His friends had gone through all that trouble. They’d carried him through the dirt roads of the city only to find the way to Jesus blocked by hordes of people. But they’d not let that deter them. Working tirelessly, they’d lifted him onto the tiled roof, clearing a space just big enough to fit him, and lowered him to Jesus. All that trouble. All that sweat and back-breaking labor. All because they believed. They believed in Jesus’s power to heal him and they believed in his mercy. If they could only get their friend to Jesus, he’d be healed. There’d be no more paralysis. No more days spent confined to a bed. No more listening to the comings and goings of his family as they moved about the home—working, playing, living.
He lay helpless before Jesus. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on him. Then he heard Jesus speak. “Man,” he said, “your sins are forgiven you” (Luke 5:20).
Your sins are forgiven? We know how the man’s story ends. We know that in just a few verses Jesus will tell him to rise, pick up his bed, and go home. So it’s easy for us to rush through it. To bypass the tension. To hasten to the miraculous. But try to imagine what it would have felt like to the man, having come all this way, having felt like a burden to his friends. Maybe as they’d carried him from his home to Jesus, he’d spent the whole way picturing what it would be like to stand up, fold up his mat, and run home to embrace his family. And then imagine what it must have felt like to hear this teacher, this man named Jesus, say, “Your sins are forgiven you.” His sins? Didn’t Jesus understand? Didn’t he realize his problem was the paralysis?
The man and his friends wanted Jesus to deal with the paralysis. But there was a deeper need. Sometimes we deceive ourselves thinking that if God would just fix the external stuff, everything else would be okay. We would settle for that. But, thanks be to God, Jesus doesn’t settle. He didn’t settle in this man’s life, and he won’t settle in ours. Jesus knows, better than even we know ourselves, that the greatest need in our lives is to be reconciled to him, to be forgiven of our sins. And because he’s good, and because he showers us with grace upon grace, he doesn’t stop at that. Like the man who had been paralyzed, he looks on us with mercy, forgives us our sins, and then gives us life abundant. Just because He can.