When heaven touched down on earth: Jesus heals a paralytic

I want you to imagine with me two different scenarios from two different perspectives.  

The first scenario is that a good friend of yours is having a huge party at his house and you are one of the fortunate one’s to actually get an invitation.  This party is where anyone who is anyone will be there.  In fact a very well know person within the local community will be there.  You are pumped to meet this person as you have followed their career for years.  The night of the party you arrive to the house and you can hardly get in, but you cram into the house and you begin to mingle with the host, and you finally get to meet this well known celebrity.  As you begin to talk with him, you hear a noise coming from the root, and you look up and get dust in your eyes.  All of the sudden the roof falls in and you look up and there are 4 guys lowering a mat down onto the floor.  The guy on the mat gets up and steps in front of you and begins to talk with the local celebrity.  What do you feel?  What emotions are going through you right now?  You are aghast that someone would destroy your friend’s roof just to get to see a local celebrity.  Who is going to fix your friend’s roof?  How much is it going to cost?  What is your friend thinking?  You can’t believe that you were about to have a one on one conversation with this local celebrity and this guy butts in the way and gets to have the conversation that you were going to have.  You walk away wondering what just happened.  

The second scenario is that a good friend of yours has been a huge huge fan of a local celebrity.  They have followed their career for years and have never gotten the chance to meet them.  This friend is also in the last stages of battle cancer, a battle that will end up in the death of your friend.  They are so weak that they can’t even get out of bed.  One of the final requests that this friend has is a chance to meet this person face to face.  You get word that they will be in the area at a party which is happening just around the blockYou know that it is invitation only but you are hoping to sneak in and carry your friend to meet this local celebrity.  When you get there, the house is packed and you can’t get in…but you do hear over the noise the familiar voice of the celebrity.  What do you do.  Your friend is dying and they want to meet this person before they die.  You spot a staircase to the roof, so you and your friends climb to the roof carrying your sick friend.  You get onto the roof and you begin to dig into the foot in order to create a hole so that your friend can fulfill their last dying wish.  You break through the roof, and as you look down you stare into the face of this local celebrity.  You carefully lower your friend to the floor and they begin to share their story with their hero.  What are you feeling as you see this celebrity engaging with your friend?  What is your friend feeling now that they have finally fulfilled this wish?  And you also realize that in the mission to get your friend to fulfill his dying wish you also destroyed someone’s property.  You wonder what will happen next.  

It might sound pretty far fetched but in the story that we will look at today in our second week of our series When heaven touched down on earth, this is almost exactly the scenario that unfolds when Jesus comes back to his home community.  

Let’s turn to Mark 2:1-12 and see what it might say to us, what we might learn from it, and what it looks like when heaven touched down on earth.  

Mark 2:1-12 says, “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.  They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  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. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves,  “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

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? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man,  “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 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 the first thing that we see is that word got out that Jesus had returned to Capernaum.  Right before this in chapter 1 of Mark we see Jesus driving out impure spirits, healing many, and right before chapter 2 healing a leper.  And in the last verse of chapter 1 we read,  “As a result, (of the Leper’s testimony and sharing his story) Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”  And when he returns to Capernaum it’s like a local celebrity or returning war hero has returned.  

And so what happens when a local celebrity comes home or a returning war hero comes back from war?  There is a crowd that gathers.  And that is exactly what happened when Jesus came back “home”.  We see that so many people gathered in the house that there was no room left, not even outside the door. The question then comes to mind, “Whose house is Jesus in at the time?”  Whatever we come up with is pure speculation but NT Wright actually says that it might actually be Jesus’ own house.  And that it he was the unlikely householder who had his roof ruined that day.  And that Jesus words of forgiveness to the paralytic has multiple meanings, including the destruction of the roof of his own house.  Makes me wonder what you and I are willing to let go of so that others can find healing and hope in Jesus.  Can we let go of the personal preferences that we have when it comes to church?  Can we let go of our own personal rights?  Can we let go of the way we think things should be?  What sins do we need to let go of?  Can we let go of these things so that others can find healing in Jesus?  Or can we let go of things so we can find healing ourselves in Jesus?  Jesus (or the actual homeowner) let go of the damage to the roof on the house so that this paralyzed man could find physical and ultimate healing at the hand of Jesus.  

Whatever the case may be, Jesus returned to his new hometown and so many people crammed in the house that there was no room for anyone else.  Especially a group of four men carrying their paralyzed friend on a mat.  This group of four men carrying their friend had hoped to get to meet Jesus so that he could heal their friend.  So that he could walk.  They get to the house and there is no way to get their friend to Jesus because of the crowd.  Now that could have been the end of the story.  They could have said, “Hey look we tried to get you to Jesus so that he could heal you.  But there is no way we can get you near him because of the crowds.”  But that isn’t what happened.  They cared so much for their friend and his condition that they came up with another way to get their friend to Jesus.  

