The rains have started in Arizona. We all breathe a “sigh of relief” when the monsoon rains start. The extreme temperatures subside and the parched desert receives valuable rain.
The grass in my back yard is starting to look vibrant again. Last week, I realized that with the rain and sudden growth, I needed to get it mowed. Mowing the grass never seems to fit in with my busy schedule; nonetheless, I got the faithful mower out to take care of the overgrown lawn. As I began to mow, I realized the lawn was overrun with weeds—especially one obnoxious weed. I stopped the mower and began to pull a few of these weeds. They had long roots, presumably to survive in this arid climate. They came up relatively easy, and I thought to myself, “If I work at pulling them steady, I should have them all pulled in about 30 minutes.”
After nearly two hours and three five-gallon buckets of these weeds, I was done and done in! It may be a dry heat, but it was a hot afternoon even with the lower temps. I thought to myself, “there must be a spiritual lesson in all of this.” I then prayed, “Lord, is there something you want me to see in this?” I heard the Holy Spirit say, “The weeds are like doubt, negativity, unforgiveness, offense, and hurts that people have lodged in their hearts. Left long enough, they begin to overrun the good soil of their hearts and affect their spiritual walk.”
Weeds, whether in the lawn or in the heart, must be removed. They hinder growth. To grow in grace, the soil of your heart needs to be cultivated with the weeds removed. Doubt is a “big weed.” Oral Roberts would say, “Doubt, and do without; with faith believe and receive.” Greater faith is realized when the weeds of doubt are removed. More on faith in a moment.
This week I continue in the study of the Gospel of Mark, with the story of Jesus forgiving and healing a paralytic man.
And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together, so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the word to them. Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men. And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was. So when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying.
When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.”
And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Mark 2:1-12.
By this time in Mark’s narrative, Jesus has been proclaiming and demonstrating the Kingdom of God throughout Galilee. His mission is very successful, with no opposition. However, beginning with the healing of the paralytic, Jesus encounters opposition to His message and ministry by the religious authorities.
This story is the first of five conflict stories, in which Jesus faces increasing resistance, culminating in a plot to kill Him. However, each story illustrates this “new teaching with authority,” and provides greater revelation of His true identity.
After a preaching tour in Galilee (1:39), Jesus returns to Capernaum, His adopted hometown. His presence and ministry attract so many to the house of Simon Peter that there is no longer room for them in the house. Rumor has spread, the “healer” is back!
Often, those who desire to get near Jesus must push past crowds and obstacles for breakthrough (Mk 7:27; 10:13, 48).
The four men bring their paralytic friend to Jesus. Hoisting the man up to the flat roof, made of beams covered with thatch and packed clay (see Luke 5:19), they break through the roof and began to lower him into the room below. Imagine how distracting this was?! Yet, Mark records no account of Peter or Jesus being upset that the men damaged the roof. Imagine those in the room!
“When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” (Mark 2:5) In fact, rather than a rebuke, Jesus commends their faith—their persistence and agreement for their friend’s healing. Did you notice, there is no mention of the paralytic’s faith?
Jesus response, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” No doubt this is not the response the man wanted to hear. Jesus goes to the root of a deeper paralysis, the interior crippling that comes from sin. Jesus is linking, in this man’s case, sin with sickness.
Jesus is drawing on a biblical theme that was familiar to His listeners: although illness is contrary to God’s intention, it is one of the evils that afflict humanity as a consequence of sin (2 Chr. 26:16-21; Ps. 38:2-18; 107:17). This does not mean that all sickness or disease can be attributed to personal fault or sin; the examples of Job and the suffering just man in the Psalms demonstrate that the innocent also suffer.
But in this case, Jesus sees into the man’s heart and releases him from the guilt of sin he has been carrying, perhaps unconsciously for years. Being freed from the sin is the precondition to his being freed of his physical handicap.
Jesus’ word to the man is known by philosophers as a “performative statement,” a statement that brings about what it says. For example, the wedding vow, “I do,” is an example of a performative statement. In other words, Jesus is not merely telling the man God has forgiven him, but He is “effecting” or “causing” that forgiveness. Prophecy is both foretelling (future) and forthtelling (effecting)—it could be argued that Jesus was “forthtelling,” declaring what was to be.
Nevertheless, this statement, that the man’s sins are forgiven, stuns the crowd—including the religious elite in attendance. They know well that only God can forgive sins (Ps. 51; Isa. 43:25). They are upset and conclude in their hearts, “He is blaspheming.” Jesus perceives their misgivings, giving initial evidence that His claim is legitimate—for only God knows the human heart (1 Sam. 16:7; Jer. 11:20).
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?” Mark 2:9 Which is easier?
It may seem, that calling forth the forgiveness of sins, related to the hidden life of a person, is easier than calling forth a physical miracle. But the claim to do a miracle, “Arise take up your bed and walk,” could be proved on the spot. Jesus will do what is “harder” as a sign of His authority to do what seems to be “easier,” forgiving sin.
