This afternoon I had the privilege to lead the Gathering for Healing Prayer at our local hospital. We do this twice each month — open to patients, hospital staff and the public — believing that our God still exercises his sovereign authority to heal and deliver people. Today’s reflection was on Matthew 9:1-8, where Jesus heals a paralytic.
9:1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 And the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:1-8)
There are several things we can take away from this account. First, Jesus’ is already known – his reputation precedes him (v. 1). This healing event happens well into his earthly ministry. If we only review Matthew’s gospel account, already Jesus has healed and delivered many in various synagogues in Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and even the region across the Jordan. He has done the unthinkable, touching and healing a leper. He has healed the paralyzed servant of a Centurion. He healed and delivered a whole bunch of people at Peter’s house. Word is probably spreading about how he commanded a storm to die on the Sea of Galilee. And most recently he has delivered two demon-possessed men. He had a reputation.
Second, friends bring this paralytic to Jesus (v. 2). Simply put: this is beautiful. While the text doesn’t say this, to me it’s a picture of intercession as well — advocating for one who cannot advocate for himself. And when you see the friends’ passion in other accounts (see Luke 5:18-19), you see how much they both loved this man and believed Jesus could heal him.
Third, Jesus begins with what is most important (v. 2). Isn’t it interesting that, when Jesus sees the faith of his friends, he first offers forgiveness of sin? Jesus isn’t only interested in healing our physical bodies, he’s interested in the whole person! He desires total shalom — wholeness, completeness — for those who come to him.
Fourth, there is opposition to Jesus’ overall agenda (v. 3). We live in a broken world where even religions people are sometimes misguided! But ultimately Jesus knows that, while many people want to see the spectacle of a miracle, few actually desire to surrender to the Miracle Worker! There will always be opposition to the work of God.
Fifth, Jesus demonstrates his kingdom authority (vv. 4-6). To address the opposition, Jesus shows that he has God’s favor and authority. Jesus is the embodiment of the kingdom — the dominion, kingship, rule of God. Jesus sets the man free from his paralysis, while at the same time making sure there is no question about who is really in charge.
Sixth, the man was healed – set free to a normal life (v. 7). That’s the point, right? The precious child of God is set free from the illness that paralyzed him. He is released from his bondage to his mat, gets up, and walks home! There is a demonstration of heaven on earth, where there is no more death or mourning or crying or pain (Matthew 6:10; Revelation 21:4).
Seventh, the crowd was awed and they began to praise and worship God (v. 8). I’m sure the experts in the Law were surprised, but the people surrounding the house were in awe. What’s more, they immediately gave credit to God through praise and worship! All true healing and deliverance brings glory to God and God alone!
All of this happened because some friends took it upon themselves to carry this man’s burden — quite literally. It’s a picture for us in the church when we intercede and care for others. It’s a tremendous privilege to pray for someone’s healing as an ambassador of Christ. We do indeed learn a lot from this passage.