In my own journey and struggles with weight gain and weight loss, I’ve learned that physical health and spiritual health are in many ways alike. The human body requires certain actions, treatments, behaviors, and lifestyles in order to grow, develop, and sustain. Many of us have learned through experience that you can’t eat whatever you want and never exercise and expect a clean bill of health from the doctor. Winston Churchill once joked, “To be healthy one must smoke, drink, and never exercise.” Ironically making this statement after his first heart attack, Churchill and the rest of us know that a healthy lifestyle typically results in good health.
The same is true for spiritual health. We cannot live however we want and expect to grow and develop in the faith. Pursuing spiritual health requires living life the way God demands and spending much time in the graces God provides in our lives. The means of grace, such as the Bible, prayer, the church, baptism, and the Lord’s Supper, are food for the soul.
Both physical health and spiritual health are individual journeys paved with a lot of discipline and hard work. But sometimes physical health eludes us because of debilitating illnesses or injuries. Some people can never claim to be healthy because of certain conditions or disorders. In the same way, all of humanity has contracted the spiritual disorder of spiritual deadness and blindness. Our hearts are naturally cold to the truth of God, and to God himself. We are unable to know, love, enjoy, or glorify God. We are spiritually sick with sin.
In Mark 2, we see Jesus do two remarkable things.
First, he heals a man who was physically paralyzed. Due to a physical disability or disorder, he was unable to walk. Jesus demonstrates his authority over disease by commanding him to get up and walk. The man obeyed, not because he had the inherent ability, but because Jesus overcame his physical condition, giving him the ability to get up and walk.
Second, Jesus forgives this same man of his sins. Jesus demonstrates his authority over sin and human hearts. One who forgives is one who is sinned against. In order for Jesus to forgive sin, he must be the one being sinned against. The religious leaders were baffled at what they considered blasphemy because by claiming authority to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming sovereign, divine authority over human hearts. Only God can forgive sins.
Although the Jewish leaders opposed Jesus after this encounter, we should feel their astonishment. The Jesus of Mark’s Gospel is radical, authoritative, and dangerous. There is nothing safe in him. Early in his ministry, Jesus doesn’t just perform a compassionate and powerful miracle of physical healing. Jesus says, “I am God. You have sinned against me. I have authority over you. Forgiveness of sins is found in me.”
Are you startled by this Jesus? This Jesus has divine authority to reverse a seemingly irreversible spiritual condition. He can do something far greater than heal a physical disability. He, and only he, can heal your sin sickness and reconcile you to himself. This is the greatest healing we need. And it is exactly the healing he provides.
Mathew Gilbert is Associate Pastor for Children and Preschool at The Church at Trace Crossing in Tupelo, MS. He is a student at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and the author of Come to the Well: 50 Meditations to Fuel Your Joy in God. Mathew and his wife, Erica, live in Tupelo with their two boys, Jude and Jack.