Best of Daily Reflections: Walking Around in the Skin of Jesus
But they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they went up to the roof and took off some tiles. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat down into the crowd, right in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the man, “Young man, your sins are forgiven.”
Introduction to This Week's Reflections
One of my favorite novels is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Early in the book, Atticus Finch says to his daughter, Scout, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it." Atticus commends a deep sort of empathy that helps us really know the people in our lives.
And also the Bible! There are many valuable ways to study Scripture. Paying close attention to the text, setting it in its cultural and theological context, examining closely the original meanings of the words . . . all of these help us to really know the Bible. But sometimes, especially when we're reading the stories of Scripture, we can discover unexpected nuances by "climbing into the skin" of a character and "walking around in it." This exercise may help us to hear God's Word in a new way.
This week, I'm doing something different with the Daily Reflections. I plan to spend the whole week focusing on one passage, Luke 5:17-26. It is the familiar story of the healing of the paralyzed man, the one where friends make a hole in the roof in order to lower the man to the feet of Jesus. I hope, on the one hand, to help us discover new facets in this jewel from the Gospels. On the other hand, I hope to model an approach to Scripture that you might use in other contexts, thus quickening your attentiveness to God's Word.
Today, I want to climb into the skin of Jesus as I reflect upon Luke 5:17-26.
I wonder how Jesus felt as he was teaching that day. His popularity led to a standing-room-only crowd. Yet, among that crowd where "Pharisees and teachers of religious law" who had come to find reason to accuse Jesus.
All of a sudden, above the place were Jesus sat teaching, there was a tremendous racket, as someone began tearing through the roof. I expect Jesus was surprised, though he quickly discerned the reason for the disruption. Before long, a man was lowered before Jesus on a mat. Luke tells us that Jesus ministered to this paralyzed man in response to the faith of his friends (5:20). How encouraging that must have been to Jesus!
But then he did something he knew would stir up trouble. Rather than just healing the paralytic, he said, "Young man, your sins are forgiven" (5:20). Jesus would not have been surprised by the negative reaction of the religious leaders. In fact, he knew their negative thoughts even before they expressed them to him. Jesus did not want to pick a fight, but he did want to use the occasion of this healing to make a powerful point about his identity as the Son of Man (5:24).
Finally, Jesus healed the paralyzed man, and the crowd wondered with amazement. Wouldn't you like to know how Jesus felt when he saw this man pick up his mat and walk home? He was not amazed. Perhaps he felt joy and compassion. Perhaps, as he watched the reaction of the Pharisees and religious teachers, Jesus thought to himself, "This sort of thing is going to get me killed." Perhaps he joined the people in praising God.
As I read this story today, I'm impressed by Jesus' courage in proclaiming and living the truth. Though he knew that his words and actions would get him in trouble with the authorities, he nevertheless did what he knew to be right, to be his calling. I think of how often I back away from telling the truth because I fear the response of people. Are there times when I need to be bold even though it will reduce my popularity?
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION:As you get into the skin of Jesus and walk around in this story, what impressed you? Do you see anything in a different light? What is God saying to you today through his Word?
PRAYER:Lord Jesus, I know there are limits to my understanding and imagination, and that I'll never be able truly to see things as you saw them, or to rightly intuit your emotions and thoughts. Nevertheless, as I read this marvelous story from Luke from within your "skin," I am impressed by many things. I see this story in a fresh way, and that is a gift of your Spirit. Thank you!
I am struck, Lord, by your willingness to do that which you knew would stir up trouble. You weren't someone who simply liked conflict for conflict's sake. But you didn't back away from saying and doing the truth, even when it inflamed the negative responses of those who opposed you. Help me, Lord, to be willing to speak the truth in love, even if people will disapprove of me. Help me to reach out to care for people in need, no matter the negative consequences for me.
All praise be to you, Lord Jesus, for your calm boldness and resolute purpose. Amen.