The healing of the paralytic in Capernaum is a fascinating story. One’s interest is peaked as a crippled man, let down through the roof, is made whole. We stand in awe of the amazing power of Jesus Christ; we also admire the paralytic and the great measures taken to obtain an audience with Jesus. This stands as a story of inspiration but there is much more taking place than the healing of a lame man. It is a story which illustrates a number of important spiritual lessons. Let us consider some powerful lessons from the healing of the paralytic.
Many of the events in the life of Jesus focus of faith, no exception is found here. However there is something unique about this story. Notice carefully the phrasing, “And when he saw their faith” (Lk. 5:20). Jesus saw their faith! It was their faith, not just the paralytic’s. Some contend this is speaking of only the four men who were carrying the paralytic to Jesus, discounting the paralytic’s faith. The faith demonstrated by both parties should not be overlooked.
The paralytic exhibits faith in cooperating with the proceedings. He was willing to allow his friends to carry him on his bed for the purpose of garnering an audience with Jesus. Consider the risk involved—he cut in front of the crowd gathered around the house. We do not appreciate it when someone makes their way in front of us in line somewhere. They all wanted to see Jesus, perhaps hoping He would speak to them. It was because of Him they tore a hole in the roof of another’s house. Destroying the property of another is not a good way to make friends. We would be outraged if someone did such to our home. Finally, when he did find himself before Jesus, how would Jesus respond? Would he be treated favorably or reprimanded for being inconsiderate of others?
The faith of the paralytic’s friends can be seen in their willingness to face the same obstacles. The crowd may have compassion on a lame man, but would care very little for four healthy men forcing their way up front, or in this case, to the top. They were the ones who tore away a section of the roof to lower the paralytic. They are surely responsible for the damage done to the property of the homeowner. And what will Jesus say to them? Will He speak well of their faith and efforts or will a rebuke be in order?
Both the paralytic and his friends exemplified faith by their actions. Putting their faith into practice illustrates the point James made: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (Jas. 2:26). They understood full well the definition of faith which the Hebrew author presents: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). They could see the end result—their friend made well—if they put their faith into action.
Forgiveness of Sin
Jesus responds favorably and bestows a tremendous blessing upon the paralytic. Based on their faith Jesus forgives this man of his sins. Mark records, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee” (2:5). Matthew adds, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Mt. 9:2). Nothing greater can happen than to have one’s sins forgiven! What a great day of rejoicing!
This man is forgiven, but he is still crippled. Nothing is done to address his physical condition. Mike Criswell offers this:
A man who has been forgiven and knows he stands in a correct relationship with God can bear anything in life. The soul who is at peace with the Father finds peace in each daily circumstance” (2 Cor. 12:5-10; Phil. 4:11-13). Jesus obviously has every intention of healing this man, but first things must come first. Jesus rewards this man’s faith with spiritual healing before focusing on the more trivial physical healing.
Jesus teaches a valuable lesson here: the spiritual state of man is of greater importance than the physical. This is starkly at odds with the view of our modern world. Most desire to correct the outside, the physical, while ignoring the heart, the inner man. Jesus knew this man had great tribulations in life due to his physical infirmities, however he gives this man what he needs more than anything—forgiveness.
This statement by Jesus outrages the religious leaders who were present. Luke tells us, “And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone? (5:21). It is true, only God can forgive sins: “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon” (Isa. 55:6-7).
Hindsight is 20/20 and we immediately recognize the self-righteous attitudes and disdain they have for Jesus. However, they were correct in their evaluation (only God can forgive sin), just blind to the evidence. Jesus, by pronouncing forgiveness, puts Himself on equal footing with God; He is claiming to be Deity. They understand what Jesus is claiming; they just ignore the evidence supporting the assertion.
Harold Fowler points out two ways to blaspheme God: 1) a direct attack against God, 2) claim to be equal with God. He goes on to remark,
Thus, Jesus deserved to die, if He were not the very incarnation of God Himself! The Jews were right in their attack. Their horror in the presence of this apparently common human being, who lays claim to one of God’s unique rights, is proper. But when they refuse the evidence that He is the Son of God, THEY become the blasphemers.
Christ is Deity! John, in the beginning of his Gospel, explains the nature of Jesus: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). In very plain language John emphasizes the foundational truth that the “Word was God.” John 1:14 provides the insight to identify who the “Word” is: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Jesus is the Word, therefore, He is God! The entire gospel account penned by John is a defense of the true nature of Jesus and His Deity. John’s argument for truth, including the “I am” statements found in his Gospel, is all based upon the opening verse of his Gospel.
