Please begin by reading the passage below:
When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (Mark 2:1-12)
In our modern age, when we read this passage, we find it surprising that Jesus seems to overlook the obvious problem at hand: the man’s paralysis. What we cannot relate to is the fact that during Jesus lifetime, it was a common belief among the Jews that “all disease and affliction was a direct result of one’s sins” (MacArthur commentary). So for the people gathered there at the time, it was a foregone conclusion that the man was paralyzed because of his sins, or the sins of his parents. We can deduce from a plain reading of the text that Jesus addressed the spiritual dilemma first, and the physical dilemma second to demonstrate and validate His claim to be God.
When I read this text this morning, a verse from Isaiah came to mind that points to another lesson from the account of the paralytic: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord (55:8). As mortals we naturally focus on the tangible, physical state of things by default. Our focus is on the here and now; the temporal. We are most concerned with our physical circumstances: what makes us happy and content, what ails us. But God is not like us and His thoughts are not our thoughts. He values and prioritizes differently than we do. And that is where we struggle, isn’t it? God has an eternal perspective and we often, even after salvation, operate with a temporal, worldly perspective. We like to be comfortable and content; we strive for happiness. It seems to me that this account in the gospel of Mark shows us what God sees as a priority: the spiritual condition. Jesus is demonstrating that it is the spiritual need that is more urgent and more important. We, being flesh and blood, would naturally be more focused on our physical condition, but Jesus is concerned with the heart.
Does this mean that Jesus doesn’t care about our circumstances or struggles? No, certainly not. Over and over again we are shown Jesus compassion toward people. But it helps us to recognize the ultimate priority and concern: our eternal souls.
Soli Deo Gloria!