Once, when I was really caught up in my problems, I found the story in Matthew 9:1-8. And my imagination took me there. Here’s what happened:
The gospels told of a day when Jesus crossed the sea and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed person lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.” Then, only a few minutes later, he told the paralyzed one, “Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And sure enough that one who had been frozen in an old condition stood up and went home. No wonder, those who were around and saw all this were filled with awe, and they glorified God.
I thought about this and tried to imagine—right then, Jesus, what if I were the one on the mat?
We are here in your own town. You live here. People here know you as a neighbor, one with whom they would do business if you were still working as an artisan. Perhaps they gossip about you, making comments that you have chosen to spend your life wandering about preaching. Some are curious about you because they wonder what made you leave in the first place. Some make judgments about your leaving home, saying you bring shame on your family because you haven’t stayed with the work that your father taught you. Others who like you and have heard you are probably proud to know you. They believe not only in your right to preach and teach and heal, but are eager to be with you because of what they think of you. Yet, I don’t think any of them know you any better than I do even though they have seen you in the flesh.
My paralysis is mysterious. I can feel fully in my body, but I cannot move as I want. I get cramped on this mat and cannot go anywhere unless my friends carry me. I so hate to ask them for this help and feel bad that I have so little to give back to them. I have felt sorry for myself in my dependence.
My paralysis has affected my heart too. I want to love them unselfishly, but somehow I am stiffened. I want to care for them as much as they do for me, but I get caught up in my condition of neediness, and I keep seeing things through the lens of my condition.
You see “their faith”… can you see mine too? I do want to have such faith myself. Do you see my desire as “faith”? So often I think my desire is the only thing I can be sure of. I cannot trust my strength or courage—even though I sometimes do take these gifts for granted—I cannot trust that I will not waiver or collapse under pressure. You know how easy it is for me NOT to trust in you!
I’m thinking the sin that keeps me most on this mat is my own lack of trust or faith in you. But see my friends faith! You forgive my lack of faith because theirs is clear enough. Your word that my sins are not held against me lifts my heart, and I thank you for these friends. Help me always to have friends whose faith you can see… and help me please to be a faith-full-friend for others, one whose faith you can see, especially when they feel stiff, in need of you.