Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!
The Story of Jesus and the Paralyzed Man (Part 4 of 4)
This is the last installment in a 4-part story, so here is a recap. Some people bring a paralyzed man to Jesus to receive healing. Jesus doesn’t heal the man; instead he says “Your sins are forgiven.” When he does this he challenges the necessity of the sacrifices and offerings required in the Law of Moses, as well as the necessity of the priests to forgive sins. The religious authorities are disturbed by this proclamation, and Jesus further aggravates the situation by saying that anyone has the authority to forgive sin. Furthermore, the prevailing view was that all sickness or infirmity was caused by sin, so healing and forgiveness of sin were inextricably linked. (For more details about these concepts you might want to see Days 72-74 and also Day 65).
On Day 65 I described how people in Jesus’ day were treated when they got sick. They were cast out by society. Before they could be reintegrated into society they had to make a sin offering because of the link between sin and sickness. Under Jewish law sin and sickness were formally linked, despite Biblical evidence to the contrary in the Book of Job.
Now, here in this scripture, Jesus now proves that sin, which is supposedly the root cause of all disease, can be forgiven by an ordinary man by saying these words to the paralyzed man – “Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!”
Of course, the man is healed. He picks up his mat as Jesus has instructed. There it is, proof. If the disease is healed, then the sin that caused the disease must have been simultaneously forgiven. Sin and healing are incompatible.
Proof positive. Sin – gone!!!!!
So in case you are reading this and you think that maybe I have it wrong about the “Son of Man” referring to “any ordinary man;” if you think, like some have supposed, that it is instead a reference to a divine being, a messiah, then you need to look carefully at the next scripture: When the people saw it, they were afraid, and they praised God for giving such authority to men. (Matthew 9:8). Not a god or messiah.
Look at that carefully. Matthew and all who heard Jesus knew that he wasn’t talking about himself; he was talking about all of them. When he said, “Son of Man” they heard “Everyman” (See Day 74). They knew that he was saying that ordinary people have the authority to forgive sins and heal diseases. How do they react to this? Predictably – “When the people saw it, they were afraid” (Matt. 9:8). Of course, they are afraid. They are always afraid, but why? Afraid of the miracle? Afraid of the possibility that they have the power to heal disease? Afraid that if they don’t need the priests and the temple system that their way of life will be turned upside down? Afraid of the responsibility and implications of such great God-give authority?
I think that if humankind wants to move forward we have to stop being afraid of things we don’t understand. We need to stop being afraid of change. We need more faith and less fear. For example, we believe in aspirin even though no one knows how it works, and we’re not afraid of it. We just know it works. I think we need to believe that we have the power to heal bodies and relationships through a strange and miraculous authority that God gives ordinary people. We need to start using all of the power that Jesus says we have been given to heal the world so that our prayer for the Kingdom of God to come can be a reality. We need to stop waiting for someone else to do it for us, or for the Kingdom of God to fall out of the sky without any effort on our part. We need to do what Jesus says we can do, and we need to start now.
Of course it’s really God who does the forgiving, and God who does the healing. Jesus simply wants us to remind everyone of these words in Old Testament: “Praise the Lord, my soul, and do not forget how kind he is. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases” (Psalm 103:2-3).
All we need to do is remember what was revealed in this psalm, centuries before Jesus was born: God forgives all our sins and heals all our diseases. No sacrifices or priests or messiahs are necessary. All we need is faith, courage, and wisdom to ask God.
What does this scripture say to you?