Take Up Your Mat
In my Bible class today we discussed the healing story about the paralyzed man. His friends brought him to the house that Jesus was staying in, but seeing the huge crowds, were forced to improvise.
They punched a hole in the roof and let their friend down into it. Jesus says a few interesting things here.
One, and first he says to the man, “Your sins are forgiven.” People stop for a second, because they don’t really get Jesus yet and say, “Did he just say ‘your sins are forgiven?’ Who does this guy think he is?”
Jesus then says, “What is easier? Saying your sins are forgiven, or telling this guy to pick up his bed and walk out of here? Will that prove to you who I am?”
There are a lot of things going on here. First of all you have to keep in mind that First century sickness is not like today’s sickness. Being blind, paralyzed, sick, lame, or suffering meant only one thing: someone sinned and you are being punished for it. Similar themes are in the book of Job where his friends say, “You must have done something to deserve this.” Or in John where they bring Jesus a blind man and said, “Who sinned? Him or his parents?”
It was explained like this. Imagine that you were caught doing a crime–say graffiti. You were caught with a paint can in your hand tagging some old lady’s house. Therefore, you became a prisoner, wearing stripes. So, when people saw you and your stripes, they knew that you had done something awful. You committed a crime, and therefore you were ostrocized by the world.
Then comes along a man who says to you, “Your crime never happened.” People begin to look at each other and say, “Yes it did, that is why he is wearing those stripes. Who are you to say his crime never happened?” And in that moment, all evidence of the crime was gone. There is no more graffiti, no more paint can. It is all gone.
“Now, take off those stripes and walk out of here a free man.”
Jesus is saying in this story, I have control over physical and supernatural. I am over sin and paralysis. Jesus says to the man, in essence, “You don’t have to live in punishment of old sin and no one has to know about it either. ” The damage done by sin has been wiped clean, therefore you don’t have to be under its bondage any more. You don’t have to be an outcast for that anymore.”
Quite a statement from a carpenter.
It is one thing for a healer to come along and alleviate the punishment. That happened all the time in ancient Israel. It is another thing for someone to go around forgiving the crime and relieving you from your punishment. That is what Jesus was doing.