Forgiveness and healing are combined in this narrative because they are combined in the authority of Jesus. That is the point that Mark wants us to see. This isn’t meant to give us a point about the importance of forgiveness over against the importance of physical healing (you can make that point elsewhere, but it’s not here). And this isn’t meant to give us some sort of prescription for a healing ministry—as if someone is unable to be healed because they have sin in their life. That’s perhaps a point you could make from other places of Scripture, but not here. Mark combines these for one reason—Jesus’ authority over both.
Moving into a new community can be difficult. Sure, meeting new people. Finding new friends. Learning the location of all the important shops and restaurants can be taxing. But the most difficult is setting up new internet service. The customer service for these places is often atrocious.
You do all the research, you figure out exactly which package fits your needs. You make the call.
“Hi, my name is Mike. I’m moving to the area and I’d like to know how much I can get this package for.”
“Thank you for calling today sir. I’d like to tell you about our special glass cleaner we sell.”
“Noooo, I don’t want that. I just want this internet package. Is it available at my address? And how much is it?”
“Wonderful, I can help you with this sir. What is your name?”
Gives name for the fourth time.
“Can I interest you in our 450 channel package. It comes with….” 15 minute spiel.
“No thank you…I just want this very specific package and that is all. Can you get that set up for me.”
“Oh, yes, sir. But first, can I interest you in….”
When you read the story of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12 it almost seems as if Jesus is giving us an impression of a Suddenlink employee. It’s pretty clear that the pressing need for this guy is the lack of working legs. When Jesus says to the man, “Your sins are forgiven” it feels like he’s offering him glass cleaner instead of addressing the obvious reason for his rather disruptive house call.
I’ve preached this passage a couple of times before and each time I made the point here that our issue of sin is much more pressing than the issue of a physical malady. I still think that’s theologically true—but I actually think I was guilty of imposing something onto the text that isn’t there.
What Is Jesus Doing Here?
The truth is we don’t know why Jesus tied this man’s healing to being forgiven. In fact, it’s not a common thing for Jesus to do this. Rarely do we see these two tied together. If anything Jesus is pretty adamant about untying those (see Luke 13, John 9). So why does he connect them here? Is it because he had special knowledge of this guy? Was he a notorious sinner?
We don’t know.