Our small group recently studied the story of the paralytic lowered through the roof of a house to reach Jesus. We noticed that the story really isn’t about the man being healed. It’s about the pharisees and the faith of the man’s friends. Jesus specifically mentions that he forgives the man’s sins because of the faith of his friends. NOT because of the man’s faith. And Jesus goes on to physically heal the man to demonstrate who he is, the Messiah, capable of forgiving AND healing.
A powerful message.
But since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the paralytic. He isn’t named and we don’t learn anything from his point of view. My editor would call him a literary device. He’s there to be acted upon.
And I kind of want to write his story. Let’s call him Tristan.
What if Tristan didn’t want to be taken to Jesus? He was paralyzed. It’s not like he could stop his friends. Maybe Jesus noted the friend’s faith because Tristan didn’t have any. Paralyzed for years, withered and helpless, maybe he’d given up and didn’t even see the point of trying. Haven’t we all either felt or been tempted to feel that way?
His friends, though, they’re invested. They’re going to do this thing no matter what Tristan wants. It’s for your own good, they say. And they go to SUCH embarrassing lengths! Carrying him through the crowd and onto a roof. Tearing up the roof and then lowering him down. He’d cover his face with his hands if he were able.
Then what does Jesus do? The very first thing–and this is what got me to pondering–is to say, take courage. Or, take heart. Maybe THAT was what Tristan needed most in that precise moment. Encouragement. He needed someone to look him in the eye, to SEE his suffering and despondency, to recognize his utter lack of hope. And to say, Wait. There’s a reason for you to hope and it has nothing to do with your body. It’s your heart I’m after.
And then Jesus forgave Tristan’s sins. And then he healed Tristan who got up, picked up his stretcher, and went home because that’s where Jesus told him to go. In Matthew, Mark, and Luke he tells Tristan, “Go home.”
So of course, he did. Probably it was his parents’ house. He walked through the door. He saw dust on a high shelf. He reached up to take down a cup that had always been handed to him before. He wrapped a prayer shawl around his own shoulders. And he wept because he’d done nothing to deserve this. He hadn’t even had faith that it was possible.
Tristan could walk because he was a literary device, an object lesson, a tool to demonstrate the lordship of Jesus Christ. He was forgiven because Jesus saw him and understood what his friends didn’t. Being paralyzed was the least of his problems.