Some men brought on a stretcher a man who was paralyzed. . . . When he saw their faith, [Jesus] said, “As for you, your sins are forgiven. . . . I say to you, rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He stood up immediately before them, picked up what he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. (Luke 5:18,20,24-25)
The healing of the paralytic in Luke’s Gospel provides an example for our spiritual lives. First, Jesus tells the paralytic his sins are forgiven, then, later, tells him to rise. Sinfulness itself is a type of paralysis. The burdens
of our sins can weigh heavy and prevent us from engaging fully in life, either because of guilt we feel or because the sins themselves prevent us from being open to the Lord’s love. Christ lifts the burden and tells us to rise, to be healed and made whole. With Him, we need not be burdened and paralyzed by sinfulness.
But the story does not stop with the man being healed and his sins forgiven. Christ tells him to pick up his stretcher and go home. While his paralysis is gone, there remains effects of his paralysis, namely the stretcher he must carry. Likewise, after our sins are forgiven, there are effects of sin we must deal with: memories or lingering feelings of guilt, continuing temptations, or habits that lead to sinful behavior. The man must carry his stretcher carefully through the door of the house and through the crowded streets until he can get home. Likewise, after our sins are forgiven, we have to navigate our lives carefully, noticing what bad habits we have or where temptation arises that we need to combat.
Finally, the man is to go home, and it is there that he can get rid of the stretcher. Perhaps he will use the stretcher for firewood, destroying the last trace of paralysis. At home, he is warmly greeted by his loving family who will help him destroy the stretcher. Likewise, to help us overcome the effects of sin and avoid future sin, we often need to depend upon others. We need positive and loving relationships that can support us and lead us toward virtue and away from vice.
It was Christ who took the initiative to forgive the man’s sins; it is God’s love that forgives our sins. Christ told the man to take the initiative to get rid of the final traces of his paralysis; it is our love of others that helps us destroy the last effects of sin and avoid temptation. It is through both love of God and through the love of others that we can overcome our own fallen nature and so properly glorify God.