by Kevin Pauley
Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, "My son, your sins are forgiven." – Mark 2:5
Jesus was back in his adopted home town called Capernaum after a quick tour of Galilee (Mark 1:35-39; Luke 4:42-44; Matthew 4:23-25). As usual, the news spread quickly that he was home and soon, the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door.
Four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed friend on a sleeping mat. Realizing that they could not approach Jesus the normal way due to the crowds, they climbed to the roof which, like most Jewish houses, was flat and used as a porch. Once there, they somehow determined Jesus’ location, dug straight through the roof, opened a hole and lowered their paralyzed friend in front of Jesus.
This whole scene is completely surrealistic and difficult to understand. First, why wouldn’t all these people, who had come to hear Jesus speak of mercy and compassion, get out of the way so this paralyzed man could be healed? Second, why didn't anyone say or do anything while those guys were tearing off the roof? But let’s get to the REALLY strange part.
Those four guys went to all that trouble: risking life and limb, an encounter of the legal kind, and the anger of the very man from whom they were seeking help. After all, it was Jesus’ house they tore up, right? But after going through all that to get their friend healed, Jesus’ response was “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Can’t you just imagine them laying on their stomachs, looking down through the hole and thinking, “WHAT? Come on, Jesus! Can’t you tell he’s paralyzed?” And the fact of the matter was, Jesus could tell the man’s physical condition and was concerned about it. But the man’s soul was more important than his body. The body, even after its miraculous healing, would only last a few more years. The man’s soul would last forever. Jesus ended up offering them the physical healing they sought, but he gave them so much more. He gave them “tikkun hanefesh” – a healing of the soul.
I have been terribly concerned about the degeneration of my body. I thought that the time I spend in a wheelchair would slow me down so much that I would no longer be able to effectively work. What I have discovered is that it has slowed me down enough to actually listen to God and people. I thought that the loss of my hearing would so cripple my ability to communicate that my counseling would have to stop. Instead, because I must focus so much on listening, paying attention to the body language and asking people to repeat or clarify their statements, I have become a more effective counselor and my load has nearly tripled! God is taking my handicaps and making me more effective. It seems the more broken I am, the more powerfully God has been able to use me.
We get so caught up in our physical circumstances. We feel the pain and want to immediately be delivered of it. But God may be seeking to provide so much more than simple comfort. He is bringing about tikkun hanefesh if only we will be patient enough to allow it.
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Kevin Pauley is a pastor and writer. He lives in Illinois with his wife, Lynn, their five children and two dogs. His internet address is Berea.
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