Mark 2:1-12


At this point Jesus had completed His first circuit of Galilee, probably lasting a few weeks. Hendriksen calls the first chapter of Mark the chapter of glory. It tells us about the preaching of the Gospel, the healing of the sick and driving out demons. He calls chapter 2 the chapter of opposition. Actually the section goes to 3:6. More and more the enemies of Jesus plot and scheme against Him.

Lenski: The hostility of the Jews running through most of the pericopes in the second subdivision lends its own characterizations to these paragraphs, while Mark still abides by his great theme to exhibit Jesus as the Son of God by means of his mighty words and works.

Mark 2:1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.

This reminds us of 1:39 where His first tour of Galilee began. The last five words of this verse are variously translated thus: RSV: "it was reported that he was at home";  NEB: "the news went round that he was at home";  NKJV: "it was heard that He was in the house"; AAT: "and people heard 'He's home'." AAT considers this phrase as introducing direct discourse. NKJV seems to render "home" in the sense of His own house. RSV and NEB have "at home" making it less definite. Stoeckhardt and Lenski were of the opinion that this means Jesus' own house. Fahling took it as Peter's house.

Hendriksen: The possibility should be considered that friends had provided Jesus with a home for his use while performing his task in and around Capernaum.

We don't know for sure. At any rate, no sooner had Jesus returned when either they knew where He was staying or they found out where He was staying. They did not hesitate to come to Him.

Mark 2:2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.

Translate: "And as a result of His return." "So many" denotes the large crowd. The house was filled and the entrance was blocked by the many people standing at the door. NASB:  "there was no longer room, even near the door." AAT: "there was no room even in front of the door." The obvious point of this remark is to show why the bearers of the paralytic man had to use unusual means to get to Jesus.

"And He began to speak to them the Word." Here "preached" is used of informal speech. Here "word" means the Gospel in the narrow sense.
Fahling: Among those gathered were believing disciples, friendly neighbors, and curious strangers, generally sympathetic, but also Pharisees and doctors of the Law from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem, who, it seems, had come for a purpose.

Mark 2:3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.

"Came" clearly shows that they had Jesus is mind. "Paralytic", except for KJV, is translated either "a paralytic" or "a paralyzed man." 
Hendriksen: Wretched indeed was this man. The disease that plagued him is characterized by extreme loss of power of motion, and is generally caused by inability of the muscles to function, due to injury in the motor areas of the brain and/or of the spinal cord. . . One fact is clear: the stricken person was unable to move about.

The text might indicate that he could not speak or if he could, only with difficulty.

Mark 2:4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.

There was a large crowd in the house and even at the door. What now follows is remarkable and unusual. "They unroofed the roof where (at the place) He (Jesus) was, and after they had made a hole they let down the pallet where (on which) the paralyzed man was lying." The text does not say that they removed a cover which was lying over a hole. The parallel at Luke 5:19 rules that out.
Hendriksen: This outside cover of a house was generally flat. It had beams with transverse rafters, overlain with brushwood, tree branches, etc., on top of which was a thick blanket of mud or clay mixed with chopped straw, beaten and rolled. . . Having made an opening in the roof, the four lowered the pallet on which the paralytic was laying.

Luke tells us that they went up to the housetop, either by a staircase on that house or by a staircase on a house next door and then from one roof to another. Next, they had to figure out just where Jesus was standing in the house underneath them. And then they had to uncover the roof. That's a lot of work.

Stoeckhardt: Love finds a way. Yes, it was true love that motivated these four men, a love that flowed from faith. Jesus, the Discerner of hearts, saw the faith of the carriers, as well as the faith of him who was carried. These were righteous, penitent Israelites, who recognized Jesus as the Messiah of Israel, and sought His help. As they believed, so it happened to them, because believing hearts are the vessels into which the Lord pours the fullness of His grace and gifts.

This passage reminds one of Galatians 5:6 and 14. Faith is active through love. Faith causes man to love his neighbor as he loves self. All five men were convinced that Jesus would not turn them down.

Mark 2:5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 

The antecedent of "their" must include the faith of the paralyzed man or otherwise Jesus would not promptly have forgiven him his sins. "Their" includes all five men. Therefore, "faith" must mean more than that Jesus judged them believers by their actions. Evidently here it means that He looked at their hearts. It denotes the omniscience of the God-man. It is remarkable that no spoken word of either the four or of the paralyzed man is recorded. Likely none of them said anything. But where there is true faith, nothing need be said. Jesus reads the heart.

"Son" is a term of endearment addressed to a believer. It does not necessarily mean that this was a child. He addressed this man as a child of God. Matthew reads: "Be of good cheer." That means: "There is no reason to be sullen or sad." Humanly speaking this man had much reason to be sad. To be paralyzed to the point of being immobile would make anyone sad. But Jesus says: "Away with sadness!" 

