought I needed was a cover-up for what I actually needed. I am so thankful that Jesus won’t settle for secondary issues. I think there are times, when he doesn’t answer my prayers until I am brought face-to-face with the real issues of my heart.
Jesus’ response to the faith of the people who brought this man to Jesus was to say, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven” (Matthew 9.2). The caregivers apparently didn’t say a word, but Jesus knew the desires of their heart and pronounced forgiveness of sins.
At this moment, the caregivers and the paralytic had not received what they came for. I’m sure they were happy to receive forgiveness, but they had come for healing. Jesus valued forgiveness as a greater issue than healing. In fact, he saw forgiveness of sins to be such an issue that he went to the cross to provide it for us.
If forgiveness of sin is such a big deal to Jesus, shouldn’t we take a more serious look at our sin problem?
The Religious Authorities
I have identified the scribes as “religious authorities,” because that is what they were. They were in charge of the “sin-forgiving business.” They were part of a religious system where forgiveness could be found. Since Jesus was not part of that system, they condemned his actions.
They believed that Jesus had spoken “blasphemy,” or had spoken in a highly improper way about something that was sacred. When Jesus pronounced the man forgiven, he entered into an arena of ministry that was forbidden to him.
Jesus knew that the scribes were long on talk, but short on help. He once said, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matthew 23.4).
Jesus knew what the scribes were murmuring and he asked them if it was easier to pronounce someone forgiven or heal their paralysis. To further drive his point home he said, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Rise, pick up your bed and go home” (Matthew 9.6).
Living Within The Story
I hope you used your imagination to try to see this account of healing from different vantage points. This is particularly helpful if you are familiar with a Bible story. I also think it is a good meditation technique that will help you stay focused on the Bible passage.
If all you have done is read my article, please find a time to use this meditation exercise and see how it expands your appreciation of the Bible passage. As I engaged in this exercise, here’s what I discovered.
— The Paralytic – I think I would go through the range of emotions of this man that were listed above. This man became more of a real person to me, as I considered his pain and desperate need for healing.
The helplessness of the man reminded me of the First Step of Alcoholics Anonymous. Step One: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable.” This is the first step in a journey of 11 more steps toward health and wholeness.
When we are out of our own good ideas, we are ready for God’s help. This is an excellent place to start praying. When you are down, look up – God is there.
— The Caregivers – One of our two grandsons is on the autism spectrum. His parents are the primary caregivers, but we assist at times. He is a beautiful and uniquely human individual. This story reminds me to carry him in prayer to Jesus on a daily basis.
Do you have someone you love that has a serious illness, an addiction problem, a need for God’s forgiveness, or some other issue? The caregivers of the paralytic remind us to bring these people to Jesus. He is present and ready to help.
— The Disciples – The disciples are living the adventure of their lives. Sometimes, there are storms, demons and angry religious leaders with which to contend. At other times, there is the joy of seeing people set free from debilitating and painful situations.
The story reminds me of the adventure I have been blessed to have for the past 52 years of following Jesus. I can’t imagine having a better life than one of getting up every day and saying to Jesus, “What do you want to do with me today?”
If you are not actively following Jesus today, please give it a try. You don’t want to miss out on going where Jesus goes and serving with him.
— The Religious Authorities – These people remind me of what I don’t want to be. I don’t want to be controlling and judgmental. I don’t want to put heavy restrictions and rules on people, but not help them.
I can be critical of organized religion. The reaction of the religious authorities, reminds me to bring to Jesus my concerns. He can correct me, just as he corrected the scribes.
— Jesus – I almost omitted this part of the meditation. However, the reason why we are spending time examining Jesus’ life and teaching in detail is to become more like him. There are clearly parts of Jesus’ life that are reserved only for him, but there are ways I can and should be like him.
(1) Jesus never turned away a person in need. No person was repulsive in his sight. He touched a leper, delivered men from demons, and healed a paralytic.
This is an attitude we can adopt. We can be ministers of acceptance to everyone we meet.
(2) Jesus set people free from the guilt of their sins.
While Jesus is the only One who can set people free, we can and should bring people to Jesus so they can experience his forgiving ministry.
(3) I doubt if a day went by when Jesus didn’t grant healing to some person. We have only a few instances of healing mentioned in the gospels, but certainly there were many more.
We can view our lives as part of Jesus’ healing ministry on a daily basis. When we hear the siren of a first responder, we can pray for the situation they are facing. When we see a person in a wheel chair or suffering from a problem, we can breathe a prayer of blessing for them.
We can see ourselves as healers, rather than complainers and controllers (remember the scribes in this story). We can choose to see every situation we face as an opportunity to bring the healing and healthy love of Jesus to what is happening.
Dear Jesus, I want to be as loving and forgiving as you are. I want to join you in your healing and forgiving ministry. Please show me today how I can do this with you.