When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he said to the paralytic — “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
~ Mark 2:1-12
I think this is one of my favorite stories from the gospels. The paralyzed man is still seen today at many street corners, holding signs, and asking for help. We drive by, seeing him, but not really SEEING him.
The blinders that we have created for ourselves are more than just blocking our views. They prevent us from seeing anything other than what lies in front of us.
The extraordinary efforts of some folks take the person to a new place. On top of a roof. Where they then dig through mud, straw, and clay to reach Jesus who is just a few feet away.
The man is lowered down through the roof to the footstool of Christ, and all watch as Jesus tells the man to take up his mat and walk.
The moment comes and the man feels his legs lift him up, and he is then able to bend over, take up the mat that once held him, and walk from the place where a miracle has just occurred.
Someone once asked me, "What's the point of the man picking up his mat and walking away? The room was already a mess from the men digging a hole in the roof. What would one more piece of debris mean?"
My response? The mat held the man, paralyzed for a number of years. Just think how powerful it was for the man to pick up the mat, the very thing that once held him, and to know the power he now has over it as he carries it away.
We all struggle with things that paralyze us. The things that hold us and keep us from being something other than what we are meant to be. Drugs. Alcohol. Violence. Disappointments. All things that paralyze us.
Having the ability to hear the words, "Take up your mat and walk," means the difference between the way a life once was, and the miracle of God that is waiting, even if it means that we must take our blinders off and get dirty ourselves.
Stay in God's grip!
G. Todd Williams (c) 2017
Dear Lord, help me to recognize the things that paralyze me, but also, that which holds others. Help me to at least pray for a change, and the courage to take up my own mat when You have given me the strength to do just that.
Rev. G. Todd Williams lives in the Houston metro area and is a Hospice Chaplain and ordained Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pastor.