The Healing of Forgiveness
Our Scripture this morning is Mark 2:1-12. We are continuing our study in the Gospel of Mark. If you have your Bibles open, I invite you to follow along as I read from God’s holy, inerrant and inspired Word.
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 is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.
Prayer of Illumination:
Blessed are you, Lord God Almighty, King of the universe. In the beginning your Spirit breathed life into the creation, and you continue to renew the face of the earth. Your Spirit breathed life into the Scriptures, and we pray you will continue to speak your Word to us. Your Spirit breathes peace and comfort to the whole world and we pray you will enact that among us today. Through Christ, our Lord, amen.
For the past couple of weeks, we have been looking at the Gospel of Mark. Mark is most likely the earliest of the four gospel accounts. Mark probably wrote his gospel around 65 A.D. as the Apostles were being martyred and second and third generation Christians were becoming the majority in the Church.
The different gospel accounts were written to show the real Jesus. When we started this series, we said that we were looking at Mark so that we could see the real Jesus. We live in a time and place where people like to re-imagine stories. We’ve re-imagined Hamlet into The Lion King. We’ve re-imagined most of the fairy tales into the TV series Once Upon a Time. So to prevent us from re-imagining Jesus into someone else, we’re looking at Mark to see the real Jesus.
So far we have seen that John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus; that Jesus was baptized symbolizing that he was taking our judgment and that he was tested; and that has a heart for healing his people, both physically and spiritually. Today, we will continue to see that Jesus has a heart for healing his people. We’ll see there is a deeper need than what we often think and the authority of Jesus.
The Deeper Need
“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.”
Jesus has just returned to Capernaum after spending some time ministering in the various Galilean towns. He was out preaching the word and healing. But Jesus has returned to Capernaum. Capernaum was essentially home base for Jesus as he ministered. So it makes sense that he would return there. And as soon as people hear out that Jesus is back, they came in droves to see him and to hear him preach. There were so many people that the room was overflowing. They were blocking the door.
The crowds were so large that a group of men couldn’t bring their paraplegic friend to Jesus. They are packed so tight that the four men couldn’t find an inch to squeeze through. These men believed that Jesus could help their friend; they believed that if they met with him, their friend’s deepest need would be resolved. They needed to get creative if they wanted to find a way to get their friend to Jesus. So, they went up onto the roof. That seems logical, right? In Palestine, houses were typically flat and used similar to how we use decks or porches. They were often used as a place to relax and talk with friends and guests. Most houses had a stairway that lead up to the roof. The four men carried their friend on his bed up the stairs to the roof.
But once they got onto the roof, they still had the problem of getting into the house. So “they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay”. The men began to tear up the roof of the house. Roofs in Palestine were made by crosshatching beams that were overlaid with a mud-thatch. Imagine four men digging into someone’s roof like you might dig into your yard. Then once the hole is big enough, the men lowered their friend down in front of Jesus.
These men had great faith in Jesus. They had faith that Jesus could heal their friend. They had faith would heal him. And when Jesus sees their faith, he says “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Wait? What? These men went to all this trouble to have their friend’s need met and Jesus says “your sins are forgiven”? Why would Jesus say that?
That seems so cruel. Unless, Jesus is saying there is a deeper need than the one they think they need met. The men think that their deepest need is physical healing. But Jesus is saying the man has a need that is deeper than physical healing.
So often we think, “If I only get this job” or “if I only have this much in my bank account then my all of my needs would be met”. We think like the paralytic man. We think our deepest need is material or physical.
Have you ever met someone who thought those things and got exactly what they wished for? Have you ever met someone who thought, “I need to have this job then my deepest need is met”? If you have, more often than not those persons are just as miserable as before, sometimes more miserable. Have you noticed that?
A couple of years ago a magazine called The Village Voice out of NYC ran an op-ed on this. The writer had met a fair number of struggling actors, musicians, and novelists. She befriended them. Each of them said, “My deepest need is to get on Broadway” or “my deepest need is get a record deal”. Slowly but surely many of those actors, musicians, and novelists got what they so desperately desired. But after a few months or a year, they were more miserable than before. Their deepest need wasn’t actually met.
That’s just what Jesus is telling us. He’s telling us that there is a deeper need that we need met and that need is the forgiveness of sins.
For the past couple of months we’ve hit on the fact that sin has affected every aspect of our lives. It has affected our minds, our wills, and our bodies. We’ve hit on it because it’s there in Scripture. Sin in all of its ugliness and pain is on display from Genesis 3 onward. It’s on display in how Adam and Eve turned on each other. It’s on display in Joseph’s arrogance and pride. It’s on display in Israel’s lack of trust in God. All of those issues are still on display today in our culture and in our lives. Sin still affects us. And so our greatest need is forgiveness from our sins.
The Authority of Jesus
“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?’”
Jesus’ fame had grown so large that the scribes were there listening. Luke, in his account of this story, mentions that the Pharisees were there as well. The scribes and the Pharisees were the moral leaders of the day. Scribes were experts in the Mosaic Law, while the Pharisees were a group of conservative Jews who wanted to adhere to the law and cultural traditions as much as possible. Almost certainly, the scribes and Pharisees were not here as disciples. They were listening to Jesus to see whether or not they would approve of his message.
