Though Jesus preached all over Judea, Galilee, and neighboring areas, he centered 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 healing from Jesus. Unable to reach Jesus because of the thick crowd, they opened the flat roof of the house and brought down the paralytic 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 whispered, accusing him of blasphemy. Jesus showed his authority to forgive sins by absolving the paralytic’s sin and healing him. When he took up his mat and went home, according to the direction of 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 sins. Let us make use of the sacrament of reconciliation, so we 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 good deeds of others, and encourage their philanthropic services. Like the four men who brought the paralytic to Jesus, let us also be helping those in need of our care.
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’ authoritative teaching different from the scribes and 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 the Simon’s mother-in-law, who was bedridden with a 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 spread like wildfire after he healed a leper. Because of that, “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
(Mk 2:1) When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it became known that he was at home.
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 many miracles he had done there before.
Capernaum is at the northwestern shore of the Sea of Galilee. It had favorable 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 neighboring 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 (Luke 4:28-30). He evaded that assassination attempt and moved to Capernaum, making it as 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 lead to different cities and so 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 lacked enough faith and Jesus cursed it later (Matthew 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 like Capernaum was known as Jesus’ own city (Mt 9:1), people considered Peter’s house as Jesus’ house because Jesus stayed in that house 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) Many gathered together so that there was no longer room for them, not even around the door, and he preached the word to them.
Since people in Capernaum lived in clustered houses, the news of Jesus’s arrival could reach to all the villagers instantly. According to the system of the time, the doors to Peter’s house were open from the morning 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 was impossible as more and more people came there, probably also from nearby villages. The crowd was all around the house 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 its 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 Word made flesh and dwelt among us (Jn 1:14). What Jesus preached was the fulfillment of God’s kingdom in him as the Messiah. That was a covenantal promise that God made even from the time of the first parents and renewed throughout the 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 12 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 Kingdom of heaven because he wanted to avoid the word “God” that his Jewish readers would not use. In a literal sense, the kingdom of God is the opposite of the present world in 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 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 the 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” (Daniel 2:44).
(3) They came bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.
Palsy or paralysis is a neurological problem that causes muscular stiffness, usually with a lack of sensitivity. So, the person will be immovable partially or almost fully. Four men had to carry the paralytic, implies that he was paralyzed neck down. The Old Testament describes a paralysis attack happened during the Maccabean battle. When Alcimus ordered to tear down the wall of the inner court of the sanctuary and thus destroy 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 an 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) 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.
The roofs of the Palestinian houses were flat. Since the roof was used for multiple purposes, they used to have stair outside 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 roof tile in between the beams that were made of brushwood and mud.
The Israelites had the custom of having an upper room as part of their house for guests or for common prayer. Bible documents some upper rooms which had historical significance. When King Darius signed a law prohibiting all worship except 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 toward Jerusalem” (Daniel 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” (Tobit 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 Kings 17:17-24). Elisha raised a Shunammite’s Son in the upper room where he stayed as a guest (2 Kings 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 upper rooms. Hence, it was natural that Jesus was also sharing the word of God and healing the sick in an upper room of Peter’s house, where more people could be accommodated than in the lower level. The roof on the top of the upper room might have been flat because it was normal at that time. 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 their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Child, 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 took outstanding effort to bring the sick person in front of Jesus. Though they disrupted his sermon, he did not get annoyed but welcomed the paralytic with compassion. Like Jesus, we should appreciate the charity of philanthropists and 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 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 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 demonstrated that 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 associated sickness with sin. Job’s friends argued with him based on such a belief (Job 4:7-8). The Jews had the belief that God had to forgive the sick person to get healed. Though sin can cause sickness or accident, that need not be the case all the time, as we see with 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 assurance of forgiveness of his sins to regain his strength. For his self-assurance, Jesus absolved 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 they questioned Jesus and accused him of blasphemy. Jesus made use of this healing as a means of his exemplary preaching by expressing his patience to pay attention even when the four men interrupted his discourse, by showing his authority to forgive sins, and by graciously helping the unfortunate.
(6) Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves
The scribes were a group of Jews who studied, copied, and interpreted the Holy Scripture. They guided the people to practice biblical teachings in 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 Pharisees in opposing Jesus for his liberal approach to man-made laws. Some scribes were members of the Sanhedrin and wise scribes were known as Rabbi. They flourished from the time of Babylonian exile to the destruction of the second Temple in 70 A.D.
The scribes’ presence at Peter’s house while Jesus was interacting with the public shows that Jesus was under scrutiny by 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 Judea and Jerusalem” (Lk 5:17). Jesus had preached all over Palestine and so they came from such places. So, there must be several of them present. Though Jerusalem is part of Judea, 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 themselves as admirers of Jesus. However, they had hardened heart 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 confirm that they all agree among themselves on raising the question.
(7) “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”
The scribes could not understand 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” (Daniel 9:9). When Jesus was forgiving sins, he was, as per view of the scribes, behaving like God and so a blasphemer. Such a person disrespecting God shall 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 his death penalty.
(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?
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 the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’?
Jesus gives the choice of two commands that only God, or the Son of God, could say with immediate result. 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 sins? Since sin, the spiritual disease, caused the paralysis, the forgiveness, if genuine, should cause an immediate healing. If Jesus can heal the paralytic by commanding, “Rise, pick up your mat and walk,” then that is a proof of his divine power to forgive the sins. That was what Jesus did to establish his authority. So, the scribes, along with the public, could see right in front of them that 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 may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth
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 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 (Exodus 3:13-14). When Jesus used “I am” for himself, the Jews tried to stone him (John 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” (Daniel 7:13). The high priest confirmed it as blasphemy (Mk 14:63-64). Thus, Jesus clarified himself as the Messiah, the Son of God.
The Hebrew phrase “the Son of Man” means a human being (Ezekiel 2:1). God promised the first man, Adam, that the woman’s offspring will 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 him. So, he qualified himself as Son of Man, though he is also Son of God.
The divinity of the son of man is expressed in the vision of 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 when he spoke to the scribes, he implied his identity as God incarnate or the Messiah.
has authority to forgive sins on earth
Jesus proved his authority to forgive sins by absolving sins and healing the paralytic. Thus, Jesus established he has the divine power to forgive sins that would cause physical healing. By doing so, Jesus was risking his life because the scribes were hardhearted and still considered him as a blasphemer.
Though Jesus was on earth as a human, he still got his divinity. His humbling himself, taking the form of a human, did not strip off his divinity while on earth. So, he kept the power to forgive sins like he has the same power in heaven.
(11) he said to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick 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 the paralytic was fully cured and in sound health even to carry the mat. It also proved that Jesus had forgiven his sins with an immediate result of healing. Jesus asked him to return to his family. He was free to move with no help from others.
(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.”
He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away
The paralytic regained his strength at the moment Jesus commanded him to pick up his mat and go home. He went home to share the joy with his family members.
in the sight of everyone.
The four men who brought the paralytic could see Jesus healing the sick person from the top of the roof and witness the result of their labor. 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 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 different from that of 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 a divine intervention could heal such a person. They glorified God for giving 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.