1 Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to His own town. 2 Some people brought to Him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, My child! Your sins are forgiven.”
3 But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does He think He’s God?”
4 Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? 6 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
7 And the man jumped up and went home! 8 Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a Man with such great authority.
When I read this, passage of scripture, my mind immediately goes to the many people who have been paralyzed throughout the centuries. I think of people who I’ve known personally, and those that I don’t know personally, but I know of them.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States of America, was paralyzed from the waist down, and later diagnosed with infantile paralysis (polio) in 1921, at the age of 39. Unbeknownst to the very people who elected him, Roosevelt was able to keep his paralysis a secret, for the most part, through the aid of the press.
How do you think people would react if their loved ones brought them to see Jesus, and He simply responded, “Be encouraged, My child! Your sins are forgiven.”? How would Franklin D. Roosevelt have responded, I wonder? Would he praise the Lord and thank Jesus? Or would he be offended that Jesus brought his sins up? How would the wealthy spoiled politician have responded? Would he have angrily tried to silence Jesus, fearing He would Roosevelt’s adulterous affairs to the world? Or would he have repented, crying out to the Lord and asking for forgiveness for the sins he had committed against God and man?
Many people have heard of Christopher Reeve, an actor best known for playing Superman in the 1980’s. Reeve was paralyzed after being thrown from a horse in 1995, at the age of 42. For the rest of his life, until he died at age 52, Reeve was a quadriplegic, unable to breathe on his own without breathing equipment.
How do you think Christopher Reeve and his family, friends and fans would have responded to Jesus telling him, “Be encouraged, My child! Your sins are forgiven.”? Do you think Reeve and those who loved him would have rejoiced at Jesus’ words of love and mercy? Or would he, his family, friends and fans be offended at the implication that he was a sinful man? Would he and those who loved him have recognized that He was in the presence of the Son of God, who had authority to forgive sins? Or would they simply think Jesus was a man like any other man, who had no authority… a man who had stepped out of line by implying that Christopher Reeves was a sinner? How would you feel if you witnessed this?
And then there’s Joni Eareckson Tada… I don’t know how many of you are familiar with Joni Eareckson Tada, so I’ll just give you a brief overview of her life. In 1967, at the tender age of 17, Joni Eareckson Tada was involved in a terrible diving accident, fracturing her spine between the fourth and fifth cervical levels, which left her a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down. During the months that followed her accident, Joni suffered from deep depression, wanting to commit suicide, yet physically unable to carry out her wishes, until finally, one night, a few months after her accident, she cried out to the Lord to help her endure and to let some good come from her pain.
The Lord heard her cry, filling her life with purpose. Though she was no longer able to use her hands and arms, nor her feet and her legs, He gave her the ability to draw and to paint, holding the necessary instruments in her mouth. The quality of the artwork she produced far exceeded the abilities of most people who have use of all of their limbs. And every picture drawn, as well as every painting was done for the glory of the Lord…
As she drew closer to the Lord, Joni acknowledged that as incomprehensible as it may seem to most people, the Lord had allowed the horrible accident in answer to a prayer that she had prayed few months prior. That night, after returning home from an evening of teenage passion and sin, Joni had cried out to God for forgiveness and for the strength to stop sinning against Him. She admitted that the Lord would have to give her the strength to repent and turn away from the sins she was involved in, because she was powerless to stop on her own. She admits that she has come to believe that the Lord allowed all that has happened in answer to that desperate cry for help, and to discipline her according to Hebrews 12…
5 And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as His children? He said, “My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, and don’t give up when He corrects you. 6 For the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes each one He accepts as His child.”
7 As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 8 If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really His children at all. 9 Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?
10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.
This seems so difficult for people to swallow. Would a God of love really ordain one of His children to become a quadriplegic in answer to prayer? Is God really more concerned about our souls than in the suffering of our bodies? Is it easier for God to forgive sins? Or is it easier for Him to heal our bodies, enabling the quadriplegics and the paraplegics to rise up and walk again?
Look at yourself and your own situations. How is your physical health? How is your emotional health? Have you ever wondered, “Why me, Lord?” Have you ever considered the possibility that not only has God allowed your present suffering, but perhaps, He also ordained it? Is this offensive to you? What if I told you that the Lord’s love for us runs so deep, and flies so high; its breadth is so wide and it spans so long that He will spare nothing to win us for eternity? Remember, my beloved readers, God knows our hearts better than we do…
9 “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? 10 But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.
Christ knows what is in the heart of man, and therefore, He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what you and I must endure in order for us to submit our lives to Him, and while it is not His will to harm us, He will do whatever it takes in order to draw us to Him. Have you been suffering? I have suffered greatly, both throughout my younger years, and even recently. I don’t understand why the Lord chose to ordain my suffering, but I do know that He loves me, and He promises that He will work all things together for my good, because I love Him and He has called me according to His glory.
2 Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
What about you, beloved? Do you love the Lord? Has He called you according to His glory? Then count it all joy, for the Lord is perfecting you!
Cheryl A. Showers