Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
I've been studying Mark this semester, and every time I open it up, the words each chapter has for me is so perfectly individual and fit to what I didn't know my heart needed to hear. I draw something new from every passage, and I'm finding myself more and more drawn to reflect the character of Jesus.
I read this passage from Mark 2 last week and was struck by the strength of the narrative. I think it's so easy to forget that the words of the Bible were words said by real, living, breathing people--words that were written down for multiple generations to read. Can you imagine just being a casual teacher of the law, sitting there, living your regular life, making an offhanded comment about the blasphemous nature of the crazy Messiah guy, and having those words written down forevermore?
This in itself proves the legitimacy of the Gospel. The narrative, descriptive, dialogue-centered style of writing that we're accustomed to today was not commonplace B.C.E. It barely existed. This means that the reason the Gospels were written essentially means the authors saw no other way to get the words across--this means that the stories are all true. They were scribed, detail for detail, in an effort to maintain the accuracy that the Apostles so feverishly desired.
When reading this passage, I felt lame. How could you not?! When the people of Capernaum heard that Jesus had come, they gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door (Mark 2:2). This is the reaction most people would have if they heard Taylor Swift or Beyonce were coming to town. In Capernaum, Jesus was the celebrity. He was the hometown hero who had beaten all the odds. He was loved and known intimately by the townspeople, people who had long awaited his return, people who wanted desperately to know him better.
Throughout the Gospels, we see several examples of people's desperation to know Jesus. In Luke 19, Zacchaeus the tax collector climbed up a tree, waving down to Jesus so that he could just be seen. In Matthew 8 alone, Jesus healed two demon-possessed men who came "from the tombs" to meet him-- so violently that no one could go near them. He went into Peter's house and healed his feverish mother, and afterwards, "many who were demon-possessed were brought to him" and he drove out the spirits with a word. Think about Sermon on the Mount--was that entire sermon not directed at the people who had been following him throughout Galilee, hoping for a solitary word of wisdom as he selflessly healed the sick and suffering? When he saw the crowds, he went on a mountainside and sat there teaching so that none of them would leave without knowing how to bear fruit.
The radical, groundbreaking nature of Jesus is what drew crowds to him. He wasn't like a celebrity who was boastful in his own gifts and talents, he was a humble carpenter who had a rapscallion group of fishers, farmers, and beggars following him around--and despite this, he was swarmed with hordes of people dying to see if this Savior would provide eternal life.
I love Mark 2 because we get a glimpse at one of those desperate people. This man was paralyzed, unable to reach Jesus by his own fruition. Verses 3 and 4 blow my mind because this is what happened--they couldn't reach Jesus by foot, so they made an opening in the roof by digging through it. They lowered the mat that the man was lying on to the ground so that the man had a chance to be healed by Jesus. He slipped through the craze and chaos around Jesus, crying for help, and Jesus took compassion on him.
One of my most treasured possessions is my Bible commentary, because it adds a layer of understanding to the truth I'm uncovering. I love what it says about verses 3-4 of Mark 2: "The determination of the men is seen in the fact that they uncovered the roof. The roof was probably flat and constructed of tiles laid one on another--thus making it an intricate process to uncover."
I love this story, but it makes me kind of sad. Where is that passion today? Where is that hunger and drive to see and know and taste the love of Jesus? Because here's the thing-- we don't need to cut a hole through a roof to know Jesus. We have unending access to him. We have physical Bibles, Bibles on our phone, Bibles on the Internet, devotions at our fingertips, and more than this, we have His eternal presence. We have the love of a Savior who just wants a relationship with us, one that will change our lives. Our connection to God isn't like a phone call--He doesn't run out of time to be present. I hate how cheesy this sounds, but Jesus doesn't have a busy tone. We will never call to the Lord and hear a dial tone on the other end. We will always, always, have full access to what He says to us, and how He cares for us.
I want to find that same hunger and drive and passion within me that would literally rip the roof off a building, piece by meticulous piece, to know Jesus. To spend a moment with Him. To be entirely healed by Him. I want our world to find that same hunger and drive within them. I pray this often, but today, I have words for it--I have Mark 2. I have the metaphor of our world as a paralytic man who wants to be healed. I have the promise that, at the end of the story, Jesus does heal. He says to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5)
In the same way, I believe that the sins of our world can be forgiven if we find that hunger and passion within ourselves to repent, coming to terms with our wrongs, and meet the miraculous Savior who brings grace and mercy in unending servings for us all. Let's be more than a crowd that seeks to praise. Let's be a crowd who digs deep--with ourselves, with Christ, with one another. Let's be a crowd seeks to know what's going on in the body and how we can work to better ourselves and the hurts of those around us, through the grace given by Jesus. Let's be a crowd known for our passion for compassion, rather than our fanfare for things of the world that are only temporary.
Let's demolish discontent, bitterness, anger, and hurt--brick by meticulous brick, lowering ourselves into the arms of grace below.