Of all the stories I heard in Sunday School, this is the one that is burned into my memory. It probably has something to do with the fact that I tried to convince the teacher to stack up several tables and chairs so that we could “act it out.” She didn’t need to worry; I would volunteer to be the guy dropped down through our makeshift roof. Needless to say, she didn’t think that was a good idea. Even today I can close my eyes and see this story unfolding. Whenever I come to a familiar story like this one, it’s worth asking if I have missed something. Am I seeing everything clearly?
You spoke of those who would be seeing, but not truly see anything. They would be hearing, but never hear a thing. Your disciples missed a lot, but their simple hearts grasped far more than the heady, religious crowd. They would watch a scene like this and could feel the emotion and wonder welling up in their heart. Who wouldn’t get a little bit excited when a normal church service gets interrupted with a crew ripping off the roof? Actually, there have been times when I wished something like this would happen – anything to get me out of here, but I digress.
You, however, saw much more than a hole in the roof. You saw faith breaking through. Faith and love that moves friends into action. True faith, among a thousand other images of pretense. Masses followed the miracles, but only a few followed their Maker.
What you also saw was the greater need in this man’s life. Yes, he was on a stretcher. Yes, everyone knew that he couldn’t walk. He was completely dependent on everyone… for everything. I can imagine his daily routine: moved from where he was sleeping to where he would be begging, someone relents and gives him a piece of stale bread (they won’t eat it anyway), someone has mercy and brings him a drink of water, hundreds pass him by (like they always do), eventually his friends come and bring him back to the place where he will sleep for the evening. Lord, don’t you see that what he really needs is to be able to walk?
It’s a bit unfair as we have seen this movie already. We’ve “read” the book. We know what they didn’t know… or do we? Do we really understand that the greater need here is not the ability to walk? Your question to the Pharisees was unusual: “Which is easier? Forgiving sin or healing the body?” This feels like a trick question. You are the Creator of the universe. Your own words to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 32:27) compelled him to declare that “nothing is too hard for you.” What’s really happening here? Both are easy for you.
Is the inability to see the beauty of God because we are looking for something else? Or are we so blind that we miss it altogether? While you were looking into the hearts of the men on the roof, you also saw straight through the contempt of the religious leaders. You read their mail before they even opened it. To what end?
“So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” In that statement lies the whole key to this passage. You triaged this man before he even got close to that roof. In truth, you assessed his needs, our needs, well before the dawn of time. The garden of Eden brought the opportunity to reveal the plan, but the song of the Redeemer was written long before a single flower adorned the hillside. Before the morning sun ever split the horizon, You were coming. Your rescue was written in the libraries of old.
Faith is the evidence of things not seen… and I once was blind, but now I am beginning to see. Lord, open our eyes to see beyond the obvious, through circumstance, above pretense, down to the real heart of every word in the Scriptures – which always leads to You.