Have you ever wished you could start over and have a re-do at life? I know I have! Sometimes I look back at different situations in my life and wish I could go back and make better choices. There is a powerful example in the Bible where Jesus heals a paralyzed man. But He starts by offering forgiveness. Jesus gets to the root of our problem — our sin. Everything else we struggle with really comes down to that. Once Jesus forgives our sin, He cancels its power over us. But it is OUR CHOICE whether or not to “get up” and move beyond our failure. One familiar analogy helps us understand this better. Sin is like a prison. Jesus gives us the keys to unlock the prison cell. But we have to make the choice to walk out from behind the prison walls. He just opens the door.
Are there things in your life that you need to start over or begin again? Are you really taking advantage of all God’s forgiveness offers you?
Luke 5:23-24 (NIV) says, 23″ Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
Stop sitting around and thinking about how miserable you are. Get up and start moving. We’ve all heard it said, “You can’t keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect different results.” No! Do something different. Stop making excuses for why you can’t or won’t or shouldn’t. Stop blaming others for your problems. You need to accept responsibility for where you are and choose to go in a different direction. You need to take immediate action. The first step is to “Get Up!”
TAKE YOUR MAT
Why do you think it was important for the paralyzed man to pick up his mat? After all, Jesus just healed him. He stood on his feet for the very first time. He must have been beyond excited. I’m sure the last thing on his mind was to clean up his mess, his mat. What did that mat symbolize to him? What does “the mat” represent to us? I believe the mat was a painful reminder of all that had gone wrong! To us it could mean,
- our past
- our experiences
- our failures
- our pain and sorrow
- our regrets
- the people who made fun of us (or criticized us)
- the people who told us, “We’d never change”
- the loss of our dream
I think Jesus knew that in order to move forward, it was necessary for the paralyzed man to let go of some things. He needed to let go of his past in order to embrace his future. We can’t look backward and forward at the same time. We can’t have a divided focus if we expect to get anywhere. Jesus knew that forgiveness was needed, healing was an added bonus. But the paralyzed man also needed Jesus’s advice on how to move forward. Picking up our mess and getting rid of our shame from past mistakes is key to our full recovery. We need to let go of everything that hinders us, including other people, past experiences or our own negative thoughts.
Going home may or may not have been the advice the paralyzed man was looking for. After all, where was the man’s family? They were nowhere in sight. I’m sure the paralyzed man felt rejected and abandoned by his family. He felt vulnerable and alone. They left him when he needed them most. He naturally would feel angry towards them. But Jesus tells the man to go back. Go back home and face your pain. Forgive those people who have hurt you, just as I have forgiven you.
Home is supposed to be a place of belonging, comfort, protection, safety, acceptance, unconditional love. But sometimes, going home is going back to the place of our greatest pain. The painful reality that things did not turn out like it was supposed to. The painful reality that life is messy and people get hurt. It’s hard to go back and make things right. It’s hard to be the first one to apologize when others hurt you more. Going home is hard but necessary. When you forgive others, you set yourself free.
Forgiveness is a chance to start over, not only for you but for them too. Jesus wants us to (1) get up, (2) forget the past and (3) start over. He wants us to begin again. When Jesus forgives us, He is giving us the opportunity to start over and get a second chance at life.