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.