1-5 After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that He was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to Him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.”
As Mark moves to this second miracle, he underscores the faith of these five men, the determination of their faith to reach Jesus.
This incident is a beautiful commentary on the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 11:12, “Since the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven has been advancing with force. And forceful people are taking hold of it.” In this word, Jesus is saying, if we really want His kingdom, then God will give it, even though it is an interruption of the program He had in mind. So, these men came with force, ready to take what they knew God was offering at that moment.
There are three remarkable and beautiful aspects of the faith exhibited here:
• They dared to do the difficult. It was not easy to bring this man to the Lord. They had to carry him through the streets of the city—perhaps many blocks. When they found the doorway blocked, they had to carry him to the roof. Yet these men managed this difficult task. They dared to do the difficult. It serves as an illustration for us about bringing men to Christ!
• They dared to do the unorthodox. They were not limited by the fact that it was not at all customary to break up a roof. They did what was necessary and risked the disapproval not only of the owner of the house but also every person there by interrupting the meeting to get their friend to Jesus. The remarkable thing is that Jesus never rebuked them, never criticized their interruption. He never does. There is never an incident recorded in which Jesus got disturbed about an interruption by someone intent on receiving something from Him and pressing through to Him despite the disapproval of those around. This is a necessary quality of Christianity in the 21st century.
• They dared to do the costly. They laid it on the line—at cost to themselves. The roof would have to be repaired; it would have to be replaced. But the consideration of that cost did not give them pause. That was secondary. The primary concern was to get the man to Jesus. The need of the man was of greater concern than the cost, which to less motivated men, would have proven to be prohibitive.
6-7 Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, “He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins.” 8-12 Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, “Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . .” (he looked now at the paraplegic), “Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.” And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”
It is evident from Jesus’ words that this paralysis was caused by some moral difficulty. He understood instantly what was wrong and foregoing the physical, He goes right to the heart of the problem: “Your sins are forgiven.”
This was a problem to the scribes sitting nearby. They were thinking, “How can He say this?” But Jesus knew in His spirit that they questioned within themselves His words. This is not omniscience; rather, it is the manifestation of the spiritual gift of discernment in its fullest degree. Jesus knew what was going on in their minds.
He challenges them by asking, “Is it easier to say to this man ‘Your sins are forgiven?' Or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’” In this case, Jesus is connecting sin with infirmity and the forgiveness of sin with healing. The Bible makes it plain that this is not always the case (John 9), but sometimes it is. Jesus does this intentionally—no one confesses to a sin—to draw attention to His being Messiah, not just a healer. Others could perform healing, but only God’s Christ could forgive sin.
Jesus said to the man, “Get up. Take your mat and go home.” The man obeyed and was instantly healed. Before their eyes he walked out. And all the people—except for the scribes—rejoiced and gave glory to God.
What amazed them was not merely the healing, but Jesus' understanding of the problems of human nature. What amazed them was the fact that He understood so clearly that physical and emotional problems are often caused by spiritual disease and maladjustment, that the center of security and deliverance and liberty lies in what goes on between a man and God.
This is the lesson we find so difficult to learn. We are all seeking the secret of adequacy. How can you handle life? How can you be poised and confident and courageous? How can you be freed from inner tensions and turmoil and anxiety and insecurity? We struggle to try to do it on the level of our relationships with one another, trying to heal our relationship with a neighbor, or our spouse, or children. And we ignore this great revelation: Our healing begins with our relationship to God. Only the man who has heard Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven,” is free from that tension within, thus enabling him to cope with life outside.