21 February 2013

Mark 2:1-12

"When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'" (v. 5)


Jesus made the small lakeside town of Capernaum his base for a while, hence the reference to him being at home (verse 1). In an area, where medical resources were minimal, the presence of a healer would be important news. Also there'd be excitement that an extra-ordinary character was in town, whom some were calling a prophet and others were even naming as the promised Messiah. No wonder it was difficult to get near.

House roofs in the area were generally flat and could be reached by outside steps. They served as outdoor rooms, where people could eat, sit chatting or even sleep on hot nights. Such roofs would be constructed with a parapet to stop people falling off (Deuteronomy 22:8). These roofs were made of brushwood and reeds covered by a thick layer of clay, so breaking open the roof would not be too difficult.

Even the best-educated had little understanding of human physiology or the nature of disease. Illness was often seen as a punishment for sin (cf the disciples asking Jesus, "Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" (John 9:2)). By declaring the man forgiven, Jesus was removing the cause of the paralysis. Jesus spoke as if the actual healing was a demonstration that forgiveness was in place. In Judaism, only one person had the authority to forgive sins - God himself. So Jesus was claiming to wield the power of God in respect of sins. This messianic claim caused consternation and talk of blasphemy among the scribes (verses 6-7).

There is a marked contrast between the faith of the paralytic and his friends and the legalistic thinking of the scribes. On the one hand we have those prepared to breach convention and incur personal cost - the owner will want the roof repaired - in order to bring their friend into contact with the power of God that they recognise in Jesus. On the other side we have those who can't see past their obsession with rules, rituals and right beliefs and so miss the significance of what is happening right in front of their eyes.

To Ponder

  • How far are you prepared to go beyond convention and tradition to bring people into contact with the power of God in Jesus?
  • Have there been occasions when you have felt that over-concern with rules and tradition was blocking the work of God? What did you do about it?
  • What is the cost of faith for you?

Bible notes author

Philip Sudworth

Philip has retired from a career in the education service. He is now kept busy by voluntary work with local children's charities.