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The Miracles of Jesus Part 9: The Forgiveness and Healing of a Paralytic Lowered Through a Roof
Matthew 9:1-8, Mark 2:1-2, Luke 5:17-26 - Jesus demonstrates His ultimate authority to forgive sins and to heal infirmities
“Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” And some of the scribes said to themselves, “This fellow blasphemes.” And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, “Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your bed and go home.” And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.”
Matthew 9:1-8 NASB1995
“When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 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. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “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.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.””
Mark 2:1-12 NASB1995
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“One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up 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, and pick up your stretcher and go home.” Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.””
Luke 5:17-26 NASB1995
The aerial photo above was found on Unsplash and shows the remains of the town of Capernaum in Israel, by the Sea of Galilee. The octagonal building is a Catholic church built over the ruins of what is thought to be the house of Peter (we visited this area in August, 2018). You can just imagine the scene in this town 2,000 years ago - the humble dwellings of the people that live there likely have roofs of mortar, tile and straw and are accessible by outside or inside ladders or staircases so that you can sit on the roof in the evening to escape the heat. I found an artist’s conception from Archaeology Illustrated (on Pinterest) of what these houses probably looked like:
Doing the research for these devotionals in-depth sends me on so many interesting journeys into history and archaeology and Biblical connections (of course). Notice in this drawing that fish are drying on the roof tops and the buildings have small, open windows to allow breezes to go through and many of the buildings are connected to each other or face each other in small courtyards. Many of the houses appear to have more than one floor. It’s a short walk to the docks and the boats from these houses.
This miracle is described in Matthew, Mark and Luke; the stories in Mark and Luke are fairly similar and include the disruption of the roof removal and lowering of the paralytic man by his friends. Jesus is teaching in the house, finding the streets to be difficult because so many want come up to Him to be healed. Some Pharisees and scribes are there from all over the region, likely waiting to pounce on the first blasphemous thing that happens or is said (though to their credit, they are there listening this time). We don’t know what Jesus was teaching, but can you imagine the reaction of the crowd and Peter (it was his house) when they hear the noises on the roof and see roofing material being taken away? Dirt and straw are falling on heads and suddenly the sun is coming in through the roof. Then a man is lowered to the floor in front of Jesus. The teaching is interrupted, but not for long.
The vicarious faith of the four men who carried their paralyzed friend to Jesus and found a way to get that man in front of the Lord is truly profound. [Vicarious: Something done for another - the friends had the faith, not necessarily the paralyzed man]. They are not stymied by the inability to get in the door or a lower-level window, but find a solution. They are committed to this act and are certain of the outcome - that their friend would stand and walk out (it would be very difficult to pull him back up through the roof). The four men are indeed more compassionate for that time period, caring about a paralytic; I speculate that they were all childhood friends and the paralytic man had an accident or suffered dreadful disease like polio. Disabled people were mostly invisible or shunned (or worse) in those days and had to beg for money and plead for help from others to move anywhere.
So what does Jesus say when He sees this man placed in front of Him? He says “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark version). This stuns the crowd! The scowling Pharisees and scribes latch onto this and are muttering to themselves that this is blasphemy, that only God can forgive sins. Jesus can read their thoughts and He asks them why they are reasoning these things in their hearts. He asks them if it is easier to forgive sins or to heal the man. To show that He has authority in both things, He then tells the man to get up, pick up his stretcher and go home, which he promptly does, praising God. Forgiveness of sins is the top priority. Steven Cole on Bible.org (through Precept Austin) has a great sermon on this passage in Luke and its significance:
Here is this poor man lying helplessly in front of Jesus. In that day, they didn’t have wheelchairs, ramps, or handicap parking places. He could not earn a living, except to beg. He was dependent on his friends to carry him anywhere he needed to go. He couldn’t dress himself or take care of his bodily functions. It would seem that his main need was for physical healing. But first Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” To heal the man’s body would have made his life more comfortable. But without healing his soul, he would have died and faced God’s righteous judgment. His main need was forgiveness of sins, not physical healing.
Some may look at this poor man and say, “His main need is for emotional healing. Imagine what he must feel like, being totally dependent on others for everything he does. Imagine what it must feel like to lie in the streets and beg every day. We need to help him see that he is a worthwhile human being, created in the image of God.” But Jesus did not say, “Friend, I want you to feel good about yourself.” He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Others may have said, “What this man needs is economic and educational help. Let’s give him food stamps, government health care benefits and some job training.” But Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
Forgiveness of sins is not just a little option, thrown in with the total benefit package of the abundant life. If the Bible’s message about death and eternal judgment is correct, then forgiveness is the main need of every person! People don’t primarily need their marriages fixed. They don’t primarily need their emotional problems resolved. They don’t primarily need economic help. People need to know with assurance from God that their sins are forgiven. All other needs are secondary. As Jesus taught on another occasion, “What profit is it to gain the whole world and lose your soul?” (Matt. 16:25). There’s something much more important than having a healthy body and plenty of money: Having God forgive your sins.
