The Healing of the Paralytic | Mark 2:1–12

This message was delivered at a combined service at Quacco Baptist Church.

First, Jesus authoritatively preaches the Word (vv. 1–4)
  A. Where people are gathered, Jesus preaches the Word (vv. 1–2)
  B. Where the teaching of Jesus is, people bring friends to Him (vv. 3–4)
Second, Jesus authoritatively reveals hearts (vv. 5–8)
  A. He knew and is able to forgive the sins of the paralytic (v. 5)
  B. He exposes the thoughts of the scribes (vv. 6–8)
Third, Jesus authoritatively forgives sins (vv. 9–10)



I.               Introduction

In the previous chapter, Jesus heals the unhealable.  A person with the incurable disease of leprosy made his way to Jesus and found cleansing.   Jesus gave this man two commands: “say nothing to anyone… show yourself to the priest” (v. 44).  Scribes gathered at the house in this morning’s passage (2:6), so perhaps the man obeyed the second command, but he was disobedient with the first. 

Now, we can hardly fault the leper’s excitement as he spreads the word about Jesus.  When the time is right, Jesus sends out His disciples saying, “What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops” (Mt 10:27).  Even so, the time wasn’t right yet, and Jesus had only given him a message for the priest, so this man unwittingly makes Christ's work more difficult.  Thus, Jesus had to spend time away in the wilderness. 

Thankfully, Christ straightens out our problems.  Everyone with His Word lives inconsistently, mishandling and disobeying at some point.  However, just as the leper’s campaign was ill-conceived, it also brought people to Christ.  Now that He returns to Peter’s home in Capernaum, people rush the door and will hear the pure, unadulterated Word of Truth.  Praise the Lord that He’s able to work despite our shortcomings, turning our sins into victories for the kingdom!

Because of the gathering, Jesus could teach His message—He has authority on earth.  As such, today we’ll see that He authoritatively preaches the Word (vv. 1–4).  Second, He authoritatively reveals hearts (vv. 5–8).  Third, and the biggest takeaway from this passage, Jesus authoritatively forgives sins (vv. 9–12).  Let’s look at each of these.

II.            First, Jesus authoritatively preaches the Word (vv. 1–4)

A.              Where people are gathered, Jesus preaches the Word (vv. 1–2)

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.

So, the buzz from the healed leper has not subsided, and the rumor spread throughout the town that Jesus was back in a house.  This was probably Simon Peter’s home, where Jesus had been staying (1:29–34).  Guests filed in until every corner was filled.  Some bigger houses had courtyards, but Peter probably had a smaller house with the doorway packed and spilling into the street.

What did Jesus do with so many people?  He preached the Word.  Back in 1:14–15, we read that He was proclaiming the message of repentance and belief in the gospel, and in 1:38, He said that He had come to preach.  Here, it might be more accurate to translate this that He speaks the Word to this home gathering, but the message remained the same.

This was Christ’s mission.  Hebrews 1:1–2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” 

This should be our mission, as well.  If we want to be Christ-centered people in Christ-centered churches, then we should love what’s central to His ministry—the Word of God.  It should be what we receive when we go to Jesus.  It should be what we hear proclaimed from our pulpits.  Preaching the Word should be the focus of our ministry (2 Tm 4:1–2), for saving faith comes only through hearing the Word of Christ (Rm 10:17).  And we see a small example of this in the next verses.

B.              Where the teaching of Jesus is, people bring friends to Him (vv. 3–4)

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.

Only Mark notes that it is four men carrying the paralytic.  Nothing is said of the extent of his condition except that his friends must carry him in a bed, perhaps indicating that he was a quadriplegic.[1]  Because of the crowds, however, they are unable to approach.  They decide to open the roof of the house and lower their friend right at the feet of the Lord.

One thing that jail ministry has taught me is to preach through distractions.  However, in California, I thought I saw one instance to stop preaching.  It happened while my wife and I were attending a church while I was in school out there.  We felt the rumble in the distance get closer and then begin passing under the ground beneath our seats.  Now, we’re from the South; to say this worried us is an understatement.  We heard a loud pop overhead, but then everything stopped.  Except the pastor.  He kept preaching, and thought, “Wow.”  However, as I shook his hand afterward, he told me he didn’t know anything had happened!

Well, I have to imagine this interrupted Jesus’s teaching.  These four men carried their friend to the house but found no way in.  That’s when they devised a genius plan to, as we could literally translate v. 4, “unroof the roof.”  The roofs of this area were flat, made of slabs and tiles sealed with clay, roughly two feet thick, and insulated inside with mud and clay.  They probably took the staircase in the back of the house leading to the roof and began digging a hole.  As debris began to fall inside the house, and the sounds of the outside got louder overhead, I imagine everybody’s eyes left Jesus for the ceiling. 

We can only imagine what Peter was thinking through this process, and this is a surprising time when he kept his peace.  I find it interesting, too, that at the end of this, Jesus tells the paralytic to go home, but He doesn’t dismiss his friends.  Sometimes, those bringing people to Jesus must cover the cost.

Still, they learned the blessing of bringing a soul to Jesus.  Perhaps they did not know this in the moment, but they knew they had to bring him to Jesus.  J. Vernon McGee says here, “What we need in the church today is stretcher-bearers—men and women with that kind of faith to go out and bring in the unsaved so they can hear the Gospel.”  If nothing you can do nothing else, bring people to where His Word is taught.

Jesus preached the Word to the rest, and now we’re about to see just how He authoritatively speak again.

