The accounting of Jesus healing the paralytic is told in three different places in the gospels, and is one of the thrilling examples of Jesus’ unique ability as God to forgive sins. It has many dramatic elements – the friends’ determination to get to Jesus, the lowering down from the roof, the encounter with Jesus that first results in the man’s sins being forgiven and then Jesus giving him the ability to walk, the crowd being astonished and glorifying God.
But there is an interesting piece of information presented in all three accounts about the five men that is often overlooked:
Matthew 9:2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Mark 2:5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Luke 5:20 And when he (Jesus) saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”
Do you see it? In all three accounts, “Jesus saw their faith” and then the paralytic man’s sins are forgiven. The five men have faith, and one man specifically receives forgiveness. What does this corporate faith mean in terms of an individual’s faith and forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ?
Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible is very helpful here (click here to read the entire commentary on Matt 9):
Now their faith was, 1. A strong faith; they firmly believed that Jesus Christ both could and would heal him; else they would not have brought the sick man to him so publicly, and through so much difficulty. 2. A humble faith; though the sick man was unable to stir a step, they would not ask Christ to make him a visit, but brought him to attend on Christ. It is fitter than we should wait on Christ, than he on us. 3. An active faith: in the belief of Christ’s power and goodness, they brought the sick man to him, lying on a bed, which could not be done without a deal of pains. Note, A strong faith regards no obstacles in pressing after Christ.
Strong, humble, active faith. Sins are forgiven. God is glorified. But it was not their ability or determination that brought forgiveness and the physical healing of their friend. It had always been part of God’s plan that these men would have faith! Foreknown, predestined, called, justified – and today, glorified!
Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.