These two verses are an introduction to what follows. Mark frequently used summaries such as this one (note Mark 1:14-15, 39; 2:13; 3:7-12, 23; 4:1, 33-34; 8:21-26, 31; 9:31; 10:1; 12:1). They are a characteristic of his literary style. Observe, “Several days afterward” translates a Jewish phrase that means “after a considerable interval.”
When Jesus returned to Capernaum after one of His preaching tours, it did not take news of His arrival long to circulate. Crowds swarmed to hear Him speak. Jesus could not find a restful retreat even in Capernaum. So, he graciously used the opportunity to preach to them. Mark’s account stresses Jesus’ popularity. (Constable)
When the four men saw that they could not approach Jesus they were not to be defeated, for they were confident that Jesus could and would help them. So when they saw that the great crowd prevented any approach to the house they went up the stone steps on the outside of the back wall of the house which would lead up to the roof, taking the man with them. (Further reminiscence of the eyewitness). It probably took some maneuvering, but they achieved success for they broke open the roof of the house and lowered the man down.
The roof would be made of beams and rafters set slightly apart, and covered with either mud or tiles. In the case of a mud roof, it would be covered with matting, brushwood, branches and twigs, followed by a final covering of mud which would then be trodden hard. The result was a waterproof roof, but not one able to thwart the attempts of four determined men to break it open, and as long as the beams were not harmed, it would be easy and cheap to repair again. On the other hand, Luke mentions “tiles” (Luke 5:19) so that if this is taken literally, this particular house would have a tiled roof — a type certainly known by New Testament times. In that case, breaking through the roof would simply involve the removal of the tiles. “Mattress.” The word used by Mark indicates a poor man’s bedding. (Clarke)
“Son, thy sins are forgiven” — Although this was not the initial reasoning for the lame man’s friend going to such great lengths, this act of Jesus was a far more wonderful blessing than the healing of the man’s body. That forgiveness was here pronounced by Jesus Christ in the absence of the man’s confessing any faith and without regard to his submission to any kind of ordinance of God was not a relaxation of the requirements binding upon all men today. Prior to the will of Jesus Christ being formalized and proclaimed to all the world, there were numerous instances, of which this is one, in which the Lord proclaimed forgiveness to men.
The declaration of Jesus had profound implications: (1) it was an assertion of his deity, the convictions of all ages sustaining the view that “only God” can forgive sins. (2) It was an indication that he had read the hearts of the five men before him, especially of the sufferer, and that he had determined the spiritual attitude of the man to have been fully consistent with the reward bestowed. (3) It proved that Jesus understood the man’s greater need as forgiveness, and so that was given first. (Coffman)
Sins? But who had said a word about sins?
The theologian John D. Jones in his New Testament Commentary of St. Mark emphatically stated, “No one.”
And what was the meaning of Jesus’ words? Jones further commented that it was just a case of speaking to the young man’s deepest and sorest need. The Gospels often remind us of Christ’s wonderful power of insight.
“He knew,” John says, “what was in man” (John 2:25).
And so, our Lord knew what was in this paralytic. He saw that he suffered from a sorer plague than the palsy. Probably his affliction was due to excess and sin; and it was the memory of the sin that was the intolerable burden. And Jesus speaks first to the most bitter and urgent need. He speaks to the guilt-laden soul.
The tenderness of the Savior’s address is worthy of note as it indicated that the paralytic was much beloved and thus, “thy sins are forgiven thee.”
The four friends brought him to Jesus in order to get healing for his body: Jesus begins by healing the man’s soul.
Church Supply Pastor and Christian columnist, Dr. Wayne M. Williams, presently resides in Athens with his wife of 39 years, Lita. For additional study notes, see the Facebook page International Sunday School Lessons.