The Forgiveness of Jesus – Mark 2:1-12
Good morning! If you can grab a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. This morning, we are continuing in our sermon series on Mark, looking at Mark 2:1-12.
And just to give us some context before we dive into our text: Jesus has just started out on His public ministry, where we have seen Him calling people to repent and believe in the gospel of God, we’ve seen Him call four of His 12 disciples, and we’ve seen Him heal many people of their diseases and cast out many demons.
And this morning, we pick it up in Mark 2, beginning in verse 1: “And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise, take up your bed and walk”? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— 11 ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’ 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’”
This past week, we had a birthday party for Liam. And what Helena and I like to do is we like to pick a theme for the birthday party, and decorate and plan activities based on the theme. We’ve done this now for a number of our boys’ birthday parties and we’ve always really enjoyed it.
This year, Liam didn’t have any ideas for a theme, but after throwing around some ideas with him, we settled on a Mario-themed birthday party, which I’m pretty sure was more fun for me than it was for him, because I grew up playing Super Mario on the Nintendo, so the birthday party was a good time for me.
But what was really neat was that someone lent us their Nintendo classic game console that has all of these old Nintendo games already programmed on it, so that all you need to do is scroll through this list of games and choose the one want to play, which is so much easier than fiddling with those plastic cartridges.
But as soon as we had this console, I had to try it out. And so, Liam and I sat down, one evening, and we started playing Super Mario Brothers 3, which was my favourite game growing up. A little while later, Helena says to Liam that it’s time for bed, and I hear the words come out of my mouth, “Yeah, after this level.”
And immediately, I was transported back to my childhood when I would say the same thing to my mom, and I’m not even the one who has to go to bed. I’m trying to buy myself more time, so that I can continue doing what I want to do, and I’m not even the one who has to stop.
But what it did is it revealed a tendency in me to put off obedience, because it’s either an inconvenient time for me or because I think I know better than what I am being asked to do.
We looked at this, last week, when Jesus healed a man who had leprosy. Jesus told the man to say nothing to anyone. But what we see is the man go and do the exact opposite, spreading the news about Jesus, so that Jesus couldn’t go anywhere without a crowd following Him. This is what we see in our text.
Look at verse 1. “And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them.”
We have the tendency to think that crowds of people equals success. If I have x number of people attend an event, then it means it was a successful event. That’s how we tend to operate, but that’s not the picture that we get from Mark.
We see a large crowd of people following Jesus throughout the majority of His ministry, but there is nothing to indicate to us that the hearts of the people were turning to Jesus in repentance and belief.
In fact, what we see is that the crowds are passive and fickle when it comes to the gospel. They’re amazed. They’re astonished. They’re filled with wonder at the mighty works of Jesus. They’re certainly curious, but they’re not converted.
Jesus is preaching the word to them, and there is no response. And it simply shows us that we can be enthusiastic for Jesus and even be in close proximity to Jesus, and not know Jesus. Being part of the crowd around Jesus is not the same as being a disciple of Jesus. That’s an important distinction in Mark.
This is why the goal of the Chapel is not to simply see every seat in here filled, but to see every filled seat actively involved in sharing the message of Christ. We don’t want to make spectators; we want to make disciples. We want to see people know Jesus, not simply know some things about Jesus.
In the Gospels, the crowds are never a measure of success. And in our text, we actually see the crowds as more of a hindrance than a help.
Look at verse 3. “And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.”
The crowds here are obstructing the way to Jesus. They are not responding to the preaching of the Word, but now they are actually preventing other people from responding, as well.
These four men come, bringing this paralyzed man to Jesus, but they can’t get to Him because of the crowds, so they go to the roof. Somehow, some way, they are going to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus.
And what's interesting is that we know nothing about these four men. We don’t know their names. We don’t know their religious background. We don’t even know what exactly they believe about Jesus.
But what we do know about these four men is that they have faith that Jesus can heal their paralyzed friend. They’ve maybe heard of what Jesus has done, or they’ve maybe seen it with their own eyes, whatever the case, they believe in Jesus’ ability to heal and they’re acting on that belief by making an opening in the roof and sending their friend down in front of Jesus.
Now, in Jesus’ day, houses typically had a flat roof, which could be accessed from an outside staircase. Their roof was basically our modern-day deck. They would eat and dry their laundry and sometimes sleep on the roof of their house.
The roofs themselves consisted of wooden cross beams, which were covered with thatch and a mixture of reeds, branches, and dried mud. So, when these four men start to tear apart the roof, it’s not like they’re taking a jackhammer to it, they’re just digging through the mud and branches.
