Jesus is quickly becoming a household name in Israel at this time. Imagine a man who can create food out of nothing, heal the sick, make the blind see, cleanse the lepers and make fish to obey His will and flood into the fisherman’s nets. That would be a very popular person even today, right?
But Jesus doesn’t stop with just meeting earthly needs, as this story above demonstrates. He goes further to meet the spiritual needs of the hurting and broken people around Him. And Jesus is CONSTANTLY surrounded by need. The more I think about it, my life is often defined by my needs and wants. Think about your life – how often do you say, “I need…I want…”? I need more money. I need a new job. I need new clothes. I need to be happy. I need. I want a better house. I want a new car. I want a better marriage. I want better kids. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. I want. Amplify that by the entire population of Jerusalem at the time, and that is what Jesus encountered during His ministry – needy, “wanty” people swarming Him with desperate cries.
As I read about the unremitting nature of the desperate people around Jesus, I personally would be exhausted, angry and tired of all the need and want in the people around me. I would feel like a Circus monkey always plied for more tricks. “Heal ME, Jesus!” “I need help NOW, Jesus!” “Give me…. Help me….” You see in the text that there are so many people around that cannot even fit OUTSIDE of the house Jesus is in! But Jesus … He loves patiently, doesn’t He? He waits. He loves. He listens. He stops doing whatever He is doing and centers on the individual. He doesn’t respond with anger out of His fatigue, but love and grace and healing.
And what about these friends of the paralytic man? They know that if their friend just gets close to Jesus, he can be healed. Do you believe that if you get close to Jesus, you can be made whole? We all despair, we all lose heart, we all get the wind knocked out of us, don’t we? I do. However, what if we have friends, family and loved ones around us who, when we need help or healing but are in despair, fight for us to get close to Jesus? They know that what I need is Christ, and if they can pray, press and encourage me towards Jesus, I will be made well. Just get close to Jesus – that is what I need.
These friends had to carry their paralytic friend up on top of a roof, and then spend an hour digging through straw, grass, dried mud and stone. The roofs were tightly packed and thatched, so these men had to dig and pull and lift. They worked for the healing of their friend. Jesus looks up and sees “their faith.” They believed that Jesus could heal their paralyzed friend, and it was credited to them as faith.
This faith led Jesus not only to heal the man, but to forgive his sins as well! Jesus first forgives the paralytic’s sins, which causes a shock to those in the crowd. The Hebrew Testaments are clear – Only God can forgive sins. Why did Jesus forgive the man’s sins and not his paralysis? Surely that is why his friends take him there. Surely Jesus knows the man wants to walk. Why doesn’t Jesus go directly to what the man wants? There is an important lesson here – Jesus KNOWS what we need, despite what we think they are. God knows what you need and gives it to you, regardless of what you and I believe we need.
The sooner we can get this into our heads, the sooner we will be more content with our lives. Jesus gives us what we truly need, not necessarily what WE think we need. Now, you think “Forgiveness of sins! Of course I want that more than ANYTHING.” But think about it – this man was living in the here and now. He was crippled. He was destitute. He was forced to live in light of the judgement of others (“He sinned or his parents sinned. That’s why he is crippled!”). Every morning and every night he was reminded of his outcast status, his inability, his “otherness.” You could not be crippled in Israel at this time without being thought of as a sinner. Can you imagine the difficulty this man faced?
So Jesus shows the doubters the power of God and heals the physical disability as well as the spiritual. Jesus talks back to the murmurs in the crowd who say that only God can forgive sins, and Jesus in essence says, “You are right! I am God! And just to show you that the spiritual forgiveness I gave him is true, I will extend physical wholeness as well.” Jesus confirms the spiritual healing He gives to the man by healing his physical disabilities. The man gets up, not only made to walk but also forgiven.
Do you have these men and women in your life? Are you this type of person in the lives of others? When life knocks the wind out of you, when you lose a job, when you can’t have children, when you feel the weight of your life pressing, the responsibilities piling up, when a loved one dies, when you are sliding into depression … do you have friends around you who will, by faith, take you to Jesus for healing and help?