Mark Sermon # 6 February 11, 2018
Mark 2:1-12 “Who is this Jesus, Who Forgives My Sins?”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 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? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 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!”
1. We must persistently come to Jesus in faith, and bring others with us (1-5a)
We read in v. 5 that Jesus saw their faith, that is, the faith of the four friends who carried their paralyzed buddy to Jesus. Here’s a question for you: How did Jesus see their faith (v. 5a)?
He saw their persistence… their ingenuity, as they “unroofed the roof” in order to bring their desperate friend to Jesus. He saw their trust in Him, that He could heal their friend… for once they lowered him down, it would have been difficult to take him back up the same way! It was a faith that persistently kept coming to Jesus. It was a trust in Him that refused to give up. And Jesus recognized their bold measure as an expression of their faith.
We could say that their faith – at least in Jesus as a healer – was persistent, creative, and even sacrificial (they probably had to pay for the damaged roof!).
So let me ask you:
(1) Are you persistently coming to Jesus in faith? Think of the persistent widow in Luke 18 who keeps coming to a corrupt judge with her case. Think of Jesus telling his disciples in Luke 11:9-10 to keep on asking in prayer; keep on seeking in prayer; and keep on knocking in prayer, and the door will be opened to you! Is your faith persistent? Remember that our heavenly Father loves to give good gifts – even the Holy Spirit – to those who ask, seek, and knock!
(2) Are you persistently seeking to bring others to Jesus, in faith? By your prayers, your fasting, your radical Christ-like lifestyle, and your speaking into their lives?
To what effort will you go to help bring someone to Jesus? In a recent Desiring God blog, Greg Morse tells the true story of what his wife did at the funeral of a non-believer, in “Over Our Dead Bodies: Embracing the Costs of Warning the Lost.” The pastor had assured the gathered family and friends that, even though she lived as a pagan and blasphemed God, this woman surely went to heaven. And while everyone was comforted by the pastor’s nice words, Greg’s wife stood up and said. “It’s a lie! Do not believe the pastor! We are not all going to a better place! That is a false hope! Only those who trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior will go to a better place! So believe in Jesus right now; He stands ready to save you!”
If we believe that there is no salvation outside of Jesus Christ, then we too need to be persistent, loving, and radical, in seeking to call others to find healing on Christ alone.
2. Our greatest need is to experience God’s forgiveness of our sins. (5b)
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Let me ask you another question: If you had never heard this story before, what would you expect Jesus to say to the paralyzed man? “Son, you are healed. Take up your mat and walk!” Right? Look at this passage in your Bible. You could easily go from v. 5a to v. 11 and leave out everything in between, and it would make perfect sense. Here’s how it would sound:
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man… 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.”
But Jesus says something else that amazes many and angers others! What is it? It is the proclamation: “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Whoa! Where did that come from? Isn’t this a story about four friends bringing their paralyzed buddy to Jesus so that Jesus might heal him? Who said anything about his need to be forgiven? Is Jesus implying that his paralysis is a result of some sin in his life? Just what is the relationship of healing to forgiveness, anyway? You can see that Jesus opened a can of worms here, when He said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Today we tend to make a clear distinction between our medical needs and our spiritual needs. We don’t go to the pastor to have an illness treated, and we don’t go to the hospital ER when we feel guilty about our sins. But Professor William Lane, in his commentary on Mark, tells us that though Jesus’ response may seem unexpected and startling to us today, it made perfect sense against the background of the Old Testament teaching, where forgiveness and healing are often interrelated ideas. Why is that?
First, in the OT and the NT, the terms for healing and forgiveness are often interchangeable:
Psalm 103:3 “Who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” Or compare Isa. 6:10
“and be forgiven” with how it is quoted in Matt. 13:15 “And I should heal them.”
Second, sometimes healing and forgiveness are both conditional upon repentance:
2 Chr. 7:14 “If my people… will turn from their wicked ways… then I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Lane goes on to say that “Healing is a gracious movement of God into the sphere of withering and decay which are tokens of death at work in our lives….Sickness, disease, and death are the consequences of the sinful condition of all people. Consequently every healing is a driving back of death and an invasion of the province of sin. That is why it is appropriate for Jesus to proclaim the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ pronouncement of pardon is the recognition that men and women can genuinely be made whole (Shalom) only when the breach occasioned by sin has been healed through God’s forgiveness of sins.” Our problem is never just our suffering; it is our sin.
Jesus pronounced forgiveness for sin because our greatest need is for the forgiveness of sin.
Note: “His forgiveness is immediate but physical healing may be denied or delayed. This is true because while sin destroys our relationship with God, physical suffering or disease may, at times, actually deepen our relationship with God. Yet we await the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23) and are already enjoying many foretastes of it.”
