On the Gospel of Mark 2:1-12
7th Sunday of the Year
I love this Gospel story of healing for several reasons. It shows the true extent of friendship and faith, and it is such a dramatic event! I can always picture the scene clearly when I read this passage. I imagine the effort it must have taken the four men to carry their friend to see Jesus, to hoist him up onto the roof, make a hole in it and then carefully lower him down to Jesus. What love they showed for their friend and what faith they placed in Jesus’ ability to heal him, a faith that was richly rewarded. The passage clearly states that the forgiveness of the man’s sins was as a result of the faith of his friends.
Jesus performs two healings for the man on the stretcher. While his physical disability was what was most evidently in need of healing, Jesus first looked into the soul of the man and forgave him his sins before he healed his body. Jesus knew, and showed through this miracle, that sin is the greatest disability that we are burdened with and it is this that Jesus came to save us from. Physical disabilities do not have the power to separate us from God but sin does. Sin is what truly paralyses us. The man’s physical healing was a manifestation of God’s love for him but his spiritual healing was a manifestation of God’s infinite mercy. The physical healing was an outward sign of the interior liberation brought about by the forgiveness of his sins.
With this healing we witness a greater manifestation of Jesus’s divinity. Not only did he cure the man but he openly stated that he also forgave his sins. It was clearly understood by all present, but particularly by the scribes, that only God could forgive sins. Here Jesus was openly showing his divine nature and proving his power to forgive sins by healing the paralysed man.
Jesus knew that this action of love and mercy, and others like it, would involve him having to pay a great price. This incident is the first in a series of five conflict stories in which Jesus faces increasing resistance from the Jewish authorities and which will culminate in a plot to kill him. But Jesus is undeterred. His love and mercy for his children impels him to act and these acts of love ultimately lead to his greatest act of love for us on the cross where his identity as the Son of God will be fully revealed. Jesus came to reunite us with God by becoming the sacrifice to take away our sins.
Just like the paralysed man in the story, none of us can approach God on our own strength alone. We have all been incapacitated in one way or another by sin and we need the faith of others – family, friends, or even strangers – to ‘carry’ us to Jesus. Christians are often called to bring to Jesus those who cannot come themselves. We do this through our intercessory prayer, by sharing our faith and by allowing others to see Christ in us through our acts of love and mercy.
Lord, as we reflect on this wonderful Gospel story, may we become more conscious of those who need our help and our prayers to be able to come to you. Increase our love so that we may be able to ‘carry’ many of your lost and suffering children to you, regardless of the cost to us, so that you can pour your grace into their souls and heal them in mind, body and soul.
And when Jesus returned to Caper’na-um after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But 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, rise, take up your pallet and go home. And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
– Mark 2:1-12