Summary: The playboy comes home. He’s sick, dying. Does anyone care?
Bodies pressed against bodies in stifling closeness — shoving, squirming, straining to see. Youngsters clambered on top of everything in the yard, climbed the nearby trees or fences, and clustered on the neighbors’ rooftops. Inside, the house was jammed with people as Jesus explained more and more about the Scriptures, then taught how people should live for God.
He claimed that the Kingdom of God was here now! How could that be? What with the Romans in power and all the hypocrisy of the religious leaders!
Outside, in the street, four men carried their friend on a makeshift stretcher. He had always been a good buddy, but then this paralysis had struck him down. They had to get him to Jesus. Suddenly the quartet of carriers shot a knowing glance at each other. “Hang on,” they quipped to their patient, and started the wobbling, slanting trek up the outside stairs, onto the roof of the house!
Carefully, they began to break up the tiles on roof. (Did they destroy anything? Certainly it was not like removing Lego blocks.) Dirt clattered down on the people. Dust descended, making the people sneeze. The nose-rubbing, clothes-brushing, crowd inside were irritated. What are these guys trying to do?
The Pharisees were indignant. Why, a bug or a centipede (or the remains of a mouse!) might fall on a person and he would be unclean!
Then the patient came into their view. Of all things, this man was a paralytic!
Philip Keller writes, “Paralysis was an incurable condition in those times. It had a variety of causes. The most common was the result of venereal disease. And it is assumed this young man, stricken helpless, lying there immobilized on his thin mattress, was paying the high price of his prodigal life. He had been off to some alluring harlot city to squander his strength and savings. There some sloe-eyed beauty with smooth lips and soft words bequeathed him this dread disease which now exacted its terrible toll from his manhood.” (Rabboni, Which is to say, Master, p.116-121)
Imagine today the hometown boy just returned from San Francisco in the advanced stages of AIDS. He craves the support of his family. Friends wheel him into this church. He wants prayer….
Jesus looked down at this “paralyzed playboy” and
I. PARDONED HIS PAST
“Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
“Curses,” sputtered one Pharisee as he punched his knuckles into a cupped left hand. “Curses! This Jesus is always taking too much on himself. Who does he think he is?”
This world has always had plenty of prodigals and prostitutes. Sin is not a recent invention! To those who “pride themselves on being very proper, prodigals and prostitutes are but the scum and offscouring of society. They are the despised, the disdained and the downgraded dregs.”
Jesus had no need to be told “the sleazy story of the boy’s past behavior. [He] had lived in rough, tough Nazareth too long. He had seen lots of loose living in His hometown. He had known gentle young girls lured into selling their innocent, beautiful bodies to brutish men. He had known fine young men to be corrupted and ruined by the tactics of the professional prostitutes. And all of it made His blood boil and His righteous anger flame with white heat.”
“Son … My boy … My dear young fellow…. Your sins are forgiven.” What tenderness! “It was not just healing of muscles, sinews, joints, and bones this young man needed. He needed a healing of spirit, a purging of his soul, so deeply stained. He knew it. Jesus knew it.”
Adam Clarke says, “It was a maxim among the Jews that no diseased person could be healed till all his sins were blotted out.” This paralyzed playboy had two serious needs. Jesus met both of them.
“Jesus not only knew the tumultuous thoughts racing wildly through the paralytic’s passionate memory, He could also readily decipher the deep doubts and grievous misgivings chasing through the minds of the scribes.” This young hellion had played the fool, and now he must pay the penalty for his perverseness.
But Jesus forgave! The whole mountain of sin was washed away! Then He…
II. PURIFIED HIS PRESENT
Beginning inside, Jesus cleansed him. “Thy sins be forgiven,” was only part of what happened! Jesus changed him! Regenerated! A New Creature!
No one could see this miracle! That’s why Jesus drew attention to it.
Jesus never simply forgave the past. Another day Jesus instructed an immoral woman, “Go and sin no more.” At the pool of Bethesda, Jesus told a cripple, “Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.” If Jesus had not changed them, this would have been a most cruel command, impossible to keep! But God’s commands are His enablings! Jesus had changed this “paralyzed playboy.”