And now all three Synoptics read: "Forgiven are your sins." Luke adds: "Forgiven for you are your sins." The text does not say that this man was afflicted with paralysis because of a specific sin.

Lenski: As regards the paralytic we dare assume only that his paralysis brought all his ordinary sinfulness to mind, just as every sickness and misfortune tell us that we are indeed nothing but sinners. . . The Christian rule of charity holds good also in exegesis, namely that we should not make any man worse than the facts demand.

One can imagine that as this man lay immobile day after day he became more and more aware of his sinfulness. That he was contrite is implied by Jesus' immediate forgiveness.

Mark 2:6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves,

But there were enemies in the audience. Mark says that they were sitting. That is remarkable in a crowded room. This indicates that they considered themselves important and that the people showed them respect. Luke adds that these Pharisees and scribes had come from as far as Judea and Jerusalem.

The expression "thinking to themselves" often denotes the rationalizations of an unbelieving heart. That is proved by what Jesus says in Matthew 9:4: "Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?" 

Here Mark introduces these enemies of Jesus for the first time. It is remarkable how early in the life of Jesus' ministry the Jewish leaders began to spy on Him. John gives us a much fuller account of this growing opposition. The contrast between the unquestioning faith of the five and the rationalizations and evil thoughts of the comfortably seated Pharisees and scribes is truly stark.

Mark 2:7  "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 

The question is derogatory: "Why does this fellow speak thus?" These are thoughts, not words. All of them are alike in that they have sinful thoughts. They add: "He blasphemes. Who can forgive sins except one, God?" They reason thus: "Only God can forgive sins." Thusfar they are correct. They knew that from the Old Testament. But then they cogitate:  "This man is not God. Therefore, he claims something which is not true." In other words, they do not believe that Jesus is true God and they do not believe that He had actually forgiven the sins of the paralytic. To them Jesus' words were empty syllables, sinful words, blasphemous words. They considered themselves righteous, but Jesus sinful.

Mark 2:8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things?" 

In His omniscience Jesus had seen the faith of the five. Now, also in His omniscience, He reads the hearts of the Jewish leaders. He is the Discerner of hearts, both those of believers and unbelievers. He helps the believers and is not frightened by the unbelievers.

"Knew in his spirit" points to His divine nature. "This was what they were thinking in this way," indicates that Jesus followed their very thought processes. The five were united in their faith but did not debate within themselves. The faith of the four caused them to work hard and they believed in what they were doing and that Jesus would help. The paralytic too believed but could do no physical work. But the scribes, the official theologians, were seated comfortably doing no work. There was no faith in Jesus. Each individually was thinking sinful thoughts. Without conversing with each other their sinful hearts were united in opposition to Jesus.

Jesus asks them: "Why do you have these sinful reasonings and logic in your hearts?" Jesus once said: "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, etc." Paul once said: "With the heart man believes, etc." a contrast here of hearts, though neither group uttered a word! Jesus reacted to the condition of their individual hearts.

Mark 2:9  "Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?" 

"Which is easier?" Then follow alternate subjects, both introduced by a substantival infinitive. Note that these infinitives have no subject. Jesus is comparing two acts without involving Himself at the moment. He does not say: "Which is easier FOR ME" but simply "which is easier?" When Jesus says "easier" He means "to say effectively with results." In their sinful cogitations the Jewish authorities were practically saying: "This man cannot effectively forgive sins by His word." Jesus is causing them to search their hearts. That's second use of the Law. He is saying:  "Let's start all over. Use your logic, but use it honestly." Jesus is not saying that one is easier than the other. Both are equally difficult. They were right in thinking: "Only God can forgive sins." But they were secretly denying that Jesus is true God. To forgive sins is invisible to man.

Jesus had just unloaded the paralytic invisibly of all his guilt. But now Jesus is about to give them a visible proof of the fact that both the forgiveness of sins and the healing of a disease are difficult, attainable only by God. Often Jesus made His enemies face their own illogical thinking.

Mark 2:10  "But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . ."  He said to the paralytic,

This verse is anacoluthic or elliptical, purposely so. Something like "I shall now act" must be supplied before the purpose clause. Jesus means: "in order that by seeing you might know etc." The miracles were performed so that the senses could perceive with the objective of definite knowledge. It's as if Jesus says: "I know that you don't believe but I shall PROVE to you that what I am and say is the highest form of Truth, not blasphemy."  "Authority" denotes the right and power given by His divine nature to His human nature. He had this authority in His very person. He never used it for mere display. He always used it in the interest of creating faith in Himself or in compassion toward helpless mankind.

"To forgive sins ON EARTH." Evidently Jesus' enemies were thinking that sins can be forgiven only far away in heaven. No, says Jesus, but right here on earth. Note that Jesus does not limit this to the paralyzed man. He is speaking of a principle, not just an individual case. Jesus forgave sins ON EARTH and He has given the Office of the Keys to the Church to forgive sins ON EARTH. Now He turns to the paralytic.

