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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Today’s Reading | 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. (NRSV)

The version of this story, of the paralyzed man healed by Jesus, many of us know and love is told in Mark 2. In that telling of the story, the four friends who bring the paralyzed man to Jesus find the crowd too great to get in. Undaunted, the friends cut a hole in the roof and lower the man down to put him in Christ’s presence. What love!

Just as striking, though, is what Jesus does next. He doesn’t begin by saying, “Pick up your mat and walk.” He begins with forgiveness.

“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Who doesn’t long to hear those words? To know that you can come home; you are taken back. All is forgiven; you have another chance, a new start.

We don’t know what this man’s sins were; we only know that we share his condition. We need forgiveness, each of us—a fact strikingly acknowledged by Pope Francis, who described himself thus: “I am a sinner.”

All of us have thought wrong, spoken wrong, done wrong. We have hurt people. We have fallen short of the kindness and selflessness and love God calls us to live out in the world. We need healing, like the man who was paralyzed; but first, we need forgiveness. More than that, we need to extend that forgiveness to others. It is not for ourselves alone; it is for all.

When the crowd in this story saw what Jesus did, they were “filled with awe.” They glorified God—for the healing, yes, but also for the forgiveness, a forgiveness bookended by love and amazement.

Dear God, open my heart to love and forgive. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Written by Jeanne Bishop, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

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