This week, I read Mark 2:1-12. At first glance, the story seems to be a somewhat standard miracle of Jesus (if there is such a thing as a “standard” miracle, of course!). A group brings their paralyzed friend to Jesus, the man eventually walks out on his own two feet, and the witnesses glorify God.
However, there are details that make this story unique. For example:
1. Consider the man’s friends! Often in the Gospels, the person in need of healing is the example of great faith; but in this story, the paralyzed man’s friends show great faith (VS. 5). They’re so confident in Jesus’s ability to heal their friend that they climb on the roof of this overflowing house (somehow managing to get their paralyzed friend up there too), and remove the roof in order to lower the man down on his bed. That’s a lot of work if they’re not convinced that Jesus is able to heal. If Jesus is able to heal their friend, their extreme measures of removing the roof are vindicated; if Jesus is not able to heal, they look like complete fools (and either way, they might owe someone a roof!).
2. In addition, consider Jesus’s response to the paralyzed man. He doesn’t immediately heal the man’s physical ailment; he forgives the man’s sin. It seems as though Jesus is implying that right standing with God matters more than physical health. This matches up with Jesus’s famous words later in the book:
“And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:43-48)
3. Consider the implicit claim Jesus is making. Jesus knows what the scribes are thinking: blasphemy. And yet, Jesus puts himself on equal footing with God by forgiving the paralyzed man’s sin. The scribes are technically right; forgiving sin is something only God has the authority to do. And yet Jesus does exactly that. That tells us something about how Jesus understands his identity and calling as God in the flesh: God’s appointed representative. After all; claiming equality with God is only blasphemy if you’re wrong.
4. Finally, consider Jesus’s words to the scribes after their criticism:
“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 2:10)
Does Jesus care about this paralyzed man? Of course. Does he commend the man’s faithful friends? Absolutely. Is this healing worth celebrating? You bet!
But more than anything, the physical healing Jesus performs isn’t about the paralyzed man, or his friends – it’s a public confirmation of his authority. When the scribes doubt Jesus’s authority to forgive sins, he gives them undeniable proof of his power – the kind of power that can ONLY come from God himself.
Jesus is not just a miracle worker, not just a charismatic preacher, and not just a spiritual upstart trying to push back against the religious establishment of his day – he’s the fullness of God in bodily form, with the power and authority reserved only for God himself. It’s good news that Jesus has the power to make paralyzed people walk. But in even better news – Jesus has the power to forgive sins.