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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Be of Good Cheer; Thy Sins be Forgiven Thee: Jesus Heals a Man with Palsy

Early in his ministry, after Jesus heals Peter's Mother in Law, multitudes throng to their doorstep, desiring healing. From then until the cross, much of Jesus' ministry will be healing every disease known (only a few are described in the New Testament). Shortly before , he has healed a leper and the centurion's servant, and delivered from devils the madmen in the Gergesenes. (Mt 8:28-34). He has crossed Galilee by then, and comes to what is described as 'his own city (9:1), in a crowded house where he preaches to them. (Makr2:2; ) 'His own city' is Capernaum.

Whatever size the crowd, he is surrounded so much so, that the one in need of healing in these passages, a

"a man sick of palsy, lying on a bed;..."(Mt 9:2)

is lowered through the ceiling. In those days, even in stone or brick houses there was a section of roof, somewhat like a large skylight, which would be left open during pleasant weather and allow quick access to the roof, which was covered over other times by woven thatch or branches. Rooftops often were akin to rooftop 'patios' now, albeit more practical, where small gardens were grown or where people would talk house to house or even make announcements. [Recall in another place in scripture, Jesus refers to what is done in secret being shouted from the housetops]

Since the crowd is so great, and his friends cannot bear his bed close enough, they devise an ingenious plan to have him appear front and center at the feet of the Lord, by carrying him to the top of the roof and lowering him down. (Mk 2:4). It took a reasonable amount of faith to go to that trouble: they had to believe there was a real possibility Jesus could heal their friend. Rather than merely moving a few branches aside to lower the fellow, it is noted the 'break up' the roof:

Mar 2:4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken [it] up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.

Jesus remarks on the faith they demonstrate:
Mar 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. (also Luke 5:19; Mt 9:2)

Those standing around were dumbfounded: they were rather expecting a healing, perhaps, following what was probably the best teaching they had ever heard, and rather than the laying on of hands, or a word speaking healing, Jesus, Yshua, says
"thy sins be forgiven thee".

So often in Jesus's ministry, the large crowds were attracted not initially by a hunger for the things of God, but for seeing 'wonders'. Signs and wonders were indeed suppose to follow the Messiah (wonder-ful, Is 9:6) Isaiah notes in 8:18 that signs and wonders follow the 'rock of offense', and Jesus speaks himself to the reason many follow:

Jhn 4:48 Then said Jesus unto him, Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.

It was not that the signs and wonders were not good: they were works of God, it was merely that he wished a faith which would withstand a brutal world without signs and wonders. In the healing of the man with palsy, in response to a great faith that would tear open a tile roof and lower a friend on a bed, believing he would be healed, Jesus does not say: 'be made whole initially as in so many other healings, instead he says

...Son, thy sins be forgiven thee; Mk 2:5
...Son be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee Mt 9:2
...Man, thy sins be forgiven thee Lk 5:20

The requisite faith had been shown, not spoken, and a gift greater than earthly healing had taken place, the forgiveness of sins.

The Scribes and Pharisees among the crowd are immediately taken aback. It is interesting to note that the Scribes and Pharisees are present, indicating that at least some took him seriously, even this early and were present if not to believe then to attend to closely. There is often a mistaken notion that all Pharisees were opposed to Jesus, but the truth is, a few were followers such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, and others invited him after hearing him preach in synagogue to dine with them, e.g. the healing of the man with the withered hand. In any event, positive or negative they took Jesus seriously, constantly confronting him about doctrine and regulation, some of genuine interest and some to 'catch him in his speech'.

This healing of palsy though is unique because it points to :

1. Jesus as the Son of Man, Ben Adam, the Messiah
2. Jesus 's ability to remit or forgive sin.

If Jesus were not the Messiah, then saying to the paralyzed man 'thy sins be forgiven thee' might have even been construed as cruel, yet rather then dismissing or forgoing the healing, Jesus shows that with true faith, a greater healing is possible: the healing of salvation and forgiveness of sins, by God, the only one who could truly forgive and remit sin. If he were not the Messiah it would be blasphemous! The Pharisees and scribes though immediately confront him:

Mt 9:3

And behold,certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth."

