Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” – Luke 5:18-20 (NIV)
“Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
There is tenderness in the way Jesus greeted this paralyzed man who had literally been dropped in front of him. The man was a sinner. That is clear because one of the things Jesus did was forgive his sin. In the Jewish mindset of that day, physical abnormalities and sickness were believed to be the judgment of God for the serious sin of the person or his family. Most likely the paralytic had been carrying the weight and guilt of that for years. But, yet, here he was, laying helpless in front of Jesus, the holiest man who ever lived. Jesus looked at him and called him, “Friend.”
Jesus didn’t ask, “What are you doing here? How did you get here? Don’t you know you interrupted me? What do you want?” Anyone could see that the man was paralyzed. What no one else could see was the condition of the man’s heart. But Jesus started there. The religious leaders in the room immediately took offense – as they tended to do – and said, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus went on to prove he could heal the man’s visible, physical ailment, but he made it clear that the most important thing, that only he could do, was to free him from sin. He does that for us, too, going right to the root of the problem.
“I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
When Jesus said, “Take up your mat,” the man did it. He didn’t spend time telling Jesus all the reasons why he couldn’t. He attempted something that had been impossible before and stood up. Jesus didn’t pick up the man’s mat, or ask his friends to help him out. He told him to pick up his own mat, and he gave him the necessary strength in his arms and his legs to do it.
He does that for us, too. If he tells us to take a step, he promises to give us all the strength we need to take it. You may be thinking, “I need to confront an issue with my husband or my kids, or I need to go to counseling, or I need to share my faith with this person.” And then you start thinking, “But, but, but, what if…” Let this paralyzed man be your inspiration. Jesus told him what to do, and the man did it – knowing the full power of Jesus was supporting him.
When Jesus saw their faith…
The wording at the beginning of verse 5 is significant. Jesus saw the faith of the paralyzed man, but he also saw the faith of his four friends. God honors the faith of those who are willing to carry the weight of another. Some friends would have given up. They would have said, “Maybe next time,” or “We’ll try again next week.”
But these weren’t just any friends. They knew their friend needed Jesus now. They weren’t concerned about the status of the people in the room with him and they weren’t going to let a little crowd or a roof get in their way.
We live in a world where people are hurting – paralyzed by fear, guilt, shame, sin. They need someone to carry them to Jesus, just like someone carried us.
“We have seen remarkable things today.”
The people understood that they had witnessed a miracle. They didn’t get distracted by the mess or the noise or the interruption. They saw the goodness of God played out in front of their very eyes. That man’s story became the story they used to tell their friends and family about the power of Jesus. We’re still using it in that same way today! What remarkable thing is God doing in your life today, and who do you need to tell about it?
What does it look like today to carry the corner of a friend’s mat?
When Jesus spoke about spiritual things, he looked for common ground on which to relate. If we are creative and willing, like these four friends in our story, we can get through anything to get our friends to Jesus.
In Acts, we see that early Christians got the attention of the world and turned it upside down as they shared Jesus with others. They lived in difficult circumstances, hard socio-economic times and in an unfriendly political climate (sound familiar?), but they didn’t take that as meaning that it was a bad time to talk about Jesus.
Start with these things:
- Pray for them.
- Value them the way Jesus valued them. (Remember, he died for them.)
- Get to know them and find your common ground. (Even if you don’t agree or understand everything about them.)
- Answer their questions.
- Love them in a way that reflects Jesus.
- Never give up.
We may get tired or frustrated along the way, but God honors the faith of those who bring their friends to the feet Jesus.
Are you actively engaged right now in carrying a corner of the mat of a hurting friend who needs Jesus?
(Originally published in the MOPS Magazine, February 2023 Leader Issue)