The Healing of the Paralytic

“Son, be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven.” (Mat 9:2)

In the ninth chapter of his gospel, St. Matthew relates a remarkable miracle.

Some men brought to Jesus a man who was a severe paralytic. So immobile, indeed, that he needed to be carried on a mat like a patient on a stretcher. St. Matthew does not tell us precisely how the man was paralysed, but one is left with the impression that this was not a congenital paralysis. Usually the gospel writers are very careful to mention whether an illness or disease was “from birth”.

We do know that severe accidents were relatively common in the ancient world. Our Lord even references a number of people who were tragically killed in the collapse of a tower.

In the ancient world, people unfortunate enough to be badly injured usually died. Medical technology of the era simply could not cope with extreme conditions and so the injured were “left in the hands of God” – as we always are, even if modern medicine sometimes deludes us into thinking we are not.

People who survived accidents with broken and deformed bodies – especially men – lost most of their economic capacity. They essentially became beggars, reliant upon their wife, children, or friends to provide the essentials of life. It was an unenviable and pitiable condition. Particularly if they lived with chronic pain.

St. Matthew tells us that our Lord “saw their faith” – the faith of the paralytic’s friends.

This is a remarkable observation. We know that Christ could see into the hearts of men with perfect perspicuity. But St. Matthew intends us to see that the faith of these men was demonstrated in action: they invested effort to bring their friend to Jesus, and they came with expectancy. This was not a scholarly expectation. It was not theologically complicated.

Their comprehension was simple and straightforward: This is the One who can heal!

When Jesus saw the paralytic he did not immediately tell him he was going to be healed from his paralysis. Instead, the Lord tells him to “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven”. Do we get what St. Matthew is saying here? Forgiveness of sins is the first order of business. Indeed, righteousness with God was always the foremost priority in the economy of our Lord who sees and knows all things.

The forgiveness of sins! If we see things rightly, then we understand that reconciliation with God is greater than even being able to walk again. People who have found salvation come to understand that this is the foremost source of “good cheer”.

Could there be anything greater? To be a criminal engaged in a longstanding civil war against our Creator and King, only for him to set aside his royal robes; step down from his throne; and descend to our level in order to tell us that all who lay down their weapons; all who sign the Armistice; all who surrender and come into his presence – even if only with a trembling, weak, solitary sinew of faith – will be received. Will be forgiven. Will be reconciled. They will be given the right to call their former enemy, “my Father”.

It is only after addressing the paralytic’s soul that our Lord heals his broken body. Yet even this is done with purposeful deliberateness, to confirm the reality of the forgiveness he had bestowed.

No matter what the devil will try to tell us about the importance of earthly gain, or that we should look for happiness in sin and material goods, the reality is that a man can only really be at peace – to “be of good cheer” – when he has encountered Christ in faith and heard his words spoken as unto the very recesses of his soul:

“My son, your sins are forgiven.”

Do you hear that welcoming voice? Has your heart ever yearned for unconditional, compassionate and understanding love – the love of Christ, a wellspring of affection that is reserved just for you from the centre of heaven itself?

Have you grown weary of the dusty wilderness tracks through the desert of unrighteousness? Do you feel any tug on your heart at all?

You do not need it to be complicated. You do not need to have the same experience someone else had. You do not need complex doctrinal understanding. You need only to have an atom of desire toward Christ and enough faith to come – fainting, wounded, paralysed – into his presence. For all who truly come, he will never cast away.

In the words of the old revival hymn:

I hear Thy welcome voice,
That calls me, Lord, to Thee;
For cleansing in Thy precious blood,
That flow’d on Calvary.

I am coming, Lord!
Coming now to Thee!
Wash me, cleanse me, in the blood
That flow’d on Calvary!

Though coming weak and vile,
Thou dost my strength assure;
Thou dost my vileness fully cleanse,
Till spotless all, and pure.

And he the witness gives
To loyal hearts and free,
That every promise is fulfilled,
If faith but brings the plea.

Joy, the Characteristic of an Authentic Encounter with Christ



This morning, the pipes burst from the water mains to my house. A great spray of water was sent across the lawn, and the water pressure in the house dropped to zero.

I went to church glad that it had been spotted early.

This morning I spoke about the believer’s joy, which is fixed by the certainty of our entrance into eternal life and grounded in the love of Christ. This happiness is not tangential to the Christian experience. It is part of the promise; it is part of the proof of being in Christ. For Christ himself said, “I have spoken these words that my joy might be in you, and your joy might be complete“. The devil’s greatest tool to destroy this joy is to rob people of their assurance and confidence that they will enter that sunlit land, and one day inhabit the City of God in fellowship with Christ and his saints forever. This joy exists independent of our momentary troubles and worries.

Truly, even “the desert blooms as paradise when God is with His people there“.

