Mark 2:1-12 : A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.
Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “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.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.
This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
I’ve known the flannel-board version of this story since my 2nd grade Sunday School class. I’ve always been amazed at the faith of the 4 men who carried their paralytic friend all the way to the home where Jesus was, pushed through the crowds, carried him up on to the roof and destroyed private property in their desperation and faith to see Jesus and find healing for their friend.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that after all that effort, Jesus didn’t actually heal the man right away. Instead, the first thing that Jesus did on seeing the faith of these friends was to FORGIVE the man of his sins. In fact, it was that action that inspired the whole debate in the house that day (which I honestly don’t remember talking about when learning the story as a child). Jesus knew that the deepest need of the man was not to be healed physically, it was to receive deep and redemptive forgiveness. The deepest need of the man was to be in relationship with God.
It wasn’t until he was making a point to the Pharisees in the house that Jesus said “Take up your mat and go home” and healed him from his paralysis.
I’m extremely aware of how many times I come to God with my physical problems: the need for money, clarity at work, concern for my family, areas of frustration anger or need, etc. I talk to Him ALL THE TIME about my desire for a family of my own, and often go to desperate measures to ask Him to intervene in my life when it isn’t going the way that I want it to. But recently, God has been reminding me that what we really desire… deep down, in the heart of our hearts, is relationship with Him, is MORE of Him. We somehow know that even if He were to answer every single prayer we pray above and beyond our wildest dreams, we would still feel a little empty.
If we would allow ourselves to feel the depth of our own emptiness, the depth of our own need… at the bottom of the barrel, we would realize that our deepest need is Jesus… HIs presence, His forgiveness, His friendship… Him.
In the last few weeks, I’ve been trying to shift to this way of thinking. To talk to God about Him first… to admit that my deepest need is Jesus before I talk to Him about anything else that is weighing down my heart. To admit that if I feel lonely, and God is always With Us… then I really just need more of Him. If I am struggling with feeling unloved or unvalued or disrespected… and God IS Love, then what I’m really longing for is Him.
As we lean into this Lent season, and prepare our hearts to celebrate the incredible sacrifice and resurrection of our Savior, I am so grateful that He knew what we really needed. That He came to show us love and to die on our behalf… because no matter what we thought (or think) our needs are, He knows that what we truly, deeply desire is relationship with Him. Christ’s sacrifice for us was to make it possible for our deepest desire, our deepest need to be met.
Jesus, Thank you that you know the deep need of our hearts… and that You sacrificed everything to meet that need. Thank you that no matter how much we know You, there is always more to be known. Thank you that no matter how long we have walked with You in our lives, there is always more of You to discover and re-discover. Thank you that even after you offer us forgiveness and relationship (which we may or may not always appreciate), You still see our circumstances with compassion and You do the miraculous in our lives and bring Yourself glory. We are truly in awe of You, Jesus. We set our eyes and our hearts on You.