Monday, September 03, 2007
By Ramone - August 28, 2007
This picture comes from the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man told in the gospels.
One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. The people heard that he had come home, and so many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.Just What They Needed to Hear
Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them on a mat, and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."
At this, some Pharisees and teachers of the law who were sitting there began thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone? He's blaspheming!"
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ." He said to the paralytic, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." He got up, took his mat, walked out in full view of them all, and went home praising God. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. Amazed, everyone gave praise to God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" and "We have seen remarkable things today."
As I dwelled on His love and this story, I began to think of how each of the people in the story felt. Jesus' first words to the paralyzed man strike me with His deep, deep love. I think we usually read those words as if He said them merely to prove a the point about Himself that He could forgive sins. But I believe that whatever He said to people back then (and says to us now today) is exactly what they needed to hear. I believe His words touched in each person a deep need, bringing His comforting love, just like His words do to us today.
Thinking of it through that love (Oh, Lord!) it seems like the paralyzed man needed to know that he was forgiven. (>_<) Jesus said,
"Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."I think that He said this because for some reason or another, the paralyzed man was discouraged. Not only that, but he was discouraged because he didn't know he was forgiven of his sins. He may have been so discouraged that he could not reach out to Jesus for himself, and his friends did that for him.
Spiritual Paralysis and Intercession
It says that "Jesus saw his friends' faith"... perhaps because he was so discouraged himself and felt somehow responsible? Don't we often feel that our problems (even physical handicaps) are a result of our sins? Even if we don't feel that way, how often do we have faith that we can be healed? And if we do feel unforgivable, how much less faith could we have of being worthy of healing! The sight of our sins is often too great for us to "get up and go ask Jesus" to heal our hearts, lives and bodies. Because of our sins, we--like this man--often feel beyond the reach of God's grace -- beyond the reach of His forgiveness, His healing for our bodies, and His healing for our souls.
He was "paralyzed" -- physically of course, but also spiritually. Spiritually he couldn't "get up and go to Jesus". His friends did that for him. They interceded! They loved him so much and had faith that Jesus was and is who He really says He is, so they picked him up and carried him to God. They literally punched a hole in the roof -- like God uses our intercession to part the heavens and touch people in need whom He loves so much!
If his friends had not interceded by carrying him in faith to God the Son, he would have likely remained not only discouraged and spiritually paralyzed (unable to go to God), but he probably would not have been healed either. Because he couldn't spiritually "get up and go to God", he couldn't learn that his sins were forgiven and he couldn't receive God's healing. Feeling that our sins are so great that we are beyond God's forgiveness keeps us spiritually paralyzed and often physically un-healed as well, preventing our wholeness in soul and body.
Paralyzed by Unforgiveness
I don't know if this man blamed himself for his condition, but Jesus' words "Take heart, your sins are forgiven" seem to hint at that. Sometimes things do happen that are our fault, but Jesus can always heal if it is His will. And even if our bodies are not always healed, our souls will be. He always has forgiveness for us if we come to Him and ask. Blaming ourselves paralyzes us from reaching out to Him, from even thinking that we have "the right" to ask Him to forgive and heal us.
This is true when we blame ourselves and believe we are unforgivable, but it is even more clearly true when we blame others and refuse to forgive them. This message in the gospels is like a loud trumpet cry of God's heart to embrace His view of others instead of our view through our own wounds and offenses. In the parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matthew 18), Jesus pictures unforgiveness as being a "prison" that we choose to keep ourselves in. We begin by withholding forgiveness from others, but the net effect is that we ourselves stay locked up -- because God has forgiven us already and has called us to flow in His love, that is, to let His love flow to others through us just as it has flown freely and undeserved to us through Jesus Christ.
(For more on this, see Matthew 18:14-35, 6:12-15 & Luke 11:4, Luke 6:37-38, 1 Corinthians 11:27-32, Ephesians 4:32, Matthew 7:1-2, Matthew 13:58 and Mark 6:5)
The Gift That Unlocks Prison Doors
Someone once said,
"To forgive is to set a prisoner freeSimply put, unforgiveness keeps us paralyzed, whether it is ourselves we are keeping unforgiven or others we are withholding forgiveness from. Forgiveness is God's gift to all of us in His Son's death, resurrection and life. Who are we to judge that something is beyond forgiveness? God is the Judge. And if He knows everything ahead of time -- all the terrible things that you and I have done or that have been done to us -- if He knew everything ahead of time yet gave His Son to die anyway, that means that nothing we do is beyond His ability to forgive. The only thing that will keep us back is our choice not to receive His forgiveness and our choice not to extend it to others. When we think that "our sin is too great" or "that person's sin is too great" for God to forgive, that's when we begin to choose to disbelieve Him and what He's done, and the flow of His healing love begins to be impeded and halted in our lives, souls and even in our bodies.
and discover the prisoner was you."
