Though Jesus preached all over Judaea, Galilee, and the neighbouring regions, he centred his ministry in Capernaum with temporary residence at Simon Peter’s house. While an enormous crowd was around Jesus in the upper room of the house, four men brought a paralytic for him to heal. Unable to reach Jesus because of the thick crowd, they opened the roof of the house and lowered the paralytic down in front of Jesus. Appreciating the faith expressed in their effort, Jesus healed the paralytic in front of the people. Because he forgave the sins of the paralytic as part of the healing, the Scribes who had been scrutinizing Jesus accused him of blasphemy. Jesus showed his authority to forgive sins by absolving the paralytic of his sins and healing him. When he took up his mat and went home as directed by Jesus, the crowd was astonished and glorified God.
Regardless of whether we are sick or healthy, “all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Our sins can cause difficulties for others. Since sin is a spiritual sickness, we need healing of the soul through forgiveness of sin. Let us make use of the sacrament of reconciliation, so as to be able to enjoy peace in this world and eternal joy in the kingdom to come. Unlike the pessimistic approach of the Scribes, let us be positive and appreciative of the virtuous deeds of others, and encourage their philanthropic services. Like the four men who took the trouble to bring the paralytic to Jesus, let us also be zealous in helping those in need of our care and attention.
BIBLE TEXT(MARK 2:1-12)
The Healing of a Paralytic.
(Mk 2:1) When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home. (2) Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them. (3) They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. (4) Unable to get near Jesus because of the crowd, they opened up the roof above him. After they had broken through, they let down the mat on which the paralytic was lying. (5) When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” (6) Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, (7) “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?” (8) Jesus immediately knew in his mind what they were thinking to themselves, so he said, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? (9) Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? (10) But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth” (11) he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” (12) He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.”
According to Mark’s gospel, after Jesus’ fasting for 40 days in the desert and his triumph over Satan’s temptation, he went to Galilee to proclaim the gospel. He invited Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, and John, who were fishermen, to follow him. They left everything and became his disciples (Mk 1:16-20). While Jesus preached in the synagogue in Capernaum on a Sabbath, he healed a demoniac. Because of Jesus’ teaching which was different from that of the Scribes in that it was authoritative and was accompanied by his healing power, “His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee” (Mk 1:21-28). Jesus then went to the house of Simon and Andrew and healed Simon’s motherin-law, who was in bed with fever (Mk 1:29-31). After sunset, when the Sabbath was over, the whole town gathered at the house along with their sick people and demoniacs. Jesus healed them also (Mk 1:32-34). Afterwards, he went to the synagogues of nearby villages, preaching and healing. Jesus’ fame further spread like wildfire after he healed a leper, on account of which, “it was impossible for Jesus to enter a town openly. He remained outside in deserted places, and people kept coming to him from everywhere” (Mk 1:45).
The Healing of a Paralytic
After some days Jesus returned to Capernaum. As the news spread that he was at home…. (Mk 2:1)
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days
After preaching in the synagogues of nearby villages for some days, Jesus returned to Peter’s house at Capernaum. Jesus was in high demand there because of the miracles he had previously done.
Capernaum is on the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It had favourable factors like water for fishing, fertile land for agriculture, and a hub of international trade routes, especially connecting Egypt and Damascus by the ancient highway “Via Maris”. The trade routes helped Jesus to spread his message and his renown to the neighbouring regions. Jesus could also travel easily from Capernaum to adjacent cities around the Sea of Galilee by walking on the seashore or sailing on a boat.
Capernaum is known as “The town of Jesus” because he did most of his ministry in that village. When Jesus started his public ministry in Nazareth where he grew up, his own people rejected him and even tried to throw him down the hill (Lk 4:28-30). He evaded that assassination attempt and moved to Capernaum, making it his base for preaching and serving the needy. Out of his 12 apostles, Peter, Andrew, James, John, and Matthew were from Capernaum. It had roads that led to different cities and so it was a hub where Jesus could meet many people, including the gentiles. Though Capernaum was a small village, it was part of Galilee, where many Jews lived. Despite the preaching and miracles of Jesus in Capernaum, that city greatly lacked faith and was thus cursed by Jesus later (Mt 11:23)
It became known that he was at home
Because of the wide popularity Jesus gained, especially because of the miracles he performed, the news of Jesus’ arrival spread fast in Capernaum. People there eagerly waited for his return, as is clear from Simon Peter’s words to Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you” (Mk 1:37).
