“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And 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 man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But 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, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Mark 2.1-12
Are you on Facebook? It seems that most people are these days (myself included). Essentially it’s a social tool that enables people to connect—to maintain old friendships and to develop new ones. The average person on Facebook has about four hundred “friends” who make up their list of contacts.
Four hundred friends. That’s a lot of people who care about you. But you and I know the truth. We’d be happy if that list of four hundred translated to just four who would do anything for you.
In this exciting episode in the Gospel of Mark, we see four friends bringing a paralytic to Jesus. Because of the crowds, they have to get a little creative—and thus lower the man down through the ceiling of the house.
Jesus does his “Jesus-thing” and heals the man—but not before speaking to his real heart condition first. And notice in this story that before Jesus heals the man he first addresses the needs of his heart.
We don’t know who this man was. Mark does not give us any background on the kind of life he lived and what caused his condition. Jesus doesn’t go into any detail either.
But apparently his greatest need was not for physical healing—but for spiritual cleansing. He was so weighed down by guilt and sin that spiritually he couldn’t walk.
In this story we see for the first time the religious establishment getting upset at Jesus and his assumed authority to act on God’s behalf to forgive sin. From this point on we’ll encounter a dual tension in the Gospel of Mark—like two magnets repulsing one another we’ll see Jesus on one side and the religious status quo on the other. And it only gets worse until they nail Jesus to the cross…
This story has many exciting passage ways to explore—but I’d like us to focus on two for right now.
First, notice the four friends who are commended for their faith in bringing the man to Jesus. I liken these four friends to the four Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Together the four Gospels bring me and you to Jesus. We are paralyzed in our initial spiritual condition and need the love and forgiveness that only Jesus brings. By reading the four Gospels, you will be brought to the feet of Jesus over and over again—experiencing deeper healings than you ever thought possible.
Second, this story shows the holistic love of God towards us. Notice that Jesus doesn’t simply heal the man, nor does he only declare his sins forgiven. He does both. Jesus gives a “double blessing” that exceeds everyone’s expectations.
How does this apply to you? Jesus wants to exceed your expectations.
That’s right. He wants to amaze you and your friends with new life, energy, and direction. The key for us is to have an attitude of humble surrender and trust. The man on the mat didn’t fight and squirm in embarrassment, he simply receives what Jesus so desires to give.
Perhaps it’s time to rediscover the joyous adventure you can have with Jesus—letting him exceed your expectations in ways that catch you by surprise. Have you ever thought of Jesus like that? Here’s a simple prayer that can help you move in that direction:
Dear Lord Jesus, I’ve often put you in a box. As I get busy and hurry through my day, I have often left you in the crowds, forgetting that you have so much to give me. Help me to surrender afresh in every moment, and like the man in this story, please give me today what I truly need (as opposed to what I think I need). And in so doing, thank you that you desire to exceed my expectations in ways that I never dreamed—all for your glory! And help me to bring others to you today as well, so they can experience the “double blessings” you have for them. Thank you Lord. Amen.
1. Think of the main characters in this story: the four friends and the man on the mat. Like the four friends, who can you bring to Jesus today? Like the man on the mat, how can you “look up” to Jesus in trust and surrender?
2. Do you believe God wants to amaze you? If so, how does that tie in with His love for you? If not, what does that say about His attitude towards you?
3. Notice the holistic love of God for the paralytic: God cared about his spiritual and physical needs. How should the church today take that same approach with the world around us?
“And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. And Jesus sternly charged him and sent him away at once, and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to them.” But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in desolate places, and people were coming to him from every quarter.” Mark 1.40-45
Can you remember the last time you saw a leper? Probably not. In fact, most of us have never seen lepers—unless you have traveled to a developing nation in which medical care is hardly available and social programs nonexistent.
But we have our own version of lepers in the modern world. There are various groups that suffer forms of social ostracism, such as people with AIDS, ex-cons who are reentering society, and yes, even registered sex offenders (who often struggle to get a job to support themselves).
Every society, everywhere, in every time has “lepers”. Maybe you would even count yourself among the lepers of your own community. With suicide rates at all-time highs today, it would seem that there are many people who feel trapped and in hopeless despair with no light at the end of the tunnel.
Does God care about these broken people? Does the heart of God break for those of us with broken hearts? This episode in the Gospel of Mark gives us a resounding “Yes!” Like a firm handshake, in this episode we see the hand of God firmly grasping a man who is teetering on life’s razor edge of existence.
In Bible days, the lepers of the world had to live outside the village. They were vagabonds with a scavenger lifestyle. Put your trash out at night—and they would sort through it for leftovers and anything they could use to survive. Broken shards of pottery, worn out cloth, bones from last night’s dinner. Your trash was their treasure. And in the grand scheme of things—their only treasure.
Until Jesus came along…
In this episode, we see a leper approach Jesus. Apparently Jesus was walking with his disciples through a deserted region of the countryside heading to the next village in which to do ministry. Suddenly this leper approaches—stopping everyone in their tracks.
One can imagine the group frozen in fear at his approach. If we listen closely we can even hear the gasps and the parents reaching for their children to stay behind them. Everyone was shocked and repulsed. Everyone that is, except for Jesus.
Jesus gives a two-sided response to the simple request of the leper to be healed. Jesus declares his healing — and then touches him.
In Bible days this was a strong “no-no”… To touch a leper, or anything else unclean for that matter, would make you unclean. In other words, it would contaminate you. But not Jesus.
Jesus touches him fully (notice “moved with pity, he stretched out his hand…”). Jesus didn’t just casually tap him on the shoulder and quickly move on while breathing a sigh of relief that this awkward moment was over. No, his heart melts in love for this man and he fully touches him—holding nothing back.
Here’s the truth for each of us: There’s a leper inside of you. Yes, if you look closely enough, there is a part of you that is unclean—that if fully unveiled to the watching world would be socially awkward—that if fully exposed in the eyes of God’s infinite holiness is downright repulsive. Call it whatever you want—but this story reminds each of us that if we look close enough, it is there.
But notice the beautiful, proactive love of God! God knows this about each of us—and yet chooses to reach out to us through Jesus His Son.
Right now, God is reaching out to the deepest parts of you to speak His healing love and concern for you. He does care about your life and that includes the parts that you don’t want Him to see.
My favorite part of this passage at the end of chapter one is that Jesus does indeed have time for you. Think about it for a moment. He’s busy. He’s on the move. He’s got people to see and places to go. But he takes the time to heal this lonely leper.
Frankly, a touch would’ve been more than enough for this leper. But Jesus always gives more than we expect—he heals the man. And Jesus wants to heal the broken and hurting parts of your life too–and give you way more than you could ever expect.
1. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by our brokenness and pain. How can this story assure you that Jesus is “big” enough to handle it?
2. This leper’s life would never be the same. In what ways has Jesus touched you—so that you are never the same?
3. In the Garden of Eden, we were made in the image of God. God’s handprint is on each of us—and nothing else can fill that handprint but God alone. In this story, Jesus fills that handprint by touching him. Pray for Jesus to touch your life in a special way today and see what happens—leave a comment to share with us what happened.