And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:1-8)
As I reflect on the miraculous healing events of the last year, several thoughts come to mind. First I believe it could be real easy to be upset with God for allowing this suffering to happen. It seems easy to blame God for both the good and bad things in our lives. Many say there is no god because if there was one he would intervene and stop the suffering before it happens. Natural disasters seem to be a particular problem. The amount of suffering and death that occurs appears to render either God powerless or apathetic. But this is far from the truth. The suffering that our family has endured just as the suffering of countless others is the result of a sinful broken world. It is the result of the corruption of sin due to mankind’s rebellion against God.
Man instead of abiding in the life giving Word instead goes the way of separation from God. Man wants to be his own god. And every son or daughter of Adam has this corruption. It is not any particular sin that caused my sickness to occur. In fact they really do not know the cause. They cannot connect it to any particular behavior or diet. They cannot even say it is inherited. Still in a way it is, for I am sinful. I am a son of Adam therefore I suffer from concupiscence that is the natural inclination to sin. Disease and finally death are the result of this corruption that fills me. So the fault cannot be laid upon God even if He allows it. It is just. And I am at fault.
Second, our Lord is merciful. Jesus said to Nicodemus the Pharisee in John 3:17 “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” I could not save myself either from the disease or from the eternal consequences of sin. But Jesus can and does save. The paralytic could not make even a move toward Jesus. He needed others to bring him to Jesus. This is not unlike parents who bring their helpless infant children to be baptized by Jesus, saved by Jesus.
Jesus says to the paralytic who also is suffering as a result of his sinfulness, “Take heart my Son your sins are forgiven.” Jesus gives the paralytic the gift of eternal life. All that the on-looking envious scribes in their unbelief could say is that Jesus is blaspheming, “No man can forgive sins only God.” Jesus then says, “which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
In our earthly worldly minds we are more attracted impressed by the second gift more than the first. A man who was paralyzed and known by the town to be paralyzed, is now picking up his own bed and walking home. It is attractive because it could be seen and it definitely improved this man’s quality of life. Jesus not only healed his paralysis but also the atrophy in his muscles. It was as if he never had the disease.
Jesus wholly healed him. He was forgiven, cleaned of the root cause of his paralysis. When Jesus forgives, the job is complete. This miracle gives us a look at what it will be like for us when we the baptized rise from the dead. It will be as if our bodies never had a disease or suffered from the result decay and death.
But the real question we need to pay attention too is, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” I would say that for Jesus, as He is also God, it would be “Rise and walk.” Jesus was the eternal Word with the Father that formed man and brought him to life. It is no problem for Jesus, the incarnate creating Word to recreate this man.
But what is far more difficult for Jesus is forgiving this man’s sins. Because in forgiving his sins Jesus is committing Himself to take on this man’s sinfulness, being forsaken by the Father and enduring death and hell on the cross for this man’s sins. No the far more difficult thing for Jesus is to forgive sins and so it is the greater gift. Without his suffering and death Jesus would not have the authority to save this cursed man to free him from clutches of Satan and the consequences of his sin, his paralysis.
Likewise the greatest gift that I receive is to hear from the words of my confessor pastor saying, “Take heart son, your sins are forgiven.” The pastor is not Jesus, but Jesus who now sits at the right hand of the Father with all power and authority speaks these words to me through the pastor so that I may hear them and receive His forgiveness.
Third, as for my physical healing, I am entirely grateful. I am grateful to our Lord for all those who turned to the Lord to ask for mercy on my behalf. Our Lord, in the use of His name, would have us turn to Him in time of trouble. The suffering was worth all of those calling on the Name of the Lord. I am also grateful to the Lord for all the doctors, nurses and medical staff our Lord uses to heal. Just as our Lord uses the vocation of the Office of the Holy Ministry to apply the forgiveness of sins, He likewise hides behind the mask of the vocation of medicine to continue his ministry of physical healing.
And I am grateful for my family. They have been tireless supporters. What a wonderful gift the family is. And most of all I am grateful to my wife, Nancy. Jesus says there is no greater love than the one who lays down his, in this case her life, for a friend. It was no coincidence that our Lord brought us together. We are truly one flesh and she is truly my helpmate.
Through Nancy, and the vocation of marriage, our Lord has made me a recipient of sacrificial love. Just like the paralytic needed friends to bring Him to Jesus to be saved and healed, I needed my pastor, friends, family, doctors, nurses and my wife in their God given vocations to bring Jesus saving and healing power to me. However, none of this would be unless Jesus suffered and died on the cross giving His life for the world. The forgiveness of sins and the promise of the resurrection made all this possible. “Take heart son, your sins are forgiven!”