2And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This man blasphemeth.’ 4And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7And he arose, and departed to his house. ~ Matthew 9:2-7 (Also in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26)
Qualifications for the Kingdom, Part 1: Spiritual vs. Physical: How do you see yourself?
When the man with the palsy was brought to Jesus, the expectation was that Jesus would heal him. Aside from the simple fact of his suffering, prevailing Jewish religious thought/philosophy taught that disease was a sign of sin (John 9:1-3). And, according to Scripture, the sinful are rejected by God. Therefore, according to the religious scholars of Jesus’ day, having the palsy disqualified the sick man from God’s Kingdom. Thus, from the people’s perspective, the only way to help the man was to heal him physically.
However, Jesus (as he often does) did the unexpected: He forgave the man’s sins first, instead of dealing with his paralysis first. By forgiving the palsied man of his sins, Jesus prioritized the man’s spiritual health over his physical health. Jesus demonstrated that qualification for the Kingdom is based on spiritual state ALONE.
As Jesus explained (and as shown in Paul’s life), physical sickness is not necessarily linked to sin. Our physical state (healthy or sick, rich or poor, thin or fat, red or yellow) neither qualifies nor disqualifies us for entrance into the Kingdom of God: the ONLY thing that matters is our Spiritual state: whether our sins have been forgiven. If God forgives your sin, then you are in.
Indeed, the scribes in particular should have known that the lame had equal standing among the people of God. Speaking through Jeremiah God had specifically included the blind and the lame among those who He would call into fellowship as His people returned from captivity:
Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither. ~ Jeremiah 31:8
The story doesn’t end there, however. Jesus does go on to heal the man of his physical illness. It is clear, therefore, that Jesus DOES care about our physical condition. Jesus takes no pleasure in our physical ailments; He is not untouched by our infirmities (Matthew 8:16-17).
A defective nervous system paralyzed the man’s body and a defective (sinful) nature paralyzed his spirit. However, while his body would only be alive for a few years on earth, his spirit would live eternally, either in Heaven or in hell. Therefore, his spiritual state was infinitely more critical than his physical state. And so, Jesus fixed his spiritual problem, first.
Accordingly, God is preoccupied with our spiritual condition; that is why Jesus died on the cross to save us. Illness/disease is a scourge on our lives, but they don’t last forever, and God can still work through physical illnesses to minister to mankind.
And he [the LORD] said unto me, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. ~ 2 Cor. 12:9
But spiritual illness, sin-sickness, completely blocks our ability to fellowship with God and serve Him (which is our calling).
Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. ~ John 3:3
Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. ~ Romans 8:7-8
The worst that physical sickness can do is to end our life here on earth, but spiritual sickness, uncured, leads to eternal death.
Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. ~ John 5:28-29
The questions we must ask therefore are,
- How do we see ourselves?
- When we look at ourselves, do we only see our physical needs?
- Or, do we also see our spiritual needs?
- Which one (physical or spiritual) do we want God to fix most?
- Which one keeps us up at night? For which one do we spend most of our time praying for help?
- Are we preoccupied by our physical state or consumed by our spiritual state?
**This is the 1st installment in a 3-part series on Qualifications for the Kingdom given in Matthew 9:2-8, Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26**