We have another healing miracle in today’s passage. But while the leper’s cleansing only hinted at Christ’s power to forgive sins, in the story of the healed paralytic, Jesus tells us directly that His authority over diseases and health prove that He also has the power to forgive sins. This is just one of the many miracles that Mark recounts for us to prove that Jesus is the Son of God.
The Text (Mark 2:1-12)
1 And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. 2 Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. 3 Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. 4 And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
6 And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” 12 Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Jesus is back at His ministry headquarters in Capernaum of Galilee. He is again staying with Simon Peter’s family. Peter was a ministry companion of Mark, the author of this gospel, and many scholars believe that Peter’s eyewitness testimony was the foundation for a lot of what Mark wrote. This would explain why Peter seems to be mentioned often in Mark’s gospel. Crowds of people are pressing into the house, probably hoping to see more miracles. Jesus uses this opportunity to “preach the word” to them. Mark doesn’t tell us exactly what Jesus was preaching. But based on what Mark has mentioned so far and what we know from the gospels of Matthew and Luke, we can safely assume that Jesus is explaining the nature of life in the kingdom of God and how people can enter it (repent and believe in the gospel). Jesus is about to do another incredible miracle, and He will use the healing to direct people to His most important power – the power to save them from their sins.
Four friends are desperate to get their paralyzed buddy to Jesus. They take the outside stairs to the home’s flat roof. They tear away the clay tiles and stucco and then lower the paralyzed man down into the middle of the house, where Jesus is teaching the crowd. The actions of these men showed their faith in the power of Jesus to save. Like with the leper, they were willing to do whatever it took to get to Jesus, and they didn’t care what other people thought about them. And like with the leper, Jesus rewarded their faith with both physical and spiritual healing. We know that the paralyzed man must also have believed in Christ that day because he was the one whose sins were forgiven and no one can go to heaven on someone else’s faith. The hard hearted religious leaders grumbled and complained under their breath, accusing Jesus of falsely claiming that He was God. Jesus used His spiritual vision to see the angry unbelief of their hearts. He rebuked their lack of faith and proved His power to forgive sins by healing the paralyzed man instantly. The man and his friends left that house as forgiven believers in Christ that day, while Christ’s unbelieving enemies only grew more distant and opposed to God.
Only Jesus has the power to forgive sins. That’s what this story is about. And this is not just a “story” that Mark made up; this was history that really happened. The apostle Peter was there to see this. He preached about this for years after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension. Church history tells us that Peter and all of the other apostles save John died for their faith in Jesus as the one and only Forgiver of Sins. As we continue studying Mark’s gospel, we must keep this message first and foremost in our minds and hearts. Yes, Jesus can and does still heal people physically today. Yes, we should cast all of our cares upon Him, praying for our own physical needs as well as those of our family and friends. But our main focus in our prayers, thoughts, and gospel conversations should be on Jesus’ power to heal people’s souls by removing their sins. To all those who come to Him in honest repentance (turning away from sin and selfishness) and faith (turning to God in total trust and dependence), Jesus promises to drive out their sins. For the born again Christian, Jesus removes the eternal consequences of hell that our sins have justly earned us. Jesus then also delivers us from the power of sin. The Christian is no longer a slave to sin. At the moment of our salvation, God gives us Himself, His Holy Spirit, to come live in our hearts. The Holy Spirit then empowers us to walk in victory over sin, to live for Christ and keep His commands. We will still stumble and fall, but God will continue to forgive and restore us as we confess, repent, and believe in Him. God does not promise to always heal our physical illnesses and injuries, but He absolutely promises to take away our sins when we really want Him to do it. May God give you victory over sin as you walk in His Spirit today.