The healing of the Paralyzed person
The account is found in the synoptic gospels Mark 2.1-2, Matt. 9.1-9 & Luke 5.17-26
We will follow Mark’s account, the others are available for comparison.
Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man Mark 2.1-12
2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
3 At this, som of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!”
4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.
Jesus ‘had come home’  he made his home in Capernaum after being expelled from Nazareth. Capernaum was a fishing village, the home of Matthew the tax collector turned apostle, it was located near Bethsaida the home of Peter, Andrew, James and John.
Prior to the healing we are thinking about, Mark recounts Jesus had amazed the locals with his teaching in the synagogue (built by the Centurion of John 6 whose servant would be healed), driven out demons and healed many including Peter’s Mother in law.
His homecoming sparked a gathering of many people, so many that they formed a barrier to the men carrying the Paralyzed man preventing him reaching Jesus to be healed, but they were not the only barrier to healing.
Mark is the only gospel that tells us that 4 people carried the paralysed man. Finding their way blocked they climb onto the roof and lower the person through the roof. Houses in those days were a bit like a shoe-box, flat roofed simple affairs made of branches and sun-baked bricks, a single story 8 feet high with steps leading up to the flat roof. If your family expanded through marriage you built on another wing to form a L shape another wing would form a U shape and the resulting courtyard would sometimes be enclosed and this space would be used for meals and meetings. The roof of such houses where easy enough to dig through and the height the Paralysed person was lowered was not great.
With the first barrier of the crowds overcome the barrier of the prevailing culture needed to be dealt with.
Matthew makes no reference to crowds in his account of the healing, but he does mention ‘teachers of the law’. Those professionally trained to develop, teach and apply the OT law. In the application of the law the oral teaching of these people often assumed greater authority than the written law. Thus, by the time of the NT, the teachers of the law were in conflict with Jesus and the apostles, as they taught with authority and condemned the outward religious acts that the teachers had fostered.
Luke records that Pharisees as well as teachers of the law were present at the healing. Pharisees had a zeal for the Law; the sanctity of the written Law was never questioned, but intertestamental Jewish groups differed on how it was to be interpreted and applied. The Pharisees developed their own body of interpretations, expansions, and applications of the Law that they came to regard as of divine origin (Mishnah, Aboth, 1:1). This was to assist in understanding and keeping the Law, often added regulations ("fences" or "hedges") were designed to prevent even coming close to breaking the Law. Most of these traditions, the Oral Law, dealt with matters of levitical purity.
These were to form another barrier to the Paralytic, his paralysis must mean he was being punished by God, he was a sinner and who but God could forgive sin, this cultural barrier held the Paralysed person.
Mark tells us ‘Jesus had preached the word’ Lit. talking to them about himself – he was the Word of God made flesh, the wisdom of God was teaching with authority, amidst those who thought they were Israel’s teachers.
Here was Jesus pronouncing forgives of sin with no sacrifice offered, recompense made sin confessed. A Priest could pronounce forgiveness of sin on the basis of repentance, restitution and sacrifice (Leviticus 4,5,16, 17:11) Jesus seems to remit sins as if he were God.
Yet, if as Jesus taught, the Kingdom of God was present amongst them it must usher in forgiveness of sins. It is a fulfilment of Isaiah 32.22-24: for the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; it is he who will save us... No one living in Zion will say, “I am ill”; and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven.’
So was Jesus bringing in the kingdom of God or was this word of forgiveness a conceited act of blasphemy.
Who was right, the Scribes & the Pharisees who sat and watched the dramatic scene unfold with critical hearts or Jesus, the proof of the pudding was in the eating? So, we come to the healing.
We are not told what the cause of the Paralysis was but as this is the only occasion where Jesus says ‘Your sins are forgiven’ before he healed it is thought at root the problem was some form of paralysing guilt. It could have been some serious sin, it may have been a false guilt perhaps brought on through family life. We are not told. What we are told is that in this instance the healing is proof of forgiveness.
So we come to the third barrier, the crowds, the culture, the command – ‘take up your mat and go home’. Would the Paralysed person do as commanded? Would he accept the forgiveness Jesus pronounced? The Scribes and Pharisees have said, correctly, ‘Only God can forgive sins’ but Jesus has said his sins are forgiven now the command came he had to choose. Lay on the mat or take it home?
The ‘mat’ (sometime Pallet) was a poor person’s camp bed a rough stuffed affair that could be carried. The man obeyed the command. He had received such a release from the paralysis of guilt that he could walk carrying this burden through the crowds that had been a barrier and went home.
Notice the place of faith in the healing. When Jesus ‘saw their faith’ (5) the faith of ‘some men’, perhaps they were friends or family of the paralysed person, as they dug through the roof theirs was a silent, dramatic call in faith for help. In response Jesus said, ‘son your sins are forgiven’. The faith of the 4 was evident, nothing would prevent them from bringing the Paralysed person to Jesus. The faith of the paralysed man was equally demonstrated, he did as Jesus said and I assume the Paralysed person must equally have had faith that Jesus could do something or else he wouldn’t have consented to be carried. Faith that resulted in action a coming to Jesus believing he could make a difference.
Notice also that Jesus didn’t pray that the paralysed person would be healed, he didn’t express a desire that this would happen. He didn’t ask any questions of him or require confession of guilt. Jesus simply declared what had happened ‘son your sins are forgiven’ Jesus healed with a word of authority getting up from the mat confirmed the liberation the Paralysed person had received.
Notice that in Luke’s account that ‘The power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick’. ‘Heal’ in the Greek was the word ‘cure’ (iama) rather than therapeou (from which we get the word therapy). It is the action of a doctor who treats you so you are cured. The other word for ‘heal’ is ‘sozo’which can mean either saved or healed, in the New Testament salvation and health are the same.
The miracle of healing confirms Jesus’ divine origin and power ‘I am the Lord who heals you’ Exodus 15.26. It underlines that Jesus is sent to bring forgiveness to a sinful world, his coming spells the end of evil and sickness and restores relationship with God, other people ourselves and the creation. God’s will is for humanities wholeness in every aspect of life.
To reflect upon;
What is it about others that makes us feel that they are like untouchable lepers, what do we fear about them?
What makes us helpers who would struggle up onto a roof and dig our way through it to bring another to a source of healing or Would we give up in the face of the crowded scene?
What is in us that is like the teacher of the law, the cool intellectual, sceptical observer, the judgmental specialist?
What in us is like the paralysed person, who needs to hear the word of forgiveness? What in us makes us feel helpless and enslaved by an alien power that pins us to the bed?
Medical healing is the knowledge of God manifested through science. Spiritual healing is the knowledge of God manifested through faith. It is the same knowledge it is the same God.