Mark 2:1-5 (The Message)
After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.”
This encounter with Jesus gives new meaning to the word “breakthrough.” When this man’s friends arrive where Jesus is, they find that the crowds are so large that they can’t get anywhere near him. There was probably a moment of frustration — after all, they had carried him a long way to reach this now-famous healer, and they couldn’t get close enough to him.
But these are very persistent, creative friends. They don’t give up! They climb on top of the house, and begin tearing apart the roof, breaking through the structure, making a hole large enough to lower the man carefully through, down to the floor below.
Can you imagine being in the room that day? Listening to Jesus speak, watching his power displayed as he healed the sick. And then noticing something fall to the ground near you. Was that roofing material? Glancing up as sunlight suddenly came through a gap in the ceiling, and then as the light was blotted out by a body descending into the room. What a sight that must have been! And Jesus, impressed by their boldness and their love for their friend, declares, “Son, I forgive your sins.”
I have to wonder if the man’s friends — and the people packed tightly into that house — wondered about Jesus’ words. “I forgive your sins.” If I had been there that day, I admit I would have thought that there were more pressing needs than that. Looking down at the man, lying helpless on the floor, unable to move on his own, I would have expected to Jesus to heal him physically.
But God sees beyond what you and I can see. Jesus looked at this man and knew that he had a much deeper, more pressing need: for restoration in his spirit. And so he addressed that need immediately: “Son, I forgive your sins.”
Some scholars of the Jewish Law were in the room that day, and they were not at all happy with Jesus’ declaration that this sick man’s sins were forgiven: “He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins” (2:7). How does Jesus respond to this accusation of blasphemy?
“Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, ‘Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . .’ (he looked now at the paraplegic), ‘Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.’ And the man did it — got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous — and then praised God, saying, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this!'”
When has God surprised you with an unexpected blessing of forgiveness?
Click here to watch a video of a sermon I preached back in 2013 on this fascinating passage.