The Gospel of Mark - Part 7
John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The theme of the Galilean ministry of the Lord continues into chapter 2 of the Gospel, but, in this chapter, we see the storm clouds of opposition and conflict begin to cross that ministry. It is a sad reflection upon those that opposed the Lord that Luke tells us, in respect to this miracle, that ‘the power of the Lord was present to heal them’, Luke 5. 17, and yet, as far as we are told, only the paralysed man upon his bed was healed.
Before considering the verses in any detail, we might divide the chapter into four sections:
- The cure of the palsied man, vv. 1-12
- The call of Levi, vv. 13-17
- The concern of John’s disciples, vv. 18-22
- The cornfields and the Sabbath, vv. 23-28
First, then, we will consider the palsied man.
The cure of the palsied man, vv. 1-12
The contrasts in the section highlight the commencement of opposition. The Saviour was in Peter’s house, a place He often resorted to, as Mark shows. He was welcomed in this house 1 but not in the house of the Pharisees and Scribes. We see the faith of those that brought the paralysed man, but the lack of faith in the Pharisees and Scribes.
The attraction of the Saviour, vv. 1, 2
The Lord was in Peter’s house. Exactly how long it had been since the events of chapter 1 verses 21 to 34 is difficult to determine. Although the KJV may imply that the ‘some days’ refers to this period, Wuest suggests otherwise, ‘the resultant meaning being that some days went by after our Lord’s arrival in Capernaum before the people found out that He was there’. 2 However, since that last visit it would seem that the Lord’s fame had not waned. In his customary manner, Mark tells us how quickly the news spread, ‘straightway many were gathered’, v. 2. Luke gives an indication of how far the message had spread, suggesting that the Pharisees and doctors of the law had come from further afield than Galilee alone. They may have come to see a miracle, but the Lord uses the moment to preach the word unto them and in a manner that suited the circumstance in which He was found.
On that previous visit to Peter’s house, the Lord had healed all that were gathered at the door. Now, they were not outside but inside the house. The extent of the crowd was such that, ‘there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door’, v. 2.
It is worth thinking about this scene for a moment. The house is packed. Interest is high and the Lord is in His own neighbourhood. The Lord is the preacher and, as we have mentioned, the power of the Lord was present. Humanly speaking, all is right for a time of blessing. Have there been times when we have convened special gospel meetings about which we have prayed petitioning the Lord to bless? Have we been deeply conscious of the Spirit of God at work in the hearts of different individuals and yet there has been no one saved? Might we remind ourselves that this was the experience of the Lord here and it is a timely reminder of the hardness of men’s hearts!
The activity of the men, vv. 3-5
It is only Mark who gives us the number of the nameless men who brought this paralysed man to see the Saviour. The extent of the man’s physical need is evident in that it took four men to bring him and that they brought him upon his bed. The word for bed, more likely a simple pallet, tells us something of this man’s poverty brought about by his paralysis.
The four men persevered for they, ‘could not come nigh unto Him for the press’, v. 4. They did not give up but took the man up to the roof and began to dig their way through the roofing of the house. This was certainly no simple task. The digging would be hard work and the depth of the roof covering would probably be significant. At last, they were able to let this man down to the place where the Saviour was found. Equally, the sick man agreed with the activities of his companions and was prepared to take the risk of being lowered through the roof.
What is remarkable about verse 5 is that Mark tells us, ‘When Jesus saw their faith’. The man’s physical need was evident. Looking at the bed upon which he was let down into the midst would indicate his material need. However, the Saviour sees past the physical and material and is concerned with his spiritual need, ‘Son, thy sins be forgiven thee’. The faith of the four, a testimony to the faith of the paralysed man as well, was what brought the response of the Saviour. Here the lesson is that the spiritual must take priority before the physical and material. William MacDonald says, ‘Jesus went beyond the symptoms to the cause. He would not heal the body and neglect the soul’. 3
The antagonism of the Scribes, vv. 6, 7
The immediate reasoning of the Scribes was that this was blasphemy. The Lord had given forgiveness to the paralysed man. Only God can forgive sins. Logically, this leaves two possible solutions. Either the Lord was God, or He blasphemed.
The Scribes seemed to have arrived at their judgement. Darby’s translation is, ‘Why does this man thus speak?’ v. 7. The word ‘man’, being in italics, expresses the contempt in which they held the Saviour. Their decision as to the situation was coloured by their view of the Saviour; their minds were already closed to the truth. But verse 6 tells us that they did not have the courage of their convictions. They were ‘reasoning in their hearts’. They had no desire to learn the truth from the Saviour. But neither did they express their views, as that might mean they would lose face with the multitude gathered.
Human nature has not changed. Men’s minds are still closed to the truth of the gospel. However, what is saddest is when believers’ minds become closed, even though the truth is evident, because pride rules.
The answer of the Saviour, vv. 8-11
Mark’s account of the response of the Saviour gives ample evidence of why the logical deduction of the Scribes was faulty. Who could read the thoughts and reasoning of the hearts of these Scribes but God alone? Who could bring such miraculous healing to this paralysed man but God alone?
There was no statement from the Scribes. There was no evidence in their posture. The Lord knew intuitively. Mark records, ‘Jesus perceived in his spirit’, v. 8. Wuest comments, ‘Our Lord was not only immediately aware of what the Scribes were thinking, but was clearly and fully aware of it’. 4 He knew their thoughts and He knew their hearts. ‘Why reason ye these things in your hearts?’ The problem with the Scribes was that their mental reasoning was also affecting their attitude to, and developing their antipathy towards, the Saviour. They were developing what was to become hatred capable of murder.
The questions of the Lord cut to the heart of the matter. He had forgiven the sins of this man. But where was the evidence? To provide that evidence, He said to the man sick of the palsy, ‘Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way’, v. 11. Cole comments, ‘It was, in point of fact, a much lighter thing to heal the body than to restore the soul, for a prophet might heal, but no mere prophet could ever forgive sins’. 5
It is clear from the fact that the man obeyed that he had the faith necessary – the basis of his forgiveness. It is also clear that as the forgiveness of the man was complete so his restoration to health and strength was complete. He was able to stand. He was able to walk. He was, finally, able to carry his bed. All of these things were new to his experience. Mark, again, records that it was ‘immediate’, v. 12.
The amazement of the people, v. 12
The testimony that this man bore is evident and remarkable. Mark tells us, he ‘went forth before them all’, v. 12. This was not something that was obscure, reported second or third-hand. This was a testimony that would remain in this locality because, from verse 11, the man must have been local in order to carry his bed back to his house.
The outcome of the miracle is remarkable for a number of reasons.
- The crowd were amazed. The intensity of this experience is communicated in the word used, a word from which we get our English word ‘ecstasy’. They were completely taken up with the event and publicly attested the truth of what the Lord had done.
- The crowd also glorified God. This is something that is particularly noticeable in Luke’s Gospel, as it is the purpose of man to bring glory to God.
- Sadly, they were occupied with the visual rather than the spiritual, ‘we never saw it on this fashion’, v. 12. What had been accomplished in this man’s life spiritually was wholly ignored. His cure was all that they saw.
Today, many are taken up with what they see as the miraculous, particularly healing. They allow the material and the physical to take priority over the spiritual. Clearly, this event in the ministry of the Lord is relevant, a reminder to us all of the importance of resolving man’s spiritual need first.
1 ‘This is better translated, He was at home’, John MacArthur, MacArthur Study Bible, Logos software resource.
2 Wuest, op. cit., pg. 44.
3 W. MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, Logos software resource.
4 Wuest, op. cit., pg. 49.
5 Cole, op. cit., pg. 66.