Mark 2:1–12—The healing of the paralytic


1 Several days later Jesus returned to Capernaum, and the news of his arrival spread quickly through the town. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there wasn’t room for one more person, not even outside the door. And he preached the word to them. 3 Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t get to Jesus through the crowd, so they dug through the clay roof above his head. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there said to themselves, 7 “What? This is blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins!”

8 Jesus knew what they were discussing among themselves, so he said to them, “Why do you think this is blasphemy? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!” 12 The man jumped up, took the mat, and pushed his way through the stunned onlookers. Then they all praised God. “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” they exclaimed.

Points of Interest:

  • ‘Seeing their faith’—This paralyzed man could not get to Jesus on his own. He needed the help of his friends. Sometimes our own faith and our own strength are not enough to get us to Jesus. That’s okay. The faith of a group of people can accomplish what the faith of only one person cannot. That’s why we think small groups are such an important part of what we do as a church. Jesus recognizes the faith of the paralytic’s friends and credits that to the paralytic. We don’t need to get to Jesus completely on our own steam, and we can carry friends to him that could not get to him on their own.
  • ‘Your sins are forgiven’—Imagine the surprise of the paralytic and his friends when they heard these words from Jesus. They carry their paralytic friend all the way across town. When they get there, there’s a huge crowd, with no room for anyone else; if they wait in line, it could take hours if they get to see him at all. So, they go around the crowds to the back of the house, climb on the roof, and dig through it. They lower their friend through the hole, set him in front of Jesus, and hold their breath. Will he chastise them for cutting in line? Will he complain about the ruined roof? Or will he heal their friend? He shocks them and everyone else by doing none of the above. Rather than seeing it as unacceptably rude behavior, he looks at their bold extra effort as a mark of tremendous faith. Yet, he rewards that faith in an unexpected way. Instead of healing, he gives forgiveness. Is he clueless as to what the man wants? I don’t think so. I think Jesus rewards the extraordinary faith of this man and his friends with a gift he considers to be greater than what the man might think of asking for himself. With both the leper and the paralytic, Jesus sees beyond the presenting problem to a deeper need. To the leper, Jesus goes beyond healing to offer social acceptance. To the paralytic, Jesus goes beyond physical needs to address a spiritual one. Sometimes, when Jesus does not give us what we want, it is because he has something even better in mind.
  • ‘Who but God can forgive sins?’—The religious leaders greatly object to Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. They go so far as to charge him with blasphemy—that is, claiming that something unholy is holy or vice versa. Their thinking goes like so: “Only God can forgive sins. Jesus is not God. Therefore, he cannot forgive sins and is blaspheming by claiming he can.” Interestingly, Jesus does not disagree with their premise. He doesn’t say, “Actually, more than just God can forgive sins.” But he does claim that, nonetheless, he can forgive sins. His logic runs this way: “Only God can forgive sins. I am God. Therefore, it’s perfectly appropriate for me to offer forgiveness.” Jesus’ offer of forgiveness is an indirect, but clear, statement that he is more than a man. This is what makes Jesus’ offer of forgiveness such a great gift to the paralytic. It’s the most precious gift, because we all need forgiveness desperately. We need to be truly free from the mistakes we have made, and Jesus is the only one on earth who has the authority to offer that freedom.
  • ‘Is it easier to say?’—Perhaps the religious leaders think Jesus’ offer of forgiveness is a cop-out. Jesus doesn’t have the ability to heal something so drastic as paralysis; so, to cover up his inability, he says, “You are forgiven.” It’s easier to say, “You are forgiven,” because there’s no proof one way or the other; a failure to heal a paralytic is much more obvious. They think they’re calling Jesus’ bluff. He throws down his cards and shows a royal flush. By healing the paralytic, Jesus demonstrates it was not lack of power that led him to offer forgiveness. He has more power than he was showing, not less.

Taking it home:

  • For you: Let yourself be carried. Is there something you need from Jesus, but you feel like you can’t quite get there yourself? Ask your friends to carry you to him in prayer. You are worth the bother and the mess. To the paralytic’s friends and to Jesus, a broken roof was insignificant compared with the need of the paralytic.
  • For your 6: Consider praying for your 6 together with another friend. No one of the paralytic’s friends could have gotten him there, but it was easy work for four of them.
  • For our church: Pray that we will be a “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” church. Pray that crowds of people come looking for Jesus in our midst, and that they receive freedom and healing like they’ve never seen before.