The lowering of the paralytic through a roof may be one of the more recognized events in Jesus’ life. We celebrate the four friends who brought their friend to Jesus, refused to let a crowd get in their way, and found a way to overcome. We praise the once paralyzed man who demonstrates faith in Jesus by standing up, gathering his mat, and walking out as the crowd parted. We affirm the crowd for honoring God and expressing astonishment in response to the miracle. In the middle of all this, stood Jesus and His declaring the sins of a man forgiven.
We also see the scribes, the legal experts of the day who were men of learning that taught the Old Testament law. Passages like Isaiah 43:25-26 and 55:7, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Psalm 25:18; 32:5; 51:4; 130:4, and Daniel 9:9 all point to God being the forgiver of sin. Joseph and David both realized sin to be an action against God (Gen. 39:9, Psa. 51:4). If sin is against Him, then He is the only One who can grant forgiveness. Our life experiences attest to this: if we offend a friend, we go to that friend to seek forgiveness as opposed to contacting a neighbor who has never met our friend. The scribe were right.
The scribes understood correctly that Jesus was claiming an action that only God could do. The problem was they refused to accept Jesus as being God. He did not fit their view of God. It became an issue of faith; of belief. When the man was lowered, Mark notes that Jesus recognized their faith. They might not have understood everything about Jesus, but they at least had enough faith to take action. Their actions were not the critical factor, but rather their faith which was demonstrated by their action moved Jesus to act, with the forgiveness of sin being of greatest importance.
This passage raises the question of who was the paralyzed man. It was not the man lowered through the roof. He left with his sins forgiven and carrying the mat used to lower him.
It was not the men who brought their friend to Jesus. They carried, climbed, removed, and lowered, all actions that point to them having full use of their bodies. These actions also required some type of faith which Jesus affirmed.
That leaves us with the scribes. While they appear to have all their physical capabilities, their lack of faith paralyzed them spiritually. The problem wasn’t what they understood; the problem was their willingness to act on what they understood, that Jesus was God. In the words of Paul, these men were dead in their sins (Eph. 2:1-3) and unwilling to approach the One who could make them alive.
The God who forgives sin was standing in the middle of this crowd in the flesh. A once-paralyzed man walked away forgiven while a group of scribes walked away paralyzed spiritually. It all came down to who placed their faith in Jesus and who did not.