But regardless, this is still a shocking scene. Jesus is preaching, the house is packed with people, and all of a sudden, bits of mud and branches start falling down. That would be a little distracting, right? I can just imagine that Jesus got to the point where He just needed to pause His preaching in order to let them finish what they were doing.
And it says that once they made an opening in the roof above Jesus, “they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.”
And instead of Jesus being frustrated that His preaching was interrupted or offended by the remodelling that they were doing to the house that He was in, Jesus responds with compassion.
Look at verse 5. “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”
What Jesus sees is the faith of the four friends. He sees how they acted upon their faith, doing whatever it took, even with the obstacles in their way, to get their friend to Jesus. That’s the definition of faith.
But then, Jesus turns to the paralytic and He says something quite shocking to him. He says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” And suddenly, this is more than just faith in Jesus’ ability to heal; this is faith in Jesus as the Son of God.
You see, you and I exhibit faith in all kinds of ways. We have faith that the chairs we are sitting on are going to hold us up. We have faith that when we go to a restaurant that we won’t get food poisoning. A little over a week ago, I was at the dentist, and I had faith that they were working on the right teeth. We all exhibit a kind of general faith in our day-to-day lives.
What this man exhibited was not simply a general faith in Jesus’ ability to heal, but a spiritual faith in Jesus as the Saviour from our sins. What Jesus saw in this paralyzed man was not someone who wanted Jesus for what He could do, but who wanted Jesus for who He is. And it’s why Jesus responds the way He does, saying, “Your sins are forgiven.”
Jesus knew what this man really wanted. Certainly, he wanted healing. I mean, who wouldn’t want that? But far more than that, he wanted forgiveness. And maybe it’s because he connected his sin with his sickness. It was common in those days to make that connection.
Look at the book of Job, in the Old Testament. Job is a guy who has this prosperous life but who’s also blameless and upright, fearing God and turning away from evil. That’s not Job saying that; that’s God saying that about Job.
But then, all of a sudden, Job loses his animals, his servants, his kids, and his health, everything he had, and he’s left with nothing. And three of Job’s friends come to visit him, and they try to comfort him by saying that this was the result of a sin in his life, and that all he needed to do was confess that sin to God and he would be restored. And Job is going, “I have nothing to confess. Just ask God.”
But this was how many of the Jews viewed sickness and suffering. It’s why, in John 9, the disciples observe a man who was born blind, and they ask Jesus whether it was the sin of this man or the sin of his parents that he was the way he was. And Jesus says to them, “This man’s blindness is not a sin issue, but rather, that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
In our text, Jesus is hitting at something deeper than just whether or not sin is the cause of this man’s paralysis. Is sin the result of his paralysis? Potentially. But what Jesus is hitting at, and what this man has realized, is that Jesus can provide physical healing, but more than that, Jesus can provide spiritual healing. That’s what he truly needs, and that’s what Jesus provides for him.
But then, look at verse 6. “Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’”
Do you remember who the scribes were? They were the ones who copied down the Torah, the OT Law, as well as all of these opinions and interpretations of the OT Law from over the years, so that they were constantly making laws on top of laws for the Jewish people to follow. Those were the scribes.
And here, Jesus is about to confront the scribes, because forgiving sins was not something that they could do, nor was it something that they claimed to do. It was something that only God could do. And you know what? They're right. Forgiveness of sins is the exclusive right of God. No one but God can do this.
And so, they’re response is that Jesus is blaspheming—He’s claiming to do what only God can do. Now, I want us to think about that. Jesus is either the One who forgives sins or He isn’t. If He can, then He’s God. If He can’t, then He’s a blasphemer—He’s claiming to do something that He simply cannot do. In other words, Jesus is either a blasphemer or He is God. There is no middle ground.
In the minds of the scribes, Jesus is a blasphemer. And here is what Leviticus 24:16 says about what to do with blasphemers: “Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.”
The result of blasphemy is death. But just as the scribes are contemplating the implications of what Jesus is saying here, verse 8 says, “And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question these things in your hearts?’”
This would have shocked the scribes, because what else can only God do? Only God looks at the heart and understands every intention. Do you see the predicament that this puts the scribes in? Jesus has just read their thoughts, which is yet another thing that only God can do.
But then, Jesus presents them with this question, in verse 9: “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk?’”
What Jesus is doing here is He’s proving that He can forgive sins by healing the paralytic. You see, Jesus can claim to forgive sins, but how they are going to know whether or not He has the ability? It’s not exactly something you can verify. On the other hand, if Jesus says to the paralytic, “Rise, take up your bed and walk,” and he does, then it will affirm to everyone that what Jesus said is true.
