Pastor Briefing: Perspective from the Paralytic
Recently, I was thinking about the paralytic described in Mark’s gospel and how Jesus’ interaction with the paralytic illustrates the priority of our spiritual needs. The paralytic was the man made famous when he was lowered through the rooftop of a crowded home into the presence of Jesus (Mark 2:1-12). The paralytic’s friends had faith that Jesus could heal him. Hence, I can only imagine their disappointment when instead of healing the man physically, Jesus simply declared, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Surely the hopeful expectation of the paralytic and his friends centered on the man’s need to no longer be confined to a bed; that he would be able to walk and have full use of his legs. Perhaps the paralytic had some appreciation for Jesus’ words of forgiveness, but it would be surprising if the man along with the witnesses present did not experience serious disappointment.
Of course, the story doesn’t end here. As a display of His divine authority to forgive sins, Jesus goes on to miraculously heal the paralytic saying, “. . . rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
In this case study, we see a contrast between a person’s felt needs (which are indeed real) and their deeper, most foundational need. The paralytic’s felt need was for healing. But Jesus highlights the man’s spiritual need, the forgiveness of sins. Indeed, if we were able to talk with the paralytic, now in the presence of Christ for nearly 2 millennia, what would he declare about Jesus’ words of forgiveness? Would he not declare those words to be the most precious words ever spoken to him? Yes, at the time, physical healing felt so critical to his happiness and well-being, but now, from heaven’s vantage point, he understands and appreciates that Jesus made his spiritual need a priority.
Looking at this from the other direction are people who have their immediate and earthly needs satisfied in abundance, needs that seem so critical to their happiness. Perhaps, they no longer have to worry about how to pay their bills. They are successful in their career. They are well educated and in positions of authority. They have their health, and have found the “right person for them.” Perhaps they have children and maybe even grand-children. In a word, they have it all—except they don’t. They know nothing of Christ and the forgiveness of sins.
These individuals living in material abundance but spiritual poverty are actively violating God’s moral will, defying Him, piling up sins everyday for which God’s wrath is being stored up. There is no place to hide from the God who sees. For each and every act of disobedience, they will be held to account.
In His interaction with the paralytic, Jesus shows us mankind’s chief need—the forgiveness of sins. In our own hearts, we can be just as focused as the non-believer on our material wants. But Jesus shows us what really matters. Just ask the paralytic.