Learning from History – Part 2

(This post is a follow up to the Learning from History post by Jeanette Pang on 6 Apr 17)

Amy Cheong/

Mark 2:1-12, Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man

2A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4Since 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. 5When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, Son, your sins are forgiven.

6Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7Why does this fellow talk like that? Hes blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?

8Immediately 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? 9Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Get up, take your mat and walk? 10But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. So he said to the man, 11I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home. 12He 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!

Most of us are familiar with the above story and take it at face value as a story of the faith of the paralytic man and his friends. However, if we look deeper into and closer at the story, two things are striking. Firstly, why did Jesus say the words of forgiveness, Son, your sins are forgiven, instead of the healing words, Get up, take your mat and walk to the paralytic who was surely looking for physical healing? Secondly, why is it the paralytic could not get INTO the room (and had to access it via a hole in the roof), but could easily walk OUT after he was healed?

Dr Lim Kar Yong shares that from history and archaeology, we learn that the Jews of that time considered illness and being handicapped as being the consequence of sin (cf John 9, Jesus Heals the Man Born Blind). This explains why Jesus focused on cleansing the paralytic from sin, rather than speak healing words to the man. This also explains why the paralytics friends could not get him to Jesus as the crowds would not have made way for a sinner, and yet he could easily walk out past the crowds once he was healed and no longer a sinner.

This fascinating insight tells us a lot about the self-righteousness and lack of compassion we have for the people around us, and how God views that hypocrisy.

Look out for the next post for more interesting explanations of difficult passages in Scripture from the study of History and Archaeology.

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