Mark 2:1-12 – Sin and Healing

That Jesus did miracles is the claim of every layer of tradition in the New Testament. Even non-biblical writers describe Jesus as a healer. But Jesus did not heal people to gain an audience or to generate interest in his mission, he never asked for anything from those he healed. Jesus did not want “prayer partners” who regularly give to his ministry. Jesus healed in order to reveal something about himself. The healing in Mark 2 is an example of this “healing as self-revelation.”

Jesus returns to Capernaum and attracts a very large crowd at Peter’s home. A paralytic is brought to Jesus by some friends to be healed. Since they cannot enter the home because of the crowd, the men go onto the roof and break a hole large enough to lower the man on a pallet into room where Jesus was. The roof of a typical home at the time of Jesus was a sun dried mud thatch, so the very “to dig” is quite appropriate.

Mark 2:5 says “When he saw their faith,” referring to the friends of the paralytic. But rather than heal the paralytic, Jesus forgives the man’s sins. The paralytic does not demonstrate faith, at least to our knowledge, nor did he ask for his sins to be forgiven. Jesus pronounces the man’s sins forgiven in order to make a point about himself – the miracle here is a revelation of who Jesus is.

There was a relationship between sins and birth defects in the minds of the Scribes and Pharisees. Jesus may be attacking this misconception of sin by forgiving the sin without healing the man. In the ancient world, an extreme illness or birth defects was considered to be the result of sin, either on the part of the sick person or on the part of the person’s parents or grandparents. (The disciples ask about a blind man in John 9:1-2.) Not only do all the people observing this believe this to be true, but the man himself probably believed that his sickness was the result of sin.

Forgiveness of sin and healing typically go together in the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Period Judaism. In 2 Chron 7:14, God forgives the sins of Israel and “heals their land.” Similarly, Psalm 103:3 connects forgiveness with the healing of disease, and in Isaiah 19:22 the Lord responds to Israel, hears their pleas and heals the nation.

For most of the original audience, it is  startling that Jesus claims to forgive sin by his own authority. in fact, Jesus;s claim to have forgiven the man’s sin elicits a strong reaction from the religious leaders observing Jesus’ actions. Jesus did not say, for example, “in the name of God your sins are forgiven,” but rather “your sins are forgiven.” Jesus himself is forgiving the sins as if he were the one offended by them rather than God.

Noticing their thoughts, Jesus says to the teachers of the law: Which is easier, to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or ‘rise and walk’?” It is just as easy to say one as the other. Jesus point is that saying is the easy part, doing is the difficult part. Jesus says that he will not only forgive the man’s sins, but he will heal him, so that the teachers of the Law might know that he has the authority to do those things. There is a significant bit of theology packed into this statement. Authority is power, ability, and permission to do something.

Jesus healed in order to signal the beginning of the messianic age and to prove to the Jewish leadership that he was the Messiah. That Jesus calls himself the Son of Man in this section important since it is likely an allusion to Daniel 7, where “someone like a son of man” is given authority to rule. In a sense, Jesus is drawing together three lines of evidence for his divinity. He forgives sin, he is about to heal a lame man, and he claims to be the Messianic Son of Man.

21 thoughts on “Mark 2:1-12 – Sin and Healing

  1. And this whole subject and section turns back to the authority and belief of the NT Scripture, itself. Jesus can both heal and say “your sins are forgiven you”! Indeed Messianic! And it was for much of this that the Jewish leadership sought to see Rome “crucify” Jesus!

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  2. I really found it interesting in this post the fact that there was a relationship between a birth defect and sin. I really feel that people during the times of Jesus were a little superstitious mainly because it seems that for every problem that people may have there is a definite reason why this is happened. I can see this type of actions in the eyes of the Pharisees and Jesus seemed to as well and told the Pharisees it was accepted to forgive sin and sickness. Another thing that I found interesting in this post was that Jesus did not say “in the name of God” I forgive your sins. This action really showed the power of Jesus and how his ministry was beginning.

