Do you remember that Bible story in the book of Mark, where four men make a hole in the roof of a house and lower their paralytic friend into the middle of the room so that Jesus could heal him? Many of us can probably recall that story from Sunday School, or from just reading it on our own, but the details that stick in our memories are perhaps the fact that these men made a hole in the roof, and that their friend was miraculously healed.
While those details are undoubtedly important, and while we can learn many lessons from this account, there is an incredibly profound message we can take away from this story, which serves as a great reminder to us of how big our God really is.
First, we will take a look at the passage:
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
So let’s put this scenario into perspective, shall we? Jesus is standing in the middle of a crowded room, preaching, when everyone begins to hear noises coming from the roof. They’re all wondering what is going on, and then a hole appears. Light streams into the room and the hole gets bigger and bigger, until it is big enough for a man to be lowered through it.
As you can imagine, this whole fiasco was probably a little distracting. Jesus probably had to stop talking, and pieces of roof were probably falling into the house onto the people. These people were probably annoyed or even angry, the owner of the house was probably horrified, and the paralytic man himself was probably somewhat embarrassed.
Those four men, however, were determined for their friend to see Jesus. And Jesus… well, Jesus said the most bizarre, unexpected, and scandalous thing he could have said at that moment. He looked at the four men, then turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Heh? Say what? How is that even remotely related to what had just happened? Jesus didn’t say, “Well, hello. Did you have a nice ride down?” He didn’t say, “Are you gonna pay for that roof?” He didn’t even say, “Be healed!” Instead, He said, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Now, we don’t know anything about this man or how he became paralyzed. We don’t know how severe his condition was, and we don’t know how long he had been this way. We can make a dozen speculations about how he might have become paralyzed as a consequence of his sin, or maybe he was just born with it, but the only thing we know for sure is that he was paralyzed, and he had really awesome friends who were willing to vandalize a man’s roof for his sake.
So why did Jesus say that to him? Because Jesus is smart. And He saw this paralytic man as a chance for Him to show everyone in that room that He was the Messiah. He knew that claiming to forgive someone of his or her sins was one of the highest forms of blasphemy against God in the Jewish tradition, and He knew that such a proclamation would not sit well with the teachers of the law.
Still seizing the moment, Jesus asks the teachers of the law a question that befuzzles them even more: “Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?” Before they can even fully process His question, Jesus goes on to say, “I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then He turns to the paralytic and says, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
It might take a little while for us to digest all that took place in that little amount of time, as it probably took the people who were present some time to digest what they had witnessed. At first, it seems like a bunch of non-related and confusing stuff that Jesus said and did, but when we think about how and why He said and did those things, we can see that He was in fact, killing several birds with one stone.
1. He proved that He was the Son of God.
Which is easier? Forgiving a man’s sins or healing him of paralysis? The answer is neither. Because both are impossible. A normal human being can neither forgive sins nor heal a paralyzed man. By posing that question and then proceeding to heal the man, Jesus demonstrated that if He can do one, He can do both. If He is able to heal, He is able to forgive sins. And if He is able to forgive sins, He must be God, because “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
2. When we go to Jesus in trust, He gives us more than we even know we need.
The paralyzed man was brought to Jesus for healing, but he walked away with both healing and forgiveness. Even though we know nothing about his past, we know that he was just as much in need of forgiveness of sins as we all are. He probably was not aware that he needed forgiveness, because it was not the obvious problem, but Jesus gave it to him anyway. He did not just heal his physical body; He gave him spiritual liberty.
3. We can be confident that we can trust Jesus with the things we cannot comprehend.
If Jesus was not Jesus—if he was just a man, doing and saying the things that Jesus dared to do and say, he would be a blabbering fool. It is only because we know and trust that Jesus knows what He’s doing and has His reasons, even when it doesn’t make sense to us, that we don’t have to worry about entrusting our lives to Him.
We often come to God, asking Him all kinds of questions and then get frustrated when He does not respond the way we expect or hope for Him to. In our limited view of life and how we see things, God’s way does not often make sense. However, we have a Savior that can be trusted. His methods may be vexing and we may often end up disillusioned or discouraged when He does things we cannot understand, but this passage reminds us that He sees the big picture that we are not able to.
It is easy for us to say that God is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, but it’s difficult for our human minds to grasp the extent of what that really means. Praise be to God that He is trustworthy and that He knows better! As He has told us through the prophet Isaiah, ““For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
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