By Rev. Deb Mechler - St. Luke Homes and Services, Spencer
Recently I was in a spiritual group that was asked to share the Bible stories that mean the most to us right now. We talked about how these stories resonate with our understanding of what God is like.
The story I chose is in Luke 5:17-26, where Jesus heals a paralyzed man who is lowered through a hole in the roof because his determined friends figured out a way to get him what he needed. Jesus proceeded by forgiving the man his sins, whereby the Pharisees and teachers of the law were shocked by his claim to this kind of authority. Jesus cured the man to prove to them that he did have that authority.
I chose the story because the past year has made me feel broken in some ways. Then I had my knee replaced in February, and the recovery was rough for several weeks. The pandemic and my physical limitations made me feel vulnerable and weak. I wanted healing. I wanted these situations to be over.
God understood my weaknesses and healed me in the ways I needed instead of what seemed like the obvious solutions to me. My complaints were not immediately resolved. I needed sufficient time to learn about myself and God – things I would not have learned otherwise.
I appreciate the men in the gospel story who supported their disabled friend. I have support from many sides, and I appreciate community now more than ever. There is nothing like a global pandemic to make us realize our dependence on one another, and a period of recovery will do the same.
I love the story most because it reveals Jesus’ heart. He knows how much shame and guilt can dampen and stunt our lives. He wants us to enjoy this life to its fullest and he absolves us of the bad decisions and habits that have caused such pain. He knows that what is going on inside of us needs the healing touch of love, and merely changing our circumstances will not make us whole.
In the process of pondering this story, a retelling of it welled up in me. Maybe it will shed new light on the story for you …
Even though the house was already crowded, when the elders arrived, they were given front row seats, where the teacher was telling curious stories about seeds and banquets and quarreling brothers.
A Pharisee was posing a convoluted question when falling debris gave them just enough warning to avoid the chunk of ceiling that barely missed Jesus himself. The dust cleared to reveal a makeshift pallet being lowered by ropes, tipping and wobbling, its passenger trembling and wide-eyed, wincing when he landed with a thump.
The teacher laid a calming hand on his shoulder and then smiled up at his friends, whose chutzpah left a ragged gap in the ceiling.
Simon was heard murmuring his prediction: another healing! But Jesus looked deeply and thoughtfully at the man and said, “My friend, be assured, your sins no longer have the power to cripple your spirit.”
The elders immediately exercised their veto power, with force.
Jesus’ thoughtful gaze turned on them.
“Please trust me. I know the deepest truth and it is this: paralysis of the limbs is nothing compared to the paralyzing effects of a rebellious spirit. So that you will know this too, watch this man walk home with healthy legs and an unburdened heart.”
Sure enough, the man stood tentatively, took a few shaky steps and left differently than he came, light on his feet, his pallet of shame left behind in a pile of dusty, broken-down dogma.