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…”
“Here I am.” Hineini in Hebrew. A phrase used three times by Abraham in this relatively short passage. A phrase that acts in the Torah as a narrative pivot, a turning point, as the one who utters it responds to God – or another person − in readiness, vulnerability, and expectation. “Here I am” – as if to say: I am present with my whole heart to the need or command before me. I do not know what it will demand of me, nor do I know how it may change me. I am present to this encounter. I am present to this challenge. I am present to this possibility.
Abraham responds, “Here I am” to the God who calls him by name. He replies, “Here I am” to his son Isaac, who asks innocently “Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” And he utters, “Here I am” to the Angel of the Lord, who intervenes at the final moment, revealing God’s true intention.