In the terms of the book Helping that Hurts, poverty and suffering are the results of broken relationships with God, with self, with others, and with the world around us.
So…are you experiencing God’s forgiveness of your sins?
3. Jesus Christ alone has the authority on earth to forgive our sins. (6-12)
I want you to first note the reaction from the teachers of the law in vv. 6-7. Their negative response is the beginning of the opposition of the religious leaders to Jesus, a theme that will continue through 3:6 in what we might call the “five collisions.” Here in 2:7 they charge Jesus with blasphemy, a sin that was punishable by death in the Mosaic Law. [Eventually Jesus would be condemned on this charge.]
The teachers of the law (the scribes) were men who were trained in the written Law of God and its oral interpretation. They were legal specialists of and guardians over the correct understanding of the Bible. They were offended by Jesus’ declaration regarding sins being forgiven, for in the OT, God alone could forgive sins! In their understanding, even the Messiah, when he came, would not have the authority to forgive sins.
So they rightly understand that this claim to have the authority to forgive people’s sin is BIG!
Therefore we need to ask: Does Jesus really have the authority to forgive sins? If He does, then there’s no one like Him! If He doesn’t, then he’s a fraud for claiming that He has that power. As C.S. Lewis famously put it, either Jesus is a liar, a lunatic, or He is Lord… but you cannot simply call Him a good teacher!
So let me ask you: which is easier to say: “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Take up your mat and walk?” Both require supernatural power, so neither was easy. On the one hand, it was easier to say “your sins are forgiven” because you couldn’t see if it happened or not. It was harder to produce and visible results of healing the paralyzed man because the results would be apparent immediately. On the other hand, to claim to forgive sins was a bigger claim, because God alone could do that, but the results were not readily apparent. Lane: “It is the declaration of forgiveness which is the more essential – and the more difficult – of the two actions.
To heal a person only deals with the symptoms or effects of sin; to forgive someone gets at the hearts of the cause of sickness and death.
The visible miracle (the healing) vindicated/ proved the invisible miracle (forgiveness of sin)
The forgiveness is announced in v. 5; it is questioned in vv. 6-9; it is validated by the man’s healing in v. 11; and the accompanying sign of this is recognized by the crowds in v. 12.
Lane: “When Jesus caused the paralytic to walk before the eyes of his critics, they were forced to recognize that this declaration of forgiveness had been effective.” “Having received the forgiveness of God, the afflicted man receives healing. This is the nature of the salvation which Jesus brings. The healing of the paralytic was more than a display of mercy to a wretched man. The announcement of radical healing to this man – in his entire being – was a sign that the Kingdom of God had drawn near.”
By forgiving the man’s sin, Jesus indicates what this man’s essential problem is. Our chief problems are not our ailments, diseases, injuries, dementia, and other matters concerned with our morality and our aging. No. Our chief problem is that we live alienated from the God who created us, loves us, and rules over us; it is that we live in sin and guilt, and that we are cut off from the only true source of life and light.
The paralytic, in taking up the mat he had been laying on, and walking home – with joy, no doubt! – was experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promise that the lame/ crippled would share in the joy of the coming salvation (see Isa. 35:6 and Jer. 31:8)
This demonstration that God had come near to His people was startling, and all present glorified God, because He had redeemed men from every distress. They were thoroughly shaken by the extraordinary event which they had just witnessed.
So here is a question to ask people: “When Jesus claimed to have the authority to forgive people’s sins, did he really have that authority? If you answer “Yes”, it could only have been because He was God… and therefore you need to bow before Him! If you answer “No”, that He didn’t have that authority, then the teachers of the Law were correct; He was blaspheming; He was a fraud, and He did deserve to be put to death. What do you think? Which one was it?”
That’s a question to ask agnostics, nominal Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and Jews.
Who is this man Jesus? Today, He still exercises the power to forgive our sins. Jesus’ mission was and is to provide forgiveness for our sins, and to draw us to the Father, with joy!
One more note of application: While Jesus alone has the authority to forgive our sins, He doesn’t forgive everyone’s sins, does He? Not everyone goes to heaven. So whose sins does He forgive?
On the one hand we can say that He forgives those He sovereignly chooses to have mercy on.
But on the other hand, as God the Holy Spirit works in such a person, we will see certain responses, certain movements in that person:
(1) Faith in Jesus to heal, to save (v. 5a) – a faith that is humble, persistent, even sacrificial. A faith that puts yourself in His hands, with no other possible way of being helped.
(2) Acknowledgement of our great need: our sin problem (vv. 3-5, 10-12) – the paralytic knew he could not walk on his own. He knew he had to be carried by his friends. He was helpless and hopeless by himself.
Come to Jesus Christ today, and find forgiveness for your sins. Let Jesus deal with your greatest problem, as only He can.