Which is the greater gift, giving a man the ability to walk in this life, or saving his soul for the next? We often ask why Jesus allows certain things to happen. Why are good people affected? If we understood good from God’s perspective, the first conclusion is that no one is good. That’s not a popular message, but it is a truthful one. And because we are not good, because we are sinful, because we are sinners, we deserve eternal condemnation. We deserve the punishment our sins warrant. But through God’s matchless grace, we escape condemnation and punishment! He took them upon Himself when He went to the Cross. Everything else we receive from Him, as they say here in the South, is gravy! And that’s the message delivered in this miracle:
One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”
But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But, so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”–He said to the paralytic–“I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.”
Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
– Luke 5:17-26, NASB
The paralyzed man’s friends were thinking of his immediate, but not greatest, need. They only saw the paralysis because that was what was staring them in the face. They did not consider his standing with God and often, if we are honest with ourselves, this is what we fail to focus on, too. Why doesn’t God help her beat cancer? Why did than man, who has been a bastion of integrity, lose his job? Why did those men have to be trapped with little hope for rescue? We don’t focus on the far more important question, “Are their names written in the Book of Life?” This is where Jesus’ primary focus was. And that’s why He responded the way He did. He wanted everyone there that day to understand that salvation was far more important than physical healing, that being righteous before God was of eternal importance, while being able to walk was a temporal one. And that’s why Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
Naturally, the religious types that were there went, “Blasphemy!” And that’s when Jesus delivered the punchline. Would God allow Him to heal if He were speaking blasphemies? Absolutely not. And that’s why He proceeded to heal the paralytic. Now truth be told, He could have done things in reverse order. But then the message wouldn’t have been delivered. Salvation is our greatest need. Everything else, even the ability to walk, pales in comparison to it. Our God is interested in our needs, especially in our greatest one. He takes care of what is most important, not what is most visible.
Take heart that our Savior cares so much for us that He went to the Cross to meet our greatest need: forgiveness for our sins. The only way He could meet it was by sacrificing Himself for us. And He went as a willing sacrifice, enduring all the condemnation men could heap upon Him in addition to the condemnation our sins had already piled on His back and shoulders. He meets our other needs, too. Everything good that we have ultimately comes from Him. Even the very breaths that we take are due to Him. Jesus on that day demonstrated that not only could He heal us of our hurts and infirmities, not only could He make well that which we couldn’t, but that He was willing to do so out of His great love. He has continued to do so every day since. And He will continue to do so until He returns. We, as His people, are so very blessed. We, as His people, receive so much more than we ever deserve. It starts with salvation. Everything else is a bonus to it. And that is why we should bow down, nut just physically at an altar, but also at the altar of our hearts, and give Him the worship and praise He so richly deserves.