Summary: The healing of the paralytic man illustrates how Jesus heals and respects the faithfulness of others too in the healing process.
What about us? How persistent are we with our friends? Do we have a friend like Uncle Hans or the paralytic man? How far are we willing to go in loving God by loving a neighbour in need? A love that fails to be open to opportunities for healing is no love at all. Without the prayers, the faith, the persistence of loyal friends, neither Uncle Hans nor the paralytic would have been healed. Never underestimate what God is able to do with your help—we are Christ’s hands, feet, voice and presence. Miracles can and do happen when we love our neighbour like Uncle Hans’s friends; and like the four friends of the paralytic man in our gospel. Such persistence is a good example of faith and love for us all.
But there’s even more to the story isn’t there? Mark goes on to say that it wasn’t only the persistence, the faith, the love of the paralytic’s friends, which healed him—rather, it was the very power and presence of Jesus himself to forgive sins, which results in healing. This story—contrary to the healing of the blind man in John’s Gospel, where he never sinned nor did his parents sin—makes the traditional Jewish connection between illness and disease and sin. In Mark’s story, there is here an association of forgiveness of sin by Jesus and the healing of the paralytic man.
The association between sin, sickness and disease is also a real one in today’s world. Many people live under the burden of their sin, guilt and shame. Contrary to what Jesus asks his audience: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? NEITHER OF THESE IS EASY. One of the most difficult things for medical doctors to heal is illnesses and diseases associated with a person’s failure to forgive. Forgiveness is EXTREMELY DIFFICULT FOR SOME PEOPLE. For some people, THE MOST DIFFICULT THING TO DO IS FORGIVING YOURSELF. When they keep their bitterness, their resentments, their anger inside for years on end; this takes it’s toll, and often results in cardiovascular illness or disease, arthritis or rheumatism, chronic depression and even mental illness to name only a few.
Many years ago, I knew a woman who had been abused terribly. She had carried that inside of her for decades. Trying to cope with it by escaping from it, she had become addicted to alcohol and drugs. Eventually she developed asthma, anorexia, and emphysema. All of these things were connected with her inability to let go of her guilt and shame—real and imagined—failing to forgive herself. So, consequently, she could not be healed or cured physically because she was unable to forgive herself. Maybe some of you here today, have or are struggling with the same thing. If so, I encourage you to trust in those words of Jesus spoken to the paralytic today: “YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN.”
With forgiveness comes healing and wholeness; GOD’S SHALOM, which includes: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health and well-being; as well as right relationships with God, others and the world. However, I also issue a word of caution here. It is NOT TRUE that by receiving and giving forgiveness we shall ALWAYS BE GUARANTEED a physical healing, like the paralytic man in today’s gospel. Just because we are not healed physically DOES NOT always mean that God is punishing us for our sins. NO! Sometimes God gives us a physical ailment TO DRAW US CLOSER TO CHRIST AND HIS SUFFERING—as was the case for the apostle Paul. Many people have been turned off of Christianity because a guilt trip was laid upon them that they were not healed because they still had some outstanding sin to confess or their faith was not strong enough. NO! ONLY GOD JUDGES AND SEES THE HEART AND THE SOUL OF US ALL. A helpful question each one of us might ask of ourselves if we are not healed physically is: “Now that I have not been healed of this physical ailment, what is God teaching me through it?” And a second, related question we can ask of ourselves is: “How can I best learn to serve God by living with this ailment?” It was C.S. Lewis who lost his beloved wife to cancer who once observed that pain, illness, disease and suffering are God’s megaphone to the world—God’s way of getting our attention so that we can listen to God and learn from our circumstances what God has to teach us.