January 29, 2017
If you are going to run for president you need to write a book. Many of the candidates running in the recent election, including President Trump, published books. The books are designed to educate people about the candidate.
In some ways the gospels are like those books. The gospels are written to inform us about Jesus. They give some biographical information, but the purpose of the gospels is to proclaim Christ as Lord and Savior and to call everyone to repent and embrace Jesus as Savior, Lord and King. In Mk.1 Mark begins to show Jesus’ authority. In v.27 the people are amazed that Jesus is one who teaches with authority and even has authority over unclean spirits. In v.34 and 42 we see that Jesus has authority to heal sickness, even leprosy with a mere word. In Mk.2 we learn that Jesus has authority ascribed only to God. We see that Jesus Christ has authority to forgive sin.
I. WE SEE SAVING FAITH. 2:1-5a
From Mk.1:29 it appears that Jesus made Capernaum the center of his public ministry, staying at the house of Peter. As was the case in Mk.1 so in Mk.2 we see a crowd gathered around Jesus. Now many are enamored by crowds. Crowds are considered to be a sign of success, good marketing, and having a good product. And it would seem that the disciples were also enamored by crowds. In 1:35, Jesus gets up early in the morning to pray, but Simon interrupts Jesus because, “Everyone is looking for you.” “Come on Jesus, you’ve got to run while the sun is hot. Make the most of your moment.”
In his commentary on Mark, James Edwards points out that crowds being gathered around Jesus is common in Mark’s gospel. But Edwards also points out that in Mk we never see, “crowds turning to Jesus in repentance and belief.” He goes on to say, “The single most common attribute of crowds in Mark is that they obstruct access to Jesus. Thus, despite Jesus’ popularity, crowds are not a measure of success in Mark. They constitute ‘outsiders’ who stand either in ambivalence or opposition to Jesus.”
Why was the crowd there? Verse 2 says that he was preaching the word to them. In 1:14-15 we see that Jesus was preaching the word of the gospel of God. Jesus was teaching about the kingdom of God that was embodied in his person. In 1:22 it tells us that the people were astonished at his teaching because “he taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.” The scribes taught by quoting the traditions passed down through the years. Jesus brought a new, wonderful teaching about life that only he could give. Because Jesus is God in the flesh and embodies God’s kingdom, eventually one has to respond to Jesus. Either you embrace him as your Lord and King or not. The crowd filled the house and pressed in around Jesus to hear the word.
In v.3 we read about four men who were bringing a paralytic on a bed to Jesus. Since access to Jesus was impossible, the men went up on the roof and dug through the dried mud and thatch and lowered the bed right in front of Jesus. You can be sure that it was a mess. People, including Jesus, would have had dirt falling down on them. How disruptive. Most teachers do not like being interrupted, but it didn’t seem to bother Jesus. In fact, Jesus was impressed by the faith of these men.
What was it about their faith that caused Jesus to take note? We see that their faith moved them to action. We don’t know if these men really understood who Jesus is. We don’t know if they had a correct understanding of the gospel. What is clear is that they trusted in Jesus. Perhaps they had heard about or seen some of Jesus' miracles or heard him teach. But at some point they decided to act on the basis of what they believed to be true about Jesus. Faith and knowledge work together. In the Bible we are given sufficient knowledge and understanding about who God is and how he has revealed himself in the person of his Son, Jesus Christ. The question is has our knowledge become belief? Having knowledge and believing are two different things. If we believe something it means we have trust in that knowledge and we are willing act on what we say we believe. Faith is acting on what we say we believe. If we do not act on what we say we believe then we don’t really believe what we say we believe. In Heb.3-4, the writer refers to the Israelites who came out of Egypt. They saw the power of God. God promised to lead them into a land flowing with milk and honey in which they would enjoy rest, provision and protection from God himself. But the writer of Hebrews reminds us that they rebelled in unbelief and did not enter into God’s rest. Instead they died in the wilderness. Then in Heb.4:2 it says, “For good news came to us just as to them, but the message they heard did not benefit them, because they were not united by faith with those who listened.” The NIV puts it this way: “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith.” They did not believe. Two thoughts. You may have the right knowledge about God and Jesus and still be lost in your sin. There are professing Christians who can repeat the creeds and Bible stories but they don’t know Jesus. They have knowledge but have not combined it with faith in Christ. Having the right information does not make one a Christian. Second, you may have some misunderstandings in your knowledge about God and Jesus and yet be a committed follower of Jesus, fully trusting, believing in him. I imagine we will all have our understanding about God corrected when we are in the new heaven and earth. The scriptures are given to point us to Jesus that we might enter into his wonderful life by following him in faith, trusting in him and living in the light of what he does and says. One this kind of relationship with Jesus is transformative unto eternal life in the kingdom of God. Our faith in Christ is revealed in our character, conduct, and conversation as we follow him. Faith always leads to action in keeping with Christ.
