Monday, July 10, 2017

The Man in the Ceiling

Based on Luke 5:17–26

He felt ridiculous and thought his situation ludicrous. Yet, he knew life was often compiled of absurdities. He was a keen observer of his world, often blending into the background, privy to the actions people concealed from others. 
Perhaps they believed his presence merely a background prop, a non-threat. He understood. He rarely drew attention to himself, his body continually still. He was paralyzed. Yet though his body was useless, his mind was active. So as the people passed by, some treating him as nothing more than a piece of furniture, he took it all in: their movements, nuances, lilting steps or self-assured heavy footfalls.

It wasn’t this way all the time. He did have friends, loyal friends, who remembered there was a soul trapped in his physical prison with a keen mind and a sense of humor. 
They enjoyed his jokes, filled him in on the local goings-on, and tried their best to keep him attached to his previous life. His past life. It was a time he now categorized as “before.” Before—when he could walk. Before—when he could feed himself, move his arms and fingers, and had a life of possibilities before him.
Sometimes he wished his mind was not so active. His thoughts often tormented him. Was life a joke? A cosmic puzzle with missing pieces? Was there a god or gods? 
He used to believe in a kind creator. But not now, not when the evidence clearly pointed toward random circumstances or even a downright cruel crap-shoot. He could not see a beautiful tapestry of connected events or traces of meaning left from the benevolent hand of a higher power.
He rarely voiced his doubts out loud. Why burden his friends and family or taint their childlike faith in a kinder world? He kept his skepticism secret and his anger buried. That is why he found his current circumstances so ridiculous. He was hanging from rooftop rafters on a bed that his friends cobbled together, attached to ropes, and lowered through a hole they dug through the ceiling.
And though his pleas to desist went unheeded, he had to smile at his friends’ ingenuity. They wanted him to meet Jesus, a holy man with apparent healing powers. And when the crowds were too thick to approach him, they came up with an alternate route. Well, he had to admit his friends’ plan was a success. Jesus would certainly notice him now, because he was dangling from ropes inches above Jesus’ head.
Jesus did see him. More precisely Jesus saw through him, as if his soul was transparent and his thoughts exposed. Then Jesus spoke to him, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Perhaps to the crowd of onlookers it seemed a strange thing to say. But to him, it was like a lightning bolt to his heart. Jesus knew. Jesus knew that the paralyzed man had lost his faith. Jesus knew that he went along with his friends’ ridiculous scheme, but inside, his heart was hardened. Jesus understood his unvoiced question, “Is God real, and if so, does he care about me?”
The man looked at Jesus curiously. “Who are you?” he wondered. He wanted to ask, but at that moment, Jesus’ attention was directed to the religious leaders in the crowd. Their faces were drawn in tight scowls as they whispered to each other, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive but God alone?” 
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’”
The paralyzed man considered the question. He knew the claim to forgive was easy to make. What proof did Jesus have that he could forgive sins? And yet the man felt changed. And he felt hope, hope in a God that cared enough to forgive a paralyzed man swinging from the ceiling on a makeshift cot. He watched as Jesus continued to speak to the crowd.
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” The man felt power throughout his body. He sat up. He swung his legs over the side of the cot, placed his feet firmly on the ground, reached for his mat and nimbly rolled it up with his fingers. 
He looked at Jesus one last time, and then went home praising God.

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. …O Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.
(Psalm 130:3–4, 7–8)

An excerpt from Sara’s upcoming book, Everyday Jesus.

All photos courtesy of

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