SERVICE VIDEO: link
TEXT: Mark 2:1-13
Why did Jesus heal people? What all was going on there? Today we are continuing our series called “Jesus Among Us” and we are looking at what Jesus did while he was living among humanity. We are doing that because he invited people and he invites us to follow him and he prayed for us to live in the world as he lived in the world.
We’ve been through the first chapter of the book of Mark in the Bible. Jesus has announced the presence of the Kingdom of God and is teaching about it, inviting people to be a part of it, and demonstrating what it is like through miraculous signs like healing and casting out demonic spirits. We also saw last week that Jesus takes time out to be alone and to pray and that he is not just motivated by a mission, but also by compassion. And even though he was being careful early on not to attract too much attention, word got out quickly in Capernaum and he went outside town and to neighboring towns for a few days for things to settle down.
Our passage today, in chapter two of Mark, begins by letting us know that after a few days Jesus came back to Capernaum and was at home there. By that it may mean he was staying at Peter’s house where he was just days before. It may well have served as “home base” for him and the other disciples as they came in and out of Capernaum. Remember that Jesus himself was from Nazareth, which was not too far away.
Persistent Faith and Friendship (vv.2-5)
And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. (v.2)
We read in verse 2 that “many were gathered together” there at the home. This had been the case days before when Jesus was there and healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Now days later Jesus has returned from preaching in other towns and the crowds quickly gathered again. Homes in those days might have been able to hold 40-50 people standing and packed in. We read that there wasn’t even room near the door.
And they *came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. (vv.3-4)
Continuing on to verses 3-4, there are four men who are bringing a paralytic, a man who was paralyzed and could not walk (at least). As with many others, they were hoping Jesus could heal their friend. And they could not even get close because of the crowd. So they managed to get up onto the roof… not as tricky as it might sound because often there were stairs up to the roof on the outside of the house. People would put things out on the roof to dry or for storage. So the four men carried the paralyzed man up to the roof and they dug an opening through it so they could lower the man and his pallet down into the house. Again, this isn’t like cutting through a modern roof. There would have been thatch and clay or perhaps clay tiles.
That’s some friendship! Have you ever gone to such lengths for someone? Or had others do it for you? That’s a first challenge to me in this story, and one I often jump right over. But bearing up another person’s pain, need, or situation is one example of what it means to live and serve in the world as a part of God’s Kingdom. We can do that through prayer and we can do it literally in reaching out to help others. We often have opportunities to do this as a church. It’s not just busy work; it’s Kingdom work! And I think Jesus recognized that in what the friends were doing.
And Jesus seeing their faith *said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (v.5)
In previous weeks we’ve seen that Jesus healed as a sign of the Kingdom. We’ve seen that he healed, stirred by compassion. What we read here is that he responded to the faith of the friends. Not even the paralyzed man’s faith, but the faith of the friends: “seeing THEIR faith.” But here’s the surprising thing… he didn’t heal the man right then. He said “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
What would you have thought at that point? Surely they brought the man for physical healing! And Jesus forgave his sins. Indeed, this response is going to set off the scribes, the religious experts of the Old Testament Law. We’ll get to that in a moment. But what would the friends have thought? What would you think… if you asked God to heal sickness or injury and His response was to forgive your sin?
But isn’t this just what God has done? We pray a lot of prayers for help and healing and God has offered us forgiveness of sin through Jesus. Let me be even more pointed about it. These are friends who have done an extraordinary thing for a friend. The friend has extraordinary need: he would have been entirely dependent on others to live and thrive. He needed constant help; surely God would know that and want to help him. The friends have carried the man – on a pallet – some distance, up stairs, cut through the roof, and into a crowded space. That’s a lot of work! They have had extraordinary faith that Jesus could do something for the friend. So much so, that Jesus notes it and responds to it. Isn’t there a little sense in you that these guys DESERVE an answer to prayer? Can you relate? Have you worked hard, had faith, endured a lot, even asked on behalf of another?
We aren’t told what the friends or the man thought of “your sins are forgiven.” Really, I’m projecting my own disappointment onto the scene. I think there are one of two responses though. One is to minimize the significance of sin being forgiven. Disappointment would come from that. “Oh, you just forgave my sin? What about walking? What about healing?”
The scribes provide the other response to what Jesus did. And interestingly enough, they have as much to teach us as those who would do so much for a friend.
A Big Miracle (vv.6-12)
While they do not seem to believe Jesus has done a big miracle, the scribes identify for us what the big miracle is in this scene. It is the forgiveness of sin.
But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (vv.6-7)
They are scandalized by Jesus’ words. They understood that only God can forgive sin, and they say as much. They recognize that in saying what he did, Jesus was claiming not only the authority of God, but to (somehow) BE God. They weren’t struggling with “your sins are forgiven” for the same reason I do. I struggle because I often fail to grasp the importance of God’s forgiveness. I focus much more on the material and physical. But they got it; IF Jesus could actually do what he was saying, this would be a BIG MIRACLE far beyond physical healing. I wonder if we can catch a glimpse of the significance of what Jesus said and did here?
Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, *said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? (vv.8-9)
Jesus knows what is going on even before they have said it out loud. He asks an interesting question, “Which is easier, to say ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘Get up and walk?’” Ponder that. I know many have heard this story before and know the outcome. But ponder that. Which is easier? Which is more important? In one sense, both are impossible for a human being to say. I mean there is medicine and surgery and all, but to simply command physical healing by word? That’s also in the “only God can do” category. I’m not sure there even is an answer to that question. Rather, it sets up what he says next.
But so 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, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” (vv.10-12)
He ends up doing both. He forgives the man’s sin AND he heals him. But here’s the key explanation in verse 10: “So that you may know the Son of Man has authority…” He uses the biblical title for the Messiah, “Son of Man.” And he ties it his authority and power. He heals the man as a sign of that authority and power. But that is to point to his authority and power to forgive sin.
The Body, the Soul, and the Lord
What do I take away from this story?
I am reminded of my own skewed priorities, that on most days I prioritize my own physical needs and comfort over my spiritual well-being. I’m not even saying anyone in the actual story did that. Mark doesn’t say. But that’s my own first reaction if I’m being really honest. It’s the reaction I’ve had sometimes when God seemed to not answer my specific prayer about something. Was I even looking for the greater miracle… the greater answer to prayer?
The scribes, often portrayed as the bad guys or at least the opponents of Jesus, actually teach quite a bit here. They are the ones who really get what a big claim Jesus is making. Now they don’t like it or believe it, but they see the claim. He is presenting himself as the Messiah with the very authority and power of God. Would that we sense a little bit of the magnitude of that. Jesus didn’t understand himself to be simply a Rabbi or a sage. If we take his words and actions as anything less then we haven’t really paid attention to him.
Today we started Confirmation. That’s kind of the point of Confirmation. It’s not to pressure or require young people to pray the prayer or join the church. That may be the result or it may not. The goal is to consider Jesus on his own terms, period. We look at what he said and did, including his invitation to believe, follow, and participate. And that’s what scripture texts like the one today invite from each of us.
Do you believe him? Will you follow him? Will you be a part of God’s Kingdom work in the world?
May it be so!
Some Music Used
- For the Cause
- The Wonderful Cross
- Days of Elijah
- Rick Bean, jazz piano
- That’s Why We Praise Him (T. Walker)
- Good To Me
- Will You Come and Follow Me (Bell)
- Salvation’s Song