(1) Text: Mark 2, 1-12
(2) Reconsider the limits of the pericope: I consider this pericope to be a logical part of the whole.
(3) Establish a reliable translation of the text as a basis for your study: I will be using the NRSV as I found it to be clear and concise.
(4) Read the Text Aloud: There seems to be a sense of urgency on the part of the people who are there to see Jesus. This is especially true for the people who carry the man who is paralyzed to the house where Jesus is speaking. Mark does not tell the reader where these men have come from. Did they carry the paralyzed man a long distance? And not only have they carried the man here to Jesus, they then hoisted their friend to the roof, dug a hole in it, and lowered him down to where Jesus was! This would have taken a tremendous amount of strength and endurance! There is a sense of hope when Jesus calls the man “Son” and tells him his sins are forgiven, but this quickly turns antagonistic when the scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy. This accusation, which is made only “in their hearts,” electrifies the situation and makes it down right confrontational. Jesus calls them on their thoughts and then seems to heal the man in defiance of the scribes. And then the people rejoice.
(5) Consider the text within its larger canonical context: This miracle happens very early on in Jesus’ ministry. Having been baptized and endured 40 days in the wilderness where he was tempted by Satan, Jesus calls the first of his disciples. It is after this point in the narrative of Mark that Jesus begins to heal people and proclaim his message of good news. The healing of the man who is a paralytic is Mark’s fourth account of Jesus healing a specific individual though there are two other instances of Jesus “healing many” (Mk 1.34) and “casting out demons” (Mk 1.34, 39).
(6) Listen to the text on behalf of the various listeners represented in your congregation:
a. For those with physical hardships, this passage could be hard to hear and receive. Despite our many medical advances, there is still a lot we don’t know and we cannot fix everything that is broken or heal diseases people are born with. I imagine someone in this situation asking why Jesus has not healed them. Why wouldn’t Jesus tell them to stand up and roll their wheelchair away? There could also be a sense of hope for some who have the faith to believe they might still be healed. It seems that this would be more difficult though since we usually default to medical doctors to fix our ailments. Would they feel abused since the man who was paralyzed was not even given a name and his voice was not heard?
b. I think this might be difficult for those who are elderly to hear as well. I could see how it would be extremely difficult to be able to do less and less as times marches on. And I could see how this could lead to a sense of hopelessness. I can see them asking “If Jesus can heal a man who is paralyzed, why can’t he heal me of old age?”
c. Generally speaking I think the communal aspect of this passage would be largely lost for most people living in 21st century America. In a world of rugged individualism, what does it mean that Jesus healed the man who was paralyzed because of the faith of those who carried him there?
- It is said that the younger, post-modern generations are more relational. Could this actually make it easier for teenagers and young adults to hear this message?
e. Would those who feel abandoned to begin with feel that abandonment even more acutely? Was there anyone who would bring them where they needed to go to be healed?
f. Would the mother or father of a drug addict or an alcoholic be embittered since their attempts to bring their daughter or son to a place of healing have been either thwarted or unsuccessful? Why is it that Jesus has not healed them on account of their mother’s (or father’s) faith?
(7) Consult the commentaries for insight into the structure and origins of the text:
a. The gospel of Mark is know as “the oldest of the three synoptic Gospels and served the other two as a source.”
b. The phrase “it was reported that [Jesus] was at home” is a curious phrase since traditionally Jesus is thought to not have a home of his own. Vincent Taylor states that “it is probable that Mark means Peter’s house” but, citing J. Weiss, “sees in the undefined phrase Peter’s mode of narration, ‘who, just because it was his house, added no closer designation.’”
(8) Explore the text literally (i.e., what genre is it and how does that affect interpretation?) According to Lamar Williamson, Jr., “The Gospel of Mark presupposes that the best way to bear witness to the coming Kingdom of God and to challenge readers to faithful discipleship is to tell the story of Jesus.” This will be something to consider when translating as well as deciding upon a suitable form for the sermon. Since a “good narrative” always “communicates at more than one level,” translators need to make the attempt to capture as many “levels” as possible. On one hand, “characters in the story interact within an assumed framework of relationships, attitudes, and knowledge that becomes evident as the plot unfolds” while on the other hand “the evangelist interacts with the reader within a different assumed framework of attitudes and knowledge.” Mixing up these two levels could result in an overall interpretation of the passage that may not have been intended.
(9) Explore the text historically (i.e., how has this pericope been understood in the past? What is the history of its development as well as the history of its use?) Most of the time this text focuses in on the healing of the man who is paralyzed. While this is definitely one emphasis on the text, the first words of Jesus are about forgiveness of sins. Thus, “The reference to forgiveness at a point where one expects the word of healing is abrupt.” In light of other passages (i.e., John 9.1-3), it does not seem that Jesus links sickness to sinfulness and yet he seems to do so here. This leads me to believe that this miracle was not included in Mark to emphasize Jesus’ healing abilities, but rather to show “the unique relationship in which He believed himself to stand toward God and men.” Jesus’ use of the term “Son of Man” seems to draw on this as does the fact that Jesus does not have any dialogue with the man who is paralyzed as he does in many other miracle stories (i.e., Mk 1.40-44).
(10) What are the theological concerns and claims of the text?
a. The way in which we think about physical hardships or disabilities is a definite concern in this text. While Jesus does not seem to indicate that this person’s sin, or that of their parents, was the cause of his condition, he does not indicate it was not the cause of his condition. Taken in light of the New Testament as a whole, there is a good argument against this point of view, but none the less, it is a concern.
b. This text makes a large claim for communal faith. While Jesus tells individuals in other healing miracles, “Your faith has healed you” (i.e., Mark 10.52, Luke 18.42), here Jesus says it is because of their faith that the man who is paralyzed is healed. This is significant and speaks against the rugged individualism of 21st century America.
(11) State the claims of the text upon the listener in simple, declarative sentences.
a. You are part of a connectional community.
b. When you are unable to do something, other members of the body of Christ can step in to help you.
c. In helping you, others are helping the community as a whole.
 H. Conzelmann and A. Lindemann, Interpreting the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1988), 214.
 Vincent Taylor, The Gospel According to Mark (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1959), 193.
 Jr. Williamson, Lamar, Mark, ed. John L. Mays, CD-ROM ed., Interpretation Commentary (Atlanta, GA: Westminster John Knox Press, 1983). As this is the CD-ROM edition, I will not have page numbers.
 ibid., 195.
Conzelmann, H., and A. Lindemann. Interpreting the New Testament. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1988.
Taylor, Vincent. The Gospel According to Mark. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1959.
Williamson, Jr., Lamar. Mark. CD-ROM ed. Interpretation Commentary, Edited by John L. Mays. Atlanta, GA: Westminster John Knox Press, 1983.