Mark 2:1-12

Consider some of the miracles we’ve seen so far in Mark’s Gospel.   When Jesus is confronted with a demon-possessed man, he immediately casts out the demon.  When he finds Simon’s mother-in-law is in bed with a fever, he restores her health.  When a leper falls at his feet, he makes the man clean.  There is a certain measure of predictability of what Jesus will do when he is confronted with the needs of the people around him.  In this passage Jesus confronts that predictability.

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 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.   Mark 2:1-2

As we learned in the last chapter of Mark because the leper did not remain silent, Jesus was no longer able to openly enter a town on account of the crowds  who pursued him.  In this passage we find Jesus back in Capernaum and indeed he is surrounded by a crowd.  Not only is there no more standing room, even the entrance to the house is blocked.  It’s interesting to note that Jesus is “preaching the word” to the crowd gathered around him.  This is exactly what Jesus says he came to do (c.f. 1:38) .  His  primary mission is to preach.  And yet as we will see in just a moment he allows himself to be interrupted.  This is a teachable moment for those of us who live complex lives.  Often in the midst of complexity we settle for a false sense of simplicity.  We want to make things black and white that are not black and white.  Could it be that God wants us to lean into him as we continue to make our way through the complexity of the circumstances in which we find ourselves?

And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 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 2:3-4

The paralytic unlike the leper in the last chapter apparently does not live in isolation.  He has four men at least who are willing to face great obstacles to bring him to the feet of Jesus.  It seems very likely that these men had heard of the power and authority of Jesus – they knew what he was able to do.  The fact that they could not enter the house shows just how large these crowds had gotten around Jesus.  And rather than wait for him to leave the house (he would have to come out at some point!) they get creative.  They dig through the roof to bring their friend to the feet of Jesus.  This is creative courage!

And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”     Mark 2:5

We see Jesus here act on behalf of the faith of others.  It is not clear exactly whose faith Jesus saw – Mark uses the generic “their.”  “Their faith” refers to either the faith of the four men who carried the paralytic or possibly the faith of the four men and the paralytic.  In either case, Jesus looks up at the four men, sees their faith, and then looks down at the man at his feet and says “Your sins are forgiven.”  This is very surprising!   Some perhaps would have found this a cruel thing to say.  This man has just come to Jesus with great effort on behalf of his friends.  Their motivations seem clear enough – they brought him to Jesus so that he could heal him.  This is exactly the kind of thing Jesus has done throughout the Gospel of Mark.  But he doesn’t heal the man, he forgives his sins.   For some perhaps this was a let down.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  Mark 2:6-7

While some perhaps were let down at Jesus’ words, there were others who were ramped up.  Who does he think he is?!  The scribes make the obvious and correct connection.  Only God can forgive sins.  Sin is not an offense against another person but against God. If Jesus is just a man, this is indeed blasphemy.

But of course Jesus is God.  This is one of many examples in the Gospels where Jesus laid claim to divinity.  Despite what your college professor may have said, Jesus did in fact claim to be God.

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts?  Mark 2:8

Notice that the scribes never vocalize their objections.  They merely question Jesus’ authority in their hearts.  But Jesus knows their hearts.  He calls them out.  Why do you questions these things?

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”    Mark 2:9-11

Jesus poses a philosophical question to the scribes.  Is it easier to say  “Your sins are forgiven” or to say “Rise, take up your bed and walk”?  It would seem easier to say “Your sin are forgiven” since there is no immediate physical evidence of having been forgiven sin.  If Jesus did not have the ability to make the man walk, he would have very easily been exposed as a liar.   And so Jesus says in order that you might know that I have the ability to forgive sins, I am going to say the thing that is more difficult to say – get up and walk.

And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”  Mark 2:12

And the man gets up and walks.  This demonstrates not only Jesus ability to heal a paralytic but to forgive a sinner.   This action should have confirmed for the scribes what they rightly suspected of him – he is claiming to be God.   But as we will see in the coming passages, the religious leaders were not about to worship Jesus.  The sentiment of the rest of the people present, however,  was one of amazement.  We’ve seen this response before but Mark adds something new – they were amazed and glorified God.  Perhaps they didn’t understand everything that happened on this day but nevertheless they gave glory to God.

Discussion Questions

  1. Describe the scene inside the house.  What might people have been thinking as they saw a hole being formed in the roof?  What might they have thought about what Jesus was thinking?
  2. Jesus allows himself to be interrupted during his sermon.  How might your life be different if – in your family, in your workplace, in your neighborhood, in your church family – you were more open to interruptions?
  3. How do the four men carrying the paralytic demonstrate faith?
  4. In what areas of your life might God be calling you to demonstrate bold and creative faith like these men?
  5. Jesus first forgives the man’s sins.  What does this tell us about this (and our) deepest need?
  6. What is easier to say “your sins are forgiven” or “get up and walk.”  How so?
  7. What do we learn about Jesus in this passage?
  8. Can you think of anyone God might be calling you to bring to him?


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