Photo by hotblack on Morgue File.
Our next pericope in our tour through Mark comes from the beginning of chapter two. It is a powerful pericope to read and to study. We will cover this pericope in two parts. The first we will cover today and, Lord willing, the second we will cover tomorrow. Here it is:
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. 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. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 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?” 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? 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.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mk. 2.1-12, ESV)
I preached this text a couple of weeks ago. There is so much to glean and discuss in this passage. First things first, Mark tells us that Jesus had returned from his ministry in Galilee to Capernaum. Capernaum became something of a second home for Jesus, especially during his early days of ministry. It became something of an outpost for him and his ministry. He returned to Capernaum and word soon got around that he was back home. It is uncertain whether the home was his own or someone who had lent him the house, either way it was well-known where Jesus was living.
Mark impresses upon us that there was no small gathering at this house. In fact, he stresses the point by stating there was not even any room at the door. The picture is of a house bursting at the seams with people who had come to hear and see Jesus and be healed by him. The fact that the door was blocked and the entrance overrun and crowded will become an important subplot to the event.
Jesus, for his part, probably tired and weary from his Galilean ministry, did not turn the crowds away. Instead, he welcomed them in and was preaching to them. What a sermon that must have been! Hearing the Son of God, God incarnate preaching about himself from the Scriptures!
While Jesus was preaching to this throng assembled at his home, Mark tells us some people arrive with a paralytic. Mark gives us more specifics by telling us four men were carrying the paralytic. Who were these people? Where did they come from? How far had they carried this man? We are not told any of that.
Even more, who was this paralytic? His name? His age? How long had he been paralyzed? How did it happen? Was he born this way? Had there been problems in his development in the womb that caused him to be born paralyzed? Did he contract a disease in childhood that led to muscle degeneration that caused the paralysis? Did he have an accident, a fall or the like that caused it? Again, no details on this front are given.
What we do know, based on his condition and the attitudes of the people of that day is he would have been viewed as inconsequential by society. By the measure of society he was helpless, hopeless and worthless. He had no way to contribute to society. He was a nuisance, a hassle, a burden for others to tend to and meet his needs.
Notice from the account the reaction of those at the house listening to Jesus. How many of those packed in the doorway offered to move to allow him entrance?! Not a single one! That tells us all we need to know about their attitudes toward this man and others like him. He was an outsider. He was a plague. He was a visible sore on the skin of society. He was a leech. He was a festering decay in the rose garden of their polite, maintained society.
Yet, here he was, a man in desperate need coming to the Savior. At least this man had some who were willing to help him. (Unlike poor blind Bartimaeus! See Mk. 10.46-52) Who were these who had brought him? Who were these four men carrying him on a makeshift gurney? Were they associates? Friends? Neighbors? Family? Again, we are not told. It would seem to me, however, based on the details of the text, they were at least friends if not family of the man. After all, they expend a lot of energy to get him in front of Jesus.
So, they arrive, carrying the paralytic, a man at each corner of the cot. I am sure when they first arrived disappointment gripped their hearts. Here they had come, hoping to get their friend before Jesus so he could be healed. They had heard of Jesus’ power and authority to heal sicknesses of all kinds. They knew if anyone was able to heal their friend it would be Jesus. But, there is a problem. The house is packed out and there is no way for them to get inside to Jesus. They may as well have been a thousand miles away. They may as well have been separated from Christ by a giant gorge or the span of the Atlantic.
What were they to do?
They problem-solved. They put their heads together and came up with a plan. They would carry the man up to the roof. They would then dismantle a portion of the roof and lower him down to Jesus. If they could not get to Jesus via the door or the windows, well, then they would get to him via the roof! They thought outside the box, as we would say.
And they did exactly that. They climbed to the roof, hoisted their paralyzed friend on top of the house and began to remove the tiles from the roof (cf. Lk. 5.19).
I can picture Jesus sitting there on the sofa, preaching away and the people listening intently. Maybe some interrupting from time to time to ask questions and Jesus answering them. As this is happening, small particles of dust begin to fall from the ceiling! One of the men in the house, who is front and center to hear Jesus, notices some dust and debris on his shoulder. Another, sitting close by, feels dust clinging to his head, as he takes his hand and swipes the dust from his hair.
Before long, it is obvious something is happening on top of the house. Soon, their attention is diverted and they look up at the ceiling to see what is happening. As they watch, more and more of the roof is removed. The hole gets larger and larger. Then, suddenly, they see the faces of four men looking down at them! Faces sun-baked, sweaty, covered in dust surrounding bright and eager eyes as they peer down to see the crowd and Jesus in the room below. I picture Jesus sitting calmly, waiting for the descent!
This is where we will leave the narrative for today. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we will conclude this passage. There are a couple of things to keep in mind as we reflect on what we have seen so far and as we think toward the conclusion of the pericope.
1. Jesus drew people to himself. Jesus had not been home long, when the crowds thronged to him. We, as Christ-followers, should attract people to Jesus. We should be that light set on a hill. We should be so owned and controlled by the Holy Spirit that he draws people to Christ through our witness and life.
2. Life is not easy. There are times when bad things happen. The man in the pericope is paralyzed. How much heartache had he experienced because of this? How much physical suffering had he endured? Emotional? Spiritual? Life also throws obstacles in our path. Here these men had traveled some distance, carrying their friend on their shoulders, only to find the way shut and impassable. Maybe this was a sign that healing for their friend just was not meant to be. Maybe they had simply wasted their time. They had gotten their hopes up for nothing. Just another in a long line of disappointments and failures for this man.
3. Faith focuses on Christ and not the obstacles. They could have turned around. They could have given up. They could have judged the door to be closed to them and headed home . . . but, they did not! They kept their focus on Christ, knowing that he had the power and authority to heal their friend. Faith is focused. It is resilient. It is tenacious and persistent. Faith is an action word! But, not because of its own merit; rather, because of its object, Christ! Faith believes and hopes because it knows Christ has all power and authority! It is not naive. It is not ignorant. It knows the door is packed out. It knows there are too many to pass through to get to Jesus. It knows it is hot and humid and arid. It knows the work involved to get the man to Jesus. But, it believes and hopes because Jesus is worthy! We are not called to have faith in ourselves. Or faith in our abilities and talents. Or faith in faith. Rather, we are called to have faith in the only One worthy of it: Jesus Christ our Lord and our God!