“…Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.” (Mark 1:45b)
Thus the closing statement of Mark 1 reveals that great crowds were coming from all over the region to see Jesus. And why were they coming to Him? It would seem that a great majority were coming in order to be healed of some affliction or disease. It was the testimony of the cleansed leper (Mark 1:45a) which made it nearly impossible for the Lord to travel anywhere without being mobbed on all sides. Yet the real purpose of Jesus’ ministry was not to heal the sick or cast out demons; for what do we find Him doing when He does finally come back after several days into Capernaum?
“And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.” (Mark 2:2, emphasis added)
Though we seldom read of the Lord going anywhere that He did not heal the sick and cast out evil spirits, His focus was ultimately on preaching the Word of God and proclaiming the Gospel. The mission of Jesus Christ was to declare the Good News of Salvation, the reconciliation of man to the Lord through the death and resurrection of the Son, and to bear the penalty for the sins which separate the sinner from a holy God. He was not simply a thaumaturge alleviating the temporal ailments of the poor and downtrodden for the entertainment and curiosity of the masses. Back in Chapter 1 of Mark, we read that Jesus “…came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, the time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (v. 15)
However, an interruption occurs as our Lord is sharing the Word with the crowd inside the house. Suddenly, there is a noise on the roof of the home as four men begin to tear the thatching apart. Unable to get their friend into Jesus’ presence by any other means, the desperate men can see no other way than to rip the top of the building off and lower their companion directly before Him.
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5)
It seems that many of the Bible commentaries on this incident put a lot of focus on the details of what these four men actually did in order to remove the roof and bring their friend into the Lord’s presence. Descriptions are given concerning how the roofs of the homes in that place and time were fashioned to be easily opened for various purposes and that peeling them back would not have been seen as a destructive or bold action. Be that as it may, it sure seems that their decision to do so got the Lord’s attention as well as that of every other person present. Jesus commended their faith for intrepidly doing whatever was necessary to get their sick companion to the Great Physician.
Obviously, it was ultimately not the faith of the four men holding the stretcher which saved the man, but his own. Faith in Jesus Christ can never bring Salvation to someone else by proxy. But then again, it certainly can contribute to someone else’s Salvation, can it not? What would the fate of that paralyzed man have been if his friends did not believe strongly enough that the Lord could heal him? What if they had not believed that it was worth the risk of embarrassment and rebuke and they had decided to just go on back home. There was no room through the doorway, there was no entry through a window, only by dismantling the roof could the men bring their friend into Jesus’ presence.
What can we say about the faith of others and what their contributions have brought to our own Salvation? The mother who diligently prays for her wayward son, the neighbor who cares enough to drive the lonely widow to church each week. There are those who risk much and sacrifice greatly for the benefit of another; they are willing to do whatever it takes just to get that person into the presence of Jesus Christ. Though they encounter difficulties, blocked doors and barred windows, they persevere both through prayer and through action, and they stop at nothing in order to bring the one paralyzed by sin to the only One Who can say, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet 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, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” (Mark 2:7-11)
There are those who assert that Jesus Himself never claimed Divinity and some who suggest that only the Apostle John recorded Him declaring that He is God incarnate. But those who do so fail to grasp the significance of His words in passages such as the one before us. For the scribes were absolutely correct in their second premise: who can forgive sins but God alone? But they were in error concerning their first: He is blaspheming. Only God can forgive sins and yet Jesus forgave sins. The only conclusion we are left with is that either Jesus mistakingly believed that He was God or else He truly is God. But to deny that He ever claimed to be God is completely fallacious.
The scribes were left with one or the other of these conclusions (as, indeed, are each of us). By accusing Jesus of blasphemy, they were implying that He was incorrectly asserting His own Deity. Thus the Lord lays out for them a dilemma. Which is easier to do, to say that this man’s sins are forgiven and assert His Deity, or to say to the man to rise up and walk? The first, of course, would be easier apart from any verification. Any madman can claim to be God. But what if He proves it by doing that which no other man can do? Who else but God could make the paralyzed rise to their feet in an instant?
It is no wonder that all who were present (except, I would imagine, the scribes themselves) glorified God and declared, “We have never seen anything like this” (Mark 2:12). Again, we should understand from the Lord’s own words that it was His identity as God incarnate, His position as the Son of God sent to take away the sins of the world, that was of supremacy in His ministry. It was not the miracles and healing and wonders that should be at center stage. These were done out of compassion by the Lord Jesus for His people and to authenticate His message. Part of Jesus’ “credentials” were His miracles and it was His wonders and signs which proved that He was and is exactly Who He claimed to be.
To God goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published Mar. 12, 2015]
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]