Jesus said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.”But why did Jesus send the man home with his mat? Why say anything more than, “I say to you, be healed and rise”? Why send the man home and have him take his mat with him?
Was it that Jesus was annoyed with the intrusion of this man and his amateur skylight instillation crew? That’s not it, for throughout the Gospels Jesus is always pleased by seeing displays of faith, and it says here that Jesus “saw their faith.” Rather, it is those who obstinately hold on to their faithlessness against all positive evidence who elicit Jesus’ annoyance in the Gospels. Recall when He said elsewhere:
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.”
So why did Jesus send the cured man away with his mat? In setting the scene, the Gospel says that when “it became known that [Jesus] was at home… many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and [Jesus] preached the word to them.” Jesus preaches the word to the crowd so that they may be prepared to receive the Gospel about Himself. It seems that Jesus sends the cured man home because in his short time with Jesus he has been brought fully up to speed. Jesus sends the man home because, for now, the man knows everything he needs to know. Jesus forgives the man’s sins and cures him. From this the man understands why Jesus has come: for the forgiveness of sins and the healing of persons.
And why does Jesus send him home with his mat? I bet that the man would have gladly left it behind, happy to be rid of it, without a second thought. I think there are two reasons he’s told to take the mat: First, so that he may preach to others about Jesus. The mat will be conversation starter (“Hey, what’s with the mat?”) and it will also serve as “exhibit A” when the man gives his testimony about Jesus. The second reason for having him keep the mat is so that the man will always remember what Jesus did for him and what it meant. What good would it be for Jesus to teach the man everything he needed to know, if he were to quickly forget everything he had learned?
Perhaps we have need for such concrete reminders for ourselves in our life of faith. Maybe we don’t have souvenirs laying around from times that Jesus helped you, but I bet we all have access to Post-It Notes. If you think you would benefit from being reminded of Jesus’ past goodness shown to you, then write down titles for a few of these great moments. Post them up on your wall, your mirror, your computer monitor, or wherever you will see them. This will help keep you mindful of Christ, what He did for you and what it means. And maybe, someday, someone will ask you, “Hey, what’s with the Post-it Note?”