By a particular instance Jesus is going to prove to His enemies that He is the Son of Man and that He has authority to forgive sins on earth.

Lenski: We here meet for the first time in Mark's Gospel the title which Jesus gave himself, 'The Son of Man '. . . . It is used only by Jesus himself, save in John 12:34, and in Acts 7:56, which reflects Matthew 26:64. The title was coined by Jesus himself, was unknown before. . . Jesus always used it as subject or as object, always in the third person, never as a predicate. He is fully conscious that he is the Son of man, yet he never says 'I am the Son of man.' . . . 'Of man' never the plural, is generic; not descended from some man, but having the nature of man, a son of mankind. The human nature of Christ thus expressed is beyond question. But 'The Son of Man' lifts this one man out from among all men as one who bears this human nature in a way in which no other man bears it, Who is also 'The Son of the Living God'. . . . Hence 'the Son of man' is not merely 'the ideal man' but 'the Word made flesh,' the Son of God who assumed our human flesh and blood. In Jesus' use of this title two lines of thought converge: the one is lowliness, suffering etc.; the other, greatness, power, exaltation beyond men. . . To give it an exclusively eschatological sense is to generalize from a fraction of the facts instead of from all. Whence does Jesus derive this title? Daniel 7:13.14. . . . Again in Matthew 24:30 and 26:64 the Son of Man comes in the clouds -- exactly as in Daniel's description. God alone uses the clouds as his vehicle, hence 'one like the Son of man' is divine. . . . Daniel 7:13.14 pictures the Messiah. Yet the Jews had drawn no title for the Messiah from this passage. This Jesus himself did. . . No political ideas could attach themselves to this title. That was the trouble with the title 'Messiah' which Jesus avoided for this very reason, using it only in John 4:26. In Daniel's description the universality stands out: he who is like the Son of man rules all people, nations, etc., in an everlasting kingdom and judges all the world. By this new title Jesus denationalized his Messiahship and his Kingship, and lifted it above all narrow Jewish conceptions -- he was the Redeemer of all men. In Daniel the term is eschatological: Jesus uses it in the same way in Matthew 24:30 and 26:64, and this is done also in the Revelation passages . . . Very properly, thus, Jesus expands the title and uses it with reference to his person in the days of his humiliation.

So far Lenski.

Mark 2:11  "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 

In verse 5 Jesus addressed the man with "Son" and then cured the root problem, sin. That is always the primary problem. Now He says to him very personally "you." The Word of God is a personal Word, both Law and Gospel. Even the universal atonement is personal, not just general, cf. 2 Corinthians 5:19 where the universal atonement is made particular for each person. Note the three imperatives: the first two are effective aorists and the third present continued action. Jesus' Word caused this man, though immobile, to get up, pick up, and be walking.

Mark 2:12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!" 

The man's actions correspond exactly to the commands of Jesus. Note "in the plain sight of all." Also of the four men looking down through the hole in the roof. By the way, in view of the crowd in the room and at the door, the man must have pushed his way through the crowd, as LB paraphrases:  "The man jumped up, took the stretcher, and pushed his way through the stunned onlookers!" No recorded reaction from Jesus' enemies is given but we know, from evidence later, that they rejected the clear evidence as in the case of the healing of the blind man in John 9. Unbelief stubbornly rejects the clear evidence of the person, Word and work of Jesus. But the crowd reacted unanimously.

"Amazed" limited to all except the enemies as is clear from Matthew 9:8, which indicates unanimity on the part of the people. "Have never seen" means to make an assessment on the basis of clear evidence.

When men glorify themselves or other men, their erroneous glorying is based on a faulty opinion. When men glorify God, their reaction is based on an opinion which results from something which He has done. They said: "We've never seen anything like this." From the parallels at Matthew 9:8 and Luke 5:26 it is certain that they did not acknowledge Him as the Son of man (though there may have been those who did) but it is clear that they had made more progress than Jesus' enemies. It is remarkable that the reaction of the four carriers and the healed man are not recorded. But it need not be because we know from the text that they were believers.

This is a remarkable pericope and contains much preaching material.

  1. The Son of man came into this world to take the iniquity of all men upon Himself and to forgive this iniquity, Isaiah 53:6.
  2. The Son of man came into this world to take all our griefs and sickness upon Himself, Isaiah 53:4. This is true even in cases in which He allows these griefs and sickness to continue to afflict the individual.
  3. The Son of man is the Discerner of the thoughts both of believers and unbelievers. He satisfies the faith of the believer and deftly preaches Law to the unbeliever. He wants all to know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins. He Himself has given this authority to the Church on earth in the Office of the Keys.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series B, Festival Season Sundays Gospel Texts, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1981, pp. 47-51. Used with permission.

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