Friends + Forgiveness = Healing (and Controversy!)
Bible Background: Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record this story near the start of Jesus’ public ministry, where his teaching and healing is attracting crowds, and his way of doing things outside of the usual religious channels, creates controversy with the Scribes (experts in the Jewish Torah).
Digging Deeper: 1. So we have this paralyzed man (no report of what his ailment was or for how long), and he has 4 friends! These friends go to great lengths to carry him to Jesus, who is in a packed house, teaching. Roofs back then, were partly made of sticks and mud. An outside stairway might go to the roof, as a place to cool off in the evening. These guys decide the only way to get their friend to Jesus is to haul him up on the roof, make a hole in the roof, and lower him down into the midst of the crowd! Determined, for sure! Who is someone you have helped ‘carry’ to Jesus?
2. In Bible times (and in some settings today), physical ailments were often understood to be due to human sin and guilt. (Jesus tries to break that assumption in John 9 when he heals the man who was born blind.) Interestingly enough, Jesus says to the paralyzed man “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Why? Perhaps he sees/knows that that’s what the man needs to hear! But this sets off some whispering of upset Scribes!
3. The Scribes don’t seem to challenge Jesus out loud, but he ‘perceives’ they are taking issue with him. So Jesus speaks: “Why are you questioning this?” The obvious answer is: “Only God can forgive sins>this person is claiming to forgive sins>he is putting himself in the place of God>this is a BIG offense!” Later on when the religious leaders hand Jesus over to Pilate, one of their charges against him is that he commits blasphemy-he lies about God, or puts himself in God’s place.
4. In fairness to the Scribes, remember: they are trying hard to follow God’s Word. They try to live by the law of Moses. They are in an occupied land-where the Romans rule. They are trying to hang on to their religion and their way of life, and with other Jewish leaders-feel pressured to ‘keep the peace’. This man’s friends have interrupted things that day. Jesus has moved some boundaries that day.
5. Next Jesus tells the man, “Stand up, take your mat, and go to your home!” That is when the healing takes effect and becomes obvious. He gets up! He walks out! The crowd is absolutely amazed and people give God the credit! (As they should!) What people will start to figure out, is that Jesus has the authority of God!