By Russ Wilkins
Dir. of Missions, Shiloh Baptist Assoc., Adamsville
Focal Passage: Luke 5:17-26
This is one of those Scriptures where I love to picture being there. Imagine that you are in a primitive home with very few windows or doors in the first century.
The room would be fairly dark even in the middle of the day. It would be dusty and hot as people were packed in so tight in this room that no one else could fit. People were even outside the windows and the door listening.
As Jesus is speaking, pieces of the ceiling begin to fall in, and your attention is drawn upward. Suddenly, light pierces into the room and you and everyone else shades their eyes to see what was happening.
There is a hole in the ceiling, and it is getting larger and larger until the hole is filled again. Only this time, it isn’t the ceiling, it is a man being lowered down on a mat. The man is motionless because he is paralyzed. Jesus looks the man in his eyes and then you wonder what will happen next.
Will He scold the man’s friends for tearing up the roof and interrupting His message? Will He make them pay for damages?
Imagine you are right there as the crowd circles around the man and Jesus. You are all anxiously waiting for the next words and then Jesus says something totally unexpected. “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Did Jesus really just forgive his sins? “Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea, and from Jerusalem,” what would they say to this statement?
In your front row “seat” (you are actually standing), you see the looks of disgust on their faces, their righteous indignation, and for a moment you wonder if they are right. Who is this man that can forgive sins?
Before the religious leaders even speak, this teacher, Jesus, asks a question, “Which is easier, to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven you’, or to say, ‘get up, pick up your matt, and go home?’ ” The man on the mat did not even wait for them to answer the question, he literally got up, picked up his mat, and went home glorifying God.
So, now you have imagined yourself there in the first century. Did you have any thoughts concerning all of this? For instance, Jesus said, “seeing their faith” and then He forgave the man.
Did Jesus see the friend’s faith, or did he see their faith and the man on the mat’s faith? Also, why did Jesus say, “get up, and pick up your stretcher, and go home?”
Didn’t Jesus want him to stick around and hear what He had to say? What could have been more important? Remember in John 9 when Jesus’ disciples saw a blind man and asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents”?
In the first century, they believed all these things were caused because you sinned, or your parents sinned. Maybe Jesus sent the man home because the man’s parents had been dealing with the guilt that they may have caused their son to be paralyzed. In his forgiveness and healing there was also freedom from guilt and shame.
Is it possible that because of our faith in Jesus, we have forgiveness? And in that forgiveness, there is healing and freedom? That we do not have to imagine being at a first century event to experience that forgiveness, but rather, Jesus offers it to us freely on our acceptance and trust of Him.
And is it possible that as we live out this freedom, people will see Jesus in us and just like in the first century, people will glorify God?