Jesus Heals a Paralytic
One day, while he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting near by (they had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem); and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. Just then some men came, carrying a paralyzed man on a bed. They were trying to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; but finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Then the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their questionings, he answered them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the one who was paralyzed—“I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” Immediately he stood up before them, took what he had been lying on, and went to his home, glorifying God. Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen strange things today.”
~ Luke 5:17-26 (NRSV)
This story is another one of those stories that bring back memories from my childhood. I remember hearing this story in Sunday School and really struggling with it. My struggle wasn’t with the crowd, or with Jesus, or with the paralytic, or with his friends. It wasn’t even with Pharisees, or the scribes, or with the teachers of the law. You see, when I was growing up, my Dad owned a roofing company, and I remember hearing him say over and over, “Why would you put in a skylight and cut a hole in a perfectly good roof.” So, when I heard that these four friends had cut a hole in a perfectly good roof to lower their friend down to Jesus, I just couldn’t get past that part.
Over the years, I’ve gotten over that struggle, so today I want us to focus not so much on the hole in the roof as much as the people that brought their friend to Jesus. Can you imagine if the paralytic had been all alone? What would have happened? He wouldn’t have had a chance of getting close to Jesus, would he? It took more than someone being nice to him; it took several people that would help him through thick and thin to do whatever they needed to do to get him to Jesus. As the story said, they carried him in on a mat, and when they couldn’t get him close enough to Jesus because of the crowd, they carried him up to the roof and lowered him down to Jesus. These were devoted friends. They were so close, they were like family, and they were ready to do whatever it took to help their friend, even if it meant cutting a hole in a perfectly good roof!!
Can you imagine having friends that would go to that extent to help you? Can you imagine having others who would support you to that length to assure you that you are not alone? I have to believe that the paralytic must have felt pretty good knowing that even though he couldn’t get to Jesus himself, there were those in his community who would be there for him in his time of trial. It must feel pretty good to know that in this big crazy world, there are others you can turn to when you need them, maybe for a listening ear, or to help on a project, or even to help you to strengthen your faith.
I have some good news today, my friends. Here in Oldtown, we work on lots of projects together, like church suppers and coffeehouses, flea markets and concerts, fairs and celebrations. We strive to educate children of all ages, and we support one another on our journeys of faith. We worship and we sing and praise God to the best of our ability, and we work on mission projects to reach out to others in need. But there is one thing that I probably should have said in the beginning: though we do all of those wonderful things here, we are not perfect. (I know some of you might be surprised to hear that!)
We are a community that loves God and strives to follow Jesus in our everyday lives, but sometimes we all make mistakes. Sometimes we run short on volunteers, and sometimes we start to burn out the few and the faithful. Sometimes, we disagree on how things should be done or could be done, and because we all come from different backgrounds, we sometimes don’t see eye-to-eye politically or fiscally or even theologically. But the truth is, my friends, that’s okay! Because when each of us brings our true selves to this community, we find that we are overflowing with gifts. And when we each share a little bit of our time, our effort, our energy, and our resources, this little church is able to do amazing things, just like those four friends did for the paralytic. And the truth is, as many of us have experienced here in Oldtown, when we live out our faith in all that we say and do, striving to follow Christ and being the best disciples of Jesus that we can be, our faith does make us well, and by the grace of God, our sins are forgiven, not because of our actions, but because of the unconditional love and grace of God!
I have to say, I love the last verse of today’s reading. In the NRSV or the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible that we have in our pews, it reads: “Amazement seized all of them, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, ‘We have seen strange things today.’” But in the NIV, the New International Version, it says: “Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.’”
Friends, this is the way I often feel here in Oldtown when I am surrounded by the love and care of this community. Sometimes the things that I see and experience are strange, but usually, they are downright remarkable!
To be honest, the same is true at the table that is set before us, because the sacrament of communion is filled with mystery and wonder. We don’t totally understand what happens when we gather at the table breaking the bread and sharing the cup. But we do know that somehow Jesus meets us here, offering us forgiveness and healing while he fills us with grace and feeds us with hope, making us whole and giving us courage and strength for the journey ahead. Again, an amazingly strange and yet remarkable experience!
But friends, let us not lose sight of our call as Christians because when our faith has made us well and our sins have been forgiven and we have been fed and nourished in worship and supported by community, we have to remember that the story does not end there! Because then, it’s our job to go out and tell the world to share the good news of Jesus and to help others so that they might do the same. After all, the important part of today’s story is that people were bringing others to Jesus that they might be healed in mind body and spirit, and friends, there are a lot of people hurting in our world right now.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your busy week ahead, try to think of a way that you, like the friends in our story today, can bring someone to Jesus. Invite a friend to worship next week, or share our daily Lenten email devotionals with them. Share this week’s story about the paralytic and his four friends with someone you meet. And always strive to teach others, not by judging them and telling them they that they are wrong and you are right, but teach them by the example you set in your everyday life, being the hands and feet of Jesus on this earth, as you reach out to help those in need. Because if and when that happens, others just might give praise to God and say, “We have seen remarkable things today!”
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God. Amen