What’s your greatest need today? Is it finding a job? Avoiding foreclosure? Getting married? Identifying one friend who cares enough to listen? Hitting a deadline? Learning how to corral an incorrigible two-year-old? Loving a spouse who is emotionally distant? Perhaps having faith that God will return your prodigal son or daughter safely home?
There’s a fascinating story in the Bible about a man who was paralyzed who thought his greatest need was to be healed. As you’ll see in a moment, in a way his story is our story, too. Here’s what happened. Four men carried a bedridden, paralyzed friend to a house where Jesus was preaching. They were convinced that Jesus would have compassion and heal him.
After all, Jesus had quite the reputation for healing others. There was plenty of evidence around town to support their faith in Jesus’ ability to heal. Because of Jesus, the blind could see, the deaf could hear, the lame could walk—even lepers were restored to full health. Imagine the incredible sense of expectation these four faithful friends shared as they carried their companion to meet Jesus.
Keep in mind we’re not told the extent of the paralysis. This man could have been paralyzed from the waist down, the neck down, or completely paralyzed. Whatever his condition, the four friends believed Jesus could heal him—if only they could get to Jesus. That proved more difficult than they might have anticipated.
When they arrived, the crowd was so large they couldn’t enter the home or even get close to the front door of the house. Desperate to present their friend to Jesus, they dug a hole through the roof large enough to lower him through, and then set him down on the floor right in front of Jesus.
Put yourself in the place of the paralyzed man.
If you’re the kind of person who gets easily embarrassed, you might have said, “Okay, thanks guys for the thought. But the house is too crowded. Since we can’t get in, you really don’t have to rip up this guy’s home on my account. Maybe there’ll be another time. Let’s not make a big scene and just leave.”
Now, imagine what’s going on with your emotional state as you’re lowered through the hole. You might be paralyzed but I guarantee that your heart would be racing. Every eye in the room would be staring at you. Would they be upset that you interrupted their meeting? What about Jesus? Would He be mad that you caused such an enormous distraction in the middle of His teaching?
We have no way of knowing what was going through the mind of the paralyzed man. But if I were him, I certainly would have been stunned by what happened next. Mark, a follower of Jesus, writes: “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Did you catch it? Jesus saw the paralytic and told him his sins were forgiven. The first words out of His mouth weren’t “Be healed” or “Arise and walk.”
He forgave the man instead.
Be honest. If you were lying on the mat, paralyzed, longing for the ability to move—let alone walk, and run, and had been thinking about all of the other cases where Jesus spoke the word and others had walked, wouldn’t you be a tad disappointed? Your sins were forgiven? Thanks. But that wasn’t the reason four men lugged you across town, hauled you up the roof, ripped a giant hole in someone’s house, and lowered you into a room full of strangers. You came to be healed—but you were given absolution instead.
Talk about a twist. But there’s more to the story.
Some of the religious types in the crowed room started grumbling because Jesus had the audacity to forgive the sins of another person. Jesus knew their thoughts and called them to task. He said, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . .’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’”
Yes, in the end Jesus did heal him physically, too.
Here’s what struck me as I reread this true story.
The paralyzed man came to Jesus with what he thought was his most pressing need—the need for healing. From the human perspective, that makes sense, doesn’t it? Being paralyzed meant that this man couldn’t function. He couldn’t hold down a job or financially support himself or his family. Logically speaking, to be healed would be at the top of anyone’s list.
However, when we come to Jesus with what we think we need, Jesus gives us what we really need. Whether the paralytic realized it or not, more than anything in this world he needed to be forgiven of his sins. Without that, he’d never enter the kingdom of Heaven. Which was more important? Physical comfort now, or eternity in heaven? Jesus was gracious to take care of what he needed most—and then granted him what he wantedmost.
I asked you at the beginning of this blog what is your greatest need? I think you know where I’m going with this. When we ask the Lord to provide for a particular need, He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows what our true need is at any given moment and makes sure that our primary needs are met first and foremost.
For example, you may think you have a financial need, but the Lord might know your deeper need is to trust in His ability to provide. You might think that you really need a spouse, but God may want to put His finger on something even more important than that in your life.
Without question the Lord welcomes us to bring our needs, hopes, and dreams to Him just as a father welcomes his children to do the same. At the same time, I think it’s wise for us to ask, “Lord, what do you want me to learn about You in this moment or in this crisis or with this pressing need that I have?”
Taking the focus off of ourselves and placing it on the Lord does another thing. It allows us to give Him the glory when He takes care of what we really need. That’s what happened with the paralytic. The people watched him take up his mat and walk and, in turn, they gave glory to God.
After all, it’s not about us—it’s about Him.