The phrase in verse 10, “but that you may know,” is a phrase used often in the OT when a display of God’s power will demonstrate that He is God (Ex. 8:6; 10:2; 16:12; Isa. 45:3). Jesus applies it to Himself: His works of healing are a revelation of His divine identity and His power to take away sins. To further add to the story and confirmation of His divinity, Jesus refers to Himself as the Son of Man, a messianic term repeated in the New Testament.
Jesus says to the man, “I say to you arise, take up your bed, and go to your house. Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out … all were amazed and glorified God…” (Vs. 11-12) The crowd is ecstatic, but the scribes are upset and begin to nurse a grudge.
The man’s physical healing is proof that he is forgiven, freed from the inner turmoil of sin, and now begins to live a new life—Paul would describe this new creation life later (2 Cor. 5:17).
As human beings, all of us are “paralyzed” and need “help” in getting to Jesus. Most of us were hurting in some way before meeting Jesus. But, someone prayed, or shared the gospel with you, or perhaps someone (s) helped “carry you” to Jesus.
The faith of this man’s loyal friends was the catalyst for Jesus to work a miracle and change his whole life. In a similar way, as Christians, we are called upon to help bring those who can’t get to Jesus by themselves. Parents, intercessors, evangelism etc.
Faith Builds for Miracles
Notice Mark 2:2, “He preached the word to them.” Jesus knew the importance of teaching about the Kingdom of God. Result: He built faith in the people for healing and the miracles. They were hearing the Word and they were in God’s presence—these are principles for greater breakthrough and miracles.
Faith is an essential element for the release of healing and miracles. To be filled with the Spirit is to be filled with faith. Abiding in the Word and Spirit builds greater faith. For most people, it’s not a lack of faith in the greatness of God that hinders their miracle, rather doubt in their hearts. Many lack the “faith of God.”
You can believe a promise, but at the same time not have the faith to appropriate it. Faith is not intellectual, but spiritual. It is primarily in the heart, not in the mind that faith flourishes. Faith can be received only as it is imparted to the heart, by God himself. When you have the “faith of God,” all things become possible.
There are many negative factors that affect faith, such as poor theology, negative experiences, doubt, unbelief, inner wounds (unforgiveness, offense, bitterness), and unconfessed sin. Replacing undesirable factors (remember the weeds from the beginning of the post?) with God’s truth cultivates the soil of your heart and builds faith.
Negative experiences and weak theology not anchored in the Kingdom of God breed “doubt” in the hearts of many. Today, as in Jesus’ day, there are many “Unbelieving believers!” (See Mark 16)
“Whoever says to the mountain … and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done…” (Mark 11:23-24) Believing can take opposite forms. It can be faith, or it can be doubt. Doubt is the reverse of faith. Doubt tells you that God does not exist or that He is unloving or uncaring about your need.
Faith is an imparted grace to the heart. Paul writes in Rom. 10:17, that “Faith comes by hearing (understanding) and hearing by “A” word (grace given) of God.” There is a measure of faith, then there is faith by grace, or the faith of God. When the faith of God is deposited in the heart and properly cultivated, answered prayer and miracles are to be expected.
Expectancy opens your life to God’s power and provision. You are placed in a position to receive – salvation, joy, health, finances, peace. To undergird your faith, patience is needed and a firm focus on the goodness of God. You must trust God—through the storms and delays—knowing that He is good all the time! (Nahum 1:7).
Understand that there is a “mystery” of faith that affects the mystery of healing.
Many times, faith is coming or can come from different places. There is (1) the faith of the person receiving prayer, 2) the faith of person praying, 3) corporate faith, 4) a gift of faith… Many times, the people we are trying to get to Jesus for healing or breakthrough have little or no faith. But they need our help, to stand with them, and to pray with them.
- “Again I assure you that if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, then my Father who is in heaven will do it for you.” (Matt. 18:19 CEB) There is strength in unity.
- From Deut. 32:30 and Joshua 23:10, we can conclude that, “one can chase a thousand, but two shall be able to put ten thousand to flight.”
- In Luke 10:1, Jesus appointed 70 other disciples and sent them 2 by 2 before Him into every city.
- Acts 13:2, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul…”
- Also, in Acts 3, Peter and John are ministering to the lame man, and through the strength of their unified faith, the miracle was done in his body.
I’m mentioning these verses and cases to show you that there are authority and power in the prayer of agreement. (Matt. 18:19)
Faith and the prayer of agreement are important factors for God’s power to be released. There are cases in which the person is unable to reason, or is too sick to grasp these truths or listen to the word of God. Maybe the person is not present.
In such cases, two believers can agree in prayer, and the promise is: “it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven.”
The faith and compassion of four men, coupled with their agreement on earth, cooperated with heaven for their friend’s miracle. Four men had a revelation that all things are possible with God. Jesus is our breakthrough! He has already taken the roof off, He has prepared the way!
Eph. 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us.” It’s miracle power (kratos) working in us!