"Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,' Son, your sins are forgiven.'" -Mark 2:3-5
In Mark 2:1-12, we read about an encounter Jesus had with a paralyzed man. Four friends carried this man straight to Jesus. Well, almost straight to Jesus. There was a huge crowd, so they couldn’t get into the house where Jesus was teaching, but they didn’t let that stop them. Thinking outside the box, they climbed onto the roof—with their paralyzed friend in tow, nonetheless— ripped that roof apart, and lowered their friend to the ground, landing him directly at the feet of Jesus.
I wonder if Jesus kept teaching while they were digging out the roof. (That thought makes me giggle: roof bits falling in Jesus' hair, faces of sweaty men suddenly peering down from above…) Maybe He just watched in delight as he witnessed these friends going to the extreme for someone they loved—doing whatever it took to bring their friend to Him. Did he laugh with joy at their daring achievement? Did he point it out to those in the house? “Take note, guys. THIS. This is what I’m talking about. Do THIS.”
I don’t know, but here’s what I do know. I know what he said:
"Son, your sins are forgiven."
Now, does this seem like an odd response to you? Here is a paralyzed man being lowered down on his mat through the roof. CLEARLY what the man needs is to be able to walk again, right? So, why is it that Jesus tells him that his sins are forgiven?
There was a common belief at this time that anyone who was crippled or blind, etc. was so because of some unforgiven sin in their life. (See the account of the man born blind in John 9 to see an example of this.) Talk about insult on top of injury! Can you even imagine the weight such a belief would bear on a person? As if it weren’t difficult enough to live lame or blind, you’re also the object of God’s wrath? Painful. Destructive. Demeaning.
So, Jesus speaks to the man who has been lovingly presented at his feet saying to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Do you hear the love, the compassion, the intimacy in Jesus’ voice? He called the man, “Son.” He is looking at this man as a Father looks at his child—with deep love, deep compassion, with a deep desire for his life to be whole.
Fixing his legs was nowhere near enough for this man. This man needed to know that he was seen and loved—not only by his friends, but by God. Even if Jesus healed his legs, if this man walked away believing that God was angry at him, how free and whole would he really be?
Jesus let this man know in no uncertain terms that God was not mad at him. He was not the object of God’s wrath. God was not punishing him. He was a son. A child. God was at peace with him, and his sins were forgiven. Think about that. Is this not the ultimate way to say, “I see you. God sees you. I don’t see your sin. I see YOU. You are loved. You have always been loved.”
But there were those in attendance—the scribes, specifically— who didn’t see the man, or at least not with eyes of love and compassion. They didn’t like the fact that Jesus was pronouncing forgiveness of sins. In their hearts they began questioning Jesus and accusing him of blasphemy—seeing his pronouncement as an affront to the authority and power that belonged only to God by saying things and declaring things that only God had the right to say or declare.
Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were raising these questions and discussing this among themselves, and so he asked them a question:
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so 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, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them…”
Please do not miss how HUGE this is! Yes, Jesus healed a paralyzed man. Right. That is a big deal in and of itself. But something of a much larger magnitude has just happened. Take a look at this:
In the Old Testament, sin and disease, forgiveness and healing are frequently interrelated concepts. In a number of Old Testament texts, in fact, “healing” and “forgiveness” are interchangeable terms. (See Psalm 41:4; Jeremiah 3:22; Hosea 14:4.) So, if the common belief was that somehow this man was paralyzed because of sin in his life, and if it was also the belief that healing was a reflection of God’s forgiveness in a person’s life, then to heal this man would be a powerful statement of forgiveness.
You see, if the man’s paralysis was a sign of God’s punishment for sin, and Jesus released the paralysis and healed the man, then wouldn’t it follow that Jesus would also be releasing any punishment—which only God had the authority to do—proving that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins? The man’s paralysis was NOT punishment from God. But for those who were using Scripture against Jesus as a way to discredit him and accuse him, Jesus just turned the tables on them big time.
But let’s not dwell on the nay-sayers, the Debbie Downers, the Negative Nellies. What about these friends? What else can we learn from these remarkable humans who dared to dig out a roof in order to get their friend to Jesus? These guys believed that Jesus could help their friend. And they believed in such a powerful way that it caught Jesus’ attention: “When he saw their faith…”
But what was it about their faith? We don’t know exactly. Obviously they believed Jesus could help their friend, but here’s what else I’m tossing around today, and it comes back around to this storyline the paralyzed man had endured for who knows how long:
What if their friend had started to believe that he was, in fact, being punished by God? What if the darkness and pain of being a paralytic were getting to be too much for him? What if he couldn’t believe that he was loved, seen, a person of worth and value? What if he was on the brink of giving up?
It can be hard to believe that God is for you and not against you when you’re hurting—physically, emotionally—when it seems that you are surrounded by darkness, bad news or worsening circumstances.
Sometimes when you are sick, broken down and struggling, you just need someone else to believe for you.
Sometimes you need to be carried when you can’t walk on your own.
Sometimes you need someone else to speak truth over your head and into your heart that reminds you that you are loved and have great value—that God is FOR you, not against you.
Sometimes we need to give people who are hurting the permission to do nothing except to rest, to be held, and trust that someone else is placing them at the feet of Jesus.
Maybe the words someone needs to hear when they are struggling is not, “Just have faith.” This may not translate correctly in the ears of someone who is already low and seeing life through a dark filter. Because when you are depressed or anxious, the thought that you aren’t even believing in God “the right way” can be what takes you deeper into the pit. “Great. I can’t even believe the right way.”
Maybe what they need to hear is, “Let me believe for you. Let me bear your burden. I will take you to Jesus.”
The man in Mark 2 experienced healing because Jesus is Lord and has the authority to heal and forgive, yes. But the man’s friends are the ones who placed him at Jesus’ feet. Where would that man have been without them?
This account in Mark 2 has me crying, rejoicing, praising, praying, and desiring that THIS VERY THING be fulfilled in the life of someone I love more than I can describe. I know Jesus can heal. I know Jesus will heal. I am believing that freedom will come. And because of that, I will NEVER stop bringing this person to Jesus. I will tell my loved one every, single day, “I will carry your burden. I will take you to Jesus. Just rest and know that you are loved.”
Who will you carry today?
Go rip some roofs apart for the sake of someone who needs you.