If Jesus is able to cause a paraplegic in a moment to be completely restored, it proves that He is God. And if Jesus is God, then He has the authority to forgive sins. In other words, Jesus healing the paralytic is the validation that Jesus can forgive sins, because only God can do both.
This is what Jesus explains in verses 10-11: “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he said to the paralytic— ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.’”
And it says, in verse 12, that the man “rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’”
If you remember from last week, we looked at how Jesus healed a man who had leprosy. This leper hears that there is Someone in town who has the power to heal him of his disease, so he walks up to Jesus, kneels before Him, and says to Him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” The leper doesn’t doubt Jesus’ ability, but rather, whether or not Jesus is willing to heal him.
Here, the scribes ask, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” In other words, they doubt Jesus’ ability to do what He says. And Jesus’ response is that the Son of man is not only able to forgive sins, but that He “has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
Who can forgive sins but God alone? Jesus can, that’s who. Jesus does what only God can do. It’s why the people are exclaiming, “We never saw anything like this?” Yes, because there is no one like God but God.
And what is tragically ironic about this is that Jesus did not blaspheme, but He suffered as One who did. The OT Law said that a blasphemer was to be put to death. And Jesus, who is the only One who can do what only God could do, was put to death on charges of blasphemy.
Jesus did all of these miracles in order to show that He is God, so that He could say that He came to forgive sinners, and not only to forgive sinners, but to provide the sacrifice on which that forgiveness is based.
The reason Jesus can forgive the sins of the paralytic is because Jesus would eventually go to the cross to pay the penalty for his sins. When Jesus says to the man that his sins are forgiven, He is already pointing us to the cross where that atoning sacrifice would take place.
And the glory of the cross is that Jesus forgives on the basis of faith in what He has done, not on the basis of anything we do. Our text says nothing about the paralytic doing anything to earn the forgiveness of Jesus, and it’s because it’s something we can’t earn. Forgiveness of sins is granted to those who repent and believe in Jesus.
The question is: Who are we in this story?
Are we the crowds? Are we curious, but not converted? Do we hear the preaching of the Word, but never respond? Are we enthusiastic about Jesus and love to be around Jesus, but have no desire to actually get to know Him? Are we really good at being a spectator, but see no benefit in being a disciple?
Are we the scribes? Do we suffer from spiritual paralysis? Are we too wrapped up in what we think God is like that we miss what God is actually like? Have we become numb to our need for God? Have we forgotten our need for daily repentance in our lives?
Are we the paralytic? Do we understand our inability to do what God requires and the ability of Jesus to act on our behalf? Do we understand that the grace of God through faith in Jesus alone is the means of salvation? Do we know what it means to be forgiven of our sins?
Who are we in this story? The good news of Jesus Christ is that there is forgiveness for those who repent and believe in Jesus. This is available for all of us. If you have never put your faith in Jesus, you can do so today, and hear the glorious words, “Son or daughter, your sins are forgiven.”
Our deepest need, what we need the most, is not what Jesus can do for us, it’s Jesus Himself. The only way that we can experience forgiveness from our sins is because of Jesus. Without Jesus, there is no peace with God. Without Jesus, we are still dead in our sins, carrying burdens too great for us to bear. Without Jesus, we are headed for a lost eternity in hell.
My hope is that we would see our need for Jesus—not for what He can do, but for who He is. But then, my hope is that we would address this deepest need in the lives of others.
You see, there’s one more character in this story that I haven’t mentioned, and that is the four friends. And what these four friends do is provide us a picture of what it looks like to bring people to Jesus.
They see that their friend has a need that only Jesus can meet, and they do whatever it takes to get their friend to Jesus. This paralytic is carried from his house—weak, dependent, and bowed down in body and soul—but look at how he returns? He goes home rejoicing and praising God, because his sins are forgiven. This doesn’t happen if his friends don’t take him to Jesus.
What we need to be reminded of, this morning, is that there are people who are headed for a lost eternity in hell. We might be the only follower of Jesus they ever come in contact with. Do we have faith, like the four friends, that overcomes any obstacle to bring our friends and family to Jesus?
Who are we in this story? Are we the curious crowd, or are we the skeptical scribes, or are we the praising paralytic, or are we the faithful friends? Do we understand that our deepest need is Jesus Himself, and not simply what He can do for us, and are we pointing others to this need, as well? Let’s pray…