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  3. The whole idea that it was a common thing for the people of this day to believe that illness was a cause of either one’s own sins or the sins of their ancestor’s is an extremely interesting point. It’s especially interesting when you realize that the lame man himself, probably thought that his illness was the result of this. Can you imagine looking at someone who has cancer, and believing they received the illness from sinning, or the sins of their parents? Or going blind and wondering what sin it was that you had done to deserve such a thing? Jesus’ way of handling this situation goes to speak volumes about such an issue of misunderstanding. We of course know that Jesus had the authority and power to forgive the man of his sins. But when he said so in front of the crowd, two things would have occurred in their minds. First, they would have thought, who does this guy think he is? He claims to have the power to forgive this man of his sins. Is it not only God himself who has such power? And Secondly, if this man could really do such a thing, then why doesn’t the man get up and walk? Surely if he is forgiven, then he will not be cursed by this lameness? Jesus then rebukes these two questions by healing the man after he has forgiven him of his sins. This is a revelation of his power and authority, and accompanied by the following statement in which he calls himself the Son of Man, a claim to be the Messiah.

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  4. The thought that the Jews blamed sin for different defects or diseases is not a shocking fact to me. Growing up in Africa this was a common struggle that we often dealt with. There were times that even our own Pastors would believe that someone had die or had a seizure because of their sin or their families’ sins. This was a belief that the Tanzanians had grown up with therefore it was difficult to come in and try to tell them they were wrong.
    “Jesus healed in order to signal the beginning of the messianic age and to prove to the Jewish leadership that he was the Messiah,” (P.Long). I agree with P. Long that Jesus performed miracles to signal the beginning of the messianic age and because the Jews required signs in order for them to believe that He was the Messiah. “Jews demand miraculous signs (saemeion) and Greeks look for wisdom,” (1 Cor. 1:22). Therefore, Christ’s main reason in these signs was often because the Jews required them at the time.

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  5. After reading Strauss’ chapter on miracles, one of the things that struck me the most was the claim of not only eye witnesses of Jesus’ miracles but also of non-biblical writers and prominent men in history who acknowledged Jesus as some sort of healer. Strauss states that “While this data does not prove that Jesus actually performed miracles, it confirms that he was widely acclaimed as a miracle worker—even among his enemies” (458). Another very interesting idea that Strauss developed throughout the second half of his chapter on Jesus’ miracles dealt with the significance and purpose of the miracles themselves. While Jesus miracles inevitably gave Him praise and recognition among the witnesses, Strauss suggests that these miracles were performed for the purpose of bringing the presence of God’s kingdom to the earth. As we discussed earlier that Jesus’ ministry on earth was the arrival of and beginnings of God’s kingdom on earth that paved the way for when His kingdom will come to its full rule in the future, these miracles were a large part of this breaking through of God’s kingdom. Through his miracles dealing with healing, exorcisms, and nature, Jesus showed his ultimate power over all things including sickness and death, the laws of nature, and ultimately Satan. It was His way of making the nearness and “at-hand” element of the kingdom of God a reality for the people. By healing and forgiving sins simply by commanding that it be done, Jesus gives his own name power and authority and shows the significance of God using Him as a tool through which the kingdom of God was near and working among them. While the evil of Satan through demon possession as well as every form of sin was among the people, God’s kingdom was ultimately authoritative and had power over it all. “Authority is power, ability, and permission to do something” (P. Long). The significance of this definition in my mind is the element of permission. Without permission, Satan has absolutely no power. I think of the life of Job and all the suffering that he had to endure. Without the power that God granted Satan (Job 1:12), Satan would have had absolutely no control over Job’s life. While God allowed Job to go through the time of testing, he ultimately blessed him for his faithfulness and God’s purposes won out. While Job could have made the decision to curse God and His plans for him, God still had control in the matter concerning Satan’s power and involvement. Overall, none of the people who were blessed by Jesus’ miracles during His ministry on earth did absolutely anything to deserve or prove themselves worth of them. This only further supports the purpose of those miracles– to make a statement about and reveal the presence and power of the kingdom of God.

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  6. Being brought up in a Christian family and in the church, I have always known the stories of Jesus healing people. However, those stories have always been about the amazing power that Christ has and the great love He has shown to people. It is not too often that I connect Jesus’ healings with His proclamation of the Kingdom. “Jesus’ healing miracles are evidence of the coming kingdom, a foretaste of the restoration of creation promised in Isaiah and the prophets” (Strauss 462). The authority that Jesus has and proclaims when he healed people was a message that He is the messiah. I find the response to the healing of the paralytic very interesting. We have been talking about how Jesus did many things that the Jews of that day did not expect the Messiah to do. And then here in Mark 2, Jesus shows authority to forgive sins and to heal. Like Mitch said, the people wondered who Jesus thought he was. But they also could not help but be completely amazed by Jesus’ power and authority. “This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this’ (Mark 2:12). Jesus, in His proclamation of the kingdom, completely surprised the people of that day. He did things that they did not expect, things that left them completely amazed and shocked. Such was the Jesus’ ministry.

