Jesus Heals and Forgives a Paralytic
Mark 2: 1 — 12
We know from chapter 1 that one of the reasons (apart from the stubborn opposition of the religious leaders) that Jesus left Capernaum temporarily, was to escape the miracle addicts who were more interested in witnessing the abnormal than listening to his basic teaching. His temporary withdrawal has served its purpose, and (possibly under cover of darkness) he slipped back with his disciples.
Some Notes on the Text
News travels fast in a small town. When people heard the rumour they went straight to the house of Peter and Andrew. The gospels show us that whenever Jesus entered a house, his presence was so pervasive that it could not be concealed!
Most houses in Palestine were built clustered around a large courtyard; a raised porch with a flimsy roof provided a pulpit for our Lord; the crowds packed the open courtyard (Cox).
By the time this Gospel was written the reference to "preaching the word" had become virtually a technical term for the "good news". We can picture the packed crowd listening intently to Jesus as he preached the Gospel to them: a great messianic sign!
Verses 3 and 4
An outer stairway, in Palestinian homes, gave access to the roof. Bouquet explains:
This verse lends itself to somewhat varying interpretations by those who do not respect the text. The phrase "their faith" (ten pistin auton, the faith of them) refers primarily to the four who were carrying the paralytic, but does not necessarily exclude the paralytic himself. (U.B.S. drawing from Gould and Lagrange). The use of the word "faith" here does not mean the faith in Jesus, called for in 1: 15 but in what he could do, and must be understood therefore as confidence.
Nevertheless, as the text says, when Jesus saw their confidence in his ability and willingness to heal their friend, and their stubborn determination not to let a mere roof get in the way, he gladly postponed his preaching and attended to the sudden arrival of his paralysed visitor descending on his pallet.
Our Lord's response was quite unexpected. "The pronouncement was startling because it seemed inappropriate and even irrelevant to the immediate situation" (Lane).
Cox also helps with his comment:
Although Jesus did not say (on this or any other occasion) "I forgive your sins", it was clear he was claiming to act and speak to God. Again was take Cox's point:
(From the Gospel Story by R. Cox)
Verses 6 and 7
This is the first controversy with the religious leaders of Israel who, in his last hours before crucifixion, will misquote him and use it to condemn him.
On this occasion they considered Jesus was usurping the right of God and actually forgiving sins, not simply declaring them to be forgiven, as Nathan did (2 Sam. 12: 13) (U.B.S.). That for Jesus is not the major difficulty with their attitude. He was open, honest and straightforward in dealing with them, yet they were not prepared to question him, nor were they open to learn and understand. They kept their objection to themselves: and this was being deceitful.
It was a sad moment for Jesus. He "knew in his spirit" the attitudes they held. Here "spirit" means, "the source and seat of insight, feeling, and will, generally as the representative part of the inner life of man" (Arndt and Gingrich). But Jesus tried to open up an exchange of ideas, even intensive debate (which his question invited).
Regrettably none of the Pharisees present were prepared to enter into dialogue. In other words, they were already forming plans to get their own way by getting rid of him and his supporters. They did not want to know or understand what Jesus stood for. This is the tragedy. Even when he asked them a question he was met with a stony silence. Accordingly, in the face of sheer, utter bigotry and prejudice, Jesus then confronted them with a challenge they must have wanted desperately to reply to. However, we observe that they could not find the words when they wanted to!
Verses 9 — 11
The answer to the question in verse 9 is obvious: it is easier to say sins are forgiven since there is normally no outward proof whether or not they are forgiven. By proving he could do the harder, Jesus would have a claim on being able to do the easier. This would counter the aggression among his opponents.
"He did the miracle which they could see that they might know that he had done the other one that they could not see" (Hunter).
We are best informed about this incident when we know that there are two legitimate ways of understanding the text in verse 10 as we have it. Following the lead of United Bible Societies, as it stands the sentence is grammatically incomplete. Jesus is to be understood as intending something like: "But, in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins I will do (or say) this". Instead of doing or saying it, however, he directly addressed himself to the paralytic, thus doing and saying what was necessary in order that the scribes should know (what they don't want to believe).
Walter Wessel also helps us by explaining that the whole of verse 10 can be taken as addressed to Mark's readers. This approach would account for the early public use of the title "Son of Man" which belongs, in Mark, to a later setting.
Which ever of these two approaches is preferred, the reference to Son of Man is unmistakably an echo of Daniel's pointing (7: 13) to the coming of the Messiah and Saviour (Erdman).
At this point the paralytic left the scene as suddenly as he entered it.
Again, Jesus' onlookers were: "amazed". They directed their praise to God.
Augustine Stock makes a powerful statement about this incident:
(From The Method and Message of Mark by Augustine Stock,
What could be a more powerful demonstration that Jesus' word is effective!
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