Just as Capernaum was known as Jesus’ own city (Mt 9:1), people considered Peter’s house as Jesus’ home because that is where Jesus stayed while he was in Capernaum. Peter’s mother-in-law, whom Jesus had healed before (Mk 1:29-31), might have been hospitable to him and his disciples.
(2) So many people gathered that there was no longer room even outside the door. While Jesus was speaking the word to them,
Since people in Capernaum lived in clustered houses, the news of Jesus’ arrival could reach all the villagers instantly. According to the system of the time, the doors to Peter’s house were probably open from dawn to dusk or, perhaps, until the family went to bed. So, anyone could enter the house and meet Jesus. Since the house was small, it could not contain all people. Some had to gather outdoors and wait for a chance to meet him in person. Even that in time became nigh impossible as more people came by, probably also from nearby villages. The crowd was all over the house both inside and outside and many could no longer approach Jesus or hear him. Mark presents a graphic backdrop for the event.
He preached the word to them
The word Jesus preached was “the Word of God”. Though Jesus healed many and cast our demons, his primary goal was to preach the Word of God. The phrase, “the Word of God” has different meanings in the Bible based on contextual usage. It means the spoken word of God, the decrees of God, the message of God that the prophets spoke, the Bible, and Jesus, who was the Wordmade-flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). What Jesus preached was the fulfilment of God’s kingdom in him as the Messiah. That was a covenantal promise that God made even from the time of our First Parents and renewed throughout salvation history. When the people in Capernaum insisted Jesus to stay with them, he said, “To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Lk 4:43). Jesus commissioned the twelve apostles, saying, “As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The kingdom of Heaven is at hand’” (Mt 10:7).
Both the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Heaven mean the same. Matthew preferred the Kingdom of Heaven because he wanted to avoid the word “God” which his Jewish readers would not use. In a literal sense, the kingdom of God is the opposite of the present world over which Satan has influence. When the kingdom of God appears, it will be free from such evil influence. The kingdom of Heaven is the opposite of the earthly kingdom that is imperfect. The heavenly kingdom will be perfect, free from evil, and governed by God through the Messianic intervention of Jesus. He instructed the people to enter it through the narrow door of self-sacrifice and faithfulness to the covenant with God.
Jesus reconstituted Israel by establishing the Church as his Kingdom on the Earth. It will come to its perfection and completion at his Second Coming, when the period of salvation ends, the selection of the righteous happens, and he will reign over it forever. “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end” (Nicene Creed). Daniel, while interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, said, “the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people; rather, it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever” (Dan 2:44).
(3) some people brought a paralyzed man to him
Palsy or paralysis is a neurological problem that causes muscular stiffness, usually with a lack of sensitivity. So, the person will be immobile partially or almost fully. Four men had to carry the paralytic, implying that he was paralyzed neck down. The Old Testament describes a paralysis attack happening during the Maccabean battle. When Alcimus ordered the tearing down of the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary and thus destroying the work of the prophets, he “was stricken, and his work was interrupted; his mouth was closed and he was paralyzed, so that he could no longer utter a word or give orders concerning his household. Alcimus died in great agony at that time” (1 Macc 9:54-56).
The paralytic man was helpless and could not take care of himself. However, four people had compassion on him and took the effort to carry him to Jesus. They did not wait to have Jesus come to the sick person’s house. That showed their enthusiasm to get healing for their friend without delay.
(4) The four men who carried him could not get near Jesus because of the crowd, so they opened the roof above the room where Jesus was and, through the hole, lowered the man on his mat.
The roofs of the Palestinian houses were flat. Since the flat roof had multiple usages, they used to have a stairway outside the house to access the roof. Luke describes the same event thus: “But not finding a way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on the stretcher through the tiles into the middle in front of Jesus” (Lk 5:19). They could open the rooftile in between the beams that were made of brushwood and mud.
