The Miracle of Mercy

The other night in our family devotional time, we were reading the story of Jesus healing the paralytic found in Mark 2. Growing up in a Christian home and in the church, I’ve read and heard this story many, many times before, but one of the things I love most about Scripture is that each time I read and study even a familiar passage, the Holy Spirit reveals something new. I realized quickly that this was one of those instances as we began to discuss the story with our kids. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page, here’s the CliffsNotes version of the story: Four men carry their paralyzed friend to go and see Jesus to receive healing. However, Jesus has begun attracting large crowds as he’s speaking and healing, and so the men are unable to gain access to Jesus through the typical entrance point, the door. So these clever friends decide to remove the roof tiles of the home and lower their friend down to Jesus through the roof. Upon seeing the efforts of these men and the needs of their paralyzed friend, Jesus immediately speaks to the paralyzed man, saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes that overheard His words questioned Jesus in their hearts, wondering who but God alone can forgive sins. Finally, Jesus, perceiving their thoughts responds to them and in order to demonstrate His authority to forgive sins, He tells the paralyzed man, “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And that’s exactly what the paralyzed man did. 

End of story. Nice and tidy, right?

 Well, maybe. But if I’m being honest, I’ve always wondered why Jesus, upon seeing the paralyzed man and recognizing his need for healing, offered forgiveness for the man’s sins instead. I mean, of course this man needed forgiveness, but his friends had brought him to Jesus for physical healing, right? 

While discussing this story with my kids, the Holy Spirit revealed two new truths to me from this story. The first is this: Jesus didn’t make a mistake when speaking to the paralyzed man. He wasn’t confused about why he had come. Jesus knew full well the reason the four men had laid this man at His feet. He saw his physical need. But He also saw the man’s heart. We can know that the paralyzed man, like each of us, was a sinful man. Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This man was paralyzed and in need of healing, yes, but he was also a sinner in need of a Savior, and Jesus knew that, in that moment and in every moment, the need for forgiveness and salvation was his greatest need. So Jesus, gracious and kind, offers the man healing of his soul first. This was Jesus’ priority. While Jesus performed many miracles during his time on earth, His true purpose was to, as Luke 19:10 tells us, “seek and save the lost.”

The second truth I realized that night is that the reason I’ve always wondered about Jesus’ “order of healing” in this story is because I tend to approach Him in the same way. Often I pray and ask the Lord to “fix” my physical world. Maybe that means I’m asking for physical healing. Maybe it’s just asking for the Lord to keep me comfortable. Maybe I’m asking Him to change my circumstances or remove me from a difficult season. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with those requests if they’re within God’s will for me, the problem is that I tend to ask for them first. But Jesus’ response to the paralyzed man has reminded me that He is more concerned with the healing of my soul than of my circumstances, and I should be as well. 

This realization convicts me, but it also gives me great hope. Jesus can heal my heart, even if He chooses not to heal my body. Jesus can provide me with right standing before the Lord, even if nothing else in my world seems right. Jesus can revive my soul without reviving my circumstances, and He can and does meet my greatest need - forgiveness from my sin. 

I’d be amiss if I didn’t circle back to what happens at the end of this story. Jesus offered the paralyzed man forgiveness but then He also offered him physical healing. Jesus saw this man. He saw his sin. He saw his broken body. He saw his faith and the faith of his friends. And He healed him. The paralyzed man left the home rejoicing and telling everyone he saw what Jesus had done for him. I wonder if he knew in that moment the miraculous mercy he’d been given. I wonder if he was more excited about the condition of his body or that of his soul. I wonder if he had his priorities straight. 

One thing is for sure, Jesus did. He knew exactly what it was He had come to do. He knew His mission. Hearts over healing. Redemption over remedies. Salvation for the lost and forgiveness of sins. He offered it to the paralyzed man and offers it to us as well. Will we receive the salvation and soul-healing that is extended to us from the nail-scarred hands of Jesus? 

May we all, like the paralyzed man, find ourselves at Jesus’ feet ready to receive His miracle: the miracle of mercy. 

Megan Woodham