Some concerned individuals carry their paralyzed friend on a stretcher to Jesus. Jesus sees the faith of these individuals and, in response to it, first forgives then heals their friend.
Note that Jesus does not first spot this paralytic and then, seizing the initiative, forgive and heal him. The initiative is taken by the paralytic’s friends. We too may take this kind of initiative in relation to Jesus on behalf of others and expect the same gracious results.
Note also that Jesus does not respond to the faith of the paralytic. He responds to the faith of the friends who carry the paralytic to him. Our faith in Jesus, then, may also work for the good of others who as yet are unable, or unwilling, to share that faith with us.
What kind of faith do these friends demonstrate? Tiny, mustard-seed faith. Their friend is ill. They know that Jesus has healed lots of people. They figure, if they can get their friend to Jesus, Jesus will heal him too. Nothing more heroic than that.
But because Jesus is so compassionate, he’s a sassy fellow. Friends seize the day by bringing a paralytic to him to be healed. His initial response? Jesus does not tell the paralytic to be healed. Instead, Jesus forgives the paralytic and the paralytic is forgiven. Note that Jesus forgives this person’s sins without even asking for a confession of them and a commitment to repentance.
All this is very irregular. It upsets some seminary professors who happen to be present. To their way of thinking, the authority to forgive sins belongs to God alone. In their eyes, Jesus proves himself to be a great sinner by talking and acting like he has God’s authority.
Only he does. Jesus proves it by curing the man of his paralysis.
The crowds are awed that God should give such authority to both forgive and to heal to a mere mortal. Jesus demonstrates it. Soon, Jesus called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction (Matthew 10:1, English Standard Version). Whenever Jesus speaks through these same words to us today, then we too have that authority.
Let us pray that, if not today, then tomorrow we too may exercise this authority for our good and God’s glory.
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