My dear friends in our Lord: Glory to Jesus Christ!
My friends, we benefit always from frequent instruction in the virtues, and thus we become more accustomed to the practice of the virtues ourselves. The sweetness and the light which are engendered by them in our souls can become every day an offering to God, in praise of His majesty and in thanksgiving for His grace.
Contrarily, we are to understand today from the words of today’s Gospel what a great evil sin is, and that it does great harm to the soul, and that therefore it often becomes a cause of spiritual and even bodily infirmities. Let us hear the lesson, as we read in today’s Gospel:
At that time: Jesus entering into a boat, He passed over the water and came into His own city.
Taking up the Gospel narrative from where we left off last week, we see that the Lord leaves the country of the Gerasens, just as they asked Him to do. Having lost their swine, the Gerasens feared that they would somehow suffer some other harm; therefore, they begged our Lord and besought Him that He would depart out of their coasts; they were unwilling to hear the Lord’s teaching.
And our Lord did not resist them, but departed quietly and meekly; for where men live like swine, in mire and stench and an absence of good works, there Christ does not abide. He left there the swineherds and the men who were delivered from the demons to tell and proclaim the miracles which had taken place.
And behold they brought to Him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed.
Since all the skill of earthly physicians would have proven ineffectual in this case of the palsy, this man was brought by his relatives to the great and divine Physician, our Lord Jesus Christ.
And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the man sick of the palsy:
The faith of those who brought the paralytic was truly pleasing to our Lord and Saviour, Who could see what was in their hearts. Some say that the Lord looked upon the faith, not of the paralytic, but of them that brought him. It does happen that one man receives healing through the faith of others, as at the baptism of infants, where the faith of the parents who bring them is active: or as when the Canaanite woman believed, and her daughter received healing; also, the centurion believed, and his servant arose from his sickbed. So here also, they say, the paralytic received healing on account of the faith of the men who brought him.
Others, for example Saint John Chrysostom, say that it is not so in this particular case. Our Lord, seeing their faith, it says, meaning not only the faith of those Who brought him, but also of the paralytic. For a person is not saved because another believes, save in the case of one not yet come of age, as we have said of infants, or cases of extreme infirmity, when those bound by infirmities are insensible, and it is therefore impossible for them to believe. In such circumstances, one can be said to be saved through the faith of another. The same cannot be said in the present instance; for the paralytic also undoubtedly believed, as is clear for many reasons, not the least of which is that he chose to leave his house, and put up with being carried through the market-place, and did not shrink from appearing in the sight of all, whereas often those who are sick do not wish anyone to be a witness of their debility, and many have preferred rather to die in their infirmities than to reveal and expose their misfortune. But this paralytic was not such a man; he considered it beautiful and splendid to have so many witnesses of his malady and his healing. Not only in this is the paralytic’s faith to be seen, but also from Christ’s own words. When he was brought in, Christ said to him, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. The man was not upset or disappointed. He waited, leaving it to the Physician and Saviour to make him whole in His mercy and love toward man. The Lord, to show that faith is fatal to sin, said loudly to the man sick with the palsy:
Be of good heart, son, thy sins are forgiven thee.
And here we see that the Lord does not immediately proceed to heal the palsy, that exterior debility, visible and known to all. first our Lord healed that which was known to Him alone; that is, He absolved the sins of the soul.
In absolving, healing, and saving the palsied man our Lord was not gaining any great glory, nor did He desire to do anything for show or to please men. Thus, He first forgives the sick man’s sins, and afterwards He heals his body also, showing us that many illnesses spring from sin, and that first one must be cured of the cause.
Our Lord likewise shows that He is God, and He does all things whatsoever He wills; for the prophets and saints also had power to heal bodily ailments, but to forgive sins is proper to God alone. In the same way, He also said to the paralytic at the pool, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee; for the source and root and mother of all evils is sin, which paralyzes our bodies and brings on illnesses.
Here, then, first of all our Lord cuts away the root of suffering, sin; once it was uprooted, sickness had to be uprooted together with it. In saying, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee, He restores the senses of the palsied man; He restores his injured soul. The word became fact; He touched the very soul of the man, who came to his senses, and He cast out all fear. Nothing causes such fear as the consciousness of sin; likewise, nothing bestows such sweetness and gives such hope as feeling oneself free from blame.
