And now we come to another scene. Jesus is still in Capernaum, and the multitude is there, as ever. On this occasion it fills the room where Jesus is; it overflows into the street or courtyard. The crowd is more mixed than usual, for there are strangers among them. There are solemn Rabbis, in long white robes, with sacred tassels dangling from each corner, who have come from Judea and Jerusalem. They look scornfully upon the great crowds which Jesus can attract, they listen coldly to the words he speaks. But their stiffness will soon be broken.
Outside the crowd a party of men, four in number, are moving. They stop here and there, where the crowd seems less dense, to see if there is a way through, but no path opens before them. How can they reach that figure whom they can see just within the doorway, and whose voice carries clearly to where they stand?
The crowd seems much thinner by the side of the house, where the stairway leads to the roof.
These four men are determined. They have carried their friend, or it may be relative, some distance. Will they be frustrated now they are so near? No! for a plan has suggested itself to them.
They pass round the edge of the crowd and are lost to view, though for a moment only. Four figures appear on the outside stairs, bearing between them the limp figure of a man. They gain the top of the house, the flat roof so common in the East, and we can catch glimpses of them as they labour to remove the tiles forming the outer covering.
A few minutes later the branches of trees and shrubs forming a second layer are removed, and now nothing separates them from the interior of the house save a number of light sticks laid across the larger rafters. As these are removed the voice of Jesus stops, and all faces are turned upward to see the meaning of this interruption.
Now is the moment, and fastening cords to the four corners of the mat upon which the paralyzed man has been carried, the four men lower him into the room at the feet of Jesus.
And when Jesus saw their faith – we generally read his or her faith, do we not, but Jesus does not forget to take into consideration those four who had played such a determined part in bringing the sick man to him – he said:
“Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.”
The surprise was intense. What had those four men, still looking down through the hole they had made, expected to hear? What had the paralytic hoped to hear? What had the crowds thought to hear? They had all expected to hear words which would cause the man’s physical illness to pass. Instead, they heard words directed towards his moral illness. This man had been a sinner; his illness may have been caused by his misdeeds. He had, like so many others who came to Jesus, received far more than he asked; he had received forgiveness of sins.
Oh, how the haughty looks of those Rabbis have changed! They are keenly interested now. “What did he say, ‘The man’s sins are forgiven?’ But God along can forgive sins.” They become jubilant. “This man speaketh blasphemies,” they say to one another. “Now we have somewhat whereof we may accuse him.” Thus they reason among themselves.
But Jesus knows their thoughts and craftiness, and proceeds to confound them. He had said that the man’s sins had been forgiven, but there was no outward sign of this. If, however, he showed them that at his word the disease of the man passed away, it would prove to them that he had a power which no man had in himself, a power which alone came from God. It would show, also, that when he spoke forth the equally simple words “Thy sins are forgiven thee,” he had the power and authority to forgive them. He now turns to the man sick of the palsy and says:
“I say unto thee, Arise -”
“And immediately he rose up before then, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.”
What could those Rabbis say? They were speechless, for the people “were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying ‘We have seen strange things today.'”