Theo’s Story

“Live life without regrets” can only be done from this point forward (it can never be applied to our past), don’t you agree?  I am guessing I’m not the only one who has felt like certain things I’ve done in life were just downright nasty, not only to myself but to others as well; or perhaps that they were too great to be forgiven and I deserved whatever hand I had been dealt as a result.

SO… I find the story of the paralytic who was brought to Jesus by his four friends interesting. I recently read it again from Matthew 9:1-13. Accounts often highlight the faith of the 4 guys who brought their friend to Jesus, lowering him from the roof because it was the only way they could get through the crowd. For crying out loud, they broke a hole through the roof! It is truly a remarkable act of boldness!

If you’ve read that story before or heard about it, did you pay any attention to the young man of the story, the one being lowered? I admit, I hadn’t much.

“Take courage my son” Jesus said to him, “your sins are forgiven”.

Why did Jesus choose to say it that way? I’m guessing everyone in the room, including the scribes, expected Him to instead say “take up your bed and walk”.  That means what Jesus said must have come as a surprise to them too. After all, the main need was physical healing, wasn’t it, or was it? Funny how we tend to assume. Of course, Jesus could have chosen to say it the way He probably had many times before. But this time was different, which creates the perfect opportunity for us to ask why.

I’m going to call this guy Theo so we can personalize him a bit. Jews in Theo’s culture appeared to regard disease as the effect of sin (see John 9:2 as an example of this). What if, in this case, they were right? What if Theo knew his illness had come about as a natural consequence of the lifestyle he had chosen to live apart from God?

The very first verse in our reading indicates this was in Jesus’ home town. Perhaps Jesus knew of Theo and of the choices he had made. Theo could have felt ashamed, and perhaps thought his sins were too great and undeserving of healing. That may have been why the story told by Mark and Luke makes sure to mention it was his friends that brought him, and why their faith is noted as great. Were Theo’s friends standing in place for him because he had no faith of his own?  Perhaps he felt he deserved to be crippled, and dare not ask for mercy.

Put yourself in Theo’s place. If you were the one with the disease that had come about as a result of something you willfully chose to do, and you felt ashamed and too unworthy to approach a holy man that was familiar with you and the choices you had made (ugh, been there), what would you have wanted to hear first? Take courage, lay aside your fears! You are forgiven!

Sin always lays heavier on the heart, body, and soul than does physical disease.

Then there are the scribes of the story, ugh! When you read all the way to verse 13 instead of stopping at verse 8, do you get the idea that Jesus is intentionally provoking (or “poking the bear”) by choosing to verbally address the young man’s spiritual condition rather than his physical one? To me that is humorous, but there is a good reason behind it.

Verse six is the obvious clue, they needed to get a picture of His authority. The sad thing that struck me about their attitude in this portion of scripture, indeed throughout all the gospels, is that those who don’t have grace themselves, or know how to show mercy, are not happy when they see grace being extended to someone else. It is a telltale sign of the condition of the heart.

Do you need forgiveness? Take courage, lay aside your fears! No sin is too great, and He is waiting to offer it to you!  God’s love is way bigger than any sin you have committed.

Today’s Reading: Matthew 9:1-13

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