Read the Passage: Mark 2:1-12
Faith of the Paralytic (2:1–5)
As this chapter begins we find Jesus in Capernaum, where He had taken up temporary residence, likely in Peter’s home (cf. Mark 1:29; Matt. 4:13). Although this was early in His ministry, Jesus had already performed many public miracles, four of which are recorded in Mark 1:21–45. From cross-referencing between the Synoptic Gospels, it is clear Jesus had performed additional miracles not recorded by Mark. Although Mark does not report it until chapter five, both Matthew and Luke note Jesus’ healing of the Gadarene demoniac just prior to the events in Mark 2. Understandably, Jesus’ miracles—especially His healings—drew many people to see and to hear Him. Interestingly, rather than heal the physical infirmities of the crowds, as He had previous done (cf. Mark 1:32–33), as this chapter begins, Mark reports Jesus was preaching the gospel to the people.
In Mark 2:3–5 we read of a paralytic who was brought to Jesus, carried by four friends. Mark records that when these men could not get their paralyzed friend through the crowd into Jesus’ presence, they opened a hole in the roof and lowered their friend down before Christ. The great measures these four friends went to in order to bring the paralyzed man to Jesus, as well as the willing cooperation of the paralytic, showed great faith in Christ to heal. Mark 2:5 says, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’” Seeing the paralyzed man’s faith, as well as the faith of his friends, Jesus remedied the paralytic’s greatest need, that of spiritual healing. While this may seem strange to us, since the paralytic may have believed his suffering was a direct result of sin, Christ’s declaration of forgiveness was likely a welcomed declaration.
Doubt of the Scribes (2:6–7)
Mark records the reaction of the religious leaders to Jesus’ pronouncement that the sins of the paralytic were forgiven. The text reads, “And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak blasphemes like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mark 2:6–7). Note Luke reports that it was “the scribes and the Pharisees” (Luke 5:21) who were disturbed, not just the scribes, as Mark records. The religious leaders were correct in their assertion that only God can forgive sins. Earlier, through Isaiah, God had declared, “I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins” (Isa. 43:25; cf. Exod. 34:6–7). For a man to claim the power to forgive sins, then, was blasphemy. However, the rulers were in error for not recognizing Jesus as the promised Messiah, who was both fully God and fully man.
Power of Jesus (2:8–12)
By way of rebuking the religious leaders, Jesus asked, “Which is easier to say . . . ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?” (Mark 2:9). Of course, on account of how it is proven, it is easier to claim the power to forgive sins than to command physical healing. Yet, it is actually much harder—indeed, impossible—to forgive sins than to bring about physical healing. In reality, though, the one who has faith in Jesus will believe that He can both physically heal and spiritually forgive. With His question, then, Jesus was showing the religious leaders that their lack of faith had led them to incorrectly evaluate the present scenario of His forgiving of sins. Next, in view of the religious leaders’ lack of faith, Jesus healed the paralyzed man, which was the easier task, in order to show the leaders His power to forgive sins, which was the more difficult act.
All three Synoptic Gospels follow the account of the healing of the paralytic with the narrative of Jesus’ calling of Matthew to be one of His disciples. This event is important, for it shows that not all of Jesus’ disciples were fisherman, as were Peter, Andrew, James, and John (cf. Mark 1:16–20). Note that Thomas, Nathaniel, and “two others” (John 21:2) likely were also fishermen. Mark reveals that Matthew, who was also called Levi, was a despised tax-collector. Jesus’ calling of Matthew demonstrates the truth of His teaching in this passage, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17). The fact that the scribes and Pharisees were offended by Jesus’ eating a meal with tax-collectors shows that although the crowds were amazed by Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in the previous passage, the religious leaders were not converted.
- If miracles were so effective at drawing a crowd, why did Jesus perform so few recorded miracles in His ministry (cf. Matt. 13:58; Mark 6:1–6; Luke 16:31)?
- While Jesus was certainly aware of what was going to transpire, do you think He intended to physically heal the paralytic all along?
- Why do you think that the paralyzed man and his four friends recognized Jesus to be the Messiah, whereas the learned scribes and Pharisees did not?
- How do you think the scribes and Pharisees reacted to Jesus’ healing of the paralytic? Why does Mark not record the religious leaders’ reaction?
- Why were the Pharisees so offended by Jesus’ association with sinners? What, if any, is the correlation between faith and healing?