Luke 5:17-26 “Take Up Your Bed”
We are all desperately trying to get closer to Jesus. At the start of the text we see that people are shoving and pushing into a small house where Jesus is teaching. There is so much pushing and shoving that one man, a paralytic, one who has lost the use of his arms and legs, cannot even dream of getting in to hear Jesus. His friends believe that Jesus can heal him. So, they lower him on his palette through the roof of the home where Jesus was.
Do you have friends like that? Do you have friends that will help you to heal? Friends who will stick by you through thick or thin? Friends that would do anything to see you better in your own life? What an incredible blessing these friends are. Yet, there is one more great friend that is there to receive him in his greatest hour of need and healing. This friend is of course Jesus. And, it is an amazing moment when the paralytic is finally lowered through the roof and is there facing Jesus that the Lord addresses this man as “friend”!
I know that some Bibles will say “friend” in this verse, and others will say “man.” It is simply the case that some manuscripts say one and others say the other. I like the idea of Jesus calling him “friend.” I like this because I want Jesus to call me friend. I want Jesus to be my friend. After all, we are known by the company we keep!
As a quick aside, please note that the Gospel of Luke itself is written to “Theophilus,” which literally translates as “friend of God.” If we are reading this gospel, then we are God’s friend. We are thus important to God!
As a side note, you can look up this same story in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. In both of those texts Jesus calls the paralytic “my child.” In any case, the man is not just dropped through the roof without Jesus caring for him already in calling out to him with affection. Jesus is in the least this man’s friend.
Today parents are encouraged to log onto their children’s social media accounts to see who their “friends” are. That is one really good way to find out what is going on in your child’s life. I mean, do not pry or break trust in any way. Just click on the “friends” link and see who else is important in your child’s life! And if you see a name there that is just a bunch of symbols with no picture or even a cartoon, tell your children to let that “friend” go.
I want to be on Jesus’ friends’ list! In my life, I want to stand with Jesus. I want to be as close as possible. I want my other friends to find a way through the roof if necessary that I can come close to the healing grace of the Lord. We all want and really need to be close to Jesus!
Jesus does not immediately heal the paralytic. He first says: “Your sins are forgiven.” First things first. What good is it to be able to walk and run around again if your life is still burdened by sin? We do not know what this man’s sin was. To be sure, we should not equate the fact that he is a paralytic with whatever sin he has committed. Why? When Jesus absolves the man of his sin, it is not at that point that he gets up and walks away. His sins are forgiven, yet he is still lying on the palette. It is not until Jesus says “get up, take your palette, and go” that he does.
Many have through the Ages equated physical ailment with the idea of spiritual punishment. Brother Jared in last week’s sermon made the point that WE should not do that. We should today know better. The modern term is “blaming the victim.” We should not blame the victims who are suffering through no fault of their own. That being said, please note that in the day when Jesus was meeting in that house and the man was lowered through the roof, it was the common belief that he must have sinned somehow. Yet, as I just now pointed out, Jesus has forgiven him of his sins, and yet he is still paralyzed. It is not until Jesus actually tells the man to get up that he is healed.
What good is it that he should gain the use of his legs and yet still lose his eternal soul? Does that not sound like what Jesus says in Luke 9:25, and St. Paul reiterates in Philippians 3:7-11, “. . . .suffered from the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ. . . .” If Jesus should be my friend and forgive me of all sin that I might be with him in heaven one day, then that is as important as the bodily healing that I might receive.
I do want to contrast this text with last week’s sermon in another way, too. Last week you will recall that the leper was cleansed by Jesus and then told by Jesus to make a testimony to the priests in the Temple. Now, we have a text about Jesus healing a paralytic, letting him walk again and pick up his bed, but this time the paralytic is not instructed to go make a testimony or offer a sacrifice in the Temple. What does Jesus tell him to do? Go home! Wow, what is that about?
Do you remember how it was that everyone was cramming into that little space to see Jesus? They must have had a hard time with Covid regulations, no? There were just so many people who wanted to get close to Jesus! When the paralytic takes up his bed and walks home, everybody sees this! His testimony is now complete. The paralytic has already made witness for Jesus. His job is done. Pau hana time. Truthfully, the rest of his life will be a witness to the power of Christ whether or not he plans it out that way! Not everyone is called to witness as an evangelist. We can make witness of Christ’s grace and love just by going home and living out our days as Jesus commands us.
And this, actually brings up a whole new idea that I had never even considered about this text until someone else mentioned it to me. Maybe Jesus is telling this man in fact to go home and now take care of his family. Obviously if the man was a paralytic that his family had been caring for him. Now, it was his turn to be step up!
Jesus is able to perceive what is in need in our lives. He perceived the questions of the Pharisees in this text for today. Now, Jesus is perceiving perhaps that this man must go home to minister to his family now that he has been healed. Sometimes God tells us to go home to those whom we love.
Did you notice this man is told to take his bed back home with him? “Go lie in your bed at home where you should be!”
In my own life there have been times when I have heard God telling me to go home. I have heard God’s call to go overseas. Helen and I spent four years overseas in Thailand as missionaries. At the end of those four years, we were offered another four assignment. In a way that would have been the easier way for us at that point. It is actually quite difficult after being a missionary to reestablish one’s ministry in a local church. All the search committees kind of pass over the returning missionaries for some reason. Maybe they think we are flighty? Ha ha.
But really the call was very clear for us to come back home to the United States. I remember just thinking, “Okay, now I have to do mission work back home.”
A few weeks ago we recognized Pastor Dale Vallejo-Sanderson as our Pastor Emeritus at our annual meeting. In his ministerial calling, he has been called back to the very church in which he grew up as a child! He heard the call: “Pastor Dale, go home!” God can put you right back where you started from—but now with a renewed mission. Before, Pastor Dale just had to go to Sunday School and learn the Ten Commandments, now he gets to lead the flock!
So, I just want you all to think about this as you get done here in worship today that maybe God is telling you to go back home. Drive out of here with a sense of mission even if you are just going home to prune the hibiscus.
Take up your bed—and take it home with you. That place where you have found healing in your life with Jesus Christ, pick it up right now, set it up at home for you and your family. Whatever healing you are getting right now in your life—take it home with you.
The last thing I have to bring up is really “strange.” The last line of the scripture says the people were saying, “We have seen strange things today.” That is super strange! Well, many bibles will translate the word here in the Greek in many different ways. The word is παράδοξα. We have the word “paradox” in English. We know what that means. The last half of the word “doxa” is “glory” or “brightness.” So, really what Luke is reporting is that the people there saw God’s glory in a new light! To translate that as “strange” is very “strange.”
What is truly the paradox here is that a man is lowered through the roof, his burden of sin is lifted from him, and he himself arises and walks home! So, from a man being paralyzed comes an extremely uplifting story. This all starts when his friends lift him up. So, please go out and lift someone up today! Bring them to Jesus. Help lift the burden of sin from them. Bring the faith home for Jesus.