And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.
And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
- Mark 2:1-5
1. "...he was at home"
- Greek is, εις οικον εστιν, which near as I can tell is, "in the house he is".
- "The house"? Probably Peter's house in Capernaum (reference Mark 1:29).
- I'm reminded of Matthew 8:20:
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
- JFB Commentary on Matthew 8:20 - "Knowest thou whom thou art pledging thyself to follow, and whither haply He may lead thee? No warm home, no downy pillow has He for thee: He has them not for Himself. The foxes are not without their holes, nor do the birds of the air lack their nests; but the Son of man has to depend on the hospitality of others, and borrow the pillow whereon He lays His head."
2. The paralytic
This man is being brought to Jesus by four men, presumably so that He can heal him of his paralysis. But the crowd around Jesus was too large, so they couldn't get the man to Jesus directly. This is where I just find it baffling - they apparently decide that the next logical step would be to go to the roof of the house, open a hole in that roof, and lower the man down to Him. Just baffling!
I can't help but wonder if this isn't a picture of what Jesus was saying in Matthew 11:12:
"From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force."
But perhaps even more surprising than these letting him through a hole in the roof is the reaction of our Lord in verse 5.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.
A couple things I want to look at here:
- Jesus saw their faith
- He forgives his sins, rather than physically heals him
First, I think I've usually missed the fact that all of the men in this instance would have had to be complicit in this whole deal. Each one was exhibiting faith in going along with this plan, and Jesus saw that. I also think that their faith was displayed by their doing it, by carrying out their plan, rather than just talking about it.
These men did not just say, "Well, we tried and we just couldn't get close enough. Oh sure, we could have tore a hole in the roof and let him down, but that would have been a little too much work. Yeah, we talked about it, and it maybe it would have worked. It's just... I mean, how rude would it have been to tear a hole in the guys roof, when if we were really meant to get him healed it would have just worked out, you know? Obviously it wasn't meant to be and... well, it's the thought that counts, right?"
Sound familiar? How many times in our daily lives do we have this kind of conversation, either with our selves or with those around us? If we had put a little more effort into it, or even a lot more effort, it would have happened, but our laziness and complacency wins out and we write it off as "if it had been 'meant to be' then it would have happened that way"??
"Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works." James 2:18b
My wife pointed out while discussing this passage that parents of a sick child will often go to great measures to get medical help for their child. True; and I think typically we see their faith exhibited in that course of action. They believe that they will find help. Consequently, if they didn't believe it to be so, they'd be fools to spend the energy and resources pursuing an unknown.
** [Now, I used the word "typically" above because mere observation of human actions and behavior over a length of time has lead many an observer to conclude that people often profess belief in any number of things or ideas without the corresponding follow-up in actions. For instance, one that smokes cigarettes may say they believe that it will cause cancer and possibly be the cause of an early death. However, if that was what they truly believed, they would cease this habit. The innate instinct of self-preservation would/should override any addiction to the nicotine. Yet, if truly pressed, we would have to admit that we are gambling that we'll be that slim minority that appears to not reap what we sow. Just like the teenager that believes they are immortal, we hang on to our real belief system: that we're not susceptible to the same forces and consequences as "everyone else".
Another example: one may profess to believe in the Holy, Omnipresent, Omniscient, and Omnipotent God of the Bible, but pursue a lifestyle that would have to leave the observer concluding the exact opposite. This is not to suggest that Christians do not ever sin, but our style of life should be one that reflects a striving for godliness and holiness. The world should observe a marked difference in the Christian's style of life from that of one that does not profess Christ as Lord of their life. Scripture tells us that this should be, among other things, marked not only by obedience to the commands of Jesus, but more so demonstrated by a love for one another, and especially for God.]
Anyway, these men demonstrated their belief and faith in Jesus to heal their friend. If they had not had this faith, they would not have gone to such lengths to get him to see Jesus.
Secondly, Jesus shows us His divinity in forgiving sins, but also shows us the priority [spiritual vs. physical]. Scripture is replete with evidence that only God can forgive one's sins. The following passages touch on this [emphasis mine].
The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation."
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14
And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."
My eyes are ever toward the LORD, for he will pluck my feet out of the net.Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins.
LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob.You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin.You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger.Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us!
Some of the scribes and teachers of the Law are present in the house, and when they hear Jesus forgive this man's sins they immediately accuse Him of blasphemy - because they KNOW that only God can do this. In fact, I imagine them doing a double-take when they hear this
Let's try to picture what's going on here for a minute. The people in the house would have been aware of this hole being opened up in the roof for at least a few minutes prior. I mean, think about it: the people immediately below it had to be picking stuff out of their hair! I imagine people were causing quite a stir as they watched this spectacle (remember, it was awfully crowded in there, so there isn't much room to which to move, so people are probably stepping on each other... at least some measure of chaos). Anyway, they're watching as these men let a paralyzed man down on a bed, and at some point they are probably looking back and forth between this man on the bed and Jesus, waiting to see what Jesus' reaction is going to be to this unusual series of events.
Now we read in verse 5 just what Jesus' response is: He said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven".
What? Now, come on. You have to admit that this is not anywhere close to the response we would be expecting if we were there watching this unfold. I think there's much in this passage to teach about the priority of things, what's more important than another. In this case, the state of this mans soul is of ultimately more importance than the roof of this house. We could bring this up to today and teach a good lesson on where we place our priority. How many times do we place greater value on things over the needs of another human being? However, instead of looking at what Jesus did NOT say, for the purposes of this blog post we want to look at what He DID say.
Jesus correctly diagnosed this man's greatest need to be his need for forgiveness. In that assessment we can take away so very much. As my pastor is fond of saying, "Keep the main thing the main thing". This would be what we see happening in this passage today. It should also be what the world sees Christ's body on earth, the Church, doing everyday: keeping the main thing, the main thing. It is so easy to fall into "mission drift" and focus on meeting people's felt needs, trying to "engage the culture", or mistakenly subscribe to a kind of theology that sees Christians' highest goal to "make the world a better place". Often, we make elaborate arguments suggesting that every little focus is ultimately lending to the betterment of the "Kingdom", and with each one of these tiny adjustments in our focus we slowly drift away from the Cross, from the Main Thing, until we find that we've completely lost our view of the Cross.
The point: it's human to see this situation and assess the man's greatest need to be physical healing. I think I would be correct in saying that this is our flesh talking. Whether we're looking at our selves, or our fellow brothers & sisters in Christ, or any other person, we should be Spirit-minded and led by the Spirit. And as we'll look at in the next section, we'll see that when we have our priorities right, our actions will affirm and confirm that Spirit led view.