Note that the Lord calls the paralytic man “son,” because the man believed, and because our Lord willed to grant him the remission of his sins, wherein the adoption of sons is also conferred. So it is also with us, my friends; we cannot call God our Father until we have washed away our sins in the font of baptism and repentance. When we have emerged from it and have cast aside the evil burden of sin, then do we say, Our Father, Who art in heaven.
And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: He blasphemeth.
The scribes were offended and upset, being consumed with jealousy and envy. Often they saw Christ driving out disease by His own power, and casting out demons, and commanding the winds and the seas, and doing all these things in a way that no man could do; nevertheless, in giving vent to their passions, they imagined that they were standing up for God’s honour. They bribed others with gifts, and at the same time they were vexed with indignation; they complained, and reproached the Master and Saviour with blasphemy.
And Jesus seeing their thoughts, said: Why do you think evil in your hearts?
Here our Lord now irrefutably and openly manifests the wonder of His Divinity and His equality with the Father; for to know the thoughts of men’s hearts is proper to God alone, as is the remission of sins.
The scribes, however, did not accept our Lord’s forgiveness of sins; it was, to them, an impossibility; therefore, our Lord further said, Why do you think evil in your hearts? These words were irrefutable; by them He confirmed and lent complete support to what He had said earlier; for He as much as said to the scribes, Indeed, no can forgive sins but Him Who alone knows men’s thoughts. Here, our Lord shows His Divinity.
Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk?
Since the scribes believed our Lord a blasphemer because He forgives sins and equates Himself with God, our Lord challenges them by asking which is easier and quicker to do: to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee, or to say, Arise and walk.
Both of the things about which our Lord asked them are possible for God but impossible for man in his natural power; for to remit sins belongs to God alone, as also does the raising of the paralytic by divine power and the restoration of his strength.
But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins…
That ye may know, our Lord said, that He Whom you see to be a Man before you, likewise has power as God. For our Lord is True God and True Man. Our Lord calls the scribes – and all of us – to behold and understand those things which are unknown and unseen by looking upon and receiving that which is visibly revealed. Being the Word of God, our Lord became Man in His dispensation; He dwelt and walked upon the earth, and He grants remission of sins to them that believe in Him. For this reason He said, “the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins,” to show that He Who is God by nature and beyond all created time and space also appeared on earth; moreover, we are to understand that on earth sins are forgiven. As long as we are on this earth, brethren, we can expunge our sins, but when we shall pass from this world, we shall no longer be able to wash them away by confession, and the doors of repentance will be shut.
Then said He to the man sick of palsy, Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house. And he arose, and went into his house.
Since the remission of sins gave no visible evidence of itself, the raising of the paralytic by divine power required visible evidence. Our Lord performs a sign as testimony before all. The visible evidence of the one also bears witness to the other; He Who was able to do the one could also do the other. To proclaim and confirm the healing of the paralytic’s body, He told him to take up his bed, lest what had happened should seem to be some sort of illusion. The Lord further sends the paralytic to his house by himself, so that the man would not immediately begin to praise Him in His presence; also, so that there would be witnesses, who would have an occasion for faith in Him.
And the multitude seeing it, feared, and glorified God that gave such power to men.
The people marvelled, because He performed a sign as God; nevertheless, they regarded Him as a man, albeit One with greater than human power. We, too, brethren, in that we are paralyzed and our spiritual faculties are insensate, can be healed and set aright, if only we desire and will it. Even now Christ is in His own city, Capharnaum, which means the house of consolation; this is the church, for the church is the house of the Comforter.
And we also are palsied in soul, having souls which are inactive and unmoved to good; yet if we are taken up by repentance and confession and are brought to Christ, then we too shall hear His sweet and all-powerful voice saying, Children, your sins are forgiven you; for we become children of God when we turn to Him in repentance and sincere confession. Then we shall straightway be healed and shall take up our beds; that is, our bodies; as we strive to fulfill the commandments. Not only must we rise up from sin, or merely understand that we are forgiven our sins, but we must also take up our beds, all of our bodily faculties, and go on to do good works. Then, when our minds have seen and spiritually understood the many and great works of our Lord for our sake, then do we glorify God, Who gave such power to men.