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  • Writer's pictureSherry Johnston

The Man on the Mat

Most of you have heard my story, the most important part is recorded in the Bible (Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:18-26), but you don't even know my name. I'm just “the man on the mat”, and that's okay. You can call me Matt. I'm not the important one in the story. But it is an important story, so please allow me to share.

It all started on the day I broke my back. Well, no, it really started long before that, it started when six boys were born in one village within the same six months! Our names aren't important; we'd answer to each other's names anyway. That's how tight we were! Always together! It was hard to tell where one of us stopped and the next started!

That's why it was no surprise when we all went into the construction business together. Now, I know Capernaum is known as a fishing village, but it was up and coming! We had a temple to rebuild and the housing industry was booming! Everything was going so well! Too well, I guess. We got a little careless. No, I got careless. It's just that we needed to move so many rocks from the quarry to the building site. It was going to be dark soon, and we all wanted to get back home. Jacob's wife had just had a baby and we were in the mood to celebrate!

Oh! If I could only go back and re-live that day, those few hours, even a minute or two!

Like I said, I was careless and in a hurry. I was piling the building stones onto the cart as quickly as I could and not thinking about how they were lying against each other. Jacob and I were standing behind the cart when the donkey got spooked and jumped. I can still see it in my mind's eye… the top boulder began to roll. The cart tipped and more rocks were heading straight toward us. I started to push Jacob away, but within seconds that seemed like hours, the cartload became an avalanche with me and Jacob pinned beneath a mountain of rock. I woke up not completely sure that I was alive. But then the pain kicked in! My back was broken and I couldn't move. It was the worst pain I have ever felt in my life, but it faded to a new excruciating and unbearable pain when I learned that Jacob was killed in the accident.

“Accident” is what they called it. No one was blaming me, but I was blaming myself. I'm the one who was loading the cart! Now Jacob is gone. Our group of six has become five. I don't deserve the other four. They could have abandoned me after that tragic day. But they didn't. They continued to care for my wife same as Jacob's widow and son. They visited and brought me food and news from the village. They even wove a mat for me with handles on the sides so that they could bring me to the village square to listen to the elders.

That's where we heard that Jesus was coming. News of Him traveled fast! He was healing people with all types of ailments and diseases. My friends were certain that He would help me, too. I wasn't so sure. Don't get me wrong. I had no doubt that he could heal me, but I didn't think that He would. I knew for a fact that I didn't deserve it. I was convinced that I was living the punishment for my sin and there was no way I could ever be forgiven. I didn't know all there was to know about Jesus, but there was no way such a godly man would heal someone like me!

“Just let us bring you”, they said, “we all want to hear what He has to say.” I did long to see Him and hear His teaching. Just thinking about being in the same room filled me with a sense of longing that I can't quite describe.

But that was the trouble; being in the same room. It took longer for my friends to carry me than we'd planned and the house was overflowing with more people than I had ever seen before! That's when I saw the twinkle in Pete's eye and knew he was plotting something.

“Carry me onto the roof! Are you crazy?”, I shouted! “Jesus will have more than one broken back to heal when we all fall to the floor! Just leave me here and see if you can squeeze through the crowd.”

I should have known they wouldn't listen to me. Once these guys get a plot together, it's going down!

So up we went. I just prayed that no one was looking when Pete started pulling the roof apart! Bit by bit; I know it must have been crumbling onto the crowd below, but they were so fixed on what Jesus was saying that they didn't even look up. Then Pete and the guys tied ropes to the handles on my mat and started to lower me down. I was so embarrassed! What were we doing? How many other people in that crowd wanted to be near Jesus? How many deserved to be healed, but couldn't reach Him? I closed my eyes. I couldn't bear to see the people looking at me. I couldn't bear to look at Him!

I heard Jesus' voice, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” My eyes were closed, but I even though He said, 'friend', knew it was Jesus talking to me. My sins are forgiven! My sins! Forgiven! The stone that had been crushing my heart since that horrible day was lifted! I wasn't even thinking of my back until the scribes started their grumbling, “He can't forgive sins!” I started to doubt, was I really forgiven? How could I be forgiven when Jacob's wife was still grieving for her husband? The pain I caused was still so very real! I opened my eyes and saw Him smiling reassurance to me before turning to the scribes. “Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven'; or ' get up, pick up your pallet and walk'? But so that you will know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins, I say to this man, 'get up, pick up your mat and go home.”

I'd never felt lighter or more alive! There was no hesitancy or trying out of the new strength in my legs.

I just jumped! I spun around and saw the guys hopping down to the floor in excitement! The crowd went nuts! Most were slapping me on the back and praising God. A few were still grumbling. I was so excited! I kept saying, “Thank You! Thank You! Praise God!” I even forgot myself and grabbed Jesus giving Him a huge hug! Then we hurried home to tell our wives and kids about the miracle Jesus did for me.

The next day, we went back and put a whole new roof on that house. We even did some repairs and upgrades to other parts of the home. It felt so good to be working again! It felt wonderful to move my legs and feet! But mostly it felt amazing to be forgiven! The scribes will never know why Jesus chose those words as the first to say to me that day. But I do. It's what I needed most. It was exactly what I needed to hear!

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