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  7. Jesus was revealing who he was, through what he was. He wasn’t a healer, that was his job, he didn’t have a job. He revealed who he was through forgiving sins and healing people, whether they showed faith in him or not. That is what really displayed who Jesus was and what the point of his ministry was. ‘Jesus pronounces the man’s sins forgiven in order to make a point about himself – the miracle here is a revelation of who Jesus is.’ ‘Authority is power, ability, and permission to do something.’ (P. Long) every single time Jesus is the topic of discussion he is always draws traditions and major ideas, or recognizable cultural aspect into how he approaches a situation. Like with turning water into wine. Also he is grabbing things from the old testament, and implementing them in his teaching. Jesus was great at presenting the subject matter he wanted to get across to people.

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  8. “But Jesus did not heal people to gain an audience or to generate interest in his mission, he never asked for anything from those he healed… Jesus healed in order to reveal something about himself (P.Long).” This is a big reason why I have so much respect for what Jesus did. He was humble in all that he did and his actions had the purest intent. This is such a great example for those going into ministry and how our hearts and minds should be as we lead others and teach from the Word of God.
    Jesus healed the mans sins first (Mark 2:5), this was done as a way to show his authority and to make a point of how crippling sin can be. When he is questioned, he goes ahead and heals the man. He saw the faith of the men and then healed and forgave the paralytic man. Faith in him is required for us to be forgiven and healed.

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  9. “Mark 2:5 says “When he saw their faith,” referring to the friends of the paralytic. But rather than heal the paralytic, Jesus forgives the man’s sins. The paralytic does not demonstrate faith, at least to our knowledge, nor did he ask for his sins to be forgiven. Jesus pronounces the man’s sins forgiven in order to make a point about himself – the miracle here is a revelation of who Jesus is.” (P.Long) I guess I never really thought of the fact that we do not see an act of faith from the paralytic, rather an act of faith from his friends. And yet Jesus still forgives this man of his sin. After reading this section and the section on how sin related to people in the OT to having been perhaps “karma, it would make complete sense for Jesus to do this in the sight of the Jews. It was something that applied to their culture and their view. Not only that, but Jesus also heals this person. To me this is saying, “I am Christ, I forgive people of their sins, and I heal you of your difficulties. Had I been a Jew in this day and age, this would hit right at home (from how I understand the cultural view. This is something that I believe was a huge revelation for Christ to make at this point in time.

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  10. “In the ancient world, an extreme illness or birth defects was considered to be the result of sin” I have never made this connection before P-Long; thank you for a new view on this. This whole post was interesting to me, because I wondered when reading this passage why Jesus said that he was forgiven (Mark 2:1-12), because there was no previous background on the man it just seemed like Jesus had done an extra nice thing by healing him AND forgiving him. But with this new view I can see where it would be basically the same thing in the Ancient World because of how different the cultures and such were.
    This was very interesting for me to read and think about, thank you P Long for always giving me a different perspective on things. Naomi I liked how you brought 1 Cor. Into the picture, and showed more biblical background to this.

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  11. Well, in response to Mitch and Naomi’s posts, every so often when I stub my toe, get sick, injured, or something else bad happens I wonder which sin I committed that that was discipline or retribution for. And then shake my head and say, I don’t think God really works that way. Although it is funny to see that an entire culture felt and had reason to believe in this manner.
    In response to you and the others, I find it interesting as well that non-biblical writers wrote about Jesus as a miracle worker. I like that he is acknowledged and believed as so even by those who do not believe that he is the messiah, the son of God. I don’t know why I like that, but I do. It may be because it shows gives more evidence or reason to believe that Jesus really did miracles, whether you believe he saved the world or not, one has to admit he was pretty miraculous for “just a human being”. It might make people think twice.
    Did Jesus do the miracles to show who he was? I feel as though some of us are saying he did, when Strauss and Wright seem to disagree. I definitely agree that “for Jesus, the miracles are not showy demonstrations of power or even proof of his identity. They are rather manifestations of the in-breaking power of the kingdom of God, a foretaste and preview of the restoration of creation promised by God through the prophets of old, now coming to fulfillment through Jesus the Messiah” (466). I think a bit of his miracles, healing and exorcisms are to illustrate parables (mostly as Strauss was explaining the nature miracles to be) and the rest of his miracles, healing, and exorcisms are Jesus bringing a little bit of the Kingdom to earth! A glimpse of what we have to look forward to. A glimpse of God, if you will. See rev. 21:3-5 🙂 So excited!

