Healing the Paralytic at Capernaum

The story is fairly straightforward, but the extended descriptions of the actions of the paralytic or his friends is what caught my attention. In such Short stories whenever there is a lot of words given to seemingly less important things, like the movement of the paralytic, it makes me wonder if our author is drawing our attention to it for another reason. Perhaps white on first reading appears to be minor or secondary is actually major primary.

So I want you to think about if any of these details sound familiar. Friends lower a body down then he rises and walks out. These are all words that Marc will use later with Jesus in his death and resurrection. so Marc has composed this story to look like, two parallel Jesus‘s death and resurrection.

OK so that’s cool enough but the second question and equally important is why, why has he made this parallel, how does that contribute to the point Mark is trying to make about Jesus. Literary artistry rarely if ever exists as pure ornamentation, icing on the cake that doesn’t have any relation to the main preseason themes of the work. All the aesthetic features are building up one cumulative case. So what is the case here?

Why do the friends lower him into the house because lowering it’s a symbol of going down the death notice that when his resurrected exits the house where the Pharisees do not. Also notice that the teaching that Jesus is doing is in the home in death because Jesus‘s death will be our tutor

Mark uses the same words of “to rise” and “door” in this story and the resurrection story to tie the stories together. You also have similar actions. In each story you have a body laid flat and placed into a location that is taken apart. In Mark the roof is taken off and in death and resurrection the narrator tells us that there was a stone cut out from the rock (Mark 15:46)

Also in each story you have four friends who accompany the sufferer. In the story of the paralytic we are told that the paralytic is “carried by four men” (2:3) and in Mark 15 we are told about Simon the Cyrene who carries Jesus’ cross, Mary Magdalene, and Mary Jesus’ Mother, and Joseph of Arimathea who carries Jesus body. Notice the connection of carrying in each story.

There is also a similar identification of Jesus. In Mark 2, the scribes respond to Jesus forgiving sins by questioning, “Who can forgive sins but God?” And during the crucifixion, the centurion declares, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (15:39). This identification of Jesus and divinity is rare in Mark’s gospel.

This last connection also reveals a contrast. In Mark 2, the narrator characterizes the scribes as “sitting” (2:6) and the narrator leaves them there, static and inactive. This is in contrast to the paralytic who was inactive but because of his raise rises and walks out.

In the parallel text, the crucifixion and resurrection, Mark tells us that the centurion was standing (15:39). That is, the centurion’s understanding of who Jesus is has already raised him up, mobilizing him in contrast to the immobility of the scribes.

Why the Parallel?

If Mark is foreshadowing Jesus’ death and resurrection in the story of the paralytic, why? What’s the purpose of the parallel? I think there are at least two reasons.

Jesus’ Death is a Tutor

If the lowering down of the paralytic’s body into the home where Jesus is is symbolic of Jesus’ death, then perhaps Jesus’ teaching in the home is meant to tell us that our tutelage happens in Jesus’ death. It is there that we learn about forgiveness of sins, the result of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

It is also fascinating that Mark, our narrator, opens the gospel in Mark 1:1 with the declaration that, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God.” And the only character (other than a demon) to identify Jesus correctly as the son of God is the centurion at the cross. But notice, it is not at the resurrection. The centurion learns something in Jesus’ death that allows him to see his true identity as the son of God. The centurion has been tutored in his death.

Jesus takes this man’s sickness

The paralytic is a picture of Jesus’ death and resurrection. But why? What’s the connection between the paralytic and Jesus? I think Jesus mimics the action of the paralytic to communicate that he takes on the suffering of the paralytic. Matthew makes this clear by quoting Isaiah after Jesus has been healing, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Matt. 8:17). Jesus does not just heal, but he heals by taking the suffering, taking the ailment upon himself.

He cannot carry the cross, just like the paralytic could carry neither himself nor his bed. He was laid flat and lowered down. And by God’s mighty word he was raised up, taking and healing all sicknesses. And that, my friends, is why, the Bible is Art.

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