III.         Second, Jesus authoritatively reveals hearts (vv. 5–8)

A.              He knew and is able to forgive the sins of the paralytic (v. 5)

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

Isn’t it strange that Jesus doesn’t just heal the guy?  We might read this as being a letdown because they came to see this paralysis healed.  Understand, He knows exactly what people need, and it’s not always help with presenting problems.

Just like the paralytic, you need more from Christ than you know.  Often, we come to Christ with one issue, but we must trust Him when He begins addressing another.  Jesus could heal all your physical maladies, but spiritual healing is far more important.  We need the gospel, the good news that Christ forgives sins. 

Perhaps on some level the man knew this.  Culturally speaking, many people at that time believed paralysis was the result of sin, and perhaps the paralytic was sensitive to that.  Unfortunately, the text doesn’t say anything to this, so we can only speculate.  Still, we can say with confidence that Jesus authoritatively reveals and deals with the root of the problem, as becomes clearer in the following verses.

B.              He exposes the thoughts of the scribes (vv. 6–8)

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?

Mark shifts to the lawyers, the experts in the Law of Moses.  Jesus had caught their attention, and they’re evaluating His teaching.  They’re sitting, which means that people either gave up their seats for them or they arrived early.  This isn’t wrong, and we should likewise listen carefully to everything someone says in case we’re being led astray; we must beware false teachers.  When we come to important conclusions based on what Jesus says, though, He’ll force us to choose what to believe about Him. 

Sadly, the scribes seem to choose wrongly.  In v. 7, we could translate their question, “Why does this one speak like that?”  They then punctuate with a one word statement in the Greek—“Blasphemy!”  They are already forming a negative opinion about Him.  And Jesus knows.

He knows the heart.  We don’t read that He saw the looks on their faces or perceived their body language, but that He was “perceiving in his spirit.”  This doesn’t mean that the Holy Spirit revealed it to Him.  He discerned it within His own, inner spirit.  Matthew 9:4 says that He knew their thoughts, and Luke 5:22 says that He perceived them.  This isn’t a simple gnosis knowledge but epignosis—full or certain knowledge. 

He speaks with a supernatural insight that undoubtedly chilled them to the bone.  While He had laid aside much of His transcendence when He came to earth (Phil 2:5–8), we see here that God the Son still wields the knowledge of His deity.  Consider Jeremiah 17:9–10 say, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? 10 I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.” 
“Jesus knows my heart” is recited by the unbeliever as a fool’s comfort.  It neglects the reality that Jesus also knows the true depth of all our depravity.  He knows just how sinful, how wretched you truly are.  Yet, being “God with us” and knowing the full extent of our sins, He can forgive all our sins if we only seek Him in penitent faith!  And that brings us to the final point:

IV.         Third, Jesus authoritatively forgives sins (vv. 9–12)

Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 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!”

The scribes rightly questioned, for only God could do what Jesus claimed to do.  Saying “your sins are forgiven” is blasphemous if spoken by anyone else.  Since sin is a violation of God’s Law (1 Jn 3:4), only God the Lawgiver can forgive sins.  He emphatically says, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isa 43:25). 

So, Jesus highlights this, asking a rhetorical question to force them to decide whether He’s a fool, a liar, or exactly Who He is.  They, the religiously educated, know that God also said in Isaiah 7:14 that a child would be born to a virgin, and that His name is “Immanuel,” which means “God with us” (cf. Mt 1:23).  If Jesus is “God with us,” He can blot out our transgressions at will. 

Jesus claims divine authority.  Notice that, when He speaks, He refers to Himself in the third person (known as an illeism), the same way in which, in the Old Testament, God speaks of Himself.  This is both a humble expression of Christ’s humanity (used also of the Ezekiel in Eze 2:1) as well as a Messianic expression (Dan 7:13–14)—especially when coupled with the confession of divine authority granted to Him “upon the earth.”  These are all breadcrumbs the elite should have no trouble following.

Jesus proves it by completely healing the paralytic.  Being God, Jesus could command the nerves and muscles within the paralyzed to begin functioning.  A charlatan may have asked the man to attempt to wiggle some toes, and then may have asked the crowd to watch the paralytic for improvement over time.  Yet, the Great Physician restores the man whole, as the undoubted muscular atrophy reverses before their eyes, and this man grasps his bed and stands upright.  The paralytic no longer needed his friends to carry him, for he now carries his own mat out the door and down the road by himself.  His healing is complete and immediate.  No wonder they were amazed (v. 12)—only God could do what they had witnessed! 

While the scribes and Pharisees may have been amazed, this doesn’t not necessarily mean that they were included in the praise choir.  All the onlookers glorified God, but these men with treachery growing in their hearts were drifting farther from the work of God.  It’s a dark backdrop that follows through the rest of this chapter—the religious leaders standing against the work of God while others receive Christ with joy.

V.              Final Thoughts

Consider the trust of the paralytic, bound to his bed, as his friends lower him into a crowded room through a fresh hole in the roof.  He comes helplessly, having only this one hope.  Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” 

Jesus isn’t just a physician for the disease-riddled body, but also for the sin-riddled soul.  Jesus was simply—an amazing word in this context—simply proving what He said to the paralytic in v. 5, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  If He has the divine authority to know men’s hearts and to heal completely, then He has the authority to justify the sinner completely.  So, when you sin, repent and place your trust in the One who casts your sins as far as the east is from the west (Ps 103:12).

[1] MacArthur, MSB, 1460.

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