Behold! Healed

Behold! Healed

Behold! Healed.

There are some individual words and short phrases in Scripture that need to be highlighted as they are read, words or phrases that are significant or point to something meaningful. Some phrases might be: Fear not. Here I am. Woe to you. One another.   And maybe some words are: AmenHallelujahBlessedAbba. Come.  The word Behold! is one of those significant words, an exclamation that is intended to get our attention. Listen, people, this is something you need to hear! Behold says to the audience, Look at this and take note! You would be wise to remember these words and think about them! Careful now, don’t be deaf to what I am about to say! Stop what you’re doing and listen up! As the Eastern Orthodox Christians say before they read the Gospel in the Liturgy… Attend! The following verse begins with Behold! So the words that follow must be important.

“After the Gadarene demoniac was healed and the demons cast into a herd of pigs, Jesus stepped into a boat a crossed over the Sea to his adopted hometown of Capernaum. Behold! They brought a man who was paralyzed and lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw the faith of the friends who brought him, He said to the paralyzed man, ‘Cheer up! Your sins are forgiven!’ The scribes mumbled to themselves, ‘Who does He think He is? Only God can forgive sins!’ Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said to the scribes, ‘It would be easy for me to simply say Your sins are forgiven. But to prove to you that I am God, watch this. Jesus turned to the paralyzed and forgiven man and said, ‘Rise up, pick up your stretcher and go home!’ Sure enough, the paralyzed man was healed by Jesus, and immediately stood up and returned home, carrying his stretcher.” (Matthew 9:1-8).

Jesus sees the faith of these friends, and He counts it to the credit of the paralyzed man, who was not willing or able to speak for himself. The friends were standing in for their friend, they were substituting their faith for the apparent lack of faith in their friend on the stretcher, and Jesus seemed to say… “I see your faith, my friends, and I’ll count it as his faith.” Faith by proxy? Can Jesus do that? “Seeing their faith,” Jesus announced forgiveness of sins to the paralyzed man. There is a mystery here. Does God accept someone’s Christian faith as a substitute for another person’s lack of faith?  Does God’s mercy run this deep?

Jesus evidently had certain priorities in mind with this paralyzed man. Physical healing was secondary. Spiritual healing comes first. Jesus felt compelled to heal this man’s paralysis of the soul before the paralysis of the body. Jesus has the power to heal both body and soul, and the soul comes first. In this scene, Jesus said something interesting to the man on the stretcher… “Be encouraged! Cheer up! Your sins are forgiven!” So perhaps there was an urgency in Jesus’ mind to tend to the spiritual, maybe this paralyzed man had lived long enough in discouragement, with a conscience burdened by sin, guilt and shame. Perhaps Jesus wanted to release this man and forgive him now, pronto!

Mixed into the crowd around Jesus were a few professional skeptics, the Jewish legal authorities. They were not righteously curious as so many others were. They were there to sit in judgment, to criticize, to entrap Jesus in some breaking of the Law. After Jesus pronounced forgiveness to the paralyzed man, these skeptics were questioning in their own minds what happened. They were thinking, “What? Wait! Only God can forgive sins! This man Jesus is claiming to be equal to God! This is blasphemy, and the penalty is death! We got him.” Jesus read their minds, because He knew their hearts. He cornered them and asked them, “Why are you wondering about this? It’s easy for me to speak forgiveness, because you can’t prove these words one way or another. That wasn’t that hard for me to say. But to back up my claim to be God’s right hand man, I will here and now heal this paralyzed man!” And so He did.

Jesus refers to Himself here as Son of Man, the first time he did so. It’s a phrase that refers to the “fully human” part of Jesus. It was His favorite way to identify Himself, because Jesus so closely identifies Himself with mankind, with humanity’s deepest needs and vulnerabilities. Jesus also wants to confirm the dignity of being human, made in God’s image, yet still in need of salvation. There also is a prophetic word in Daniel 7:13 that all good Jews knew about, that the Son of Man is the one to whom God is going to entrust His judgment and kingdom. When Jesus claims to be the Son of Man, it’s quite a mouthful.

Jesus simply told the man to stand up, pick up his stretcher, and walk home. Immediately, the paralysis was reversed, he was healed, he pranced his way through the crowd, and he went home, singing God’s praises all the way. I’d bet his friends had a hard time keeping up with him.

The witnesses to these events were stunned, they were amazed at what they just saw. They were understandably filled with wonder and fear and awe. They told each other that they have never seen anything like this before, ever! And they began to praise God.