I asked Pastor John to use Mark 2:1-12 as his text for our upcoming conference, The Works of God: God’s Good Design in Disability. I know he’s considering it, but I’ll be happy with whatever God gives him that day for us!
I asked him to consider that text because I’ve read too many articles that try to make Mark 2:1-12 (the accounting of Jesus healing a paralyzed man) into something that it is not. In summary, some writers use this text to assert that Jesus made sin the cause of the man’s disability. They write for academic journals, and thus are influencing future pastors and professors.
So, I was a little worried when I stumbled upon The Encyclopedia of Disability by Gary Albrecht. Thankfully, his brief summary of Mark 2 clearly separates the two issues. Emphasis in bold is mine:
The earliest account of the healing of the man with paralysis is probably that found in the Gospel of Mark (first century CE ). Here a clear distinction is made between sin and disability. The Markan evangelist does not tell us why the man’s friends brought him to Jesus. Jesus’ act of compassion is the forgiveness of sins, which he sees as the man’s true need. The act of healing, which is separate from the act of forgiveness, is meant solely as a sign of power for the religious leaders who are watching the event. The accounts of the same event in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke share this focus on the forgiveness of sins.
Yes, this man’s primary problem (and ours) was his sin! I appreciate that Dr. Albrecht gave a summary faithful to the Biblical text. His summary of John 9 was a little too perfunctory, but still on the right track. Unfortunately, this encyclopedia is only available online through academic institutions.
Here is the full text of Mark 2:1-12 (ESV). The sentence in bold is Jesus’ own words about why he healed the man; there’s really very little room for misunderstanding if we just read the text itself!
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door.
And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
(Mark 2:1-12 ESV)