The Israelites had the custom of having an upper room in their house for guests or for common prayer. The Holy Bible documents some upper rooms which had historical significance. When King Darius signed a law prohibiting all worship except that of the king, Daniel “continued his custom of going home to kneel in prayer and give thanks to his God in the upper chamber three times a day, with the windows open towards Jerusalem” (Dan 6:11). In the book of Tobit, Raguel’s daughter “Sarah was sad at heart. She went in tears to an upstairs room in her father’s house and wanted to hang herself” (Tob 3:10). She changed her mind and prayed to God, who answered her prayer. When a widow’s son died, Elijah “carried him to the upper room where he was staying” and regained his life after his prayer (1 Kgs 17:1724). Elisha raised a Shunammite’s Son in the upper room where he stayed as a guest (2 Kgs 4:8-37).
In the New Testament, Jesus and the early Church used the upper room of Mark’s parents for prayer. Some divine events happened there: The Last Supper (Mk 14:14, Lk 22:12), Jesus washing the feet of the apostles, the institution of the Holy Eucharist, the meeting of the early Church (Acts 1:13; 12:12), some post-resurrection appearances of Jesus, and the descent of the Holy Spirit inaugurating the Church (Acts 12:1-4) happened in the same upper room. Luke documents several other occasions when the early Church met in the upper room. Hence, it was but natural that Jesus also shared the word of God and healed the sick in an upper room of Peter’s house, where more people could be accommodated than on the lower level. The roof on the top of the upper room might have been flat because it was normal. The four men, finding no other means to get the paralytic near Jesus, had removed the tiles of the roof to get him down to Jesus on the mat that they used to carry him.
(5) When Jesus saw the faith of these people, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
When Jesus saw their faith,
Along with the faith of the paralytic, Jesus appreciated the same of the four men who made outstanding efforts to bring the sick person in front of Jesus. Though they disrupted his sermon, he did not get annoyed but attended to the paralytic with compassion. Like Jesus, we ought to appreciate the charity of philanthropists and ourselves help others in need.
Faith in Jesus as the Messiah is a requirement for getting blessings from Jesus. When a woman afflicted with hemorrhages for twelve years got healing from Jesus, he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be cured of your affliction” (Mk 5:34). When a man pleaded with Jesus to heal his son possessed with a mute spirit, Jesus told him, “Everything is possible to one who has faith” (Mk 9:23). While giving sight to the blind Bartimaeus, Jesus said, “your faith has saved you” (Mk 10:52). Though the paralytic and his four friends did not express their faith in words, they did demonstrate it in action.
He said to the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven”
Though Jesus addressed the paralytic, “Child,” it did not mean he was young. It expressed Jesus’ affection and compassion towards him. Jesus considered him as a suffering son of God. The paralytic might have felt relief when he heard Jesus calling him “child”. The crowd watching this might have been impressed with Jesus’ loving approach to this stranger.
“Child, your sins are forgiven”
Palestinians had generally associated sickness with sin. Job’s friends argued with him on the basis of such belief (Job 4:7-8). The Jews believed that God had to forgive the sick person as a prelude to healing. Though sin can cause sickness or accident, that need not be the case always, as we see in the case of Job. Jesus had the insight of the paralytic’s sin. Or Jesus knew the paralytic was convinced of his sins as the cause of his sickness. So, he needed the assurance of the forgiveness of his sins to regain his strength. For the paralytic’s self-surety as well as a sign of his own self-manifestation, Jesus absolved him of his sins.
When Jesus absolved the sins of the paralytic in public, Jesus acknowledged he was the Messiah because the Jews believed only God could forgive sins. That was the reason why they questioned Jesus and accused him of blasphemy. Jesus made use of this healing as a means of his exemplary preaching by way of expressing his patience to pay attention to someone’s need even when the four men interrupted his discourse, by showing his authority to forgive sins.
(6) Now, some teachers of the Law who were sitting there wondered within themselves,
The Scribes were a Jewish group who studied, copied, and interpreted Holy Scripture. They guided the people to practise biblical teachings in their daily lives. They were also experts in the judicial procedures. Jews respected them because of their knowledge in the Bible, their dedicated service, and their adherence to the Laws. They gained authority among the Jews and joined the Pharisees in opposing Jesus for his liberal approach to the manmade laws. Some Scribes were members of the Sanhedrin and wise Scribes were known as Rabbi. They flourished from the time of the Babylonian exile to the destruction of the second Temple in 70 AD.
