There’s a transformational story in the fifth chapter of Luke (verses 17-26). Jesus is teaching in a home (probably an upscale home, given the tile roof), and there are many people from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. Even the scribes and Pharisees were there. They were always checking up on Jesus to make sure he wasn’t causing too much trouble. It was standing room only, and the door was blocked. A few guys brought a friend, who was paralyzed, in his bed to be healed, but the crowd was so big that they couldn’t get through the door to see Jesus. The people didn’t even make way to let these guys through. Maybe you’ve been to this church where newcomers weren’t even noticed, and where the members stand at the entrance talking to each other?
Not being deterred, these men actually went up to the roof and lowered their paralyzed friend in his bed through the ceiling tiles to see Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Your sins are forgiven.” Of course, as they always did, the scribes and Pharisees jumped right on that one and challenged Jesus, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemy…only God can forgive sins.” Jesus answered, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk.’ I’m going to prove to you that the son of man has the authority to forgive sins.”
The translation “son of man,” “barnash” in Aramaic, does not necessarily mean the “son of God.” It is not exclusively a reference to divinity, but refers to humanity. Jesus isn’t talking about himself as a divine arbiter. He is saying, “I’m going to prove to you that mere mortals can also offer forgiveness,” which he had just done.
Back to the story, Jesus turned to the man in the bed and said, “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And that’s just what the man did. Everyone there was amazed and said, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”
Suspend for a minute the idea that this was a literal healing. I believe that to take everything in the Bible literally actually limits its potential and power. When Thomas Jefferson cut the miracles out of his Bible, I think he missed the point. He was taking these miracles too literally and wasn’t open to the power of metaphor.