I recently finished a personal study on Mark. Today I listened to a sermon by Pastor Dan Reid of Maranatha Church in Rice Lake, Wisconsin on Jesus' healing of a paralyzed man as told in Mark 2. That's twice in just a few weeks when this story has been brought to mind.
This is an interesting and rather strange story that is a favorite of Sunday school classes around the world. Four men try to get to Jesus with their paralyzed friend to have him healed. The house where Jesus is speaking is so packed full of people that they can't get to him, so they climb up on the roof and dig a hole to lower their friend down to Jesus. (How many of us have four friends who would destroy property for us.)
The thing that strikes me about this story is what Jesus does. The first thing he does is tell the man that his sins are forgiven. This, naturally, ticks off the religious leaders of the day as Jesus appears to be playing God. (Of course, we know He was not playing God at all.)
After forgiving this man's sins, Jesus turns to the religious leaders and asks them, "Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?" The obvious answer is that it is easier to say "Your sins are forgiven," because one cannot measure the reality of the statement. If I were to tell a paralytic to get up and walk and he did not (as would likely be the case) I would look like a crazy fool. If I were to tell someone that I forgave their sins (which is in essence a claim to be God) no one could prove that I had not forgiven them.
Jesus does not stop with merely the forgiveness of sin though. He then goes on to heal the man who walked out of the house on his own power.
The theological ramifications of this passage are obvious. Jesus demonstrated his deity in forgiving the man's sin. He backed up his claim by healing the man's illness. Jesus demonstrated his power over sin and sickness.
Today I though of an application to this passage that had not before crossed my mind. Over the past few months I have been involved with a sort of think tank that is looking to integrate the spiritual and physical aspects of ministry. Jesus demonstrated in Mark 2 just how important that is. If we merely tell people of the life changing aspects of the Gospel in the spiritual sense, and yet do not demonstrate it by ameliorating the felt needs of those around us, how will anyone see the reality of what Jesus' love has done in our lives. We will appear to be spiritual people who are useless in the so called real world. However, if we focus only on the felt needs of those around us we will fail to accomplish the most important part of our life on earth by communicating the message of God's transforming grace given to us freely through Jesus' death and resurrection. We need both.
The paralytic received two gifts that day. Those around him probably thought that the second gift was the better one as it was the one they could see. But what good is it to have a whole body for the duration of our life on Earth, and yet enter eternity guilty of sin? The first gift was by far the greater. The second was the proof of the first.
We tend to view ministry as either spiritual or felt needs. Jesus did not separate them. Why should we?