The Paralytic as Missionary (Mark 2:1-12)

I’m putting together a sermon on Mark 2:1-12 where Jesus meets, and heals, the paralytic. As I was talking this passage over with a friend it dawned on us that the paralytic, after he is healed, is the one sent out like a missionary, while the rest remain in the house. This strikes me as a very interesting point in the passage.

“But so 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, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”” (Mark 2:10-12 NRSV).

Actually, there are two important things take place at the end of this passage. First, the paralyzed man is the only person who sent out by Jesus. Why can’t he stay and listen to Jesus “teach the word (2:2)?” The second is that the crowd erupts with inspiration and excitement, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The paralytic, who is, as far as we can tell from this passage, the only one who has, quite literally, had a life-changing encounter with Christ, is not permitted to stay inside the safety of the walls of this house. He is sent out like a missionary. What this tells us, this is seen throughout the Gospel accounts, and especially in The Book of Acts, is that as one encounters the new “moment,” as NT Wright calls it, Christ inaugurates through his proclamation and performance, a new sense of urgency and meaning is given to life. After meeting the incarnation of God, one is radically transformed into a kingdom agent. There is, with every encounter of Christ, a missionary impulse birthed in the soul of the new creation. One must go and witness to this event. And certainly, a paralyzed man –now freed and undoubtedly shouting and dancing down the streets — is nothing less than a kingdom witness.

No wonder this passage ends with the crowds, who though confused had a moment of clarity, and said, “We have never seen anything like this!” Something new was truly underway. The crowd can’t help but see that this is a new moment taking place before them. This statement, their recognition that God is up to something new, is in stark contrast to the attitude the scribes display. One is worried about blasphemy, the codes behind forgiveness and healing, and protecting the institution. The other, our “confused majority” (the translation for Mark’s “crowd”) are open to the new possibilities of Jesus’ kingdom. The roof was coming down, and Jesus was ushering in a kingdom full of misfits.


You can read the full text of the sermon here.

4 responses to “The Paralytic as Missionary (Mark 2:1-12)”

  1. Maybe Jesus wasn't sending him out be a missionary. Maybe he was sending him home to enjoy his new good health. In my mind I think of Jesus as getting it that someone who can suddenly walk doesn't want to stick around and listen to a sermon but instead wants to get up and walk! I mean the guy could have been in a tough spot. On the one hand he is ready to go dancing but on the other hand Jesus just healed him and it would be rude to just get up and leave. I think of Jesus being so cool that he takes away this social pressure and orders the man to go home.

    In my mind the passage shows that Jesus understands us.

    Of course the guy is going to go 'viral' and tell the world about what happened to him. Its win, win for everyone.

    I really liked your last line… "and Jesus was ushering in a kingdom full of misfits."

    Thanks for this!

  2. i’m not sure that jesus was sending him out as a missionary either. mark seems to communicate that jesus was trying to keep somewhat on the down-low: he wouldnt let the demons speak because they knew who he was (mk 1.34), forbade the man with leprosy from telling anyone but the priest (mk 1.44), had to stay outside in the “lonely places” (mk 1.45).

    also, it seems that mark is kinda focusing on home. jesus healed simon’s mom-in-law at simon’s home (mk 1.29), came home to capernaum (mk 2.1), said “take your mat and go home” (mk 2.11), had dinner @ levi’s home (mk 2.15).

    maybe jesus is concerned about things getting out of hand. if things go mainstream, jesus fears the very people who need him most (its not the health who need the doctor but the sick), will be left out.

    i agree about the kingdom agent. cant go wrong with Wright.

  3. Steve – thanks for the comment. I think you're right on about not wanting to stick around, etc. And I particularly like your point about social pressures that this man may have faced.

    When I suggested he was sent as a missionary I meant it is strictly in terms of by nature of the fact that this man is now totally reconstituted into the community of Israel and reconstituted in terms of his wholeness his entire being is now a witness to Christ's new work. Missionary can easily have a bad connotation. I don't mean, "he went home and evangelized." But I do mean, that when someone truly encounters Christ and is their "being" is changed because of that event, they cannot help but "go."

    Certainly, this isn't the key point of the text, but a postulation or suggestion about the outcome of it. Pondering this passage I found it strange that the movement of the story is that the paralytic comes, disrupts the flow of Jesus' teaching by way of intrusion, and then asked to go home. All the while, everyone else remains seated (or so I assume).

    Anyways, this is what I love about these passages in the Gospels, there's so much left unsaid that really opens up for creative thinking about the passage.