paralyzed man with faithful friends

When Jesus healed the paralytic in Capernaum he saves not only his ability to walk but his soul as well. As long as I can remember I have heard sermons preached about this particular miracle, but almost every one, (in fact, I can guess and say, every single one), would have been about the “message” Jesus preaches at the Pharisees. After they call him a blashphemer, Jesus said,

“Why do you entertain evil thoughts 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.”

Now what Jesus says here is, of course, very important. He is showing that his power is not of man, but of God, and proclaiming his status as the Messiah. However, I do not think his intention in healing this man was for the “sermon” afterwards. Once again, we can de-spiritualize this miracle and look at this miracle in a different light.

Christ healing the paralytic at Capernaum by Bernhard Rode 1780.

One thing I can be absolutely sure of, is I have never heard a sermon about this paralytic’s friends. And yet, it seems that his friends were the most vital part of this entire miracle. Not only the physical importance, (they carried the man to Jesus [lowered him from the roof in other Gospels]), but also their faith seems to be what moves Jesus emotionally to work. Jesus sees the friends bring the paralyzed man, and Matthew says, “Jesus saw their faith.” Clearly the paralyzed man’s faith had nothing, or very little to do with it. Jesus looked at the people doing the work. He saw the people who took the time, and effort, to physically carry a man to be healed. And he saved that man spiritually, and physically because of the other’s faith.

What if this was the point? What if Jesus intended for us to read this story and see the communal action that benefits not only a group, but also an individual? What if we took the time to look at the “least of these,” as more than just beggars, but people who need to be physically brought to Jesus? What if our faith, will be the difference between healing, and hurting in another?

I think that Jesus in many of his miracles is looking for a way to show simple, non-overtly spiritual ways, to connect to him, and each other. Many of them have been far to over-spiritualized, over-done, and over-thought. Perhaps just taking the time to look at them simply is where we can learn the most.

When we bring our friends to Jesus they often are confused, hurting, or even lost. Many of them may even be hard lining skeptics of Jesus in general. Perhaps this paralyzed man was too. But when Jesus sees his love emanating from within us, towards the people that we love, he can use it to work his own “miracle.” Jesus will meet our friends “where they are,” but why should they be in a safe place with, in a place with people who already love Jesus, when he does decide it is time to meet with them. Perhaps he is waiting for that person to be ready to meet him, but perhaps, he is waiting for us to ready that person to meet Jesus.

His love is intoxicating, and invigorating. It brings life to death, re-wilds the most concrete of souls. But it requires us. I happen to feel that this is one of the most powerful things about Jesus’ love. It requires us. Jesus puts the responsibility on us, but it not only requires our work, but also our faith. If we simply do the work, with no faith, what benefit is there to that person who is “helped”? It may be beneficial for the time, (giving spare change to the homeless man outside your local bodega) but putting in the effort to show your faith through your actions, is the thing that will benefit them the most, and most likely connect Jesus to them.