Horsham, 14th January 2023
3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed 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 paralysed 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 paralysed 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!’
(New International Version)
Part 1: Verses 3-5
There is no evidence that Jesus owned this house, but there are indications that this is where he was staying. We know that he spent time at Peter’s house, possibly as a guest. Regardless of circumstances, this was the house to which Jesus went on His return to Capernaum. This was the house where people came to see Him. If the crowd came to see something amazing, they left satisfied.
The press of the crowd is so intense that a small group of men, carrying their sick friend, stood no chance of getting into the house where Jesus was teaching. The traditional houses would have used the roof as an area for storage and retreat in the cool of the evening, and the stairs by which you accessed the roof would be on the outside.
So I’m seeing these guys struggling to get their incapacitated friend through the peripheral crowd to get to those stairs. The patient was lying on a sleeping mat. Carrying a sick man up the steps isn’t easy, and they won’t have been doing this quietly.
Maybe Plan A was to lower him into the yard, right in front of Jesus. As it turned out, Jesus was actually inside the house, so Plan A didn’t work out. So then, one of the friends has an idea. They’ve brought him this far. They can’t drag him back downstairs and they certainly can’t leave him here in the sun. So, they need a Plan B. Even by middle eastern standards, Plan B is a bonkers idea.
The middle east has a wonderful culture of providing hospitality. The gate to the yard was often left open and it was expected that people could wander in. They might be offered water to wash their feet. They might be offered refreshment. They will not be expected to cause damage to the house.
Damaging the roof is a serious business. It leaves the living space open to the elements and renders the house insecure. Plan B affirms that these guys know that Jesus can heal their friend. These guys are absolutely desperate for their friend to meet Jesus.
Fighting their way through, mainly using their hands and feet as tools, they make a hole large enough for them to lower their friend to the floor below. I can almost hear the shouts of encouragement and the exclamations of disbelief as the people below, even Jesus, are showered with plaster, mud and debris from the roof. Some of them – especially the house owners – must have been furious. I can see people running to the roof and trying to stop the vandalism.
I wonder whether, when thought of as the active scene that it must have been, this is one of the most dramatic scenes of healing in Scripture.
No wonder Jesus was impressed by faith of this group of this daringly resourceful group. ‘Son,’ he says, ‘you are forgiven of your sins.’ All of them. Even trashing the roof.