The urgency of the four friends to get this man in front of Jesus is how we should approach the urgency of getting OUR friends and others to Jesus. Paraphrasing from more of that same Steven Cole sermon, they showed these qualities:
Creativity - The door was closed to them, so they looked up and found their path going up to the roof. We should look up to Him for how creative we can be in harvesting souls.
Urgency - Why was the problem so urgent? The group could have waited until the crowd dispersed (good luck with that) or tried again on another day. But they persisted. We should also feel that “today is the day of salvation”. Tomorrow may be too late.
Sacrifice - Reaching Jesus and getting people to Him may take some work and sacrifice, like damaging the materials in a roof or requiring you to leave the comfort of your home or using your home to be a missionary base.
Persistence - We keep chipping away at the closed doors and the “no’s”. If we try once and are rebuffed, do we shrug and walk away, or do we try another tactic?
Team work - Four men were required to bring the paralytic to Jesus. Bringing souls to salvation is usually a team effort.
Jesus actually performed three miracles that day - Forgiveness of sins, sensing the thoughts of the Pharisees and Scribes, and healing the physical ailment. Did this event impress the Pharisees and Scribes? They were astonished, of course, but they had no sense of their own spiritual needs, they were skeptical critics from the start, and they walked away probably filled with the smug, self-righteous belief that they had witnessed blasphemy (never mind seeing the healing - that didn’t count and they didn’t care). A few of them might be thinking this over, but most of them have closed their hearts to Him already. The crowd, on the other hand, is full of awe and praise.
So how can this miracle be summarized?
Healing of the Paralytic passed through the roof: Jesus demonstrates His ultimate authority as the Son of God to forgive sins and to heal a condition that seems irreversible. He can sense and read the hearts and thoughts of others. He turns a major disruption into a lesson on forgiveness. The friends of the paralytic show tremendous faith in how they solve this problem.
My next devotional examines the healing of a man’s withered hand on the Sabbath, found in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - Thank you, thank you, thank you for the forgiveness of my sins! May my faith be as persistent and urgent as those friends who wanted their paralyzed friend to be healed. May my thoughts be on you at all times, banishing skepticism and self-righteousness. Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org
Sermons by Steven Cole on Bible.org are copyright 1998, all rights reserved.
The Miracle List:
Water to wine: Jesus can overcome time, He creates beauty and abundance, and He shares in our joy.
Healing of the official’s son: Jesus can overcome space (distance), He does not need to see the person He heals, He has infinite power, but He also wants us to believe without signs and wonders.
Casting out of the evil spirit in the synagogue: The authority of Jesus is recognized by the demons and He triumphs over evil and silences it.
Healing of Peter’s Mother-in-Law: Jesus does not need crowds to demonstrate His power and He has compassion about the needs of one person, even if those needs seem smaller and only worthy of a couple of verses of scripture.
Healing and casting out demons of many in Capernaum (at Peter’s house): Jesus has compassion on all who come to Him and has no conditions that He places on giving them His mercy. He can heal instantly with a light touch and again demonstrates authority over demons and silences them.
Miraculous catch of fish on the Sea of Galilee: Jesus demonstrates His powers over His creation, He once again brings abundance, and He teaches humble fishermen that their task of bringing souls to Him is the most important thing they can do. They must follow Him.
Cleansing of the Leper: Jesus is willing to heal us, is compassionate towards those who suffer and can instantly cure a dreadful and feared disease. We must have faith when circumstances seem hopeless.
Healing of the Centurion’s Servant: Jesus came so that anyone who believes on His name is saved, Jew or Gentile. One of the most humble and devout persons that He encounters during His ministry is a Roman Centurion who cares and loves a servant who is sick or paralyzed. Jesus has instant authority over this illness, again eliminating space (distance) as a barrier to healing; He also marvels at this man’s faith.
Healing of the paralytic passed through the roof: Jesus demonstrates His ultimate authority as the Son of God to forgive sins and to heal a condition that seems irreversible. He can sense and read the hearts and thoughts of others. He turns a major disruption into a lesson on forgiveness. The friends of the paralytic show tremendous faith in how they solve this problem.
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