Commentary on Mark 2:1-12
After some days Jesus returns to Capernaum from his refuge in the desert. Immediately the crowds gather in and around the house where he is staying. It is so crowded that there is no room to get in or out. The ‘house’ is not identified and it is not important. In the early Christian communities, they gathered in one house to celebrate the Eucharist. Jesus was there among them. Some people are inside the house with Jesus, others are still on the outside.
Then, four men arrived carrying a paralytic friend. They were anxious to get to Jesus.
Seeing no way in, they went up by the outside staircase on to the flat roof, removed a few tiles and let the man down right at the feet of Jesus.
Jesus is touched by their faith, trust and confidence in him. It is one of the essential conditions for healing. Jesus says to the paralysed man, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” This must have come as a surprising statement to the paralytic. He had come for healing, not forgiveness. Some scribes who were also present where not only surprised they were deeply shocked. “Why does this man [note the level of contempt] speak that way? Only God can forgive sins.” They are perfectly right but their eyes are closed to drawing the obvious conclusion. They don’t see because they do not want to see, because – even worse – they think they can see. (We meet Christians like that too, who are convinced they and they alone are in sole possession of the ‘truth’.)
Jesus then challenges them. “Which is easier to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your bed and walk’.” Then he tells the sick man, “Rise, pick up your mat and go home.” Of course, telling a person their sins are forgiven is certainly easier but does the fact that Jesus could heal the paralytic instantly, also mean that his sins were forgiven?
We need to realise the close links the Jews of the time made between sin and sickness. Many kinds of sickness were seen as punishment for personal sin or even the sins of parents. (See the story of the man born blind in John’s gospel, chap. 9.) This man then was understood to be paralysed because of some sin in his life. If Jesus could clearly remove the illness, then the cause of the illness was also being taken away. In so doing, Jesus makes it clear that in forgiving the man’s sin he was not blaspheming. He was what he claimed to be.
In these times, we are beginning to realise that there can be a link between our sicknesses and the way we act and relate with people. We know that there is a mutual influence between our thinking and our attitudes, feelings and behaviour. Many sicknesses are known to be psychosomatic, the result of stress or an imbalance in our relationships with others, our work, our environment. The words holiness, wholeness, health and healing all have a common root. The whole person, one in whom all parts are in perfect harmony, is the truly holy person.
That wholeness is something we need to pray and work for. The paralysed man represents all those who are paralysed in other ways, who are not able to behave with the freedom that a well-integrated person has. And that integration and wholeness concerns our relations with others, with ourselves, with our environment and, of course, with God.