After worship was ended, I was talking to a brother about joy and Christian happiness. We ended up comparing notes about our troubles with our homes. The conversation ran something like this:

Me: “Well, this morning the pipes burst in my house!”
[Insert joyous laughter]
Brother: “Well, my roof is leaking in three places and I don’t have the time to fix it!”
[Insert more joyous laughter]
Me: “Well, this week I received a letter from the people who built my home warning me the roof could cave in!”
[Joyous laughter again]

It would seem madness to the world. Glib; insane; not being a realist. Yet for the Christian who is strengthened by Christ, the difficulties of life are trivia compared with His joy. Our conversation was a small, yet vivid proof of Christian joy that can exist independent of one’s circumstances.

Sunday’s Exhortation: Blessed from Before all the Ages


Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:3-4)

St. Paul’s letter to the churches at Ephesus begins with what could only be described as an “outburst of glory”!

For twelve amazing verses Paul plunges into the ocean of blessings given to the believer. He surveys the scope of the glorious future of the believer and the definitive work of God. This definitive work of God, as we shall see, is to save the believer from coming wrath, to make the sinner righteous, and to fit him for readmission to paradise.

The starting point for Paul is praise – which is the natural response of any heart that has been properly brought into the light of Christ.Offering to God thanks and praise is the supreme duty of every human creature. For this end we were created. For this purpose we were saved, that we might evermore show forth the praises of him who called you out of darkness and into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9).

The man was formed with a mouth and eyes, ears and a mind so that he could indeed “shout to the Lord” in ceaseless joy and thanksgiving. Given the high point of man’s origin, it is a dreadful indictment on the human condition that these instruments that should have been wholly given to praise, are debased and misused. The world abounds in eyes that long to look upon iniquity; ears that delight in gossip and slander; mouths that frame lies and profanity; minds that contemplate evil. Indeed, one of the evidences of salvation is that the man begins to use his very being for praise and thanksgiving again.


Paul tells the Ephesian Christians that they have been given “every spiritual blessing in Christ“.

Immediately, this phrase brings a division between the believer and unbeliever.

To the person dead in trespasses and sins and estranged from God, this is not an impressive statement. “Spiritual blessings,” says the unbeliever, “sound theoretical, abstract and not real. They are second class blessings. I want earthly blessings. I want the blessings of prosperity, and health, and fame, and a big house, and my morning cup of coffee. These are what I consider real blessings. You can take these so-called spiritual blessings and keep them!

An unredeemed person cannot begin to understand the motives of the great saints who were put to the sword, lived in caves and holes in the ground, who went about in animal skins, were sawed in half, and wandered through the earth in “order that they might obtain a better resurrection(Heb 11:35). What madness is this! To live a life of misery solely to obtain some ethereal spiritual blessing in the hereafter? Insanity! I’ll take my pleasures here and now, thank you very much!

But to those who know the reality of God, these blessings are not second class, neither are they insubstantial. Rather the spiritual blessings are the best blessings of all.

These are not abstractions. Not in the slightest. Rather these blessings have tangible and concrete outworkings in a person’s life. Everything is affected. The manner in which a man chooses, thinks, loves, desires, dreams, labours, prays, spends his time, and reckons. The blessed believer lives on a wholly different plane of life flowing with divine life and glory.

What does God offer through these blessings? Nothing less than readmission to paradise. Our first parents were expelled from Eden in Genesis 3 and every human being since then has lived in a shadow world that is a pathetic parody of what we were created to experience. But in Revelation 22, the redeemed reenter paradise. There they take up eternal residence where the river of life, the tree of life, and the city of God exist in the endless illumination provided by Christ himself.


This is what these spiritual blessings point to: to gaining a sinless condition where there are no longer any barriers between man and his Creator. And, in losing his sin, man looses the plague and curse of sin. He is freed from death, sorrow, separation, loneliness, sickness, and misery. He is renewed and can look forward to endless trillions of years of life. Elevated into a world of love.

In the fourth verse, St. Paul takes us on a journey – soaring through space and time – back past Bethlehem, back past the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah, past Moses, Abraham, Noah, and even back beyond Adam himself. Paul launches us into the time before Genesis 1:1, when, before the creation of the world, “God chose us in Christ“. Before the universe was called into existence; before Christ formed the spiralling galaxies; before the stars began to shine and the sun rose on the first day, God selected a people for paradise.

A select people! Therefore anyone who savingly meets with Christ is operating under a principle that is more ancient than the ground beneath their feet. To be lifted into glory – not because the sinner is better than anyone else, or had a particular upbringing, or some special exposure – but because God ordained an eternity ago that the sinner would meet with Jesus. And not only meet with him, but to behold his glory and love – like Moses, to “see him who is invisible” – and be brought into communion with him forever.