PRAISE

It was a little bit warm that day they came to pick up their friend. The dust from the road filtered into the openings of their sandals which wouldn’t have bothered so much except there were pebbles that occasionally made their way in as well causing them to stop and work the stone loose. They were determined, though. There was a Healer in town. He had been to many other towns and met with many others who were ill. Tales of the miraculous healings had preceded Him. Best of all, he was a Jew just as they were. It was said that he spoke in the synagogues and even the chief priests were astounded at what he taught. Some even risked possible blasphemy by saying that He might be the Messiah.

The men walking down the road didn’t care what others said about His teachings. They were only concerned with His ability to heal. They were coming to get their friend who had been paralyzed for so long. This small group of men had been friends for many years. They had watched their friend become a shell of his former self as his paralysis dragged on year after year. If anyone could heal him, it was this Man. They were unprepared for the objections of their paralyzed friend. ‘Why would He want to heal me?’ he asked. ‘I have angered God by my complaining. I have not been careful to obey the law. If this Man is truly the Messiah, He will know what I am and what I have done.’

This wasn’t something the men had considered. No one had told them that healing might be refused. They hadn’t heard of others being refused. Those in the meeting with Jesus now were Pharisees and Teachers of the Law. They were important people. This little group of men weren’t important in any way. They had always tried to uphold the law but it was so easy to make little mistakes. This Man who had the power of God to heal might refuse them. If God worked so mightily with Him, He could decide they were unworthy of favor. They turned to study their friend. Pity and love for him strengthened their resolve. The Healer might refuse but if He was willing, their friend could live a normal life again. With determination, they lifted him, bed and all, and carried him out the door.

The house where Jesus was teaching was a large one but not large enough for the crowd gathered to see him. People had come from every village in Galilee. It was said that there were even some from as far away as Judea and Jerusalem. People were packed shoulder to shoulder and wall to wall. They spilled out the door with those on the outside standing on tiptoe trying to catch a glimpse of the Man who taught inside the building. The men carefully placed their paralyzed friend on the ground as they discussed what to do. They would never be able to work their way through the crowd. How could they possibly reach Jesus? Where there is a will, there is a way. There were stairs on the side of the house leading to the roof where the owners would go to sit in the cool of the evening. They could make a hole in the roof and lower their friend into the room. The tallest of the men went to peer through the door trying to get an approximate location for Jesus. Satisfied that he could tell the others where to make an opening, he returned to help them carry their friend to the roof.

The heat of the afternoon radiated off the roof. Just carrying the bed and occupant up the stairs had caused sweat to roll down their foreheads and into their eyes. They placed the bed on the ground and began searching for loose tiles to begin the process of making an opening. The building had been well-made but they were able to find one near the place where they believed Jesus was teaching. They began to rip the tiles as quickly as possible afraid someone would come to stop them before they had completed their task. No one came. The hot sun beat down on their backs causing them to sweat even more profusely. Lifting the tiles took all of their combined strength. Thirst and exhaustion almost made them give up but finally they reached the last layer of tiles. This was the point where it would be most likely that someone would stop them before they could lower their friend into the room where Jesus taught. Once the last tiles were up, sunlight would stream into the room and alert the homeowner.

They put the bed in position to be lowered quickly into the room. The ropes to lower him were laid carefully so that each of them could grab the one closest to him. A last check was made. Satisfied that they were ready, they each reached down and gave a mighty heave. The hole was complete. All eyes turned upward but the friends didn’t notice as they grabbed the ropes and began lowering their friend. As they did so, they saw that their aim had been perfect! Jesus was directly below them. He was looking up at them – not watching the bed descending towards Him. It seemed as if He smiled at them. They didn’t realize the longing and hope that shone from their eyes. Jesus turned his attention to the man on the bed.

The paralyzed man lay on the bed and looked up into the face of Jesus. His eyes didn’t shine with the faith and hope of his friends. He knew of his sin. He knew of the things he had said to God in the privacy of his home. He knew that the anger he felt toward the circumstances of his life had been directed at God. He knew all the little laws he had broken. He knew that he had failed to sacrifice often, blaming it on his illness, but knowing that it had really been because of his anger that he had not obeyed the laws and made the sacrifices. He didn’t speak to Jesus. He didn’t know what to say.

Then Jesus spoke. “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

He was astounded. How had He known? This Man of God knew of his sin and was offering him forgiveness. Was it possible that he could be forgiven? Then he heard the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law murmuring among themselves. He knew that they didn’t approve of what Jesus had said. The longing to know that he could be forgiven as Jesus had said nearly overwhelmed him.

Jesus, too, knew that the others in the room disapproved of what He had just done. He shook His head slightly and then asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your heart? Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

Jesus turned back to the paralyzed man. “Get up. Take your mat and go home.” Joy flooded him! He could be forgiven! The Son of Man had just said He would prove it by healing him. He jumped up to obey the command forgetting that just this morning when others had helped him to sit up to eat he had been dizzy for several minutes. Others had tried to help him to sitting positions in the past but without the bed to lean against, he had merely fallen over unable to get his balance. Even the fact that he had not so much as held food in his hands for several years was forgotten as he reached down to lift his mat. Jesus had said he was forgiven. Jesus had said he was healed. As he lifted the mat to his shoulders, the enormity of the physical change flooded his memory. Tears streamed down his cheeks as he turned to look at Jesus. Still, he didn’t know what to say but the look of thanks was enough.

“Go home,” Jesus had said. The crowd parted to make a path to the door. They stared in awe at this paralyzed man who had been made whole. But he didn’t see them. He was thanking God with each step he was able to take. His friends hurried from the roof. The intense labor in the heat of the day was forgotten as they bounded to his side. In awe, they watched him walk as if he had never been ill. Together they went to his home and, like their friend, they shouted and praised God with each step.

Luke 5: 17-26

 

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