Jesus Heals a Man
(Matthew 9.1-8; Luke 5.17-26)
1Jesus went back to Capernaum, and a few days later people heard that he was at home. 2Then so many of them came to the house that there wasn't even standing room left in front of the door.
Jesus was still teaching 3when four people came up, carrying a man on a mat because he could not walk. 4But because of the crowd, they could not get him to Jesus. So they made a hole in the roof above him and let the man down in front of everyone.
5When Jesus saw how much faith they had, he said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”
6Some of the teachers of the Law of Moses were sitting there. They started wondering, 7“Why would he say such a thing? He must think he is God! Only God can forgive sins.”
8At once, Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said, “Why are you thinking such things? 9Is it easier for me to tell this man his sins are forgiven or to tell him to get up and pick up his mat and go on home? 10I will show you that the Son of Man has the right to forgive sins here on earth.” So Jesus said to the man, 11“Get up! Pick up your mat and go on home.”
12The man got right up. He picked up his mat and went out while everyone watched in amazement. They praised God and said, “We have never seen anything like this!”
This passage gives us a strange and even intriguing picture of forgiveness. Most often forgiveness is portrayed as God’s response to our confession of sins. In this passage we see something very different. Here it is not because of the crippled man’s faith that Jesus pronounces him forgiven but rather the faith of the man’s friends: “When Jesus saw how much faith they had…” And if we are tempted to think that this was some empty rhetoric without spiritual reality, the passage goes on to say that at Jesus’ command the man gets up, picks up his mat, and walks away. His sins are forgiven and he is healed.
It is a surprising thing to think that receiving forgiveness might come as a result of a friend’s act of faith. But, this is what happens. On reflection, many of us can probably think of people in our lives who have cared that deeply for us. We just know in our hearts that we have received forgiveness because of their acts of faith.
The question for us today is one of faith, friendship, and forgiveness: who is it among our friends that might be able to hear Jesus say to them “your sins are forgiven” because of our faith? Are we that kind of friend? Do we display the faith of this crippled man’s friends? Do we have friends we care about that deeply?
Gracious God, help me to be a friend like the friend we see in this passage. Spirit, empower me to care so deeply about those around me that they can come to see you through my acts of faith. Thank you for being my friend and for acting on my behalf that I might receive the forgiveness you so freely offered me through your Son, Jesus. Amen.