Lent Devotional | week three
The Scripture story that we discussed in church yesterday has an interesting relationship. It is not the relationship between the friends and the paralyzed man. It is not the relationship between Jesus and the paralyzed man or his friends. In fact, it is not the type of relationship we would normally think of when we read a passage like this. There are two Greek words that represent the relationship of which I am referring. The first Greek word is soma which is translated into English as “body.” The second word is pneuma which is translated into English as “breath," or "spirit.” When the paralyzed man is brought to Jesus by his friends this relationship between soma and pneuma is at the center of the encounter. The relationship between body and spirit is primary as Jesus interacts with the paralyzed man.
Bible scholar William Barclay writes, “In Palestine it was a universal belief that all sickness was the result of sin, and that no sickness could ever be cured unless sin was forgiven.” Jesus, a devout Jew, knew this was the belief of his day. When Jesus made the decision to forgive the man’s sins first he was addressing the man’s pneuma or spirit. It was necessary for Jesus to forgive his sins to set the stage for healing him. Jesus knew this, and most likely knew the legal experts’ objections before they were even levied. Jesus chose to address the man’s sins and forgive them so that he could show his authority to both forgive and to heal.
As Jesus tells the man that his sins are forgiven we also see perhaps the first charge leveled against him. Jesus is charged with blasphemy by the religious leaders. In broad terms blasphemy is the act of insulting or showing contempt toward God or sacred things. In this more specific incident it is the act of taking God’s place according to the legal experts. Jesus dared to do what only God could. Of course, we discussed that they did not recognize that Jesus was God incarnate. It is only when they accuse Jesus of blasphemy that he demonstrates the totality of his authority. Jesus turns from the pneuma to the soma or body to show them who he is. Jesus’ authority is over both spirit and body.
The forgiving of the man’s sins and the healing of his body work together to make him whole, complete, and well. Jesus addressed the whole man. Forgiveness makes our spirit right with God and paves the way for all other healing in our life. If we are not right with God, we will not be open and available for the rest of what God wants to give us. Barclay writes, “If Jesus was able to make this man get up and walk, then that was unanswerable proof that the man’s sins were forgiven, and that Jesus’ claim was true. So, Jesus demonstrated that he was able to bring forgiveness to a man’s soul and health to a man’s body. And it remains eternally true that we can never be right physically until we are right spiritually, that health in body and peace with God go hand in hand.”
It is about the relationship of spirit [pneuma] and body [soma] that is at the heart of this biblical encounter. Jesus is Lord over us—mind, body, spirit—when we accept him as the Lord and savior of our life. It all starts when we experience God’s grace and place our faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior. When our spirit/soul is saved all of the rest of us follows. Have you placed ALL of your trust in Jesus as the Lord of your life? Experiencing the grace of forgiveness and the love of Christ will change everything!
As you think about the miraculous forgiveness from Jesus pray over and answer these questions:
1. Have you believed in Jesus and placed all of your trust in him today?
2. Have you been convinced of your sin and asked Jesus to forgive you?
3. Have you known the peace that comes from the forgiveness of your sins?
4. How could forgiveness be related to the rest of your life?
5. Is there anyone you need to forgive for something they have done to you?
6. Is there anyone from whom you need to seek forgiveness for something you have done?
7. How does all of this inform the way we pray for miraculous forgiveness for ourselves and others?
Jesus, you have all authority in heaven and on earth. You have created all things and seen that everything was good. You forgive the sins of all who turn from their sin and come humbly to you. Create and make in us new and broken hearts so we may be before you in right relationship and receive complete forgiveness because of your great mercy. We pray this through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.
Adapted from The Book of Common Prayer