Since Christ is God He has the power to forgive sins. This is the purpose of His coming to this earth, to provide a way for pardon. During the institution of the communion Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Mt. 26:28). Jesus, in His death and shedding His blood, provides an avenue for forgiveness. John states, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 Jn. 1:7). In obedience to the gospel, accomplished in the action of baptism, one finds access to the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Jesus Knows the Heart
When Jesus forgave this man of his sins the religious leaders were incensed. They began to speak “within themselves” (Mt. 9:3). While they were thinking malicious thoughts about Jesus, Jesus knew what they were thinking! Matthew writes, “And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?” (9:4). Of all the evidences which have been made manifest this is preeminent. Perhaps they could have somehow, within their own mind, reasoned away all the other works Jesus performed, however this is undeniable proof Jesus is who He claims to be. The only one who should have known their thoughts was themselves, however Jesus proves He knows their hearts. This should have been an eye-opening experience; a real wake up call for understanding who Jesus was.
Where reverence and respect would be the proper response, they were far from removed from such a mind frame. The religious leaders should have been excited this man found forgiveness, for nothing is of greater importance to humanity. However their hearts are full of disdain. Sellers Crain remarks on this passage, “While the scribes thought they were doing good by protecting the honor of God, they were really doing evil by opposing God’s Son. To oppose Christ is to oppose God.” Fowler notes, “Their reasoning was evil, not merely faulty or incorrect, since it was produced by hearts bent upon rejecting evidence, bent upon destroying Jesus. Jesus’ question, therefore, challenges the motivations and purposes behind their rejection of His deity.”
The miraculous healing has usually been the focal point of this story. Though a key element, it is through this healing that Jesus sets the stage for teaching deeper spiritual lessons. The healing is necessary to illumine other spiritual truths. Jesus proves who He is by healing the paralytic.
Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion (Mk. 2:9-12).
Through His actions, the power of Jesus is made manifest to the religious leaders. Jesus proposes a two part question to set up the demonstration of His power. Is it easier to say something like “thy sins be forgiven thee” or to heal a man of palsy? It would be much easier to simply state “thy sins be forgiven,” for what evidence is there to the contrary? It is simple to simply say something but much more difficult to perform (i.e., heal). The truth is that man can do neither. If Jesus heals this man He substantiates who He is to those present: He truly has the power to forgive sins and His deity and authority are validated.
We have already noticed a life changing miracle, a paralyzed man able to walk. Also associated with this event are some profound truths: faith, forgiveness of sins, the ability of Jesus to know the heart. There is, a deeper, more significant lesson being taught. This foundational truth is one of authority. The physical healing is proving to the religious leaders, the very ones who thought they had religious authority, who really has the authority.
In the beginning of the account a significant detail is mentioned: one which allows us to understand the audience that was present. Luke records, “And it came to pass on a certain day, as he was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them” (5:17). There is little doubt the locals of Capernaum were sincere, but the Pharisees and doctors of the law were skeptical.
This story is a grand picture, for without the healing of the paralytic none of the lessons presented are validated. Notice the climactic passage of this narrative, which might be overlooked: “And he arose, and departed to his house” (Mt. 9:7). If the man did not stand up, gather his bed and walk home, nothing powerful and persuasive happens. Upon the completion of the healing Jesus certifies His authority. C. G. Caldwell writes, “What they observed could not be mistaken. His teaching was pure, full of authority, and marked by integrity. His miraculous power was a strong as God Himself. It was “of the Lord.” God did not leave His Son to His adversaries without ample proof of His person and authority.”
Jesus was, and still is, in control. He has all authority in religious affairs. Just before His ascension into heaven He said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:18). Jesus is the one in charge and in control (Phil. 2:9-10; Heb. 5:8). We face similar problems when we come up against the prevailing religious climate, including its leadership: failure to accept the authority of Jesus Christ. If men would only respect the authority of Jesus, so many modern religious woes and societal moral ills, would simply disappear.
This exciting story illustrates so many deep truths. First and foremost is authority, which when properly understood, cures a collection of problems. Also, secondary lessons concerning faith, the forgiveness of sins and the ability of Jesus to know the heart, serve to remind us of the great power of God. They should bring upon us the same respectful awe felt by the original audience: they were “amazed and glorified God” (Mk. 2:12).
Article by: Brad Shockley