More than mere intercession: faith and love in action

He was lowered through the roof on a mat but left the house on his own two feet. But it was not his faith that helped him. This is the story of Jesus healing a paralytic and the light this event sheds on the divine services for the departed.

Clay crumbles from the ceiling. There are people on the roof. What is going on? About four dozen people have squeezed into the small single-storey house to see Jesus from Nazareth and listen to Him. More are trying to push their way inside.

There is such a large crowd outside that there is no way of getting into the house, but the four men refuse to allow this to stop them. They absolutely want to bring their paralysed friend to Jesus. They want Him, the healer of all evil, to help their friend. And they find a way to get to Jesus—via an outside staircase that leads to the roof. They dig through the layers of wood, straw, and clay and make an opening in the roof.

The Healer does not need any help

Jesus stops preaching. All eyes are on the opening in the roof. A man is let down on a sleeping mat. Everyone immediately realises he is ill and wants to be healed …

And then? The crowd is indignant. They tell the four men that it is absurd to bring the paralysed man to Jesus. Jesus is always with those who need help in any case. And anyone who wants to speed the process up underestimates the love and compassion of Jesus.

Contrary to all expectations

Seriously? No, the three Synoptic Gospels unanimously report an entirely different version of the story (see Matthew 9: 2–8; Mark 2: 5–11; Luke 5: 20–26). And what really happened is remarkable in more ways than one.

  • “When Jesus saw their faith …” Important is the word “their”. Jesus was referring to the faith of the man’s friends. Normally He always said, “Your faith has made you well.” This was the case with the healing of the blind man near Jericho or the woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years or the Samaritan among the ten lepers. But here, in the case of this paralytic, it was the faith of a third party which caused Jesus to react.
  • “Your sins are forgiven you.” Everyone in the room expected Jesus to say something that would help the man walk again. But He surprised them all: He first of all healed his soul before turning to the paralytic’s physical problem. Jesus wants to help the entire human being.

Irrespective of barriers

This biblical account throws a special light on divine services for the departed, which the New Apostolic Church celebrates across the world on three Sundays a year. Tomorrow is one such Sunday. No, this story is certainly not suited to even reasonably justify this doctrine and its practice thereof. But this account can strengthen one’s belief in its effectiveness in a double sense.

  • Jesus recognises the faith of the man’s friends: a faith that acted out of love for someone who is suffering; a trust that, for a moment, elevated intercession to believing for someone else; a confidence that overcame obstacles and broke through barriers. This belief was so strong that it triggered the actual healing: the reconciliation of the sinner with God.
  • In His actions, Jesus is not limited to human expectations—neither by the good intentions of those needing help, nor the jealousy of the scribes. His will to help people knows no bounds: neither between body and soul, as here, nor later at the time of His sacrificial death, between the visible and the invisible world.

One does not have to be able to explain the love of God down to the last detail in order to be able to trust in His power. The people at the time were amazed and said: “We never saw anything like this!”

Photo: Weerapat Wattanapichayakul / fotolia

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Andreas Rother
divine services for ministers