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  12. I really found this post interesting because it was always something I wondered about. I could never really, fully, understand the connection between the healing and the forging of sins. And it makes complete sense knowing the connection between sins and sicknesses. (This is where understanding the culture makes a world of difference!) Because, for them, when they heard Jesus say that the man’s sins were forgiven, they actually, in a way, heard that he was healed; because to them, he was sick because he sinned…or someone in his family sinned. But, like Jesus tended to do, not only did He mean that he was healed at the time, He was also implying the future reality that one day, whoever believes in Him would have their sins forgiven and also be restored with the rest of creation. “Just as Adam’s fall brought sickness and death, so Jesus’ coming will bring healing and life” (Strauss 462). Along with that, Strauss goes on to say that Jesus once again counteracted the Jewish beliefs when he healed “unclean” people. But this did not cause Jesus to be unclean, but rather that He cleansed the person; again, just as it all will be one day.

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  13. Jesus did not ask for anything when he healed people. He did not even want people to spread the news of what he had done. He was a humble man when he healed people and preformed miracles. Until i did my reading for this week and read the article i never understood why Jesus healed people and then said your sins are forgiven. I never knew that people associated someone being sick or ill a result of them or their family having a sinful past. These articles and other peoples responses help me understand the culture and background of these people and why some of them did what they did.

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  14. The point of Jesus’ miracles is not to show his power, or the fact that he can do supernatural things. The reason for Jesus’ miracles is much deeper than that. He is showing the coming kingdom of God through himself, the Messiah. He did miracles such as healings, exorcisms, resurrections, and nature miracles. He did the miracles to show that He truly was the Son of God, that he had complete authority, that he had defeated satan and that he had totally power over him, and that he had control over creation. The resurrections he did even allude to the death of Christ and the then death of our mortal bodies along with the renewal of life with him forever. The miracles show the in breaking of the kingdom of God.

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  15. When Jesus chose to perform miracles He did so to reveal truth about who He was. This I agree with. Though, I also believe that these miracles most definitely are “attention-grabbers.” They grab the attention of the crowds but most importantly, the Pharisees. Jesus uses them as illustrations, displays of power, etc. If we do say that the story of Jesus and the Paralytic was a moment when Jesus used a miracle to reveal Himself, I would say this is true. The only question I have is: Why would Jesus forgive a man who didn’t (from what we know) ask for forgiveness or even have faith He would heal him? It must be that Jesus wanted to prove faithful through this forgiveness and healing of the lame man to the men who lowered him down. So, all of this being said, Jesus used miracles not only to prove His power, catch the attention of the people around Him, and to show love and compassion. He performed these signs to reveal Himself to others as you were saying. I find this to be very interesting. This wasn’t something I was taught in church growing up but something that definitely makes sense.

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    • I do not think that is the case, either here in Mark 2 or in any other case. God can heal whomever he wants. The point in Mark 2 is that the teachers of the Law see a connection between a person’s sin and physical illness, not unlike John 9, where the disciples asked if ether the blind man or his parents had sinned to cause this blindness. In both stories Jesus rejects that popular way of thinking, saying illness and/or healing is for the glory of God.

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  16. Sin is directly related to illness without question. This is the BIGGEST problem in the church today. Read your Bible everybody.

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    • Actually Chris, if you read the passage that I am talking about in this post as well as John 9, you will have to re-think the use of “without question.” In both cases Jesus himself breaks the connection between sin and illness. I do not think you can demonstrate from Scripture Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was the result of sin either. You can feel free to think sin is directly related to illness, but you cannot state it as what the Bible teaches.

      There is a serious problem with Christians who think their sickness is a punishment for some sin, since we live in sick and dying bodies. I have a head cold at the moment that is the result of living in West Michigan in the early Spring. God did not give me a head cold to teach me anything, it happens to people who are dumb enough to live in this part of the world.

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