In verse 4 we read of how they came up with a solution to get their friend to Jesus in spite of the obstacles of the crowd.  Verse 4 says, “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.”  Now we all too often envision houses here in America with slanted roofs and we say how in the world is that possible.  But homes in Israel in the 1st century were 1 story homes with flat roofs.  The roofs were used for work and for sleep and were accessed by means of an external stairway.  The roof was usually made of thatch, dirt or tile laid over beams.  It could be taken apart as the friends of the paralyzed man did in order to lower their friend to Jesus.  Those guys definitely had some guts.  To rip up someone else’s roof so that your friend could be healed.  Makes me wonder what I am willing to do in order for my friends to get the healing and hope that can only come from Jesus.  What roof do I need to dig through so that others can find, see and encounter Jesus?  What sins do I need to dig out of my life so that others can see and encounter Jesus?  

So they dig through the roof and let their friend carefully down on the mat at the feet of Jesus.  When the mat lands at the feet of Jesus, he looks at the man laying on the mat and then looks up to the 4 men on the roof.  And then he says these words, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”  There is a few interesting things about this.  First, right before he says this it says that Jesus saw their faith, meaning the 4 men who brought the paralyzed man to Jesus.  He says this because it obvious that these men had faith, because you could see it.  See it in action when they carried their friend to the house, up the stairs, dug through the roof and finally lowered the mat to the floor in front of Jesus.  But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the paralytic man didn’t have faith, but he needed his 4 friends to make this encounter happen.  They needed to have faith that Jesus could heal their friend.  

Secondly, I wonder what the men thought when they heard Jesus say that their friends sin was forgiven.  They didn’t want their friends sins to be forgiven, they wanted him to be healed and delivered from his paralysis.  But Jesus knew what the man really needed was not just physical healing but spiritually healing.  When it came to Jesus healing the paralytic he offered him shalom (wholeness).  Not only was Jesus restoring his physical health but also giving him renewed membership in the people of God.  

Right after saying that his sins have been forgiven, the religious leaders of Jesus day, the teachers of the law, think to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  And you know what.  They are exactly right.  Only God can truly forgive sins.  They just refused to see God in the flesh, standing before them, who had absolute authority to forgive sins.  They refused to see that God had broken into humanity in the form of his son Jesus.  

Knowing their thoughts (this doesn’t mean that he read their minds…more like he understood how the religious leaders thought) he puts them on the spot by saying, “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’?”  For men, both real forgiveness and the power to heal are impossible but for God they are not only possible, they are a reality.  In a way it was “harder” to heal the man then to forgive his sins.  No one could verify in that moment that the man was forgiven by God.  yet it could be instantly verified whether or not the man could walk.  Jesus was willing to put himself to the test.  

After asking the religious leaders which is harder to say your sins are forgiven or take up you mat and walk Jesus says,“But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” And then turning to the paralyzed man laying at his feet he says  “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

Jesus refers to himself as the Son of Man which is a messianic title free from political and nationalistic sentiment.  If he would have said King or Christ it would come off sounding like “the one who will defeat the Romans” But instead he uses the term Son of Man which is his favorite self reference, and uses it over 80 times.  He drew this from Daniel 7:13-14 which says, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man,[ coming( with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom(F) is one that will never be destroyed.”  The son of man/Jesus according to Daniel and according to this story has authority not only to heal physically but also spiritually.  And that is what he does with the paralyzed man.  The logical statement here is if Jesus has the power to heal the man and make him walk, then he also has authority to forgive his sins.   

Jesus when he heals the man does it on so many levels.  In so many of the healings that we will be looking at in our When heaven touched down on earth series, he not only heals the people physically, but also spiritually, but also very importantly he restores them into relationship with others.  He also restores their dignity.  This man no doubt didn’t work so the only means of income would be to be a beggar.  Now that he was restored physically, he could provide for his family.  Jesus heals holistically.  He healed the man holistically.  And he can heal us holistically.  

And so the man gets up, took his mat and went home.  Can you imagine the party that broke out?  Can you imagine the high fives that the 4 friends started throwing around?  Can you imagine what happened when the man saw the men who carried him to the house, up the stairs, ripped out the roof, and dropped him to the floor in front of Jesus?  The celebration.  The dancing.  The restoration of this man to shalom.  

Before we get into our discussion time I want to make some quick observations and applications.  

  1. We get to participate and partner with God in shalom-making in the world.  We get to partner with God in the healing of people.  This healing could be physical (through prayers or through medical advancements or simply going to another country and providing medical treatment that they don’t normally have access to.).  This healing can be spiritual.  We can take people to the feet of Jesus through praying for them, through sharing the love of Jesus with them verbally, and through living like Jesus in front of them.  These 4 guys had front rows seats to their friend being healed physically, relationally, and spiritually and that no doubt changed their lives as well.  We can have those front row seats when we participate and partner with God in Shalom making in the world.  

  2.    Jesus is all about shalom.  He wants us to be healed             physically, emotionally,        relationally, and spiritually.  He         wants us to be whole.  He wants to forgive us and set us         right with him, with each other, and with the creation itself.   

So let’s unpack more of this story together.  Let’s talk about the questions, insights, applications that you see in the text.  Who might God be calling you to partner with him in his shalom-making (physical healing, relationally healing, spiritually healing, etc..)?  And what is God saying to you and to us and what will you and us do about it?