Today’s reading is Genesis 21-25, Psalm 5, and Matthew 9-10.
As a child in Sunday school classes, I was intrigued by the stories of the friends who brought people to Jesus to be healed. In Matthew 9, the passage says it was their faith, not the paralyzed man’s faith, that Jesus saw. Because of their faith, the man’s sins were forgiven and it was because of their faith that he was healed.
We know that our faith can move mountains (Matthew 17:20). But can our faith forgive another person’s sins?
In yesterday’s passage of Matthew 8 there is the story of the centurion asking Jesus to heal his servant. Today is the story of friends bringing their paralyzed friend to Jesus as well as the synagogue leader who asks Jesus to bring his daughter back to life.
In all three passages, there are people of power or authority: the centurion, the able bodied friends, and the synagogue leader. There are also people who are disadvantaged: a servant, a paralyzed man, and a young girl.
While we do see plenty of instances of disadvantaged people bringing their own desire for healing before Jesus (the woman who bled for 12 years and the two blind men came to Jesus on their own), there are also plenty of people who intercede. And rightfully so. We are told to care for the widow and the orphan, to help the bodily-disabled, and to fight the cause of those who cannot fight their own. But have we gone too far?
The synagogue leader’s daughter was dead. She could not ask her father to seek out Jesus for her. She had to have someone intercede completely on her behalf without consent. But as far as we know, the other two may have asked for help. Perhaps the centurion’s servant asked for help getting better and the centurion knew a man named Jesus could do it. Perhaps the paralyzed man heard Jesus was in town and asked his friends to bring him there. Or, perhaps the centurion said to his servant, “I need you. You are good at running my household. I will go to Jesus and ask for healing because I need you to be healed.” And maybe the friends said to the paralyzed man, “Jesus is in town. We have heard about his great healing. Let us take you to him and have you be healed!”
All those who interceded had faith. That is what we know. We also know that the three they interceded for had no means of getting to Jesus on their own. They needed help.
But what about when people can get to Jesus on their own, like the woman who bled for 12 years or the two blind men?
We live in a world where the wealthy and powerful either attempt to take advantage of the disadvantage or attempt to intercede on the behalf of the disadvantage, often without asking. This is also the Christian world we live in. Many mission societies started because well-meaning, faith-filled Christians saw what they deemed as a problem and decided to intercede on their behalf. The problem is that often those they intercede for did not ask for the intercession.
We see this today in social justice and politics. Well-meaning people see a problem with homelessness, food scarcity, high childcare costs, unemployment, single-parent households, police brutality, crime, and much more. We say “We are going to do (fill in the blank policy) to eradicate (fill in the blank problem).” The issue with this is that historically we have not spoken to those facing the problems about how we can intercede on their behalf. Without asking the questions, “Do you want help? How do you want to be helped?” we cannot intercede in good faith.
In John 5 Jesus sees the man by the pool of Bethesda who had no one to intercede on his behalf for the healing waters of the pool. When Jesus shows up, instead of just healing Him or pushing Him into the water, He asks him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6). Only after the man answers “yes” does Jesus heal him.
The faith of the centurion, the friends, and the synagogue leader is vital to the healing of the servant, paralyzed man, and young girl. But the only faith that is vital to the healing of the woman who bled for 12 years and the blind men is their own.
We need to be the centurion, the friends, and the synagogue leader and intercede for those who cannot. But when others can intercede for themselves, we need to step back, listen to them, and ask how we can help, if at all. We need to be like Jesus and ask “Do you want to get well?”
At the beginning of this post I asked the question, “Can our faith forgive another person’s sins?” Maybe it can.
It seems whenever a religious leader was around, Jesus not only healed people, but He forgave their sins as well (in many instances, Jesus only heals. It seems the forgiveness was particularly mentioned around the religious leaders in order to establish Jesus as both healer and savior, to demonstrate that which was “easier to say”). When a person was healed and forgiven, faith was involved. But it was not always their faith. In the case of the paralyzed man, the faith of his friends healed him and granted him the forgiveness of sins.
I don’t believe our faith can grant salvation to another. But I do believe our faith has great impact on those around us. Sometimes our faith is needed in order to carry a friend along during a rough time, when their faith seems lost. Other times our faith is needed to introduce a friend to faith, to bring a friend to the point of having their own faith. We are called to intercede on behalf of others, to ask God to heal our friend, our child, our neighbors.
This is the intercession we can always do without asking first. We do not need to ask another person if we can pray for them, even if they don’t want to be prayed for. But when it comes to “bringing them healing,” we need to ask, “Do you want to get well?” and “How can I help you get well?” Maybe they want to do it on their own, perhaps they are able to intercede on their own behalf.
Our faith has the power to move mountains, to heal, to forgive sins. But just because it can, doesn’t mean our faith is needed. Another’s faith can be just as powerful as ours and they have the right to seek out their own healing. There is a time and a place for intercession on behalf of others and a time and place for them to intercede on their own. Wisdom, discernment, and compassion to ask the question “Do you want to get well” will help us know when to intercede and when to watch their own intercession.
Join me in finishing this year by reading through the Bible through a Psalm a Day. Find my reading plan here.
All Scripture used on Oregon Christian Girl comes from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Unless otherwise noted.