Mk 2: 5-7

But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their own hearts 7 Why doth this man speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?

Lk 5:21

And the scribes and the Pharisees , began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sin, but God alone?

We have mentioned before that a 3 fold mention of words or an event in scripture is significant. (In research we talk of statistical significance, here it is 'scripturally significant'.) In both Mk 2:5-7 and in Luke 5:21, the teachers of the Law answer their own question without knowing it: "Who can forgive sin but God alone?" and then they have the difficult task of comprehending 'what Messiah ought to be". 2

Jesus though perceives their hearts: He knows and can tell that they carry a sinister thought; he confronts them before they can respond, while still reasoning:

Mt. 9:4

And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say,Arise and walk?

Mark 2:8

And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether it is easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee;or to say Arise, and take up thy bed and walk?

Luke 5:22

But when Jesus perceived their thoughts he answering said unto them What reason ye in your hearts? Whether is easier to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?

The healing will pursue the above questing which Jesus addresses to the Pharisees and Scribes. Note that they were willing to see Jesus do a miracle of healing, which had to be from God, but not to hear him forgive sin. Some of the 'nabe' or prophets had healed, but none before had done more than either make a sacrifice for the people, or warn of sin. So I suspect they already had to know that Jesus was or at least possibly was the Messiah, because of signs, healings and miracles, but they were not prepared for the dept and breadth of Messiah incarnate, Messiah in the flesh: that he could forgive sin, or later put away and atone for sin, and still do the astounding act of making straight the limbs of one with palsy.

The Command of Healing

The great act of forgiving sin is unexpected and leaves the crowd baffled, but Jesus' next act is the healing itself, to help all understand (for all time,) that while healings are wondrous works of God, the far greater work is the forgiveness of sin, the breaking of the Edenic curse. In the healing Jesus declers himse by the Messianic title 'Son of Man' (also used of prophets), shows that he has power on earth to forgive, and that he can command his creation, before or after being made whole:

Mt 9:6

But that ye may know that the Son of Man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.

Mk 2:11

I say unto thee Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine own house.

Lk 5:24

... I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.

As in many healings, the command to 'ARISE' is used, a literal command lifting the person out of a static state, and taking hold of the thing that has so long taken ahold of him: the bed that bound him, a symbol of the palsied condition that held him in bondage. The son of man in healing, forgives sin, and delivers from bondage.

The Man with Palsy Arises
The healing is immediate, and the description simple:

Mt 9:7 And he arose and departed to his house.

Mark notes that it was seen of all:

Mk2:12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all;...,
and Luke 5:25 adds that he "...departed to his own house, glorifying God.

The healing is so complete that even atrophied limbs are no obstacle: he arises and goes forth as soon as the words are spoken and the healing is in full view even of doubters. The reaction is praise and amazement: God is real; His Son is real; His power is infinite: no one can think to do more than praise and glorify God.
Matthew 9:8 and Mk 9:12, as well as Luke 5:26 note the glorifying of God, but also remark on
A. The power given unto men
B. The uniqueness of it : 'never saw it on this fashion.'
C. The fearfulness at the new thing in Israel: 'We have seen strange things today."

All are amazed at 1) the novelty, 2) the power, 3) God, and Luke notes fear: not an unusual reaction to something out of ordinary experience.

The forgiveness of sin though, Jesus implies is an even greater miracle and gift of God which Messiah offers and marks Messiah: they can stand healed bodies, but they bulk at the healing of souls. The power of God forgiving sin, and curing the incurable with merely a word, leaves several present afraid, and unable to comprehend the height of what the Son of Man is doing.

As the man returns home walking for the first time in years, having dominion over his bondage by carrying his bed, his sins forgiven in the deliverance of the Messiah, what a day that must have been. Faith had been rewarded far above what man expected, but the power of God was terrifying to those of little or no faith. They had never, in Israel "seen it on this fashion". Upon leaving, Jesus calls his disciples, who will be empowered with the 'terrifying' and marvelous power of God.
2. 84.