Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home! (Mark 2:11)
Recently, I was led to think about the paralyzed man from Mark 2, and the journey he had to go on to receive his healing.
Now if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably heard or read that story a bunch of times, yet seen the same aspects over and over: paralyzed man gets lowered through the roof on his mat, great faith heals him, sins are forgiven, he picks up his mat and walks, the crowd is amazed.
While this is the main portion of the story, someone recently asked me, “Why did he have to carry his mat? Where was he going?”
I had missed something significant within the story.
To show you what I mean, read the story below, and note where I have highlighted in yellow:
Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man
2 When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
6 But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7 “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”
8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[a] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”
Now, the part I’d never thought about before is just how significant this mat actually is to the story! We may not know how many years this man was paralyzed, but we can likely assume that he’d been on that same mat for a LONG time. It’s probably the thing that was used to cart him from one place to another. It would have been his bed, his chair, a table and many other things. If people came to see him, he’d be on that mat. As crowds walked by him and saw him paralyzed, he’d be on that mat. Almost as though the mat would have become part of his identity. People would have recognized him as the paralyzed man who lay on that mat. The scripture even says specifically that it was “HIS mat”. It could have said something like they lowered him on A mat, but it specifically says HIS mat.
Not only that, but in this story, the crowds are so big that 4 guys had to drag this man onto the roof with his mat and lowered him through the roof with it. That would have meant fighting the crowd, making the impossible possible, potentially destroying someone’s house... all so this man could come before Jesus.
Then, Jesus says, “Stand up, pick up YOUR mat, and go home!”
The man jumped up, grabbed HIS mat and walked through the crowd.
Why did he need to pick up the mat? Why was the crowd so amazed?
I think they were even more amazed at the miracle Jesus did because they recognized the man because of his mat. In a lot of ways, that mat defined him and was evidence of the miracle Jesus did. If he had gone off walking away without his mat, he could have been mistaken for any person in the crowd. Just another on-looker or passer-by.
I think it was because he walked away with his mat that the community he was part of, and the mass crowds that he had to walk through to go home, recognized him.
Jesus let His light shine through something as simple as having this man carry his mat home.
How incredible is that?
But the truth is, I’ve missed seeing the story from this point of view. I’ve kept looking at this story the same way I always have without allowing myself to see more. It makes me wonder: What else am I missing?
Let’s not be a people who glaze over the details because we “know” the story.
Let’s read more and see more than we have before!