In plays, movies, and even sitcoms there are what is called “extras.” People who are not essential to the story or theme but rather serve as background and sometimes clutter. They have no role other than to take up space as it were.
In the story of the paralytic, as described by all three Gospel writers (Matt 9:1-8, Mark 2:3-12, Luke 5:18-28), it seems that the paralyzed man himself is a somewhat of an extra. If , based on the gospel record, his friends brought him to Jesus the first question may be why? What was the purpose? Did his friends think that this man who heals the sick could heal their friend? Did the paralytic himself feel like perhaps there is a chance for healing and he enlists his friends assistance in getting him to Jesus? Was his intent on getting healed or relieving his conscience of some sin that he believed may be the source of his paralysis and his friends were akin to the friends of Job? Whatever the case, once in the presence of Jesus the first words spoken were, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.”
Note – at that point there was no jumping for joy on the part of the paralytic. He was still paralyzed. And, it appears, except for the accusing nature of the scribes, he may have been left paralyzed. Forgiven – but paralyzed. However, as a result of the ensuing conversation between Jesus and the scribes, Jesus makes his point for having forgiven the man by actually healing the man. The result – the paralytic, simply rose up and went home! The crowd watching it all, not so amazed at the forgiving part, were now afraid and glorifying God as a result of the healing part.
Would there not have been miracle enough that the man’s sins were forgiven? We might conjecture, but never know, if the man had only been relieved of his guilt and not his paralysis would that have been sufficient? The crowd is amazed at what they have seen. The scribes a bit perturbed by what they have seen and heard. And the paralytic simply gets up and goes home, never to be heard from again.
Was all of it simply a means of Jesus demonstrating his power and the paralytic happened to be a means of doing that? A mere extra in the unfolding gospel story of the Messiah. We hear nothing of his four friends response to it all. They could have been included in the “they” when Matthew says Jesus “saw their faith…” But there is nothing really indicating they were the focus of either the forgiveness or the healing.
Quite frankly, I am not certain what the real focus is of this event – at least as recorded my Matthew. Luke tells us that Jesus told the man to rise up, pick up his bed and go home. Which he does – “glorying God” on his way. Both Mark and Luke are a bit more specific when they indicate that the on-lookers were amazed at what they had witnessed, perhaps more the healing than the forgiveness, and were glorifying God as a result. So there is a bit of clarity from those accounts that may indicate the focus was not on the man healed, rather the response of the people regarding Jesus and God. Or perhaps the focus centered on the scribes – be careful who you challenge.
I believe, focusing on the paralytic misses the point of the forgiveness. Focusing on the forgiveness misses the point of the healing. Seeing, at least in this case, that one did not lead to the other directly is important. Whatever Jesus saw in the men or the paralytic himself, he knew the greater need was for forgiveness. The healing was a wonderful extra.
Often I want God to “do something” for me. All the time loosing sight of what God desires me to become. I get so focused waiting on him to “do” that I miss what he wants me to “be.” When I focus being the person God wants me to be, the doing seems to take are of itself. I suspect it’s all a matter of focus.