Introduction: Jesus loved people. Time and again in the gospels we can read that He healed someone, performed a miracle, preached, taught or in some way or another was involved with people. Certainly, He seldom went or stayed where He wasn’t wanted or if the place didn’t accept Him.
The events in this passage of Scripture happened early in Jesus’ ministry. According to, He already had called Andrew, Peter, James and John to be disciples and begun to minister to the people of Capernaum in various ways. Now we’re going to see one of the more unusual episodes in the gospels. The text is from :
“And again he entered into Capernaum after [some] days; and it was noised that he was in the house. And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive [them], no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken [it] up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this [man] thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, [Thy] sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
I. Inside the House
Jesus has returned to Capernaum after an interval of “some days (see v. 1). From chapter 1, we can read that He had done a number of great things, but left. He had gone to any number of places (v.1: Jesus had gone “throughout all Galilee”). I’m sure the people of Capernaum remembered how Jesus had not only taught with authority, but had also cast out a demon from a man who somehow was in the synagogue! Further, there were probably some who remembered how Jesus had healed Simon Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever.
There is one thing that seems to be missing from these days, as compared to those days, namely a hunger and thirst for the Word of God. It’s true there were synagogues, where the Law and the Prophets were expounded, but apparently nothing like the teaching ministry of Jesus had been there in a long time, if at all. Again we can refer back to Mark 1:22 where he records that Jesus spoke with authority, and not as the scribes. These are the same words, by the way, that Matthew used to describe the way Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount ().
We’re not told whose house this was, nor the size, or if there was anything special about the house’s construction. We can get an idea, based on models or other data, about the size of the house and the size of the rooms. One such place is in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, at the Great Passion Play. Some of the exhibits are replicas of tents, a replica of the Tabernacle, as well as some stone houses to represent dwellings of New Testament times. Of course, the sizes might be adjusted depending on the desires (if not wealth) of the property owner. But there are a few general principles: All of them had at least one door, leading either into the house or the courtyard; and there was usually another door, such as a trapdoor on the roof so the household members could get up on the roof. Several books about Bible customs and manners describe the cooling effects of breezes while one is standing on the roof. Plus, a few years later, Jesus and the disciples would have their last Passover meal together in a large upper room—a room built on the rooftop.
With this in mind, let’s take a look outside the house. Something was happening.
II. Outside the House
All we know for certain is that Jesus was in that house, and He was preaching the Word to all the people who came there. I’ve often wondered how it would have been to have heard Jesus actually speak! Nobody could deliver a better sermon, I think, than the Living Word of God in Person! Mark also tells us that people were standing near the door, straining, perhaps, to hear Jesus preach. Now, not only were they not able to get in themselves: they kept others out, too!
Some of the people who couldn’t get to Jesus were the four men, with their sick friend, who wanted their sick friend to be healed. Mark, by the way, is the only one of the three Evangelists who noted the crowd waiting and standing by the door, and that there was a group of four men who were carrying the sick man.
This sickness, by the way, was serious. The King James Version says he was sick of the palsy (see v. 3), which in the Greek isparalytikos—a paralytic (Strong’s). It’s the same word for the condition that affected the centurion’s servant whom Jesus healed (seeand following). When similar events and similar illnesses affect people in the same area, some folks might well wonder just what caused these problems.
Regardless of what caused the problem, these men—all five of them—wanted the sick man to be healed! Sometimes we need to remember that there was very little in the way of charity or help for disabled people—we might as well call them disabled, as that was the factual situation—and there certainly were no safety nets as we have for people in these days. The man still had to eat and drink, he had to arrange to have is taxes paid, and if he couldn’t work or didn’t receive charity, what was he going to do?
Perhaps they had heard how Jesus had healed people before (see Mark 1) or maybe word had come to them about the centurion’s servant. Could they have seen Jesus perform other miracles, or had they heard Him preach in the synagogue? Where did they receive their faith? How did they know—how could they know—if or how Jesus could heal their friend? We may not know the answers to these questions, but we do know this: They took action, putting legs on their faith, believing Jesus could heal their friend.
They found the way blocked by people standing too close to the door! If I read the text correctly, there didn’t seem to be any rush, or even a concern, about letting the sick man get close enough to Jesus so he could be healed! They couldn’t get through the door? Was there another way to get this man to Jesus? I wonder, which one of the five figured out, “Let’s try the roof” as a means to get past the crowd? No matter which one did, they gave it a try.
III. Up on the Rooftop
Let’s remember that most, if not all, houses of New Testament era had doors and also staircases. We’ve looked at this briefly. There were uses for staircases, from a way to get off the street quickly, or to come down from the rooftop. I doubt the designers or carpenters who built these houses figured the staircases would be used for emergency medical treatment!
We can also admire some of the skills of these four men. They somehow got their friend up to the rooftop—none of the Evangelists explain how—and, as Mark says, they uncovered the roof, and the broke up the roof! I won’t take the time to quote commentators, but some give very thorough explanations as to how they might have done it. Or, instead of skill, was it desperation? And what did they use to do the “excavating”—we don’t read that any of them had any tools. All we know is that they somehow dug a hole in the roof and got their friend to Jesus.
…and that was all that mattered.
IV. Down into the Room Where Jesus Was
Jesus, being human, couldn’t have helped but notice the commotion from the project going on upstairs, up on the rooftop! How He was able to maintain His train of thought while all of this was going on isn’t specified, but we know that He stopped when He saw the man being lowered down from the hole in the roof.
What did Jesus say? He took a look at the man, and said, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” I won’t go into the interaction between Jesus and the scribes (and why were they there?) about the power Jesus had to forgive sins. He did, and He does, from those days to these days. The episode closes with Jesus telling the man to rise up, and “go thy way” back to his house.
Mark closes this story by saying he—the sick man—rose up, took up his bed, and went forth before all of them! Think about this: His legs had probably withered due to inactivity, he hadn’t been able to walk—why else would four of his friends be carrying him?—and he probably couldn’t carry much of anything. Now, he’s healed! He could rise up from the floor, he could pick up his bed, and he could walk to his house.
Nobody could dispute any of this! Listen to the words of the crowd: “We never say it on this fashion” which could be rendered today as “We never saw anything like this before!”
We’ve seen that at one time in Capernaum, Jesus was preaching the Word of God to many, many people. There were so many that people were lined up outside the house, even near the door, so much so that nobody could get in! When the four men wanted to bring their sick friend, in faith that Jesus could heal the friend, they ran into a problem: they couldn’t get to where Jesus was. So they went onto the roof, somehow made a hole big enough to get the man to where Jesus was, and Jesus healed their friend. He was carried to Jesus, sick, but walked home after his healing!
So how does “go thy way” apply to us?
First, if we have family or friends who are sick, we need to get them to medical care, fast. We do have significant advances in medical care, but after all, some illnesses won’t be healed unless the Lord intervenes.
Second, when Jesus told the man, “go thy way”, the man obeyed. Jesus! He rose up, picked up his bed, and went home—probably passing through the very crowd who wouldn’t let him in just a few minutes before! Finally, we can “go our way” and share this good news, this great news, about Jesus and what He did for us.