The gospels tell of two accounts where Jesus healed men who were paralyzed. In both stories, it is the faith of others, those aiding the ones needing to be healed, that is seen.
Centurion’s Servant (Matthew 8:5-13, Luke 7:1-10)
A centurion was a Roman officer who commanded one hundred men; he was in a position to recognize authority. He has obviously heard about Jesus and probably the healing of the leper. He comes seeking healing for his paralyzed servant. (King James Version calls the servant palsied, rather than paralyzed.)
In Luke, we are told that the centurion first sent Jewish elders to Jesus to make the case for his servant. They told Jesus how this man had built a synagogue for them and he was therefore worthy to be healed. They were presenting the man worthy of being healed based on his good works. They were caught up in the law and didn’t know about a God who healed out of compassion alone. Jesus had no requirement of good works, just faith that He was who He said He was–God.
Jesus agrees to go to the servant but before he can get there, the centurion comes to meet Him and says this, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it. (Luke 7:8-9).” Jesus’ reaction is sheer amazement and he tells those around them that in all of Israel, He has never seen so much faith. Then He says to the centurion, “’Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that very hour.” (v 13)
Let this serve to remind us of the importance of surrounding ourselves with fellow believers who have strong faith.
Paralytic brought to Jesus on a mat (Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-12, Luke 5:17-26)
When I heard this story growing up, I was caught by how they got the man to Jesus. He was brought on a mat (or bed) by others and when they could not get in the house where Jesus was, they went to the rooftop and lowered the crippled man on the mat down through the roof. This required taking apart a piece of the roof to make an opening (Mark 2:4, Luke 5:19). That took a fair amount of courage, I would think, to take apart someone’s roof. And it certainly took strength to take the man on his bed up to the roof and then lower him down into the house without dropping him. However, it is not about how they got the man in front of Jesus, but that they had so much faith in Jesus’ power to heal that they would not give up. Whatever it took, these men knew if they could just get the Lord to see the paralytic, he would be healed.
Jesus responds by first recognizing the four men’s faith and then immediately follows that by telling the paralytic man his sins are forgiven. And that stirs up the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They don’t speak aloud, scripture says, but began thinking that here was a man speaking blasphemy, for as experts on the law, they knew only God could forgive sins. Jesus knew what they were thinking and turned to them and asked “Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Get up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ‘“(Luke 5:23-24) He then told the man to get up, take his mat, and go home.
It seems Jesus always adds a little extra when He blesses us. In this case, He didn’t give the man the ability to stand and walk in some stumbling way. He gave him immediate strength and balance, enough to walk and carry his mat. Such is the richness of God’s blessings.
In this healing story, Jesus teaches us determination in seeking His face, and He reveals Himself to the experts of the law as God who has come in the form of man. And one other thing not to miss: When the people saw what Jesus had done for the paralytic, they praised God! May we, too, remember always to give God glory for what he does in our lives and the lives of others.
All scripture references are from New International Version (NIV)