Mark 2:1 Several days later Jesus returned to Capernaum, and the news of his arrival spread quickly through the town. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there wasn’t room for one more person, not even outside the door. And he preached the word to them. 3 Four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t get to Jesus through the crowd, so they dug through the clay roof above his head. Then they lowered the sick man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there said to themselves, 7 “What? This is blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins!” 8 Jesus knew what they were discussing among themselves, so he said to them, “Why do you think this is blasphemy? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!” 12 The man jumped up, took the mat, and pushed his way through the stunned onlookers. Then they all praised God. “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” they exclaimed.
Matthew’s gospel records something that Jesus said that helps us to better understand this story. They are the first words Jesus spoke to the paralyzed man. “Son, be of good cheer.” In other words, “Don’t be afraid. I am willing to help you.” Apparently Jesus saw fear in the man’s eyes and therefore He wanted to assure him that everything would be alright. As I try to play the story out in my mind, I see at least three reasons why the man might be fearful.
First of all, there was fear because of the situation. I am sure that being paralyzed made the man feel helpless and therefore a bit afraid to trust his well-being to four radical friends who would tear off a roof and lower him down with ropes. There was a great mass of people there that day and I wonder if at some point the man asked his friends to just take him back home. Yet it was now out of his control. Before he knew it, he was on a wild ride down into a sea of strangers.
Secondly, there was fear because of the sickness. The nature of palsy is to cause paralyzation and therefore the man must have lived in constant fear of what might happen to him at any moment. Would he eventually reach a point of where he would be beyond help? Would this paralyzation eventually destroy him?
Thirdly, and most likely, there was fear because of sin. Immediately after Jesus encouraged him to not be afraid, He said to him, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Not – “Don’t worry, we’ll catch you if you fall”, or, “Don’t be afraid, I’m going to heal you.” But, “Take courage because your sins are forgiven.”
It was common belief in that day that sin was always the reason for sickness. On another occasion the disciples asked – “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?” (Jn 9:2) Apparently this man believed that before he could be healed physically, he would first have to be forgiven spiritually. Therefore Jesus looked him in the eye and said –“Don’t be afraid. I forgive you.” No scolding. No lecturing. No telling the man – “You’ve received what you deserve.” Simply – “Don’t be afraid. I forgive you.”