The Scribes’ presence at Peter’s house while Jesus was interacting with the public shows that Jesus was under the scrutiny of the Sanhedrin that took the responsibility to monitor the emergence of any false prophets. So, their emissaries were after Jesus when he became popular. According to Luke, the Scribes present there were “from every village of Galilee and Judaea and Jerusalem” (Lk 5:17). Jesus had preached all over Palestine and so they came from such places. So, there must have been several of them present. Though Jerusalem is part of Judaea, Luke specified it because it is the seat of the Sanhedrin. It sent several Scribes from different parts. They questioned Jesus on various occasions. Here, the Scribes sat with the public, pretending to be admirers of Jesus. However, they had hardened hearts with no compassion for the paralytic and with no appreciation for the benevolence of Jesus. They were delighted that they could trap Jesus.
Before presenting the issue in public to Jesus, they wanted to ascertain a common agreement among themselves on raising the question.
(7) “How can he speak like this? It is blasphemy. Who can forgive sins except God?”
The Scribes could not accept Jesus as the Son of God. Even if he is a prophet, he cannot forgive sins because only God can do so. “But to the Lord, our God, belong compassion and forgiveness, though we rebelled against him” (Dan 9:9). When Jesus forgave sins, he was, according to the Scribes, behaving like God and so was a blasphemer. Such a person disrespecting God deserved to be stoned to death (Lev 24:16). The main accusation against Jesus later when the Sanhedrin trailed him was blasphemy (Mk 14:60-64) that led to him being given the death penalty.
(8) At once Jesus knew in his spirit what they were thinking and asked, “Why do you have such thoughts?
Instead of accepting Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God, the Scribes were after him to find fault with him. By his divine nature, Jesus knew that, and he could comprehend what the Scribes thought about him and discussed among themselves in private. He questioned their evil thoughts.
(9) Which is easier, to say to this paralyzed man: ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say: ‘Rise, take up your mat and walk?’
Jesus gives the choice of two commands that only God, or the Son of God, could issue with immediate results. It is easy for anyone to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Rise, pick up your mat and walk.” If a person says, “Your sins are forgiven,” how can he prove God has forgiven the person’s sins? Since sin, the spiritual disease, caused the paralysis, the forgiveness, if genuine, should bring about immediate healing. If Jesus could heal the paralytic by commanding, “Rise, pick up your mat and walk,” then that was a proof of his divine power to forgive sins. Thus, Jesus established his authority. So, the Scribes, along with the public, could see right in front of them he was the Messiah and not a blasphemer.
Jesus later taught, “A tree is known by its fruit” (Mt 12:33). Jesus’ words are divine, powerful, and effective. According to the Evangelist John, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be” (Jn 1:1-3). This “Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). Jesus proved his truthfulness by healing the paralytic through his word, and with no physical effort. From this miracle, the Scribes should understand the divinity of Jesus. Even before the Scribes raise the question of blasphemy, Jesus proved his divinity.
(10) But that you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins,” he said to the paralytic, that you may know
Jesus addressed this to the Scribes, probably also to the crowd, who were eagerly waiting to see what he would do with the paralytic. Along with the miraculous healing of the paralytic, Jesus proved to the interrogative Scribes that he was indeed God incarnate who could forgive sins.
that the Son of Man
At Jesus’ trial, the main accusation against him was blasphemy. When the High Priest asked Jesus, “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?” Jesus replied, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of Heaven’” (Mk 14:61-62). By saying, “I am,” Jesus affirmed himself as God because “I am” is the name of God that God revealed to Moses when he asked for God’s name at Mount Sinai (Ex 3:13-14). When Jesus used “I am” for himself, the Jews tried to stone him (Jn 8:56-59) because they understood Jesus was making himself equal to God. Jesus quoted to the high priest from the vision of Daniel about the Messiah’s (Second) Coming, “I saw coming with the clouds of Heaven, One like a son of man” (Dan 7:13). The High Priest confirmed it as blasphemy (Mk 14:63-64). Thus, Jesus clarified that he was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God.
The Hebrew phrase “the Son of Man” means a human being (Ezek 2:1). God promised the first man, Adam, that the woman’s offspring would strike the head of the serpent (Gen 3:15). Jesus is that son of a woman who came as the second Adam. The Son of God from all eternity became the Son of Man to accomplish the mission God the Father entrusted to him. So, he qualified himself as the Son of Man, though he was also the Son of God.
