And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “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’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (ESV)
Last week, I asked the question “why did Jesus come?”, which encompasses “why did Jesus heal?”, as well. Mark 1 told us that Jesus was “moved by pity,” but it was not life circumstances alone that concerned him. Imagine how astonishing a scene it must have been for those many gathered around Jesus here at the start of Mark 2. A man is lowered through the roof on his bed, clearly paralyzed, and Jesus’s response must confound everyone. To an observer, this paralytic’s greatest need is the restoration of his body. But to Jesus, who in his spirit perceives the hearts of men, his greatest need is to be reconciled to God in Christ. The crowd sees the implied request--heal me—and yet Jesus does not appear to give what is being asked of him. Or does he?
Verse 5 tells us that “Jesus saw their faith.” Faith in what, or whom? It is obvious on the surface that the paralytic and his friends had some expectation that Jesus could heal, maybe even that he would, but when we consider the larger context of Scripture, the faith of these men comes into clearer focus. As I said last week:
Jesus came to call sinners to repentance from their sins and to faith in himself. Jesus introduced “...a better hope...through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:19).
The faith of these men is the faith that believes that Jesus is the better hope. That in him, and him only will they find forgiveness of sins and draw near to God. So although their obvious reason for coming was a broken body, their primary reason for coming was to draw near to God in Christ.
Jesus heals the broken body, as well, but it isn’t some sort of package deal—it isn’t “well, since you believe, now I’ll heal your body, too.” We do indeed encounter some instances of “your faith has made you well” in the gospels, but not so here. Here, in verses 10 and 11, Jesus heals as a testament to who is—no less than God himself. Verse 7 shows the scribes indignant that Jesus would presume to forgive a man’s sins, and Jesus answers with a visible act that only God could perform.
Why do we fix houses? We fix houses to point to the one who can meet our neighbors’ truest need—that in the love that we show them they would perceive the love of Christ and come to him in repentance and faith. But we also fix houses as a testimony before the watching world—that in his church they would see his authority vindicated by his power to transform wretched sinners into instruments of common grace in the world. May our mission be ever clear, and may God be glorified as we, in his power, carry it out.