Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26
I didn’t want them to do it.
I know I should have been grateful, but that day I felt only anger as they once again carried me somewhere I did not want to go, giving me no choice in the matter. Even as I lay immobile, my heart seethed with resentment. Maybe my friends didn’t notice the stares as we passed, but I couldn’t escape them. Those faces peering down at me filled with curiosity or horror or pity or—this was the worst—a guilty gladness that they weren’t the one lying paralyzed.
Yet I was powerless to escape even this. I wished I was home, lying in my dark room, with no one to bother about me, no one to care about the flatness of my life. The care of others only emphasized my dependence. I was useless, nothing but a mouth to feed, a body to keep alive—for what?
My friends had marveled at my objections over going to Jesus. “Just look what He is doing!” they cried. If anyone could fix me, Jesus could. But I had let go of hope long ago. I was weary of disappointment. I could not make myself believe in any possibility other than this flat reality. I didn’t want to see what was happening for all those other people and know it would never happen for me. And to be honest, I was angry at being given no choice. My helplessness filled me with fury.
Stop caring, I wanted to scream. Your caring hurts too much. These four, though, they wouldn’t give up. They ignored all my protests, picked me up, and carried me along. I closed my eyes. I couldn’t stop them, but I didn’t have to watch.
But now we had arrived, and even I could see the throng spilling from the door, crowding at the windows. People packed the street, straining to get a glimpse of the Healer and hear His words.
See? I wanted to say. I told you. It’s pointless. I should have known otherwise. My humiliation was only beginning.
They carried me to the roof and began removing the tiles. Heaven only knows what the people inside thought when the dust began to rain down on their heads. I wondered if the home’s owner would hold me responsible for the destruction of his roof. Don’t blame me. This wasn’t my idea.
And then they were pulling out rope—where did they get rope?—and I was suspended in the air, gaping up at the strained faces of my four determined friends who carefully lowered me. I found my eyes filling with tears as I suddenly saw their love for me. A love I had done little to deserve.
But now I could feel the crush of people in that room; I could hear the gasps and mutterings; I knew I would never un-live this moment. That small journey seemed to take a lifetime. Never was I more grateful for the floor.
Jesus looked down at me, saying nothing. He looked up at my friends, gazing from the hole in the roof with such confidence, and when He looked back at me, I saw His eyes, too, filled with tears.
“Your friends are full of faith,” He said softly. His look in that moment went to my very heart, and I knew He saw it all.
Yes. My friends were full of faith, even when I railed against them. My friends were full of faith, even when I had given up all hope. My friends were full of faith, even when I repaid their kindness with bitterness and self-pity.
My real paralysis was not physical. I was helpless in every way, held captive by grief and anger and pride. Who could ever fix that?
Then Jesus spoke. “Son.” Was I really a son? “Your sins are forgiven.”
At those words, the room fell into a tense silence, but Jesus just kept looking at me, a smile on His face. My whole body flooded with light.
Jesus finally looked around at the silent faces full of judgment. “I know what you’re all thinking. Who am I? How can I have authority to forgive sins? Let Me show you who I am.” He turned back to me. “Rise. Pick up your bed and go home.”
Rise. It was not a command but an invitation. A choice. You are helpless no longer. You are free.
Free because of the love and power of Jesus. Free because He decided to make me free. Free because of the faith of my friends, who wouldn’t give up on me when I gave up on myself.
Everyone talked afterward about the moment I stood and walked, carrying the bed that had been my prison for so long. Everyone asked me what it was like when Jesus healed my body.
But Jesus and I always knew that was not the moment of my true healing.