And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
– Mark 2.2-12
This is a familiar story, it is told in three of the four Gospels, and it teaches many great truths. The main focal point is Jesus asserting His authority over sin and His nature as God. The scribes rightly understood that God alone can forgive sins, and their conclusion was correct: If Jesus was not God, He was blaspheming. But Jesus proved Himself to be God by healing the lame man. The result was that everyone present was amazed and glorifying God, even the scribes! But notice with me one little phrase in this passage, which is present in all three passages, which stopped me dead in my tracks:
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
– Mark 2.5
And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.”
– Matt 9.2
Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
– Luke 5.20
Do you see it? Jesus, upon seeing their faith forgave the lame man of His sins. We would expect it to say, “Jesus, seeing his faith…” but that is not what it says! The faith of this man’s friends to go to his house, pick him up on his pallet, carry him to the house where Jesus was teaching, take him up to the roof and dig a hole through the roof to lower him down before Jesus with an expectation of healing led to this man’s forgiveness and physical healing!
What does this teach us?
There are a few things screaming forth from this passage that we cannot ignore. First of all, the lame man himself did not have faith or healing until Jesus spoke it to him. Yesterday I was reflecting on the wickedness of humanity and observing the simple fact that there is none who seeks after God on his own. Faith itself is a gift of God (Eph 2.9). And Jesus gave salvation and healing to this man. Jesus took the initiative in this man’s heart and body.
Secondly, the faith of the friends and the action of the friends bringing this man to Jesus was the catalyst of Jesus’ acting upon him! Jesus responded to the faith (which God had already given to the friends) to forgive and heal the lame man. Many times when Jesus preformed a miracle, He did so in response to the person requesting. Remember the centurion who asked Jesus to heal his son, and Jesus responded that He would go see the boy, but the centurion responded, “Just say the word”? Jesus was amazed at this man’s faith and healed him from afar. Also the Samaritan woman, who pleaded with Jesus comparing herself to a dog eating the crumbs off the table. But in this circumstance, Jesus responded with eternal salvation for the lame man because of the faith of his friends.
What does that mean for us today? We must intercede for the lost. We must purposefully bring them to Jesus and bring Jesus to them.
Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we received mercy, we do not lose heart, but we have renounced the things hidden because of shame, not walking in craftiness or adulterating the word of God, but by the manifestation of truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God.
– 2 Cor 4.2-4
We must cultivate a heart of compassion and love for those around us who are perishing, and we must pray for them to Spiritually bring them before God, but we must also share the Gospel with them so that they are personally brought before God too. We must believe that God can and does save people! And we must not get discouraged when it does not happen immediately. The men brought their lame friend to Jesus for healing, and Jesus’ response was to forgive his sins. This was, indeed, his greater need, but Jesus did not answer the request of the friends exactly as they had asked. Granted, within minutes of forgiving his sins, Jesus did heal him physically too, but my point is that sometimes God answers prayers in a different – yet better and more profound – way.
Who are the people in your life who do not know Jesus Christ as Lord and savior? Are you making every effort to bring them to Jesus? Are you carrying them to the house and digging a hole through the ceiling in order to drop them down in Jesus’ lap? Or are you just whispering their name amongst a list of other needs and requests? Are you interceding and stepping in the path for them?
We cannot force the hand of God. There will be people for whom we pray who will not be saved. There will be situations about which we pray that will not be resolved in the manner we desire. But make no mistake, God intends to use us to accomplish His purposes of reaching the world for Christ, and it is our role to pray for, to share with, and to intercede for the lost. Jesus will use our faith to save some!
“If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”
– Charles Spurgeon.