The Divine Authority of Jesus – Mark 2:1-12 (pt. 3)

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.

b. Jesus becomes the object of faith (vv. 3-4)

From among those in this massive crowd Mark singles out a group of five individuals in v. 3, “And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.”  These men had to get to Jesus. They had seen His power and authority the last time that Jesus had ministered in Capernaum and they knew that He would be able to help them.  They had been waiting for Him to return, and finally He had arrived.  When word got to them that Jesus was “at home” they dropped everything that they were doing and headed out immediately.  Apparently, word did not get to them as quickly as it did to most people though.  Mark tells us that by the time they arrived “they could not get near him because of the crowd.”  You can almost feel their disappointment and

frustration as they realized that the line to see Jesus was longer than the line for Space Mountain-and there was no fast pass.  However, these men did not give up.  They knew that Jesus could help their friend, and this faith led to ingenuity.  Mark tells us that “they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.”

This sounds pretty ridiculous to us because of the way that our homes are built, but it is not all that ridiculous when you understand how homes were built during this time. 

  Most homes in first century Palestine were single story homes with flat roofs that were accessible by a staircase on the outside of the home.

The flat roof for an ordinary house would be constructed by laying beams about three feet apart from wall to wall.  Short sticks were laid closely together across the beams covered with a thick matting of thorn bushes.  At other times, as seems the case here, stone slabs or plates of burnt clay were laid across the beams.  A coat of clay was spread on top of this and rolled hard to keep out the rain.  They would be readily able to dig out a hole large enough for the purpose without damaging the rest of the roof.  Having cleared away the clay, they lifted the tiles to make the opening.[1]  

Now that they had an opening, they had to get their friend down to Jesus.  For this they used their friend’s bed, which would have been like a thick quilt, to lower him down.  Mark does not tell us exactly how they did this, but it doesn’t seem all that hard to figure it out.  They were on the roof of a fisherman’s house so their must have been fishing tackle lying around, including lots of rope.  There were four of them, so apparently each one of them tied a length of rope to the corner of their friend’s bed and slowly lowered him down into the house.  Mark does not tell us what the people did while all of this was going on, but you can imagine what an amazing scene this would have been. 

I do not want to push this point too far and miss the major point of this passage, but there is something instructive for us about the faith of these men.  They had faith that Jesus was capable of helping their friend and they did whatever it took for their friend to receive that help.  This conviction revealed that these five men had true faith and they were not just caught up in the hype over Jesus (1:40-45). Jesus himself recognized the faith of these five men.

[1] Hiebert, The Gospel According to Mark (Greenville, SC: BJ Press), 65.