Paralyzed by Sin

Mark 2:1-12

When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.

Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat 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, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

One way of looking at this gospel passage is to see the paralyzed man as a sinner.  Sometimes, we, like him, are paralyzed by sin. Sin weighs us down. We don’t know how to overcome it. That is when we, like the paralyzed man, need others to help us face our sins and be relieved of what prevents us from getting up and moving forward.

Another way is to look at the story focusing on those who were questioning Jesus’ words. They could not understand what Jesus was doing. They didn’t believe that he could dispense mercy. In their minds, only God could forgive sins, and Jesus clearly was not God, as far as they could tell. We, however, have the benefit of knowing more of the story. We now know about his passion, death and resurrection. So, we are not as amazed as those who had seen the paralytic man healed. Yet, we too, should look at the blessings we have seen and be amazed and glorify God.

Jesus, on the other hand, knows something else, as well. He knows that whether seeking healing or forgiveness, it is mercy that changes everything. For Jesus, “Your sins are forgiven” and “Stand up and take your mat and walk” are the same thing. They are both acts of mercy. They both have the same effect. One’s life is changed forever.

The paralyzed man in this gospel story neither asks for forgiveness nor for healing. Jesus, however, bestows both gifts upon him. Jesus sees him and responds with love and compassion. He offers him both forgiveness and healing. The man’s faith never comes up in the conversation. The faith of his friends and the doubts of some of those in the crowd are mentioned, but the salvation received by the paralyzed man does not depend on how much faith he demonstrated. It depends only on how much love Jesus demonstrates for him.

We are sometimes tempted to believe that we must do something to earn salvation. We have a hard time believing that God could forgive or heal us. We believe that we are not worthy of such grace. Yet God’s grace is freely bestowed on us, as well. When we recognize the great love of God for us, we too can get up and move forward in our relationship to God and to those around us. We, too, can then stand in awe and say “We have never seen anything like this!”

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