Matthew 9:1-8 |Paralysis

In Scripture by Antwuan Malone

You are paralyzed. By something. We all are.

Back in the boat, Jesus and the disciples recrossed the sea to Jesus’ hometown. They were hardly out of the boat when some men carried a paraplegic on a stretcher and set him down in front of them. Jesus, impressed by their bold belief, said to the paraplegic, “Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins.” Some religion scholars whispered, “Why, that’s blasphemy!” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why this gossipy whispering? Which do you think is simpler: to say, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or, ‘Get up and walk’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both. . . .” At this he turned to the paraplegic and said, “Get up. Take your bed and go home.” And the man did it. The crowd was awestruck, amazed and pleased that God had authorized Jesus to work among them this way.Matthew 9:1-8 (the Message)

Who Am I?

I’m always amazed at how much story can be told with so few words. The Bible, especially the New Testament, is  good at that. It’s a master book of short stories. And when I read them, I like to try to jump into the story somehow. Especially the ones with several characters, like this one in Matthew 9.

I’ve found that, when I challenge myself to connect to the characters, the stories have more meaning. In the case of this story of the healed paralytic I’ve asked, do I feel most like the friends that brought the paralytic to Jesus,  the crowd who witnessed the miracle, but were unsure what to do with what they saw, the scribes who scoffed at the audacious man of God, Or, the paralytic himself, who oddly, doesn’t say very much in this story. 

Connecting to the characters somehow allows the scripture to reveal me to myself more clearly, flaws and all. It comforts me to know that, though the context of the passage is different, the core feelings, motivations, and thoughts of the characters still feel familiar, contemporary and relevant to my life.

In this case, I fear being like the scribes, who were blinded by legalism to the movement of God living and breathing right in front of them. I’ve made some of the same mistakes they make in this story, like rushing to criticize varying movements in the Church before checking with God first. It’s incredible how impeding church people can be to God’s mission. Incredible and ironic.

And the friends. I find I am often least like them. They were so desperate to get their friends to Jesus, so sure Jesus was the answer to their friend’s condition that they pushed through the obstacles of the crowd, the public perceptions, even the building to find a way to lay him before Jesus’ feet. Am I as persistent as they? Do I act with their sense of desperation, their  sense of faith and certainty that Jesus can handle my friends’ issues. Sometimes. But not nearly enough.

Walk

And then there’s the crowd, who sat by and watched it all unfold. They enjoyed the show, and were “awestruck” by what they saw. But even they are missing what’s happening in front of them. Though they are pleased that Jesus was able to “forgive sins,” you get the sense they see him as a man of God, not the Son of God. Had they truly known and accepted him as the Messiah, the one true God standing before them in the flesh, “pleased” would not be able to describe their feelings.

I often think of how easy it is to stand by, like this crowd, and watch, but not see.

The Common Denominator

And then there’s the paralytic. It’s important to note here that paralysis was seen by the scribes and pharisees as the punishment for sin. To them, this man was getting what he deserved. His sins had brought about his paralysis, and thus, no “man” could remove such a penalty that must have come from God.

After all, the sin was committed to God, not any man. Only God can forgive the sins that are committed against him.

This is the source of anxiety for the scribes in this passage. It is also the power behind Jesus’ question? Jesus is not only saying that forgiving sins is like making a miracle, when he says, “I forgive your sins…” Jesus was telling this paralytic and everyone in attendance that he was God. The layers of impossibility involved in what Jesus had done, both physically and spiritually, must have blew the scribes’ legalistic, indoctrinated minds. And yet, the man got up and walked.

Now, if we bring this forward to our situations, we’d find ourselves in a similar position as the paralytic. We’ve all sinned. And we’re all living with some paralysis that is the result of that sin — whether it is an emotional, relational, physical, or spiritual paralysis.

But the wonder of this story is this. Despite all the sin and its effects in your life, Jesus brings forgiveness. And in that forgiveness, he gives us the key to our freedom, the key to a life lived “more abundantly.” Because of this forgiveness, we no longer have to carry the nasty effects of our sins’ past. Instead, we can be made whole and new. We can be new creatures who live life “free.”

To you and me, Jesus is saying that we no longer have to limp along in life. We can get up. We can walk. And we can go home.

What’s paralysis from sin are you carrying?

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Antwuan Malone is a Ministry Director at ELEVATE Young Adult Ministry (elevateministry.net) where empowers young adults toward Christian leadership. He is passionate about seeing young adults take their place in church history by drawing near enough to God to hear his call on their life, and courageously living in obedience to that call.