After entering a boat, Jesus made the crossing, and came into his own town. And there people brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.” At that, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Jesus knew what they were thinking, and said, “Why do you harbor evil thoughts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”– he then said to the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.” He rose and went home. When the crowds saw this they were struck with awe and glorified God who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:1-8)
There are many methods and approaches to enter more deeply into Scripture. Among the possibilities, I enjoy delving into the language and context of 1st century communications. A bit technical and academic for most – and let me not leave you with the impression I am a scholar. But is is fun and engages me.
But I truly enjoy imagining that I am a movie director, the producer (God) has procured an amazing script (the Gospel) and now I have to work with the screen writers to bring an artistic vision to film – one that will engage the audience. One that will make the characters approachable and realistic – and I mean all the characters, including the minor, unnamed ones.
In the gospel account, the main “action” is between Jesus and the scribes. There are others in the scene: the disciples (not mentioned, but traveling with Jesus from the previous scene), the stretcher bearers, the paralytic on the stretcher, and the crowds. Will you include them in the scene? Will they have a speaking role or will they just be silent witnesses? Will they have side conversations among themselves? Will one among them assume the mantle of expert and try to explain all that is unfolding? And what will you do with the crowd? How will they be struck with awe and glorify God?
In one of my musings, I thought about the paralytic and the stretcher bearers. They’ve heard the stories of Jesus’ miraculous healings and they are thinking, this might be the cure we need – and there’s all this talk of Jesus possibly being the Messiah…. “Let’s take a chance and take our friend to Nazareth…”
Jesus sees their faith. I think a way to understand this is to use the word “trust” which is the primary meaning of the underlying Greek word. Jesus sees they have put their trust in him, so he turns to them and says “Courage, child, your sins are forgiven.”
In my script, the stretcher bearers are saying out loud in a stage whisper, “Ahh…. we did not carry him all this way to have some forgiveness of sins – we want our friend to walk.” At the same time, his hopes on the verge of being completely dashed, the paralytic speaks out: “My problem isn’t sin – I can’t walk”
The people in the crowd probably thought, “What’s wrong with this guy? We thought that he was able to heal but he’s talking about forgiveness..”
Then Jesus drops the bomb in the room, by saying, “Rise, pick up your stretcher, and go home.!”
All eyes are looking at the paralytic. The scene freezes. Slowly, tentatively the one rises, testing limbs, balance, becoming aware things are again working. In shock he does exactly what he was told. He heads home. In my script I stay with the man. He and his friends express joy and the conversation is, “You know, when we get home…” It’s a long way home and the people slip into thoughtful silence. Eventually, one turns to the rest and say… “Only God can forgive sins, right?”
Fade to the next scene.
Just one way to enter more deeply into the sacred story.