Third Sunday in Great Lent (M'shariyo / Paralytic)
From Matthew Henry's Commentary on Mark 2:1-12
The Healing of a Paralytic.
1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. 6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? 8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 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? 10 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,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 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.
Christ, having been for some time preaching about in the country, here returns to Capernaum his head-quarters, and makes his appearance there, in hopes that by this time the talk and crowd would be somewhat abated. Now observe,
I. The great resort there was to him. Though he was in the house, wither Peter's house, or some lodgings of his own which he had taken, yet people came to him as soon as it was noised that he was in town; they did not stay till he appeared in the synagogue, which they might be sure he would do on the sabbath day, but straightway many were gathered together to him. Where the king is, there is the court; where Shiloh is, there shall the gathering of the people be. In improving opportunities for our souls, we must take care not to lose time. One invited another (Come, let us go see Jesus), so that his house could not contain his visitants. There was no room to receive them, they were so numerous, no not so much as about the door. A blessed sight, to see people thus flying like a cloud to Christ's house, though it was but a poor one, and as the doves to their windows!
II. The good entertainment Christ gave them, the best his house would afford, and better than any other could; he preached the word unto them, v. 2. Many of them perhaps came only for cures, and many perhaps only for curiosity, to get a sight of him; but when he had them together he preached to them. Though the synagogue-door was open to him at proper times, he thought it not at all amiss to preach in a house, on a week day; though some might reckon it both an improper place and an improper time. Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, Isa. xxxii. 20.
III. The presenting of a poor cripple to him, to be helped by him. The patient was one sick of the palsy, it should seem not as that, Matt. viii. 6, grievously tormented, but perfectly disabled, so that he was borne of four, was carried upon a bed, as if he had been upon a bier, by four persons. It was his misery, that he needed to be so carried, and bespeaks the calamitous state of human life; it was their charity, who did so carry him, and bespeaks the compassion that it is justly expected should be in the children of men toward their fellow-creatures in distress, because we know not how soon the distress may be our own. These kind relations or neighbours thought, if they could but carry this poor man once to Christ, they should not need to carry him any more; and therefore made hard shift to get him to him; and when they could not otherwise get to him, they uncovered the roof where he was, v. 4. I see no necessity to conclude that Christ was preaching in an upper room, though in such the Jews that had stately houses, had their oratories; for then to what purpose should the crowd stand before the door, as wisdom's clients used to do? Prov. viii. 34. But I rather conjecture that the house he was in, was so little and mean (agreeable to his present state), that it had no upper room, but the ground-floor was open to the roof: and these petitioners for the poor paralytic, resolving not to be disappointed, when they could not get through the crowd at the door, got their friend by some means or other to the roof of the house, took off some of the tiles, and so let him down upon his bed with cords into the house where Christ was preaching. This bespoke both their faith and their fervency in this address to Christ. Hereby it appeared that they were in earnest, and would not go away, nor let Christ go without a blessing. Gen. xxxii. 26.
IV. The kind word Christ said to this poor patient; He saw their faith; perhaps not so much his, for his distemper hindered him from the exercise of faith, but theirs that brought him. In curing the centurion's servant, Christ took notice of it as an instance of his faith, that he did not bring him to Christ, but believed he could cure him at a distance; here he commended their faith, because they did bring their friend through so much difficulty. Note, True faith and strong faith may work variously, conquering sometimes the objections of reason, sometimes those of sense; but, however manifested, it shall be accepted and approved by Jesus Christ. Christ said, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. The compellation is very tender-Son; intimating a fatherly care of him and concern for him. Christ owns true believers as his sons: a son, and yet sick of the palsy. Herein God deals with you as with sons. The cordial is very rich; Thy sins are forgiven thee. Note, 1. Sin is the procuring cause of all our pains and sicknesses. The word of Christ was to take his thoughts off from the disease, which was the effect, and to lead them to the sin, the cause, that he might be more concerned about that, to get that pardoned. 2. God doth then graciously take away the sting and malignity of sickness, when he forgives sin; recovery from sickness is then a mercy indeed, when way is made for it by the pardon of sin. See Isa. xxxviii. 17; Ps. ciii. 3. The way to remove the effect, is, to take away the cause. Pardon of sin strikes at the root of all diseases, and either cures them, or alters their property.
V. The cavil of the scribes at that which Christ said, and a demonstration of the unreasonableness of their cavil. They were expositors of the law, and their doctrine was true—that it is blasphemy for any creature to undertake the pardon of sin, and that it is God's prerogative, Isa. xliii. 25. But, as is usual with such teachers, their application was false, and was the effect of their ignorance and enmity to Christ. It is true, None can forgive sins but God only; but it is false that therefore Christ cannot, who had abundantly proved himself to have a divine power. But Christ perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves; this proves him to be God, and therefore confirmed what was to be proved, that he had authority to forgive sins; for he searched the heart, and knew what was in man, Rev. ii. 23. God's royalties are inseparable, and he that could know thoughts, could forgive sins. This magnifies the grace of Christ, in pardoning sin, that he knew men's thoughts, and therefore knows more than any other can know, both of the sinfulness of their sins and the particulars of them, and yet is ready to pardon. Now he proves his power to forgive sin, by demonstrating his power to cure the man sick of the palsy, v. 9-11. He would not have pretended to do the one, if he could not have done the other; that ye may know that the Son of man, the Messiah, has power on earth to forgive sin, that I have that power, Thou that art sick of the palsy, arise, take up thy bed. Now, 1. This was a suitable argument in itself. He could not have cured the disease, which was the effect, if he could not have taken away the sin, which was the cause. And besides, his curing diseases was a figure of his pardoning sin, for sin is the disease of the soul; when it is pardoned, it is healed. He that could by a word accomplish the sign, could doubtless perform the thing signified, 2. It was suited to them. These carnal scribes would be more affected with such a suitable effect of a pardon as the cure of the disease, and be sooner convinced by it, than by any other more spiritual consequences; therefore it was proper enough to appeal, whether it is easier to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee, or to say, Arise, and walk? The removing of the punishment as such, was the remitting of the sin; he that could go so far in the cure, no doubt could perfect it. See Isa. xxxiii. 24.
VI. The cure of the sick man, and the impression it made upon the people, v. 12. He not only arise out of his bed, perfectly well, but, to show that he had perfect strength restored to him, he took up his bed, because it lay in the way, and went forth before them all; and they were all amazed, as well they might, and glorified God, as indeed they ought; saying, "We never saw it on this fashion; never were such wonders as these done before in our time." Note, Christ's works were without precedent. When we see what he does in healing souls, we must own that we never saw the like.
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