Obscure Series: The Paralytic Man

This week’s obscure character is the paralytic man with the great friends we read about in the second chapter of Mark. This is probably a more familiar story than other obscure characters we’ll study in this series!

Scripture Reading: Mark 2:1-12 ESV

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!”


When the paralytic arrived at the house where Jesus was speaking, there were people everywhere and the four friends could not get him into the presence of Jesus. The text says they could not even get past the door. Either the four men had great faith and determination or the paralytic‘s health was so bad that they were driven by friendship or compassion to get him before Jesus. The process of digging through the roof is not described. The text simply reports they made a hole and lowered the paralytic to Jesus.

Typically the houses had flat roofs and could be accessed by an outside stairway. Since the roof was often used as a workspace for the family it was built with sturdy cross beams that could support the weight of various family members. On top of the heavy beams were smaller poles or branches and then these were covered with mud and thatch to form a strong support system. It would not have been an easy or simple task to make a hole to lower the paralytic to Jesus.


Can you imagine Jesus stopping His speaking, watching, and waiting for the “digging” operation to reach its conclusion? It is certainly possible that Jesus knew what was going on and kept the crowd in check while the hole was being opened up.

We never hear about the paralytic again in the Bible. Why? Do you think he just disappeared into the background? Did he have a short or long life? How long did the excitement of his healing last? Did he eventually become a disciple of Jesus? Was he ever a strong proponent of the Gospel, witnessing to others about what Jesus did for him? Or, was he obnoxious and did he drive people away from the Gospel?

What was the paralytic’s legacy? Was it inspiring or disappointing? The message for us in this story is not really the paralytic. The message for us is Jesus! What did He do and how should that impact our lives?


The paralytic was obviously coming to be physically healed, but the first thing that Jesus said was that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven. Why would this be Jesus’ initial response to the situation? Jesus was responding to the real need of the man. Yes, he had a physical problem, but his eternal destiny was of far greater importance. The paralytic needed to be right with God, and Jesus addressed his eternal need first.

There were probably both scribes and Pharisees in the crowd and Jesus wanted to make a point. He was making a significant statement about Himself when he said the man’s sins were forgiven. Jesus was saying, “I can forgive sin.” Jesus was clearly saying that He was God or was equal to God. That would have put the Jewish leaders on edge!

In Mark 2:7 the scribes said that only God could forgive sins. Does this make sense? If I am the one sinned against, why can’t I forgive the one who sinned against me? I surely can forgive the hurt or consequences of sin that happens to me, and forgive the person who caused that hurt. Why would someone argue I cannot forgive that sin? Obviously the Bible says I should forgive others their trespasses:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  (Matt 6:14-15 ESV)

Application Questions

What would happen in our western culture if something like this took place today?

Have you ever been so needy or desirous of something that you took extraordinary measures to accomplish your goal?

Do you need to boldly persevere in something? Do you need to dig a hole for someone else?

For answers to these and many more questions about this obscure character, check out the 2nd book in the Obscure Bible Study series or the digital version of the Obscure Bible Study

Plus, join us on our Facebook page to talk about this character all week long!