In Body or Spirit
People were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—”Stand up.” – Matthew 9:2-6
“Your daughter is special needs, right?”
“Uh…” I sputtered and paused. This was the first time I had heard that term used to describe Nola. Maybe the question shouldn’t have been so hard to answer. At 2 ½ she can’t walk or speak intelligibly.
But this label, which I have used of others, seemed inadequate to capture the smart, funny, indomitable little girl I know.
I have always thought about the Matthew 9 story as a story of physical healing. A paralyzed man gets to walk.
It’s not about that at all.
A man who is paralyzed is carried to Jesus, and Jesus’ response is to forgive him. It’s only when the scribes balk that Jesus turns to outward healing.
In my ableism, I miss the point. Like Matthew, I label the man as the paralytic. I assume that walking must be his real hope. I think of him as special needs, but Jesus calls him son. Jesus treats him as a full person—full of faith and sin—and takes the man’s burden away. Just like I’d want him to do for me.
Defier of Labels, teach me to meet my neighbors in their fullness.
Vince Amlin is co-pastor of Bethany UCC, Chicago, and co-planter of Gilead Church Chicago, forming now.