Like the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof of the house where Jesus was teaching one day.
From Luke’s telling in chapter 5 of his gospel, I’d always seen that as a wonderful example, among other things, of forceful friendship: the lame man’s buddies pushing their way through the crowd, determined to get him to Jesus. Indeed, He did remark on their faith.
But on again reading the parallel accounts in Mark 2 and Luke 8 just the other day, I realized that I had maybe gotten it slightly wrong. And in doing so, I obscured an important part of the telling.
It seems possible from these other reports that the friends carrying the paralytic weren’t so much separate from the rest of the crowd as a part of it. They just happened to be the ones doing the heavy lifting.
Maybe everyone there wanted to see the guy healed. Perhaps they thought he deserved it because he was someone of importance in the community (I thought about saying “of standing,” but that would be confusing), or because they simply felt sorry for him.
Regardless, if everyone there felt that he somehow merited a divine touch—either because of what he had done for God or what God hadn’t done for him—Jesus’s first words to the man make rather more sense.
By telling the man that his sins were forgiven, He was establishing that even those we consider to be the best or most deserving among us are still in need—first and foremost—of God’s forgiveness.
There’s a trend in some parts of the church to play down the whole sin thing, as though it’s a bit of an archaic concept. The emphasis is on Jesus as Healer, Restorer, Justice-bringer. He is all those things, and more, but Scripture supremely points to Him as our Redeemer and Deliverer, the One who frees us from our sin.
Only when we own this foundational truth can we really hope to see and even be part of the solution to all that’s broken in our world. Because, then, the problem isn’t just what everyone else “out there” is doing wrong, as far as we are concerned.
We then share with those we are most fundamentally in disagreement with something much deeper than that which we see as separating us. It is a need that is beyond any of us to meet through our own best efforts.
As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either—but right through every human heart…”
Particularly in these days of such contention, it’s helpful to remember Jesus’s reference to eyes and specks and logs, and that we can’t afford to overlook our own shortcomings. And the way He answered those bringing the paralytic to Him.
No more lame excuses, you might say.