The story of Christ healing a paralysed man is included in three of the gospels (Matthew 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26). Each of the accounts include individual details which enable us to build up a bigger picture of what happened.
One day, when Christ was teaching the people at a house in Capernaum (probably St Peter’s), word got round that he was there. The house became so full that people were even crowding around outside the door. Some Pharisees and scribes – the intellectuals of the day – were also there to listen to him.
While he was talking, a group of men arrived with a paralysed man on a stretcher, hoping that Christ would heal him. However, because it was standing room only, they couldn’t even get into the house. So they came up with a clever plan. They went up onto the flat roof, removed some of the tiles and then lowered the paralysed man right down in front of Jesus.
Christ was so impressed with their faith that he said to the paralysed man: “Your sins are forgiven.” While this might seem a strange response to us, at the time many people thought that sickness and disability were a direct punishment for sin. This was not a view that Christ shared (cf John 9:1-3). However, he was determined to heal the paralysed man in both body and soul.
When the Pharisees and scribes heard him, they said: “Who is this who is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” To prove that he really did have the power to forgive sins, Christ then said to the paralysed man: “I say to you, stand up and take your bed and go to your home.” Straight away, the man stood up and walked out, leaving everyone astounded.
This oil painting of the miracle is by the artist John Armstrong, and is hung within St George’s church, in Brighton. This unassuming church is actually home to an entire collection of biblical artwork. There are no less than twenty of Armstrong’s oil paintings around the church, each picturing an individual gospel scene. The church also features scriptural wood carvings by an Indian artist, Balavendra Elias.
The painting is based on the description of the miracle in St Luke’s gospel. As the artist himself explained: “The setting is an interior scene, in the house of Peter at Capernaum. Mary is seen at the doorway and others present are the Centurion and his son, and Jairus and his wife and daughter who eats an apple. The scribes are amazed as they clutch the letter of the law.”
This inclusion of other people who were also rescued by Christ is a nice touch, in as much as it sets the scene in the context of other miracles. Curious details, such as the ginger cat, the child under the table and the basket of fishes also help bring the portrayal to life.
Where to find this work of art
St George’s, Hangleton
Read the relevant passage