By Dr. Bill Patterson
When the Bible gives an account, the Lord considered that biblical event important enough for us to know. When three books of the Bible each mention a biblical happening, it means God really wants us to learn from it. The Holy Spirit instructed three Gospel writers to include the story of Jesus’ healing a certain paralyzed man. Matthew 9:2-8 lists the narrative. Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26 tell the same account but with added details.
Jesus healed the man and also forgave his sins. Only God can do those things. The story shows that Jesus was and is God. I find it helpful to examine what happened by thinking about the participants in this remarkable healing.
Picture the man. Paralyzed. Perhaps from childhood or perhaps from an accident while working. He could not walk. Imagine how very hard that would be. He must have depended on family and friends. Think how helpless and hopeless the paralyzed man must have felt. In a day without motorized wheelchairs, the world moved by him while he depended entirely on others for even the simplest of things.
Before this event occurred, Jesus had already healed several people in Capernaum (Mark 1:29-45). As a result, people began bringing their sick relatives and friends to Jesus for healing. The paralyzed man undoubtedly had heard that Jesus healed some people. His hopes may have risen because Jesus had moved his ministry nearby, in Peter’s home. Yet that home might just as easily be a thousand miles away because the helpless man could not walk. He simply couldn’t get to Jesus on his own.
How do you think you would feel in his situation? What do you do when you feel helpless?
Fortunately, four men cared enough about the paralyzed man that they took him to Jesus. Perhaps they were neighbors. Maybe they were friends. The point is that they cared enough to take him. However, when they got to the little home in Capernaum, they realized that there were so many people listening to Jesus that it was overcrowded and they couldn’t get in (Mark 2:2). Finding that their way to Jesus was blocked by the crowds did not deter the four. They took an alternate approach. They were so determined to get the man to Jesus that they carried him to the roof over which Jesus taught.
In those days, a small home usually had outside steps leading to a flat roof. Builders constructed roofs from mud interlaced with branches for support. These tops over the homes provided a place to dry grain, to store water and other large pots, and a place to move a little higher where the breezes could provide cooling.
The four brought the paralyzed man up the steps, dug through the clay-and-branch roof, and lowered him down to Jesus. Can you picture the crowd inside the home listening to Jesus and then, all of a sudden, having to dodge dust, dirt, and falling pieces of clay as the four men dug through the roof?
I want to be the kind of person on whom the Lord can depend to bring others to him. When we get to Heaven, the best thing will be being with God and family members who knew Christ. The second best thing may be when a person approaches and says something like, “You helped bring me to Jesus.” Keep on keeping on for Jesus. When others go astray, when culture turns away from Christ, still you can be faithful to carry your corner of the mat to Jesus. Others who cannot get there on their own depend on you and me.
Who brought you to the Lord? parents? a caring aunt or uncle? Did a friend take you to church where you learned about Christ? Did some classmates help you learn about Jesus? Like the paralytic, you and I were also helpless—in our sins, apart from God, and apart from eternal life. But someone helped us get to him.
A group of men at the church I attended as a child hosted a revival. They invited me. Outside the church that night I heard the men talking about how much Jesus meant to them. One man said he “couldn’t live a single day without the help of the Lord Jesus.” I believed in God because my parents did. However, I realized I didn’t have what those men had—a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. That night I chose to follow Christ! I am a Christian because some men shared testimonies which brought me to Christ, just as the four men literally brought the paralyzed man to Jesus. Let us each ask: “Who can I help bring to Jesus?”
Scriptures say when Jesus saw “their faith,” that is, the faith of the four, he said, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Usually Jesus required faith on the part of the one who would be healed. In this case he relied on the faith of the four. Perhaps the man had his useless limbs so long that he had given up all hope. However, the faith of the four proved sufficient for his healing.
Jesus never complained that the roof now had a large hole in it. He never complained about the destruction of physical property in order to accomplish spiritual and physical good. To him, people take priority over possessions and hearts take priority over houses.
He began by telling the man that his sins were forgiven (v. 5). Later Jesus healed the man and told him to pick up his mat and go home. The man did (vv. 11, 12).
Wouldn’t you have loved to have seen this miracle take place? In my mind’s eye I can see the man’s feet and ankles beginning to strengthen. His atrophied legs grew muscle. More than one miracle took place because he could instantly walk without relearning how. Can you envision him taking a few unbalanced steps and then walking as well as anyone else?
Jesus’ miracle had a distinct purpose—to help people, yes, but also to show that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. Only God could forgive sins or bring instantaneous healing.
The scribes thought poorly of Jesus. Their laws bound them so tightly that they couldn’t rejoice in the miracle that happened before their very eyes. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” they thought. They believed Jesus blasphemed (vv. 6, 7).
Jesus answered by asking, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’” He then healed the man’s physical afflictions to show “that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10). They saw the man receive immediate healing. Yet it didn’t satisfy those naysayers. They remained the “cold water committee,” ready to douse any hope or help. “We have never done it that way” may be the seven last words of a dying faith. A living faith has room for God to act. Often spontaneous, that which is of the Spirit of God is fresh, at times innovative, and healing.
Hearers constituted the last group present that day. They had heard Jesus teach the good news. They had seen the hole dug in the ceiling and the paralyzed man lowered down. They had viewed the man as Jesus forgave his sins and then as Jesus healed him. They had seen him walk out of the home whole and healthy.
What they saw amazed them. “We have never seen anything like this!” (v. 12). They praised God. Did they praise God for the miracles they saw? Yes. Did they praise him for restoring a man’s physical health? Yes. Did they praise him for forgiving the man’s sins? Yes. Did they praise him in the hope that their own sins would be forgiven? Yes. Did they praise God for sending the Messiah in their presence? Yes. “We have never seen anything like this!”
Bring to mind the last time you saw God do something truly spectacular. Thank him for it. Faithfully doing our duty in the little things day by day allows God to break through in the occasional big moments of life. Cultivate daily faithfulness and God will shine brightly through you in the big events—events like an extraordinary healing that points people to Jesus.
Dr. Bill Patterson is a minister and freelance writer in Henderson, Kentucky.
Here are seven lessons we can learn from Jesus’ miracle of healing a paralyzed man:
1. God can heal.
2. God can forgive sin.
3. God can use people like us to bring others to Jesus.
4. Our faith can help those who have little faith.
5. God blesses the faithfulness of his people by occasionally doing extraordinary things.
6. Jesus was (and is) the Messiah.
7. Reflecting on God’s wonderful acts fills us with amazement.