A large crowd of people had gathered in the home where Jesus Christ was staying in the town of Capernaum, seeking to learn from Jesus and perhaps experience some of the miraculous healing power they had heard was coming from Jesus. So when a group of friends tried to carry a paralyzed man on a mat into the house -- hoping to bring him to Jesus' attention for healing -- they couldn't get through the crowd.
That didn't stop the paralytic's determined friends, however. They decided what to whatever it took to get the man to Jesus. The Bible describes this famous story in Matthew 9: 1-8, Mark 2:1-12, and Luke 5:17-26.
A Hole in the Roof
The story begins with the paralyzed man's friends finding a way to get him in front of Jesus. Luke 5:17-19 records: "One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus."
Imagine the shock of the people in the crowd who saw a man descending on a mat from a hole in the ceiling to the floor below. The man's friends had done their best to get him to Jesus, and the man himself had risked giving his all for the healing that he hoped Jesus would give him. If the man fell off the mat while being lowered down, he would be injured even more than he already was, and he he would be unable to help himself back onto the mat. If he wasn't healed, he would lie there, humiliated, with many people staring at him. But the man had enough faith to believe that it was possible for Jesus to heal him, and so did his friends.
"Jesus saw their faith" the next verse says. So because the man and his friends had great faith, Jesus decided to start the healing process by forgiving the man's sins. The story continues in Luke 5:20-24: "When Jesus saw their faith, he said, 'Friend, your sins are forgiven.'
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, 'Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?'
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, 'Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.'
So he said to the paralyzed man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.'
Bible scholars believe that Jesus chose to forgive the man's sins before healing him for two reasons: to encourage the man that his sins wouldn't stand in the way of healing (at that time, many people blamed sick or injured people for their affliction, thinking that it was caused by their sins), and to let the religious leaders in the crowd know that he had the authority to forgive people's sins.
The text notes that Jesus already knew about the religious leaders' judgmental thoughts. Mark 2:8 puts it this way: "Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things?'" Jesus responded to those thoughts even without the religious leaders openly expressing them.
Celebrating a Healing
By the power of Jesus' words to him, the man was healed instantly, and was then able to put Jesus' command in action: taking up his mat and going home. The Bible describes in Luke 5:25-26: "Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, 'We have seen remarkable things today.'"
Matthew 9:7-8 describes the healing and celebration this way: "Then the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man."
Mark 2:12 concludes the story like this: "He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'"