Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat 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 man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. (Mark 2:9-12a).
One visit to a Warrior Transition Unit (WTU) is enough to show that rehabilitation for the wounded is not easy. Sweating brows, quivering muscles, and strained faces reveal the degree of effort being made. It pains us to see this. Yet, there are worse sights.
Some cases never make it to the WTU. The label over their names would be: “Permanently Paralyzed.” When a loved one asks the doctor, “Will my brother ever walk again?” the sad answer comes back: “Impossible.”
It was this sad realization that caused four friends to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus. When they couldn’t get into the house because of the crowd, they opened a hole in the roof and lowered him in with ropes tied to his mat.
What impressed Jesus was the faith that these friends had in him. What grieved Jesus was the burden of sin the paralyzed man carried. He promptly lifted that burden by announcing to him, “Your sins are forgiven!”
Some people in the house challenged these words. “Impossible!”, they thought. “Only God can forgive sins.” If Jesus could forgive sins, he would have to be God. In their minds, this was impossible.
Human eyes cannot detect the burden of sin being lifted from a heart. But they can see paralyzed muscles become strong. No therapy, no conditioning: those muscles simply grew strong as soon as the words of Jesus were out of his mouth. The man got up. He picked up his mat. And he walked home!
Unbelievable? No one in that house could deny it. We hear: “This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12b)
The greatest miracle remained unseen. Humans had to take Jesus’ word for it: the man walked home without his sin! Strong legs are a great blessing, but only in this life. A soul absolved of sin is a blessing for all eternity—no matter how physically weak a person might be here on earth.
Good health is a blessing God grants to some of us. A clean soul is what God demands from all of us. Jesus showed the people in Capernaum that he could grant what God demands. He was, and is, the Son of God.
We tend to determine need by what we see and feel. We tend to think, “seeing is believing.” Sometimes we feel hopeless and think that our situation is impossible.
It never is. With God all things are possible. We know that. How could we forget that?
Jesus shows that he can provide what we really need—and that for him, the impossible is so easy.
Lord Jesus, at your command, sin and frailty depart from us. We don’t realize how many times you have kept disease and harm from our bodies. We don’t know how close we have come to being permanently paralyzed. We thank you for sparing us from what we have not had to face, and we ask you to help us face the burdens and pains that you have allowed to come into our lives. But, like the man lowered to you from the roof, continue to forgive our sins, and enable our lives to show reason for others to praise God. Amen.
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer First published in Epiphany 2013 WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military