And they quickly got their answer. When they hear Jesus say, “Son, your sins are forgiven”, they are indignant; they’re livid. Their hearts were burning with anger. What they were angry about was Jesus pronouncing that the man’s sins had been forgiven. Only God can forgive sins. They were objecting to Jesus presuming to speak for God. The high priest wasn’t able to say that someone’s sins had been forgiven except on the Day of Atonement. They probably weren’t grumbling or objecting out loud. Their objections and questions were running through their minds and hearts like Dale Earnhardt around Daytona. They were objecting to Jesus speaking on God’s behalf; they were objecting to him saying there is a deeper need that only I can meet.
The truth is they’re not wrong. The scribes and the Pharisees aren’t wrong when they say, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Think of it this way: I punch Bill. Then Ted says, “Chris, your sins are forgiven”. That’s not how it works.
All sin is ultimately directed against God. The scribes and the Pharisees knew that. When David had an affair with Bathsheba, his response was to say to God, “Against you, only you, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight” (Psalm 51:4a). If you go back and read 2 Samuel 11, you’ll see that David sins against Uriah, the man whose wife David had the affair with. Bathsheba, by making her commit adultery. And then when David finds out Bathsheba is pregnant, he tries to get Uriah drunk to cover up his sin. That’s another sin against Uriah. And when that doesn’t work, he finally tells Joab his general to put Uriah in a dangerous spot in battle, then have the rest of squad retreat so that Uriah is killed. He committed murder against Uriah. And David says that his sin is ultimately against God? How is that?
All of our sins are rooted in our rebellion against God and his ways. When David had his affair with Bathsheba, the root of his sin was rebelling against God and his command that you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (Exodus 20:17). All of the other sins that David committed against Uriah and Bathsheba stemmed from his rebellion of God and his ways.
So if I were to punch Bill, even though I would be sinning against Bill, my sin would be rooted in rebelling against God and his ways. So when you lie, yes you’ve sinned against the person you’ve lied to but you’ve ultimately sinned against God by rebelling against him and his ways. When you gossip and spread hurtful words, yes you sin against the person you are gossiping against. But you’ve ultimately sinned against God by rebelling against him and his ways. And when you lust, cheat, or steal the sin is ultimately against God. So the scribes and the Pharisees are right when they say only God can forgive sins.
So when Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven” he is making a radical claim. Jesus is making an implicit claim that he is God. He is saying that all of the sins that man committed were ultimately against him. He is making a claim that he is God and as God he can forgive sins. He is claiming that he can meet our deepest need.
Jesus responds to their objections by showing his authority. In verses 8-11 we read, “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.’”
Jesus, the God-man, knew what was going on in their hearts and minds. He knew they were objecting to his pronouncement of forgiveness of sins. And so he poses a question. He asks the scribes which is easier to say. Is it easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven”? Or is it easier to say to someone who has probably never walked in his entire life, “Get up and walk”? Which is easier to say?
It is definitely easier to say to someone “your sins are forgiven”. You can’t prove that sins are forgiven. There is no tangible evidence, no proof, that when someone says “your sins are forgiven” that they actually are. It’s easier to say that.
It is infinitely harder to say to someone who has never walked, “Get up and walk”. There’s definite proof of whether or not someone has been healed if you say that. The person who is healed is proof of that. That’s definitely harder to say.
Jesus goes on saying that he will what appears to be the harder thing, making a lame man walk, to prove that he has the authority to forgive sins. And he does just that. He heals a man, gives his legs the ability to function as they should; he strengthens those muscles. And the man got up and walked out.
Jesus has the authority to heal the brokenness of our world. But more importantly he is the one who can forgive sins. He is the one who can meet our deepest need, the forgiveness of sins, because he is God-incarnate. The miracles that he performed while on the earth are proof that he is able to do what only God can do, forgive us of our sins. That’s why he performed miracles. They were to be testimony to his power and authority in forgiving sins. The purpose of miracles is to show that he is able to meet our deepest need.
When the people saw that Jesus had the authority to heal and forgive sins, they praised God. Are you amazed that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins? Do you glorify God when someone realizes that their deepest need is their sin, that only Jesus can meet it, and that he has authority to do so? That is the appropriate response to experiencing the forgiveness found in Jesus. You should glorify God that he has done it in your life and you should do that when it happens in someone else’s life.
In a few moments, we’ll be partaking in the Lord’s Supper. When you come to the table, what you are professing is that the deepest need is your life is your sin. You may have financial, physical, or psychological needs. But the need under all of those needs is the need for our sin to be taken care of. We come to the table knowing that Christ has the authority to forgive our sins if we trust in him. In him, we are forgiven of all we have the sins we have committed, all of the good things we have failed to do. He has the authority to meet our deepest need.
Whatever we think our need is our deepest need is forgiveness for our sins. And in Jesus that need is met.
 Lane, William (1974). The Gospel of Mark (p. 95-96). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans.