Skip to comments.A Strange Thing Jesus Said to a Paralyzed Man – Another Insight from Pope Benedict’s New Book
Posted on 12/11/2012 2:56:55 PM PST by NYer
The Gospel from Monday the second week of Advent is the gospel of the paralyzed man who is lowered through the roof. It is presented to us in Advent because, among the many prophecies about the Messiah, would be that the lame would walk. But the Gospel also helps us to focus on Jesus’ central mission for us, and it is very provocatively expressed in this Gospel.
The Gospel passage contains a rather peculiar and somewhat awkward moment. Jesus looks at a paralyzed man and says to him, As for you, your sins are forgiven (Lk 5:20). What a strange thing to say to a paralyzed man.
The Pharisees and scribes of course are all worked up for other reasons, but their reason is not ours, we know that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. Let us stay focused on the strange thing to say to a paralyzed man, your sins are forgiven you.
One of us modern folk might be tempted to tap Jesus on the shoulder and say, “Ah excuse me, Lord, this man is paralyzed, his problem is paralysis, that’s what he needs healing for.”
Of course Jesus is not blind or unintelligent, knows this. But looking at a paralyzed man he does not see the paralysis as his most serious problem. The man has a far more serious problem, his sin.
Now most of us, who live in the world, have the world’s priorities, and we do not think like this. The Lord sees something more serious than paralysis, and we think, “What can be more serious than paralysis?!”But not as man sees, does God see. For God, the most serious problem we have is our sin. But again, we don’t think like this, and even being told we should think like this, we still don’t think like this.
For most of us, influenced by the flesh, are far more devastated by the loss of our physical health, or the loss of money, or the loss of a job, or some large worldly asset, than we are by the fact that we have sin. Threaten our physical health and well-being, or one of our larger physical assets, and we’re on our knees begging God for help. Yet most human beings have far less concern for their spiritual well-being. More often than not we are not nearly so devastated by sin that can deprive us of eternal life, as we are devastated by the loss of our health or some worldly thing.
Even many of us who have some sense of the spiritual life struggle with this obtuseness, and misplaced sense of priorities. Even in our so-called spiritual life, our prayers are often dominated by concerns that God will fix our health, improve or finances, get us a job, etc. It is not wrong to pray for these things, and we should. But honestly how often do we pray to be freed of our sins, do we really and earnestly pray to grow in holiness and to be prepared to see God face-to-face? Sometimes it almost sounds as if we are asking God to make this world more comfortable and we’ll just stay here forever. This attitude is an affront to the truer Gifts God is offering.
And so it is that Jesus, looking at a paralyzed man, says to him, your sins are forgiven. In so doing he addresses the man’s most serious problem first. Only secondarily does he speak to the man’s paralysis, which he almost seems to have overlooked in comparison to the issue of sin.
We have much to learn hear about how God sees, and what really are the most crucial issues in our life.
Joseph and Mary were told to call the child “Jesus,” for he would save his people from their sins. Of this fact Pope Benedict speaks in his latest book, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives:
…Joseph is entrusted with a further task: Mary will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). On the one hand, a lofty theological task is assigned to the child, for only God can forgive sins. So this child is immediately associated with God, directly linked with God’s holy and saving power. On the other hand, though, this definition of the Messiah’s mission could appear disappointing. The prevailing expectations of salvation were primarily focused upon Israel’s concrete sufferingson the reestablishment of the kingdom of David, on Israel’s freedom and independence, and naturally that included material prosperity for this largely impoverished people. The promise of forgiveness of sins seems both too little and too much: too much, because it trespasses upon God’s exclusive sphere; too little, because there seems to be no thought of Israel’s concrete suffering or its true need for salvation.
Pope Benedict then cites this same story of the paralytic and says,
Jesus responded [to the presence of the paralyzed man] in a way that was quite contrary to the expectation of the bearers and the sick man himself, saying: My son, your sins are forgiven (Mark 2:5). This was the last thing anyone was expecting this was the last thing they were concerned about.…
The Pope concludes:
Man is a relational being. And if his first, fundamental relationship is disturbedhis relationship with Godthen nothing else can be truly in order. This is where the priority lies in Jesus’ message and ministry: before all else he wants to point man toward the essence of his malady.
Yes, God sees things rather differently than we do. There is much to consider the fact that Jesus says paralyzed man your sins are forgiven you.
It took me a while to realize how much I needed forgiveness.
“.... As for you, your sins are forgiven (Lk 5:20). What a strange thing to say to a paralyzed man.”
Hidden and subtle introduction to Jesus’ main mission on earth — the forgiving of our sins.
Healing the cripple was an “added bonus”.
This is incredibly profound!
Have read this and heard this so many times but never “got” it.
His main reason was to reunite us to God and sin was the barrier that kept us from HIM.
All illness is rooted in sin. It started at the fall.
We are _like_ him in that we have three aspects/dimensions: body, soul and spirit. It’s not a surprise that _salvation/healing_ has three dimensions: healing, delivering and saving.
If you are ill, — start by going to confession.
If you cannot go, pray, then call the ambulance.
IIRC, the Greek(?) word used in the NT for “healed” and “saved” is the same word. And while illness is rooted in the Fall, I am pretty sure that Jesus was not trying to cure the man of paralysis by saying that his sins are forgiven.
I like this story as when the Pharisees were saying “Who are you to say you can forgive sins!?” So Jesus cures the guy then replies “So what is easier - to cure a man, or to SAY ‘Your sins are forgiven’”? (Or maybe he said it first, then cures the guy? Either way, sort of an “in your face” to the Pharisees!)
Jesus was merely living up to what the passages stated before he was born:
1 Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
2 Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits
3 who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
Another way to look at this incident. How many times have you, or people you know, said, “What did I do to deserve this” when life is knocked out of you? There is a “spiritual” instinct within us to feel that some sin has brought the wrath of God upon us. It’s the old Job problem. His friends insisted that his sin had brought catastrophe on him. We all “know” our sins and we know that God knows them. However, as human beings in an imperfect world, sickness happens and accidents occur. So, what if Jesus knew that the man suffered from believing that his sin had caused his paralysis? Jesus’ first words were to reassure the man that his sins had been forgiven, then he healed him. That is the way I read it (FWIW).
As usual, I thank you for posting this.
Mankind (me!) have very shallow sight and minds compared to our Lord.
Sin destroys. Sometimes it will destroy your body.
I’m reading the pope’s first volume of Jesus of Nazareth.
If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly. It is full of information (new to me) and insights... a great read for today.
I learned that the Holy Father held a chair at Turbingen Theological in Germany. This is the place that birthed so much of what is wrong with non-Catholic theology as well as the “historical” Jesus. So, Pope Benedict is well-qualified to address and respond to this stream of Christianity.
I feel the paralyzed man was carried UNWILLINGLY to Jesus. He knew he had great sin and was terrified and/or humiliated to be face to face with a prophet of God. That was why Jesus said first what He did.