The divinity of the son of man is expressed in the vision of the Prophet Daniel (7:13) because the son of man would come with the clouds of Heaven. Ordinary humans cannot travel on the clouds. Jesus chose this phrase for himself out of his humility while others used “Son of God” that gives emphasis to the divine origin of Jesus. So, it designates the human and divine nature of Jesus. When Jesus used this phrase while speaking to the Scribes, he implied his identity as the God incarnate or the Messiah.
has authority to forgive sins on Earth
Jesus proved his authority to forgive sins by precisely doing so and healing the paralytic. Thus, Jesus established the truth that he had the divine power to forgive sins that would cause physical healing. By doing so, Jesus was risking his life because the Scribes were hard-hearted and still considered him as a blasphemer.
Though Jesus was on Earth as a human, he still had his divinity intact. His humbling himself, taking the form of a human, did not deprive him of his divinity while on Earth. So, he kept the power to forgive sins like he has the same power in Heaven.
(11) “I say to you, ‘Rise, take up your mat and go home.’” I say to you,
Jesus had asked his disciples to heal the sick in his name (Mk 16:17-18). However, when Jesus healed the sick, he did that with his own authority as the Son of God.
Rise, pick up your mat, and go home
This command is to prove that Jesus healed the paralytic fully, and he was in sound health, even to carry his mat. It also proved that Jesus had forgiven his sins with the immediate result of healing. Jesus asked him to return to his family, free as he was to move without assistance.
(12) The man rose and, in the sight of all those people, took up his mat and went out. All of them were astonished and praised God saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away
The paralytic regained his strength the very moment Jesus commanded him to pick up his mat and go home. He went home to share the joy with his family.
in the sight of everyone
The four men who brought the paralytic could see Jesus healing the sick person from the rooftop, thus witnessing the result of their labour. They might have been delighted that their effort became fruitful. They could see the man they carried walking away with the mat on which they brought him to Jesus.
The public has been watching the descent of the paralytic from the rooftop, Jesus’ compassion towards him, his appreciation towards the people who carefully brought him down, the dialogue of Jesus with the Scribes, and the miracle that Jesus did. They then saw the paralytic energetically standing up and carrying his bed by himself as a healthy person.
They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this”
Ordinary people thought differently from the Scribes. They were amazed at Jesus’ miraculous power, his mercy towards the sick, and his authority in teaching and forgiving sins. There is no cure for permanent paralysis because the spinal cord cannot heal itself. Only divine intervention could heal such a person. They glorified God for making possible such a miraculous healing through Jesus. Though they did not understand Jesus as the Messiah, they acknowledged the power of God working through him. They were seeing such a miracle with their own eyes. They have never heard or read about the healing of any paralytic before.
1. The charity of the four men who carried the paralytic is a model for us to help those whom we can help to reach Jesus and obtain his grace. When we do charity for others, the Lord will provide outstanding results.
2. When the four men could not bring the paralytic directly to Jesus, they found alternative means to reach him. Let us not get discouraged by the hurdles we face in our spiritual and evangelical ministry.
3. Jesus did not express annoyance or discontent when his discourse was interrupted by the four men. Neither did he criticize them for causing damage to the roof of the house! Instead, he volunteered to help the paralytic and appreciated their faith. Let us be patient when others disturb us with their needs.
4. While the public considered the paralytic a sinner and deserving of being ignored, Jesus did not find fault with him. Instead, Jesus forgave the sins and redeemed him. Thus, he gained spiritual and physical healing. What is our attitude towards the sick and the disabled?
5. People might associate sin with sickness and accidents and develop guilt feelings. Let us be ready to provide spiritual and emotional solace to those who need it.
6. While praying to God for our physical healing, let us also make use of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (confession) for spiritual healing. That will be part of a remedy for our holistic recovery.
7. Anointing of the sick is not limited to those who are dying. Let us remember the words of Saint James, “Is anyone among you sick? He should summon the presbyters of the Church, and they should pray over him and anoint [him] with oil in the name of the Lord, and the prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up. If he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven” (Jas 5:14-15).
8. Some people might come to Church not to listen to the word of God or worship. Rather, like the Scribes, they might be bothered about looking at the faults and inadequacies of the celebrant or others. Like the crowd that was listening to Jesus and marvelling at his wondrous deeds, let us listen to the Word of God and glorify God for what Jesus does for us and others. Negativity will produce negative, and positivity positive results.