Someone else pointed out that of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit, of all of His calls and "ministries", the very first thing Jesus gave us and called us to when He gave the Spirit was the gift of forgiveness!--
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.Like the disciples hiding with doors locked for fear of the Jews, we too "lock the doors" of our hearts because we are afraid. We have been hurt. We have seen people we love hurt, just like they saw Christ crucified. We have been wounded ourselves, and maybe others we love have been wounded. So we lock our hearts' doors to protect ourselves. We withhold forgiveness because we fear that if we forgive, we might be hurt again. If we forgive, people we love might be hurt again. Yes, but God's love is stronger and victorious! Just as God raised His crucified Son from the dead, so too God brings resurrection out of every one of our wounds if we give them to Him!
Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven."
- John 20:19-23
(Note: God will teach us how to forgive, but will also show us how to set protective boundaries so as not to get stuck in destructive or abusive situations and patterns in life.)
I know there's a lot of debate about these things, about how much we can forgive and about things "only God can forgive". Let me simplify this: if you can be offended by something, then you can forgive! Your soul will go into prison if you hold onto bitterness and judgment, and forgiveness in Him (just as He's forgiven you) is the only way out of prison! We are all the "unmerciful servant" who refused to forgive his brother. God has forgiven both us and our brother, and has given us the "keys of the kingdom" (repentance and forgiveness) with which we may "unlock" the doors to the prisons of our hearts, the prisons of unforgiveness, judgment and bitterness.
God has given us this "authority to forgive", just as Matthew wrote, "They praised God, who had given such authority to men." Whether or not the people we forgive experience the benefits of our forgiveness is not completely our choice, but we can cry out in His heart, "Lord, I choose to release them from prison; I choose to not 'make them pay' for what they've done anymore in Jesus' name!" and if we have kept ourselves in prison, we come into agreement with Him about how He feels about us, "Lord, I choose to release myself from having to 'pay' for my sins, because I see and choose to believe that You have paid the debt completely for me in Jesus."
The result of this agreement with God's heart (forgiving ourselves and forgiving others) is the release of healing waters to our souls (and often our bodies as well), and also the release of healing waters to other people as well. This is a big part of what Ezekiel meant by saying that the river of the water of life flowing the Temple brought life to seas of death, and a big part of what he and John saw about the leaves of the Tree of Life being "for the healing of the nations". God's Spirit in us is a well of salvation that wants to overflow to bless others around us, but bitterness, judgment and unforgiveness stop up this river from flowing out of us. As we choose to repent and forgive, the gates to our hearts are unlocked and the river pours forth! And where the river flows, there will be life.
Those words, "Take heart", now strike me as Him calling us to grab our hearts back! Take your heart back from sin, death, despair and wounds! Our hearts have been taken away from us, and our courage, faith and hope have been paralyzed. Jesus comes and says, "I AM!" and because of that, "Take your heart back!"
It also strikes me as Him saying,
"Take My heart! Your heart has felt condemned, holding yourself [or others] in condemnation and feeling you [or they] cannot be forgiven. But here I AM, here I AM with you reaching out to you to heal your spirit, soul and body! Here is My heart in My presence, in My love! Take MY heart for you, My son, My daughter! Take My heart for you instead of your heart of self-condemnation [or condemnation for others]! Let go of your judging yourself or judging others -- you don't need that anymore! The burden of unforgiveness is too heavy for you to bear! Leave justice to Me! I AM, and I will judge accordging to righteousness that is more wonderful and holy than anything you can conceive of. But My judgment is that I WANT YOU HEALED IN EVERY WAY!Bless you in His love! Go, release captives from prison! Be released from prison yourself! Set prisoners free, free from unforgiveness! Give sight to the blind -- show them God has forgiven them and you have too! Help the lame walk -- those cripped by unforgiveness! Release generations and families paralyzed by judging one another and keeping one another in unforgiveness! Release them from their prisons! Entrust judgment to God and choose to forgive as He has forgiven you and me, in Jesus' name! Amen!
So will you release yourself? Will you release others? Will you forgive them as I have forgiven you? Will you 'die' to wanting Me to punish them? I did not punish you and did not want to, and just as I love you, I love them and do not want to punish them, either, but I want them to come to repentance and life in Me. Will you extend your heart to them? Will you extend My heart to them, My child? Will you be healed? Will you join Me in My heart for others to be healed?"
See also: "Healing Unforgiveness" (at Weeping Jeremiahs)