This is a story illustrating Jesus’ healing power. With a simple command – “Stand up. Take your bed and go home.” – he heals a paralyzed man.
It is also a story about the authority with which he forgave sins: he says to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
And, as with many healing stories in the gospel, it is a story that provokes a dual response: There is both a positive reaction – “When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings” – and a negative reaction – “Some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’”
But my attention is drawn this morning to something else, a short phrase tucked away in the text. It has to do with the friends who carried the paralyzed man to Jesus. The phrase is this: “When Jesus saw their faith…”
What did Jesus see? He saw a collection of friends who, at great personal cost, had carried their friend to Jesus. What might Jesus have noticed about them? Perhaps they were weary and covered with the dust of the road, signaling that they had come from a distance. Perhaps he saw the love in their eyes for their friend, and the hope and longing with which they looked to Jesus. They may well have believed that this was their last chance. Could it be that this man had endured a lifetime of failed attempts by doctors to cure him? Could he have suffered years of cruelty and shame from his neighbors? (It was not uncommon in Jesus’ day for people to view a disabled person with suspicion and disdain, presuming that the disability was a sign of some moral shortcoming or evidence of God’s punishment.)
Whatever Jesus saw, he was moved by their compassion and their solidarity with their friend. And he was touched by their faith in him. They brought this man to Jesus because they loved him, and because they believed that Jesus could make a difference in his life. “When Jesus saw their faith…”, the gospel writer tells us, he declared the man forgiven and told him to take up his bed and return home.
They had faith. They believed in Jesus’ power and in his goodness. They believed he could make a difference in their friend’s life. They were ready to entrust him to Jesus’ care. And Jesus responded to their faith, offering both healing and forgiveness.
Are we in possession of such faith? Do we believe that Jesus’ power can change lives today? What might it look like if we were to exercise this kind of faith? What might change if we brought people to Jesus, believing that Jesus’ power would heal and restore them? What might happen if we brought to Jesus our family members and our friends, our neighbors and our co-workers? What if we brought to Jesus the suffering people of the world, those we have heard about but never met? What if we brought our enemies and those who wish us harm?
What might our faith prompt Jesus to do?
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