Jesus Changed the Paralytic—not the Pharisees (Mark 2:1-12).
I hate crowds. I mean, people are handy—especially if they’re your friends and family. But when you get a bunch of them together, all trying to check out with their flat-screens or drive down the interstate to work or buy a burrito from Chipotle…that’s when it gets complicated. Nobody is a people-lover when they’re wading through Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Or driving on Woodruff Road. Or at a graduation commencement of a major institution. Well, I take that back. One person can still love people in ginormous crowds—and He’s the One Who can change every member of that crowd into something amazing…something more like Himself. Enter the Change-Maker!
When we last left our Hero, He was thronged by crowds wanting to be healed. Well, some things never change. Except this time, he’s got back to headquarters—otherwise known as the fishing village of Capernaum…specifically Peter’s house (or so we surmise). Well, apparently Peter needs to get a better lock on the front gate because as soon as people hear that the Change-Maker has come, they start flocking to the fisherman’s home en masse. I mean, those poor villagers had never seen that many people in one place their whole life! They packed into every nook and cranny of that humble dwelling. Jesus nearly smacked someone every time he made a gesture with His arm while teaching!
Enter the paralytic—er, I guess he couldn’t actually enter. But four of his closest friends carried him. Man, I wish I had friends like that—that would carry me everywhere I needed to go! And also bring me Starbucks! But he wasn’t being carried for laziness…no, this man could not physically move himself. In fact, many surmise he was a complete quadriplegic—paralyzed in all four limbs. And in that society, where there was no such thing as a “desk job,” that meant a life of begging—as if he could even raise his arm to accept the coins. Thankfully, he seemed to have four good buddies who carried him on a pallet. And as soon as those guys heard about the great Healer coming to town again…boy howdy, they carried that man as fast as they could to the fisherman’s house!
Except…they were too late.
Everyone else in the town had beaten them to it. Mark records that there wasn’t even room around the door to peer in! There was no possible way for them to bring their friend to Jesus. They could try pushing and shoving, but the mass of humanity was too large. Besides, those hoity-toity scribes were taking up the most room with their long flowing robes…and they certainly wouldn’t give way before a sick, sinful man!
The paralytic moaned. He knew he deserved such a fate. He had been an awful person. No telling what horrible things he had done in his life—and now, God was punishing him for it. Just when he thought he could finally be free, the door was shut. Firm. The Man Who could heal him lay within yards of him…but he could never reach Him.
Imagine Jesus teaching. Pouring forth amazing words of wisdom and excellence…when all of a sudden, a bit of clay falls down on his head. Then a whole chunk falls to his feet. Then, the lamp-lit room becomes brighter as the sun peeks through a hole in the roof…a hole!? Peter gasped—“I just had that roof redone!”
The four demolishers dig back the top layer of clay and remove the last panel. Finally, there’s enough room to lower the paralytic’s pallet carefully to the…
Oops! You can imagine the pallet lowering right on top of one of the scribes from Jerusalem. The man recoils in disgust at almost touching something “unclean.” The Teacher, on the other hand, doesn’t recoil, but rather comes closer…
The Change-Maker looks at the paralyzed man, so helpless, so desperate. Tears coating his cot. He looks up at four faithful friends and smiles the broadest that Peter ever saw Him smile.
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Say what?! That’s not what’s supposed to happen! He’s supposed to say, “You’re healed!” Or maybe even, “Why did you interrupt my sermon?” Not, “Your sins are forgiven”?!?!
The scribes would agree. Some of them had traveled all the way from Jerusalem to check out this rabble-rouser. And the rumors they heard were true—this guy was crazy! With their own ears, they heard Him forgive someone’s sins! “Why does this guy talk like that?!” they thought to themselves, “He’s a blasphemer! No one can forgive sins but God only! Duh!”
And that’s exactly Jesus’ point. Only God can forgive sins. And it just so happens that Jesus…is God. And He can read minds. Not only theirs, but the minds of this paralytic. He knew the man’s true needs. He knew the man could live being paralytic. He could scrape by with the help of his friends. But what he needed above all—and couldn’t get anywhere else—was forgiveness for his sins. What plagued this man most was not his inability to move…but his inability to measure up to God. And Jesus fixed that problem
Jesus turned to look at the scribes.
“Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?’”
Jesus’ point was this. It’s easier for Him to say His sins are forgiven and appear trustworthy, because no one could tell outwardly if that had actually happened. However, if He told Him to rise up, then the man could prove Him wrong or right…depending on if he was healed. So was Jesus taking the easy route? Never!
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”
He turned and looked to that pitiful paralytic.
“Rise, pick up your bed, and go home!”
Boom! The man who could not move…was changed. He sprung to his feet, flapped his arms like a newborn eagle, and soared (being sure to grab his bed on the way out—it’s not good to litter in someone else’s home, especially after destroying their roof).
And everyone’s mouths dropped open…and then starting praising God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” The scribes, on the other hand, didn’t look so thrilled. Peter wasn’t thrilled either, looking up at the roof, but Jesus promised to help him fix it (not sure if that really happened or not—but it’s cool to think about it).
What’s the point of this story? That Jesus has the authority. He can not only SAY things—He can DO things. His power cannot be contained.
Also, the point is with the paralytic. The unmoving, helpless, pitiful creature. That’s you and me, friends. Dead in our sins. Guilt has pinned us to the ground and is not giving any room. It’s like we’re stuck in a massive crowd—endless people on either side. And we can’t get out. We can’t even move! All our “friends” called sin have surrounded us…and are suffocating us. We can’t be free.
But then our one true Friend comes along. Perhaps He’s introduced to us by a friend or family member, like the four who helped this man. Thank God for those people. Because this Son of Man has the authority on this planet to forgive sins. After all, who can forgive sins, but God only? Self-help books, a psychologist, smashing your head into the wall…none of these will solve your sin problem.
Enter the Change-Maker. He can fix your problem. Trust Him with it. Accept His payment for your heavy load.
Maybe you’ve already accepted that payment. Well then…maybe it’s time we lived like we’re carrying our beds instead of still pinned to it. Live like we’re free—not like we’re paralyzed.