A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!” Mark 2:1-12
What did Jesus see and value in the paralysed man? He may seem like a passive player in this scene but he most definitely was not. Until Jesus appeared on the public scene in Galilee, the man was helpless and hopeless. There was no cure for his condition and he was doomed to lie motionless on his mat day after day, relying on someone else to help him with every little detail of his life. He was a prisoner of his useless body with no hope of ever being released.
In that condition, his mind must have been hyperactive. How much time did he spend alone, just thinking? He was unable to do any religious exercises like offering sacrifices, attending the synagogue or celebrating the feasts, which might have brought some relief to his conscience. How many times did he lie wondering what caused his condition? What an internal hell he must have endured with no answers and no-one to give him hope.
What Jesus recognised in him drew out deep compassion for the man. He must have seen a repentant heart and a desperate longing for peace. Before He addressed his physical need, Jesus touched his heart. Forgiveness was a far greater need than healing and, with a word, Jesus swept his conscience clean. The man didn’t argue with His right or ability to forgive sins; he felt it, and his strengthened body responded.
Jesus values a broken and contrite heart. Until a person owns, not only his sin, but also his responsibility for his sin, he remains a prisoner to what is worse than sin itself, the pride that refuses to be accountable for the heart that rebels against God. Jesus values the ruthless honesty that confesses, “I did it and I alone am responsible for what I have done.” This includes the thoughts and motives that may never issue in any kind of action, but that remain in the heart to poison the inner life and cast a shadow over relationships with both God and men.