Have you ever broken something? Some things are irritating. Three hundred dollars for a pair of glasses is not what I call inconsequential, but in the great scheme of things—it’s just irritating. Other things are much more serious: legs, arms, ribs, backs—you get the idea. What about lives? What about your spirit or your soul? What happens when things just aren’t working the way they’re supposed to work? Everything is falling apart, you find yourself paralyzed and broken.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, it was heard he was in the house. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he speaks the word to them. Some came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four. 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 seestheir faith, he says to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, speaking among themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? It's slander! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Immediately Jesus perceived in his spirit that this was what they were speaking in their hearts, and he says to them, "Why are you speaking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He says to the paralytic, "I tell you, stand up, take your mat and go home." He stood up, took his mat and walked out in front of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen such!"The word “speak” is very prominent in this story. Jesus begins by “speaking the word.” After speaking the word to the crowds, he then speaks a word to this paralytic. Following this, the legal scholars “speak in their hearts.”
What is it Jesus speaks to the paralytic? He speaks release or forgiveness of sins. (In the Greek, the word release is the same word for forgiveness). He tells the paralytic, in essence, I am going to release you from Satan’s crippling hold on you. Your body may be paralyzed, but sin has totally paralyzed your life. I release you from that prison. Notice how the scholars are contrasted to Jesus. He speaks forgiveness, they speak condemnation. Isn’t it ironic, the ones who are educated in the word—instead of speaking forgiveness, speak outrage? The ones who should be offering God’s mercy only offer outrage and contempt.
How many of us need to hear Jesus speak this word of release? Do we understand the one who can release us from the guilt of sin can also release us from the grip of sin? I don’t care how bad the sin is—listen carefully: no sin is beyond release—no man or woman is beyond Jesus’ redemptive word. Someone comes to you and shares the most heinous sin you can think of——you fill in the blank. They are paralyzed by their pain, their guilt, and by Satan’s power over them. They then look deep in your eyes with all the sincerity of their heart and they ask: Can I be forgiven? What do you say?
The world is filled with broken people—some broken by others, some broken by their own poor or evil choices. Listen to me: this is Satan’s desire and plan: to break and wound us, to paralyze and bind us, to keep us from ever experiencing God’s release and Jesus’ love. We’re lying on the mat, frozen in our guilt. Can we be released? And Mark tells us: Yes! And I don’t care how many religious scholars or social scientists are out there telling you it can’t be done. Jesus speaks: The Son of Man has authority on earth to release sins! And he backs it up! To the sex addict Jesus speaks: release! To the drug addict Jesus speaks: release! To the marriage about to fall apart, Jesus speaks: release! To those who have failed their families miserably, Jesus speaks: release! To the thief, the murderer, the self-centered, the abusive—Jesus speaks: release!
There will be some who question this word Jesus speaks. After all, God only loves the chosen! He only loves the "house-broke" who know how to act!
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.Notice whom he calls: the righteous? No, no. God is looking for those who need him, not those who don’t need him! He is calling the sick, not the healthy, the sinner, not the righteous. Of course, that’s the irony isn’t it? Those who think they are healthy really have the same fatal disease the rest of us have! Those who think they are free are really paralyzed and crippled.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Now here is the heart of the matter. Pay close attention. We need to hear this word of release. All of us need it. Those who think they are righteous and those who know they are not. Jesus looks deeply in the heart. He knows what we are thinking, what we are speaking to ourselves. He knows our dirty little secrets and he knows the depths of our self-deception—and yes, our self-loathing. And he wants—no he longs to speak release to us. He longs to take our broken hearts and lives and make everything new. He longs to bring healing to our paralyzed spirits.
The question for us then, is this: will we be outraged? Will we hide behind a veneer of respectability? Will we claim health? Or will we break our hearts open and acknowledge our need? One Hasidic rabbi said it: What do you do when you lose the key to a lock? You break the lock and open the door. So break your hearts and open them to God! But we really don’t need to break our hearts, do we? We just need to recognize how broken we really are and open our lives up to God.
Will you confess that with me? Will you admit it? Would you just say it with me: I am paralyzed, I am sick, I am broken and I need God!
So may you come to him as one broken and paralyzed. May you learn to trust he can truly offer release from both the guilt and the grip of sin. May you speak his release to others, rather than condemnation and accusation. May you stand up, pick up your mat and walk, now!