This is a unique story among the various ways Jesus healed people.
Jesus was spending time in Capernaum. Word got out that He was in town, so people traveled to see Him, crowding into the house where He was. Jesus was ministering to them, teaching and healing, and the Jewish leaders were there to observe.
On one of those days, he was teaching; and there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every village of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. The power of the Lord was with him to heal them.
It was an exciting time! People crowded together to get a glimpse of Jesus, hear the powerful messages He shared, and draw near to witness or receive miracles. It was crowded, but those desperate enough would find a way to reach Him.
Four people came, carrying a paralytic to him. When they could not come near to him for the crowd, they removed the roof where he was. When they had broken it up, they let down the mat that the paralytic was lying on.
This paralytic was carried by four individuals who had enough faith to take the risk of carrying their friend to the top of a house where Jesus was, removing roof tiles, and then lowering their friend through the roof to get him to Jesus, believing he would be healed. It was upon seeing their faith that Jesus responded.
Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
Jesus' initial response was the deeper, vital, spiritual healing. It was only after perceiving the inner thoughts of the scribes who were present that Jesus offered physical healing.
But there were some of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak blasphemies like that? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you reason these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to tell the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven;’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your bed, and walk?’ But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house.” (Mark 2:6-11)
The purpose of this public healing was to authenticate His identity.
There were many times that demons identified Jesus and He quieted them. Demons also came out of many, crying out, and saying, “You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Rebuking them, he didn’t allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ. (Luke 4:41) But, this time was different. Jesus wanted those present to understand His identity and His authority. And, it was not based on the testimony of demon; it was the power of God demonstrated before their very eyes. Yet, this time was unique.
Many sermons have been preached about the faith of a few friends being the catalyst for the paralytic's healing, rightly encouraging us to have faith when we pray for others and encourage them to trust God.
This week, I watched as a teenager brought her friend to the front of the church to pray for salvation. This caring friend did her part; she walked with her friend, encouraging her. When the pastor asked the second girl if she was ready to receive Jesus, she responded affirmatively and prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. Her nervousness had paralyzed her, but a courageous friend had enough faith to bring her to Jesus. What a beautiful illustration of following the example of the paralytic's friends.
Let's consider the circumstances
Reading through the Gospels, we see that Jesus' usual practice was to touch people when He healed them. In this case, Jesus only spoke to the man, saying, “I tell you, arise, take up your mat, and go to your house.” Why was this?
What we see in this Biblical account is that, unlike other instances, the faith of friends was not enough to bring the paralytic's physical healing.
Jesus easily forgave this man's sins. Whether or not his sins were connected to his condition is not addressed in Scripture, so we won't dwell on that. We all have sinned and need a Savior, and Jesus' forgiveness is a free gift. Our spiritual condition is much more important than our physical health.
Jesus asked this paralytic to take his own step of faith in order to receive healing. This man was instructed to stand up, pick up his mat, and walk home. In doing so, he would demonstrate his personal belief in a healing Savior. Faith without works is dead.
How did this man respond in front of the crowd? He arose, and immediately took up the mat, and went out in front of them all; so that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:12)
The results of this incident were:
The paralytic's sins were forgiven.
His friends were encouraged in their faith.
Doubters were silenced.
Jesus' identity was authenticated.
Jesus' authority was demonstrated.
A man was healed and given new purpose.
God was glorified.
Today, we can reflect on this historical event as evidence of a loving God who forgives and heals and only asks us to put our faith in Who He is. Will you trust Him?