Truly Set Free

Worthless, beat down, invaluable, helpless…he had to feel this way.  He had no choice but to feel this way.  He was paralyzed so he was at the mercy of others, always.  He could not get out of his bed so he had nothing he could contribute, or at least that is the way it seemed.  He existed and not much else could be said – at least from the outside.  But oh he still had personality and character.  He was still who he was created to be.  He had value, but it was difficult for him to see because he was confined to a bed unable to care for himself.  He depended on others for everything.

But someone cared about him, he was a friend.  He meant something to someone.  He was mother’s son.  He had a father.  He could have been a brother or a nephew.  He was someone’s grandchild.  He was an important person.  He was valued.  There were others that knew him for the guy that he really was.  They heard his story.  They saw his pain.  They got that there was so much more to him than this bed.  This bed was not him.  He was so much more.  He had a name.  He had a life.  He had joys and hopes, dreams and aspirations.  They could look into his eyes and see the desperation.  He didn’t want to be in this place.  He simply wanted to be loved.

And there were people who saw him.  They wanted to do anything they could to help, no matter the cost.  They loved him.  They believed in him.  And they had experienced someone that would love him just as much as they did.  So they did something which is rarely done…they move him.  Yes – they make him mobile.  It is a difficult task because he can’t help.  He is completely dependent on their efforts.  He can only go where they carry him.  He doesn’t get out or go places, it is too much work for people.  But today, they carry him.  He has somewhere to go.

Matthew 9:2-8

And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.

When we read this story, we read the lesson.  There is a lesson about faith.  There is a lesson about who Jesus is.  We could leave it at that.  But I don’t think that is the whole story.  This man, he is not an object lesson, he is a real person.  He is not to be used to make a point, but rather a person to be seen and heard.  He is someone who has suffered and has struggled.  He has led a real life that has been challenging.  His life has been confined to a bed.  Jesus sees him.  Jesus sees him as one of his own.  He calls him his child.  He also sees the hearts of those with him.  They don’t need to say a word.  He gets it.  They have selflessly given of themselves so that this man can have a new life.  They want the best for him.  He isn’t an object, he is God’s beloved.  He is a child of God, no less precious than anyone else.

Jesus takes care of the man.  He offers forgiveness.  This man must have been weighed down by the things in his life.  Jesus would have noticed more than a paralyzed person.  He would have seen the heart of the man.  He would know what was hurting him.  He would understand that there is so much more going on than his outward situation.  He saw the man’s heart.  And he began healing him on the inside.  That probably isn’t what the friends had in mind.  This wasn’t what the man was expecting, I am sure.  Those in the room were dumbfounded.  Why would this be the answer?  But the man…no one asks him how he feels about all of this.  No one seeks to know how he is –  in the middle of all of this.  They simply begin to make assumptions and criticize.  They want to trap Jesus instead of realizing what has been done for him.

He has been forgiven, set free.  He has been released from his past.  The heavy weights that have held him down are no longer a factor.  Jesus has done something for him that no doctor could ever do.  He has provided him with new life.  Even if he is still in the bed, he is not consumed by the worry of his past.  He has been set free.  This is an incredible gift.  But instead of celebrating, the religious in the room began to criticize.  Who does Jesus think he is?  What does think he is doing?  Who gave him the right to forgive sins?  And is this guy even worthy?  He isn’t a religious person and he can’t even go to worship.  Is this even happening?

Just like Jesus sees the heart of the man and the heart of his friends, he also sees the heart of the religious.  And their heart is thinking evil.  Their heart is stained.  They have no clue that their seemingly religious heart is damaged.  They are too busy pointing out the stains of someone else to realize they are covered.  They are too consumed with who is worthy to realize that they need his love more than anyone.  They haven’t looked up from their rule book to see a man, a human, one of God’s children lying on a bed in front of them.  They have missed the person to make a point.  There is a person.  There is a life.  But Jesus sees.  He knows their hearts.  And he understands who truly seeks him.  He gets what is going on.  And he calls them out.  But he doesn’t forget the man.

After he has taken care of the most important part – the weight of his past – he then gives him the freedom to move, to go on his own.  The healing was taken care of when he released his heart from the pain.  Now he helps him move forward with his new life.  He gives him a new start, a fresh breath, a whole new beginning.  It isn’t just about picking up the mat, it is about moving forward with a whole new life.  He is no longer the paralyzed man.  The bed no longer defines him.  But his past doesn’t define him either.  He has been released.  And he makes it to Jesus because he had friends that saw something special.  He has friends that understood he was more than his circumstance.  They didn’t feel sorry for him, they wanted more for him.  They loved him as he was but knew that so much more was out there for him.  They had faith that his healing could turn things around.  They love him and offer something so much more – they offer to introduce him to the one that would not judge him for his past or his present.  They offer him Jesus, the one that would set him free of it all.

Those who observed couldn’t believe what had happened.  They were in awe.  I can only imagine the celebration.  The friends would gather round and tell this story for years to come.  It was a truly remarkable event.  But there would always be those who would question…was he worthy…did he deserve to walk…why him…what did it mean to be forgiven…what made him special.  But this man knew his life had been changed forever, and it meant more than the ability to physically take a step.  He had been freed leaps and bounds before he even got up from the bed.  He had been set free.

What might you do if Jesus set you free?  Maybe he has and you are still confined because you don’t realize how much you have been freed.  Maybe you don’t understand that your healing may be more than a physical healing.  Could it be that you are free because Jesus has healed you spiritually?  Has he called you, forgiven you, and given you a new life?  Are you still held back because of what others think of you?  Are you being held down by the expectations of those that judge?  Are you weighed down by the opinions of others?  Know that when Jesus sets you free, you are free indeed.  You are meant to live abundantly.  He fills you with grace and mercy and gives you a brand new life.  He offers you so much more than to get up.  He provides all you need to really live.

What’s holding you back?  May you call out to Jesus.  May you realize that you are his beloved.  And may you be set free.

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