I wrote quite a bit recently about Matthew 9 and Jesus healing the paralytic man and promised to write more about it because there is so much great stuff in this passage that I could not fit it into one post.
I don’t necessarily do devotions as many of you might, going from passage to passage each day. I don’t think there is anything wrong with jumping around each day, but for me, I tend to let God work through a certain passage with me for as long as He needs to. I’ll read the same passage over and over and let God really penetrate me with it as I think, pray, and meditate on it. Sometimes, He keeps me in one passage, even one verse, for weeks, maybe months at a time. I have been chewing and feasting on Matthew 9 for a few weeks now, not only bringing back the theme to me that He is all I need, but really looking at all the people involved in this passage and how it applies to my walk with Jesus. I said in my last Matthew 9 post that I could relate to the paralytic man because I am helpless, having the ability to do nothing on my own. As a helpless human, Jesus knows the best thing to say to me is, “Cheer up, son! Your sins are forgiven.”
When Jesus said this to the man who was paralyzed, though, it was only the beginning. The teachers of the law whispered amongst themselves that Jesus was blaspheming. The passage says that Jesus knew what they were thinking and He calls them out on their thoughts, “Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[b] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” With that, Jesus turns to the paralyzed man and tells him to stand up, pick up his mat, and go home. Verse 7 says the man JUMPED up and went home! There was a reverent fear through the whole crowd when they saw this, according to verse 8, and they praised God for sending a man with such great authority. Notice we do not hear anything else from the teachers of the law here. Don’t worry, they’ll be back…
But let’s take a look at what happened here with these teachers. We know that they’re a little leery of this Jesus fellow. How awkward must it have been when Jesus calls them out for their thoughts? Then, He immediately follows that up by physically healing the paralyzed man and sending him home. Luke says in his version of this passage that the man went home praising God. We do not know anything else about this man; his name, whether he had a family, etc., but I can only imagine that as he went home (I would almost assume he was running), every person he passed on the way was told of this miracle. And what if this man had a family waiting for him at home? He opens the door and walks through to the delight of his confused family. This blessing could not be hidden from anyone who had known this man before he met up with Jesus. I mean, with all that Jesus did there, it’s no wonder we hear nothing else from the teachers. He may not have convinced them, but He did silence them, leaving them speechless, even if only for a short time.
As little as we know about the formerly paralyzed man, we know even less about the people who brought him to Jesus. Some versions say that the people were all men, some versions simply describe them as people. We do not know how many, whether they were family, friends, people who pitied the man…nothing really. Through the passage, we don’t learn all that much either, but Luke’s version of this event adds a little more fun to the equation:
18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a sleeping mat. They tried to take him inside to Jesus, 19 but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
In both gospels, it is said that Jesus saw the faith of these people who brought this man to him and that is when He utters those beautiful words that his sins are forgiven. We don’t get any insight into whether anyone said anything to Jesus once they reached Him, but these people must have really wanted this man, whether their friend, father, husband, uncle, or whoever he was to them, to be healed if they went through all that trouble just to get him noticed by Jesus in hopes of having him healed. I do not believe that one can be saved through the faith of others and I don’t think that this is what this passage implies, however, I do believe people can be healed of their pain and helplessness when there are people willing to deliver them to the feet of Jesus Christ.
A name that we often give Jesus is “The Great Physician”. It’s a pretty fitting name and an interesting analogy, one that Jesus appears to use in describing Himself later on in this same chapter. Of course, as with all analogies when we try to compare human things to divine things (which is all we know how to do, right?) because God is so much bigger than any analogy we can use to describe Him, it breaks down. It breaks down because He is more than just a doctor, but the cure itself. He is not administering the antidote, He himself is antidote that we need to be healed.
I have been pretty fortunate that I have only had to take one ambulance ride in my life. I had hurt my back a few days prior (picking up a shirt off the floor, no less) and one morning as I walked into the bathroom and turned around, I almost passed out from the pain. I could not get my bearings back…I sat on the bathroom floor as my wife called for an ambulance. After a short time, the paramedics delivered me to the hospital so I could see the doctor. By that time, I was a little more lucid. The doctor ended up giving me a prescription to help ease the pain and lo and behold, within a few days, the pain had pretty much disappeared.
The people who brought the paralytic man to Jesus were paramedics. He was in need of healing and these people knew where they had to take him in order to get it. They delivered him to the cure. Think about what paramedics do:
They respond when someone is in trouble. They check vital signs. When something is broken, they try to hold it together. Where there is no heartbeat, they try to revive it. When there is trouble breathing, they try to stabilize it. When there is blood and bruising, they will try to clean it up the best they can. They deliver the sick and the helpless to the doctor, who can make them well.
It is often said that the church is a hospital. I think ultimately, though, the hospital is really the feet of Jesus Christ and we as the church are the paramedics, delivering the sick, those in pain, and those dying, to Him for healing.
The church can be the ambulance that takes the sick and dying to the feet of the Great Physician and its people can be the paramedics who care for them on the ride, but we need to be careful. The way we often treat those who are sick and in pain is similar to a paramedic showing up to your house because you broke your leg tripping over something and having the paramedic telling you to clean up the clutter in your house and driving away.
Sin is a disease; a cancer. People are in pain for so many different reasons, yet we too often treat people like lepers and outcast them when we should be opening up the ambulance door, guiding them in, whether we’re holding their hand or lifting a stretcher, and help deliver them to the feet of Jesus Christ, where the ultimate healing can really happen.