There is something else that we learn about faith here. One does not get the impression that these men were concerned about what others thought of them. Their goal was to get to Jesus. You see when a person knows that he or she needs Jesus, and they act on that need, the only thing that matters is coming to Jesus. They will not let anyone or anything get in the way of their coming to Jesus. In Mk.10 we read about Jesus being in Jericho. As he was leaving Jericho a blind man named Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside. When he heard that it was Jesus who was passing by he began to cry out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” The crowd around him rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But Bartimaeus cried out all the more. You see, he didn’t care about the crowd because he needed Jesus. Saving faith is not concerned about what others will think. A person with saving faith comes just as they are to Jesus
So let me ask you. Do you have faith in Jesus? In other words are you trusting Jesus to the point that you are willing do to whatever he has commanded us to do because you believe that Jesus knows what he’s talking about, you believe that Jesus will keep his word, you believe that only Jesus can bring eternal life in the kingdom of God?
II. WE SEE SAVING GRACE. 2:5b-12
Why did these men bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus? They were hoping that Jesus would heal their friend. Surely Jesus would have figured that out. So why did Jesus say, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Did Jesus have an ulterior motive? Was Jesus just using the paralyzed man to challenge the unbelief of the scribes and to show the scribes that he has the authority to forgive sins? Somehow assigning an ulterior motive to Jesus doesn’t sound right. It sounds a bit manipulative on Jesus’ part. Jesus didn’t usually say, “your sins are forgiven,” when performing a healing miracle.
Along with this it was a commonly held belief that serious illnesses were the result of sinful living. You remember the blind man in Jn.9. The disciples asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind.” And Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” Generally, illness is not the result of our sins.
That said, illness may, indeed, be a result of our sins. In Ps.107:17-18, we read, “Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death.” Perhaps that is the case with this man who was paralyzed. Obviously we don’t know the details of the man’s life, but Jesus did. Edwards points out, Jesus didn’t say, “Your sin is forgiven.” He said, “Your sins are forgiven.” It is possible that this man was involved in certain kinds of sin that were related to his paralysis.
One thing we can be certain of is that Jesus loved this man and was very interested in both spiritual & physical cleansing & healing. What I’m trying to say is that before Jesus healed the man physically, he did something profound and far more significant in this man’s life. He granted forgiveness of this man’s sins.
All of us have memories of sinful things we have done. Every one of us knows what it is to feel guilt and shame. We might be able to push the memories, guilt and shame out of our minds for a while, but eventually it comes back to haunt us. And for some of us, the sins we have done have left emotional and physical scars in our heart and body.
In front of others we appear well adjusted and successful in living our lives, but underneath the sin gnaws at our hearts. We are not told how this man responded to Jesus’ pronouncement of forgiveness. My hunch would be that this word from Jesus brought deep relief and release in this man’s soul. This is saving grace.
But what about the response of the scribes? In one way or another, all sin is sin against God. And sins against God can only be forgiven by God. So they were quite upset that Jesus, a man, would put himself in the place of God by announcing the forgiveness of this man’s sins. In fact it was blasphemy. According to Lev.24:16, the punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning. This was serious!
In v.8 we see that Jesus knew what these scribes were thinking. “Why do you question these things in your hearts?” Then Jesus asks them, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'?” Of course it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because no one can validate the statement. So Jesus pronounces a word of physical healing to the paralytic in order to show that not only does he have authority to pronounce physical healing, but he has authority to forgive sins. Only God could heal a paralyzed man with a spoken word. Only God can grant the forgiveness of sins with a spoken word. Jesus is clearly God in the flesh with the authority to forgive sins. This is saving grace, undeserved, yet freely given.
At the heart of all sin is an unwillingness to honor God as God. Rather than worship God, we choose to worship things or even people. This is idolatry and idolatry always leads to further rebellion and sin against God. What is amazing to me is that God does not treat us as our sins deserve. Rather God sends his Son, Jesus into the world to offer forgiveness of sin and a brand new life under his good rule. Many people have a problem with God because they have heard that God is going to send people to hell because of their sins and because they do not embrace Jesus. But wait a minute! If there is a good God who is worthy of our wholehearted worship and obedience, and if this God provides a way for us to receive forgiveness and life from him why should anyone have a problem? The reason people have a problem with God is because they don’t want to surrender their autonomy and worship him. It is difficult to look at the life of Jesus and conclude that God is vindictive and mean. In Jesus God offers saving grace.
The paralytic lay on the bed in front of Jesus. He never asked for forgiveness. Maybe he was bitter and resentful towards God. Maybe he thought forgiveness was not available for him. But Jesus, God in the flesh forgave his sins. Maybe you struggle to believe that God could and would actually forgive your sins and wipe the slate of your life clean. Well, Jesus loves you and has already provided saving grace for you if you will come just as you are and receive him.