Hey, friends! It’s been a while, but I have been itching to get back to writing. It’s almost a type of spiritual discipline for me, and I have missed it.
Anyway, there’s a very familiar narrative in the Scriptures of a paralytic who was lowered through the roof of a neighbor’s house to meet Jesus. I’ve said this before and I know I’ll say it again, but sometimes we can approach those Scriptures with which we’re very familiar with conclusions and applications already drawn. What I find helps is, among other things, to read those passages in a fresh translation; sometimes it’s like encountering the Scriptures for the very first time!
So let your heart feast, your spirit feast on Mark 2 “for the very first time” in this translation:
Several days later, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and the news quickly spread that he was back in town. Soon there were so many people crowded inside the house to hear him that there was no more room, even outside the door.
While Jesus was preaching the word of God, four men arrived, carrying a paralyzed man. But when they realized that they couldn’t even get near him because of the crowd, they went up on top of the house and tore away the roof above Jesus’ head. And when they had broken through, they lowered the paralyzed man on a stretcher right down in front of him! When Jesus saw the extent of their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are now forgiven.”(Mark 2:1-5, The Passion Translation)
Oh, my! Even as I edit this passage into this blog post, I am moved! There is so much revelation waiting to sing to listening ears! But here’s the direction I want to take today.
- Sometimes, the issue we bring to Jesus is not the issue He wants to deal with right away
Now, the Bible says nothing of the condition of the paralytic. We don’t know if he was crippled from birth, or if he had a traumatic accident when he was a child or teenager. The only thing we can conclude is that the condition must have been extremely desperate for his friends to go to great and unusual lengths with such urgency. Perhaps he was coming close to physically losing one or both of his legs! At any rate, you get the sense from the narrative how pressing, how dire the poor man’s need was.
Have you ever had a need like that? Maybe you’re in the middle of one now. You can’t wait another day for that check to come in the mail, or maybe that doctor’s visit is looming. Maybe you are reaching the end of a certain timeline, or maybe a grief is so heavy that you barely find the strength to function.
What was the first thing Mark records that Jesus said to this desperate man? “Your sins are forgiven.” Wait—your sins are forgiven?! Why not, “Be healed of this polio disease!” or “Legs, walk!” or “I command these bones to reattach”?
Sometimes, the issue we bring to Jesus is not the issue He wants to deal with right away. It’s certainly not because Jesus lacks compassion—He is the author of compassion and mercy and kindness and empathy! But maybe, before He infuses your marriage with vibrancy again, He wants to first teach you to surrender control. Maybe, before He deals with your broken heart, He wants to first deal with the reason you keep ending up in destructive relationships. Maybe, before He offers you relief from a busy schedule, He wants to first confront the fact that you can’t say “no” to people. Maybe, like in the case with the paralytic, before He heals your body, He wants to first heal your spirit.
Friend, if you have been bringing an urgent need to God but have not received an answer, maybe it would be beneficial to pause and examine where you do see God at work, and lean into that.
- Resolve in your heart that God is going to exceed your expectations
So, in this case, why didn’t Jesus answer the man’s desperate need right away? Why did He address something different first? I think there are a few theological points that He was making in speaking this word, some of which he was making not to the paralytic but to the self-righteous Torah teachers who were observing Him. One of the biggest theological reasons, in my opinion, was that this statement was an explicit claim to divinity—especially in light of the teachers’ indignant response in verse 7, “He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Perhaps another reason is because, I think, saving the soul holds a higher priority over healing the body. Now clearly, healing the physically sick is one of the assignments of Heaven, and not only do I firmly and passionately believe it still is, but I have seen it with my own eyes again and again—but what good is a peak, healthy body if one day your soul will rot forever? Jesus Himself said, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul” (Matthew 16:26)?
So here’s the rest of the narrative.
[Jesus asked,] “Which is easier, to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are now forgiven,’ or, ‘Stand up and walk’? But to convince you that the Son of Man has been given authority to forgive sins, I say to this man, ‘Stand up, pick up your stretcher, and walk home.’”
Immediately the man was healed and sprang to his feet in front of everyone and left for home.
When the crowd witnessed this miracle, they were awestruck. They shouted praises to God and said, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”(Mark 2:9-12, The Passion Translation)
Jesus chose to work in the disabled man’s life differently than he asked for—and it was to the paralytic’s benefit. The man didn’t receive healing; he received healing and salvation—a double-blessing! The fact is, if Jesus doesn’t seem to be meeting our expectations, it’s because He’s planning on exceeding our expectations!
God often has different priorities than we have. His vantage point is better than ours. His knowledge of the situation is infinitely better than ours. His timing is better than ours. Oh, friend, if we would be as swift to trust Him as we are to fret! Oh, yes! We must trust wholeheartedly that if God has chosen to bless us in a different way than we asked, or start working from the other end, or delay the solution to the need, that He is up to something “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20).
You have every reason to get your hopes up! Our good and trustworthy Father is working each and every detail out for good, including those details you know nothing about. He is an expectation-exceeding God! He is a perfect-timing God! Trust! Take heart, friend! Praise the Lord.