There is a great story in the Gospel of Mark about a paralyzed man and his friends. He’s unnamed and unknown in the story which would have been the norm for him in that day. It sounds obvious, but he’s simply known, at least by subtitle, as “a paralyzed man”. I think one of the big temptations in life is to allow ailments, shortcomings, disabilities, and inabilities to define me. As I read between the lines of this story I wonder after all the years of being known as the paralytic lying on his mat, if some how his ailment began to define him.
The story goes on to say that four men came and carried the man on his mat to go and meet Jesus, but they can’t get to him because of the crowd so they cut a hole in the roof and lower him down.
I find this story a little funny because in my mind I imagine that one, maybe two guys could have slung him over their shoulders and brought him to Jesus, but instead they carry him on his mat. I wonder, if after all the years of being known as the paralyzed guy on the mat, that even amongst the commotion about Jesus, he wondered, “what’s the point” and instead chose to lie there. After lying on this mat for all these years I wonder if this man choose not to let go. So his friends, perhaps determined to not let his paralysis extend beyond his body, decided to drag him mat at all to go and meet Jesus. And then my favorite verse in this passage, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “son, your sins are forgiven.” 2:5. I think Jesus was commenting on the faith of his friends in this moment.
People have commented while I’ve been going through this stomach thing on my faith, but really, I think it’s been the faith of my community and friends that have really carried me through. They’ve picked me up, mat at all, and lifted me up in prayer and encouragement. It seems almost everyday all kinds of people, not just from my own faith community, who have reached out to encourage me and it’s been awesome.
What I love about this passage is that there are actually two miracles. The first is that the man’s sins are forgiven. In his day, ailments like these were caused by sin which was debilitating physically, mentally, spiritually, and ostracized him from his community socially, so to have his sins forgiven would have reached way back to all the voices over the years that told him, “you are going through this because of sin in your life.” So after some commotion about this, Jesus says to the man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” The man got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of everyone healed mentally, spiritually, physically, and socially. Yes, Jesus is that awesome.
And the people were amazed saying, “we have never seen anything like this.”