"Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home."


Mt 9:1-8.
He entered a boat, made the crossing, and came into his own town.
And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?
But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” –he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
He rose and went home.
When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to human beings.
The story of the healing of the paralytic is found in the three synoptic gospels. Here Jesus has crossed back into his native soil and native culture. In the three renditions of this story the paralytic is always carried to Jesus by others.In the other version the paralytics friends have trouble reaching Jesus because they are blocked by large crowds. It is in that story they are so persistent that they lower the paralytic in the stretcher trough the roof to where Jesus is. It is the friends of the paralytic that mediate his healing; it is their faith that draws Jesus’s attention. The paralytic is weak and is incapable of making this move himself. This does not just hold true for a paralytic, frequently when people need Gods healing the most it is others that bring the sick, injured , the lost to God. It is the intercession of others that bring about the healing. Might that be one reason people join together at a church, to collectively intercede on behalf of others?

In the story Jesus does not begin with the healing though, he begins by forgiving the mans sins and this is the issue the scribes challenge. They accuse Jesus of Blasphemy. According to the scribes and much of the Jewish hierarchy of the day,  only God has the power to forgive sins and this is the point that Jesus argues. It is to show that he has the power to forgive sins that Jesus tells this paralytic “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” Forgiveness of sins is something Jesus does early in his ministry, it is also something he grants the apostles the authority to do. Forgiveness of sins is central to the Christian faith.

Attitudes towards sins were quite different 2000 years ago. At that time and within that culture many things were considered the result of sin. Blindness, paralysis, leprosy, deformities all might be the result of “sin”. Peoples suffering was because they did something wrong.Other forms of sins were through falls in character , they were behavioral transgressions. When Jesus forgave the sins of those who suffered physical ailments that were beyond peoples control, I wonder if that was to make a point that these types of sins should be forgiven; that people should not be blamed for things beyond their control? Many times the stigma associated with these ailments was more crippling to the individual that the ailment itself.I wonder if Jesus thought that if he could get is followers to forgive these ailments it would be a step towards getting people to reconcile, to forgive some of the behavioral transgressions; to forgive the sins of our own fault?

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