A guy I knew in high school was confined to a wheelchair. Then just about this time one year, he showed up at school walking! He used canes, but he was really walking. And the look on his face is still etched on my mind.
Imagine the look on the face of the paralytic guy to whom Jesus said, “”Pick up your mat and go home.” I’ll bet it broadcast alternate waves of amazement and pure joy. But rereading the account in Matthew, I noticed that the physical healing was secondary. Jesus’ first words to this man were:
“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9:2b)
The religious experts who heard Him were shocked at His supposed blasphemy. So, Jesus used the healing as proof of His authority to forgive sins.
Knowing their thoughts, 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 so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” – (Matthew 9:4-6)
It is easy to be astonished with the act of physical healing and lose sight of the fact it was given as proof of Jesus’ authority to forgive sins. My guess? He would have healed the man out of kindness anyway. But His first gift to the man was forgiveness.
Jesus said it was easier for Him to say “Your sins are forgiven,” but in fact, it was not easy for Him to make that possible. Only Jesus had that authority, and He alone, because He was sinless, was able to purchase forgiveness for others on the Cross.
I think Jesus chose such moments with care, using those that were living pictures of His deeper truth. Chances are pretty good that you, like me, have felt, paralyzed by sin from time to time, helplessly locked up and unworthy of release. Jesus has the full authority to say, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven; take up your mat and go home.”
Trust Him on that…