Jesus was preaching to a full house! There wasn’t room for anyone else to hear him. Suddenly, some debris fell from the ceiling. Everyone, including Jesus, looked up and saw a man on a cot being lowered down through a newly dug hole in the roof. Silhouetted against the bright Middle-Eastern sky, Jesus could see the outlines of four proud men, friends of the paralytic, whose faces were beaming with satisfaction. The paralytic on the mat was very fortunate to have friends like these to let him down! (Dad jokes rule!)
While there’s much to discuss in a passage like this, let’s focus on the four ideas Jesus said to the paralyzed man. It’s good to know, by the way, in a narrative passage (a historical story), the main point is to be found in the dialogue, especially if the one doing the talking is Jesus.
The first idea Jesus said to the man is, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). The passage does not say the paralyzed man came to be healed. He and his friends were coming to hear Jesus preach the word of God, just like everyone else, which is what Jesus was doing (Mark 2:2). Most likely, Jesus was at the point of his sermon where he was announcing the good news of forgiveness. Seeing the paralyzed man on the mat right in front of him, Jesus took the opportunity to let the man know his sins were forgiven, too. The paralytic came mainly for spiritual healing, although he left with both spiritual and physical healing, as the story indicates.
“You are forgiven” is the most powerful and empowering message we could ever hear. Our sins paralyze our soul, more than sickness or accident does the body. You can live with a paralyzed body, but you can’t live with a paralyzed soul. Knowing the reality of your forgiveness is the purest and highest form of freedom. And it’s a word we need to speak to each other, too. True friends regularly remind each other of their forgiveness from God. True friends constantly and authentically say to each other, “You are forgiven.”
The second idea Jesus gave the man was, “Rise!” (Mark 2:11). Yes, Jesus was telling the paralyzed man to stand up, but Jesus was saying much more, too. The Greek word behind “rise” means more than just to stand, but conveys the reality of a noble summons. Jesus could have just said to the man, “Stand” or “You are healed,” but he was much more dramatic. Jesus was summoning the man to rise up to his new calling. What was his calling? Forgiveness.
Our sins condemn us, leaving us spiritually paralyzed and powerless, but when we are forgiven, we can rise to our calling of forgiveness. Your main calling from God is, “You are forgiven.” Now you must rise to your calling and walk in forgiveness, no longer hindered by the weight of sin, shame, and regret. I am always amazed at how much my past haunts me, reaches out and trips me up in the present, and stifles my future dreams, just because I don’t walk my primary calling of forgiveness. Along the way, God may give us other callings, vocations, and interests, and we must rise up to those, as well. But we can’t, so long as we’re still paralyzed by guilt and shame.
The third idea Jesus called the man to was, “Pick up your bed” (Mark 2:11). Why did Jesus specifically tell the man to pick up his bed? It was an act of responsibility. Man, pick up what you were depending on. Carry what carried you. The story of the bed needs to be a part of your new story. There’s something of your old struggle that needs to be a part of your new calling. Also, once you realize your new calling, you’re not to relax anymore, but go full out. In a sense, there is no relaxing, no lying around, hesitating, or waiting. Now that you know what you stand for, take control and move.
The final idea Jesus communicates to the man is, “Go home” (Mark 2:11). Once God puts you back on your feet and gets you going the right direction, go home. You were lost and stuck before, but now it’s time to go home. But where is home? Our home is with God. Whatever it is that God calls you to do in this life, the direction we are to head is clear: we are to aim at going home to God. If you’re a musician, then aim your life at God. If you’re a union worker, then plot your course toward your home with God. Nobody knows when his or her last day of life will be; nobody knows when this journey will come to an end. So, we had better be ready to arrive at God’s doorstep. It doesn’t matter how far along the journey you are right now, but it does matter if you’re heading in the right (homeward) direction.
You are forgiven. Rise. Pick up your bed. Go home. These are the four pillars of an unparalyzed life. God forgives you of whatever you’ve done; respond to his calling in your life; take responsibility and get going; and aim your life toward the Face of God.
Son, your sins are forgiven…I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.
—Mark 2:5, 11
- Which part of Jesus’s message to the paralyzed man stood out to you the most? Why?
- Do you have someone in your life who really needs to hear the words, “You are forgiven?” How could you let him or her know?
- What does it look like to walk in forgiveness? What gets in the way?