A word for the heart

with Alan Bailey

Mark 2:1-17 - The Gospel of Mark

Bible study


Welcome to this Bible Study. Read what I have written slowly. If you have a Bible look up the reference verses given, and allow the Holy Spirit to minister to your soul through them.

Mark 2:1-17

The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, all tell of the Life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But each one has a different emphasis. We only get a full picture by reading all four. Mark tells us mainly of events, and we see things happen in quick succession. We see how active and busy Jesus was along with the disciples who were with Him. In this section, we will learn what happened in two visits to homes that Jesus made.

Verses 1 & 2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that He had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and He preached to them.

A home like this was a simple dwelling of a few rooms. Curious people came to see Jesus, having heard of His reputation. We can visualize a room packed with people, some crowding around the doorway and perhaps looking through a window. They hung on His every word.

Verse 3 Some men came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four of them.

The paralytic was a man we would call a quadriplegic. Four men carried him, each one taking a corner of his mattress. No doubt they thought that this was a great opportunity to have their friend healed by Jesus.

Verse 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.

It was impossible to enter such a crowded room so they thought of another way. Homes had flat roofs which were often used as an area to sit. There was a stairway up the side of the building. The four men with their friend went up there, determined to reach Jesus. The roof would be made of large flat sheets of slate. After some work to loosen them, they began to remove enough to allow them to lower their friend. Maybe a short length of cord on each corner of the mat enabled them to do this. What a surprise to those in the room as the man was lowered, then laid at Jesus’ feet.

Verse 5 When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’

Before Jesus healed anyone, He looked for faith in those wanting to be well. In this case it was not in the man himself but in the four friends that Jesus saw faith. They had certainly been determined and must have had complete confidence in Jesus. We should remember this too. There will be no miracle in our lives if we cannot truly trust Him as Lord of all.
Jesus’ words are surprising. No-one had said anything about sins but He pronounced the man to be forgiven. No doubt He saw the man’s deepest need was not that he should walk again but that he should be right with God. True it is that even while physical health is of great importance, spiritual health is of greater importance because it has eternal consequences.

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

Teachers like this were to be a continual source of criticism right to the time of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion. They would not believe that He was who He claimed to be. For them it was a great sin for a man to call himself Son of God, which meant to them equality with God. Now they hear Him tell a man his sins were forgiven. They were right in saying that only God can forgive sin. All sin is against God so only God can forgive it. Notice that they hadn’t spoken; they were just thinking these thoughts.

Verses 8 & 9 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? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say “Get up, take your mat and walk?”’

These teachers were to witness something they would never forget. First, Jesus knew what they were thinking and challenged them with a question. To speak a word of forgiveness or to speak a word of healing are both impossibilities for mere men. The critics knew this of course. Jesus did the first part, then to prove that He had the needed authority, He would do the second part.

Wall painting
Wall painting from modern Syria of the healing of the paralytic, dating from about 235 AD

Verses 10-12 ‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins……’ He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ 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!’

There was nothing left for the critics to say once this miracle happened before their own eyes. The Lord had shown that He had the power to do both things, to forgive and to heal. When they all went home that day there would be much discussion. They would have to ask themselves who this man was. Only God can forgive, yet Jesus forgave.

Verse 13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to Him, and He began to teach them.

In this first year of Christ’s ministry, crowds formed easily. The teaching Jesus gave them was about God’s rule, and how that He Himself was the way whereby people could come to know God and be right with God.

Verse 14 As He walked along, He saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow Me,’ Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed Him.

At this point, Jesus had not yet finalized who were to be His twelve disciples. Some were already followers, now He adds another. It is quite amazing to see the immediate obedience of those He called. Levi, who was also known as Matthew, became a disciple.
Being a tax collector, he would have been disliked, especially working for the Romans who occupied the country.

Verse 15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him.

People in general did not want to associate with the type of people Jesus was eating with. But our Lord was different. He went out of His way to show that His care and love extended to all types of people.

Verse 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw Him eating with “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked His disciples: ‘Why does He eat with tax collectors and “sinners?”’

In their minds, the teachers thought that these people were unworthy acquaintances for any respectable person. But for this man who appeared to be a prophet of God, how much less appropriate for Him to be among them.

Verse 17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’

In saying this, Jesus did not infer that the teachers of the law were not sinners and had no need of forgiveness. They showed constantly that they thought themselves righteous and so disqualified themselves. Mercy is for those who want mercy, not for those who think they don’t need it. The people Jesus ate with knew that they were sinners. They were just grateful for the fact that Jesus didn’t come among them to condemn them but to save them.


Jesus’ life and ministry is a challenge to us all. How do we relate to Him? Do we stand back and find fault, or do we draw near and listen to Him? As we draw near and admit our need to Him, forgiveness is available to the worst of sinners. He never turned any away. He never turns anyone away today. Whoever comes to Me I will never drive away (John 6:37).

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