Summary: While Jesus healed the bodies of many afflicted with demons and disease, he came into the world to heal a deeper sickness than any of these: the guilt and stain of sin. In healing the paralytic, Jesus healed the sinner’s soul, and then his body.
Healing the Body and the Soul
Chuck Swindoll in his book "The Grace Awakening" had some interesting things to say about our needs and what God might have provided to meet them. Expanding on Swindoll’s suggestive words, I would render his thoughts like this:
If our greatest need had been lack of information, God would have sent us an educator. If our greatest need had been our lack of technology, God would have sent us a scientist. If our greatest need had been poverty, God would have sent us a philanthropist. If our greatest need had been our boredom, God would have sent us an entertainer. But our greatest need was forgiveness, So God sent us a Savior!
What we find in today’s gospel lesson would surely be summed up in words similar to what Swindoll has offered us. We might add to his list the one more thing: if our greatest need had been our illnesses or our infirmities, God would have sent us a healer.
There is a tension that runs through the opening scenes of Mark’s gospel, a tension between what Jesus had in mind for his mission, and what the people who heard him felt was their greatest need. As we have seen over the past couple of weeks, Jesus’ early ministry in Capernaum was routinely overwhelmed by the sick and the demon possessed who found in Jesus one who could relieve them of their suffering.
At one point, he departs Capernaum for surrounding cities, so that he can preach. But, the crowds following him out into the wilderness. Last week, you will recall, Jesus tried to get turn a compassionate miracle of healing into a witness concerning Himself – not as a miracle worker, but as the promised Messiah. He tried to do this by healing a leper, warning him to tell no one what had happened, but to go instead to the priests of Israel and to offer the sacrifices which the Law of Moses prescribed when a leper was cleansed. But, that too failed, for the man noised it about and Jesus couldn’t even get into town.
In today’s gospel lesson, we find that the furor seems to have quieted down a bit, for Jesus is now back in Capernaum. The text we heard read says “he was in the house,” and most commentators note that this is an idiom for “he was at home.” I don’t know that what Mark describes here could have taken place in an ordinary home – certainly not in one that would have been the size the widow Mary could have afforded. And, so many think the scene is not Jesus’ home, but rather the local synagogue. That would explain, also, the presence of the Scribes when Jesus is teaching them. Luke notes that those present include Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem.
At any rate, Jesus is doing what he had been wanting to do all along – to teach the people. And there were people aplenty! So many that the door was packed. If there were windows, I imagine they were filled with onlookers as well. For once, Jesus had their attention and he wasted no time preaching the Word to them.
But, on the fringes of the crowd, here come five men – one of them a paralytic. How paralyzed he is, we do not know. Certainly he could not walk. And the fact that he was carried on a kind of cot or sling by four other men suggests that he may have been what we call a quadriplegic – someone paralyzed from the neck down. There was no way they were going to get to Jesus through that crowd. But, they figure out another way – they go up to the roof, which was evidently thatched, and they dug through it, until they had a hole big enough to lower the man down through.
It must have made an interesting scene inside the synagogue or inside the dwelling – whichever it was. I’m sure some would have wanted to go outside and make a stop to it, but they had the same problem – the crowds were surrounding the building. Those on the far outside could not get in, and those on the inside could not get out. So there was nothing for it – Jesus and everyone else just had to wait until the chunks of roof had stopped falling, a gap had opened up, and a paralytic was lowered on mat into the midst of the room.
You know, in view of what Mark has already shown us about Jesus’ ministry up to this point – I don’t know that I would have expected what Mark tells us next. I would have expected Mark to tell us that Jesus saw yet another case where his mission was being derailed, that his preaching grinding to a stop, because a pitiful wreck of a man was appealing for his mercy. But, instead, Mark tells us that Jesus saw their faith.