“Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:5)
You remember the story in Mark 2: Jesus is teaching in a house with people crowded into every corner. Four men bring their friend – a paralytic – to the house, hoping that Jesus will heal him. Since they can’t get in the front door, they go up on the roof, create a skylight, and lower their friend down to Jesus. Jesus looks with compassion on the paralytic and says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Stop right there. In just a moment, Jesus will heal the man’s physical paralysis, but let’s not rush past this verse. We know how offended the scribes were at Jesus’ words, since verse seven tells us their very thoughts: “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?”
How about the man’s friends – the four guys up on the roof? Can you imagine their disappointment? They brought the paralytic, couldn’t get in the front door, dug their way through the roof, lowered him down … pouring out their sweat and energy in the wild hope that Jesus would heal their friend. “Forget about his sins, Jesus! Heal him like you’ve healed so many others! That’s why we brought him!”
But, most important of all, what about the paralytic? What was his response to Jesus’ words?
Here’s what I think: I suspect the man would have gone away from that house rejoicing even if he was still paralyzed and had to be carried on his pallet. Why? Because Jesus spoke to his true and deepest need: the paralysis of his soul caused by guilt.
When we sin, we feel guilt – and rightly so. But if we do not seek forgiveness, what happens? That guilt festers. It grows. It looms over our lives. It paralyzes our ability to live fully, to experience joy, to relate in a healthy way to others, to worship God. We are left frozen in shame, our eyes staring inward, loathing ourselves, helpless to move forward since we are mired in the past.
Jesus saw the man’s real paralysis: the cold, stiff atrophy of his soul. And he spoke words of life: “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
In those five simple words, Jesus welcomes the man isolated by his sin back into God’s warm and welcoming family. He acknowledges that he knows all the darkness of his soul – every evil thought and word and deed that has kept the man bound up inside. And he gives the healing balm we all crave: forgiveness.
Yes, the man walked out of that house physically healed, carrying his pallet. But the greater miracle was the joy and freedom of the man’s soul. Guilt no longer held sway. Shame was banished. Forgiveness gave him a future and a hope.
If sin and guilt and shame are gnawing at your soul, paralyzing your spirit, come to Jesus. Let your friends gather around you to help you. Jesus knows everything you’ve done. He carried each and every one of those sins to the cross because of his deep love for you. He’s eager to speak the words your soul longs for:
“Child, your sins are forgiven.”