by Martin G. Collins
Two of Jesus Christ's seventeen healing miracles involve healing a paralyzed person. The healing recorded in Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; and Luke 5:17-26 is the first of the two. It took place in Capernaum, which Matthew calls Jesus' "own city" because it was His continuous home as an adult and certainly after His rejection by the Nazarenes. The miracle's focus is the issue of Christ as the Son of God, which is shown in an obvious and amazing way.
The healing of the paralytic impressed and excited everyone present. Energetic crowds of interested people pressed in at the door to hear the Teacher proclaim the "new" truths. The Pharisees, the scribes, and the common people were unaware that they were about to witness strong proof of Christ's deity and the power of God.
Comment: Four men arrive late, carrying a paralyzed man on his bed. When they realize that they cannot possibly get him through the door, they carry their helpless paralytic friend upstairs to the roof and lower the bed in front of Jesus as He is speaking. Their determination to place him before Jesus displays their faith that he would be healed. Instead of being deterred by the problem of the crowds, they see the possibilities for solving it. If they could only involve God, they thought, things would go well. The persevering efforts of the four friends pay off for their paralytic friend as they help make possible his spiritual healing as well as his physical healing. Their actions are an example of the apostle James' statement in James 2:18: "I will show you my faith by my works."
Christ finds faith in the friends, and He honors their faith, rather than any faith the sufferer has. Of course, no one can be saved by another's faith. Yet, another or others can help him along to Christ since only He can deliver him from the bondage of sin. Being pleased with their works, which exhibited their faith, Christ responds to their resourcefulness and perseverance in behalf of their suffering friend. Their faith in Christ, then, is the catalyst in His performing this miracle. Our Savior works where faith is present (Luke 5:20). Obviously, He can perform His work anywhere regardless of human faith, but He often chooses not to act when people lack faith in Him, as happened in Nazareth (Matthew 13:58).
2. What positive character traits does the four friends' faith reveal? Same verses.
Comment: The psalmist expresses his hope of forgiveness:
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD; Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications. If You, LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But there isforgiveness with You, that You may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I do hope." (Psalm 130:1-5)
Hope motivates the paralytic's friends to manifest faith. First, their faith is a wise faith in that it brought the paralytic to the only One who could heal. Second, it is a persistent faith because it is undeterred by seemingly overwhelming obstacles. Third, it is a sacrificial faith in that it gives of its time and effort to bring the paralytic before Christ. Fourth, it is an unintimidated faith because it is unashamedly displayed in public. Fifth, it is a humble faith since the friends do not ask Jesus to come to him but take him to Jesus. Sixth, it is a loving faith because the friends willingly expend great effort to get him real help. Finally, it is an active faith in that they take the man to Christ rather than sit around complaining and grumbling about their friend's woeful condition.
Comment: Christ deals first with the spiritual problem—the forgiveness of sins—and then the physical problem—the physical affliction. Most people want it the other way around, putting greater emphasis on healing the physical ailment than fixing the spiritual problem. Solomon gives us the answer to which is more important: "The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?" (Proverbs 18:14). From God's perfect perspective, spiritual needs are always more critical than physical ones (Mark 8:36), so in this miracle, forgiveness precedes healing.
Jesus tells the paralytic, "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you." Seeing his friends' faith, Jesus' first words to the paralytic offer simple encouragement: "Be of good cheer." His comforting support refers directly to the forgiveness of the sufferer's sins. The paralytic, troubled by sin that had caused or was causing his suffering, now had reason for optimism. Having our sins forgiven always brings a deep relief and joy, even if the physical affliction is not healed. David's psalm on the joy of forgiveness speaks of this satisfying comfort: "Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:1-2).