Mark 2 describes another great story of faith. Jesus was speaking and a great crowd had gathered. There were so many gathered there that you couldn't get near the door or window of the house He was in. Verse 3 says, "Some men came, bring to him a paralytic, carried by four of them." Not to be deterred, when the friends couldn't get their paralyzed friend to Jesus through conventional means, they literally took matters into their own hands. Climbing onto the roof they removed a section of the thatched roof over top of where Jesus was and lowered him down right in front of him.
Verse 5 says when Jesus saw their faith, he said 'Your sins are forgiven.'
Why forgive sins here? There is something counter intuitive at work here that Jesus was surely aware of. A common theory of the time was that sin relates directly to illness in a person's life; You sin, God zaps you with today's 'plague du jour'!
"Spin the wheel and see what you get… Oh no! it's a bout of leprosy. Let's watch and see if you're truly sorry. If you are then it'll clear up in a couple of weeks. If you're not you'll have it for the rest of your life!"
People who were sick were sinners, End of story. This attitude is clearly seen in John chapter 9.
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.
Think of that! Illness is an opportunity to display the work of God. The way we bear the challenges of our life is a way of demonstrating the paradox of God's power. Strength in weakness.
My Grandma dying with leukemia demonstrated more of Jesus' true nature in the last months of her life then perhaps she had through out the rest of her life. She was an image of Jesus in the way she mended relationships in her family, in the way she encouraged and admonished us to remain faithful. To a member of our family who was not a Christian she said, with a gentle touch, "Make yourself right with God or you'll never see me again!". To me she said, "You take care of [Julie]. Be a good husband". In her passing she demonstrated a great deal about the work of God here on earth.
A paralyzed person would have felt this stigma as well. What had he done to deserve this? In addition to being physically paralyzed he would be paralyzed by guilt as well. To people of that day the sins, whatever they were, were the reason why this person was sick. Anyone like this man would be constantly humiliated and crushed with guilt. Some faithful friends had to go the extra mile and make certain that this man met Jesus.
The amazing part of this story is that I can be that friend too! I can bring my friends, paralyzed by sin, to meet Jesus and let Him forgive them and set them free! All it takes is faith.
- Faith in Jesus power: He is powerful enough to save anyone I know.
- Faith in the Spirit: It's not me that is convincing or convicting them. It is the power of the Spirit.
- Faith in His Word: His words bring eternal life (John 6: 68)
In a classic bit of irony, the rulers speak the truth without knowing it in verse 7, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?". Indeed who can forgive but God? If you wrong me I can forgive you. If I cheat you, you can forgive me, but the sin in general is something between each person and God. Who can forgive that sin but God? Jesus knows this battle going on in their minds and goes one step further.
Who can tell if sins have been forgiven? I could declare that your sins are forgiven, but I have no way of proving it. In another paradox of God's power: The greater work hidden in the lesser. Jesus proves he can accomplish the greater feat of forgiving sins by doing something simpler: He heals the man on the spot.
No man can tell if someone's sins are forgiven but they sure can tell if a paralyzed man is healed. "He rose and immediately took up the pallet and went out in the sight of all so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God saying we have never seen anything like this!"
Our faith can reveal the awesome power of God. His power in our weakness!