The paralytic’s physical condition was severe. He couldn’t walk. He had to be lowered down on a stretcher. His mobility was curtailed significantly. There are no records of him speaking either. His physical condition was an illustration of the spiritual condition of mankind.
Men and women without the forgiveness of God and without the welcome of God’s friendship are severely crippled from the good intentions of God for his creation. What this passage demonstrates is that the hidden spiritual paralysis was a more pressing need in this cripple than his obvious physical suffering. To live enslaved by sin and living under the shadow of God’s judgment was spiritually paralysing. Spiritually speaking humanity without God lies on a stretcher, wriggling in pain.
What is equally startling about this description of mankind in spiritual paralysis is that it almost seems far-fetched. When Jesus announced that his sins were forgiven, our cultural eyes instinctively think, “Don’t mind that! What about his physical condition?” Our nation seeks to address all manner of needs except our most pressing need – to be forgiven and accepted by God.