HE’S ABLE TO FORGIVE
Mark 2:1-12 NET
1 Now after some days, when he returned to Capernaum, the news spread that he was at home. 2 So many gathered that there was no longer any room, not even by the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some people came bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 When they were not able to bring him in because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Jesus. Then, after tearing it out, they lowered the stretcher the paralytic was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the experts in the law were sitting there, turning these things over in their minds: 7 “Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Now immediately, when Jesus realized in his spirit that they were contemplating such thoughts, he said to them, “Why are you thinking such things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up, take your stretcher, and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” — he said to the paralytic – 11 “I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” 12 And immediately the man stood up, took his stretcher, and went out in front of them all. They were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Last week, I showed from Psalm 130 that our God is willing to forgive. This week we will see that Jesus has the authority to forgive us.
We can see that in the story of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12. First, we see that…
The crowds had gathered because they believed Jesus was able to heal (1-2).
Jesus was returning to Capernaum after an absence. He came back to preach, but he always found time to heal people as a demonstration of the veracity of his message. The people knew that. They were looking forward to seeing the miracles happen again.
Maclaren describes the scene by pointing out “the crowd flocking to the humble home, overflowing its modest capacity, blocking the doorway, and clustering round it outside as far as they could hear Christ’s voice. ‘He was speaking the word to them,’ proclaiming His mission, as He had done in their synagogue when He was interrupted by the events which follow, no doubt to the gratification of some of His hearers, who wanted something more exciting than “teaching” (Maclaren, 48).
That is understandable. We need demonstrations of God’s power in our lives. The world around us is looking for the reality of our faith. We should not discourage the seeking of miracles. The miracles God allows us to experience can be how he demonstrates the veracity of our faith and our God.
The story includes the fact that…
The paralytic and his four friends sought Jesus for healing (4-5).
Alexander writes that these four friends “would not have gone so far in their endeavor to reach Jesus if they had not believed in his capacity and willingness to do what they desired” (35). They were not just carrying their friend around in the hopes of possibly coming by a doctor. They sought Jesus for healing. When they found him, they would not be impeded by the obstacle of the crowded house. They would get their friend to Jesus if they had to tear the roof off the house.
They were determined to do this because they had faith in Christ to heal their friend. Maclaren points this out by saying “We can fancy the blank looks of the four bearers, and the disappoint-ment on the sick man’s thin face and weary eyes, as they got to the edge of the crowd, and saw that there was no hope of forcing a passage. Had they been less certain of a cure, and less eager, they would have shouldered their burden and carried him home again” (Maclaren, 49).
The passage says that Jesus saw their faith. Of course, he saw everything else as well. He saw their persistence and love for their friend. He saw the paralytic’s patience in enduring the humility of being carried around. But Jesus looked beyond these surface realities and noted their cause. All five of these men had faith. They sought Jesus because they believed in him.
He saw their faith. But how did he see their faith? He saw their faith by their works! That is the only way to demonstrate faith. Goodwin says that the faith of these four men “was precisely the kind of faith which God loves, a faith which could be seen because it was a faith which showed itself in works. Even the pulling of tiles from the roof of a house may be a holy action, and replete with blessing; the commonest acts may be sanctified by the spirit which dictates them” (Goodwin, 32).
If we want our neighbors to know that we have faith in Jesus, we need to be bringing them to Jesus. We need to be praying over their problems and ours. We need to demonstrate that the kingdom of God is important to us. These four friends of the paralytic did that by seeking Jesus to heal their friend.
Mark’s story also reveals that…
Jesus knew he was also able to forgive the paralytic (5).
The crowds were expecting Jesus to say “be healed” or “be restored” or something to that effect. But Jesus told him that his sins are forgiven. Jesus knew that he was able to do both. So, this healing was designed to be a demonstration of his ability to do more than heal.
Bennett observes “To a modern audience, and probably to many of those then present, these words would sound like an evasion of the demand for a miracle. The carnal mind would think that an offer of forgiveness to such a sufferer was mere mockery; but Jesus placed in the forefront that which was most important to Him, and also, doubtless to the sufferer. His inspired insight had discerned that the paralytic craved healing for his soul as well as for his body” (Bennett, 28).
Jesus could have merely healed this man, and that would have been a miracle. But Jesus wanted to do more than a miracle. There are some today who only seek Jesus when they need a miracle. Oh, Christian, don’t limit our Savior to that. He is more than a substitute doctor. He is the Great Physician!
Mark’s story also reveals some antagonists at work.
The experts in the law rejected Jesus’ authority to forgive (6-8).
There were some spies in the crowd that day. They were there not because they believed in Jesus, but because they did not believe in him. Some people go to church for the same reason. They don’t come to be blessed by the gospel but to find something to condemn in the service. I’ve known of people who have stayed away from church for years because they never found one they can approve of. Those who come to criticize and those who stay away because they can’t find the right church are doing the same thing these experts in the law did. They are rejecting Jesus.
You see, there is no Jesus who is just a healer or miracle worker. That Jesus doesn’t exist. The real Jesus is more than a good teacher or miracle worker. The real Jesus is God’s only Son with every right to forgive sins.
These experts in the law were rejecting Jesus by questioning his authority. They were his enemies because they rejected his words. Any time we doubt the words of Christ, we put ourselves in their place. We don’t even have to voice our doubts. They didn’t. They were “turning these things over in their minds.”
Despite that opposition, however, …
Jesus healed the paralytic to demonstrate his authority to forgive (9-12).
The Gospel authors do not always give us the reason why Jesus heals. Sometimes we are told that he has compassion on the crowds, but rarely are we told Jesus’ specific reason for healing an individual. This is an exception. Here Jesus explains that this particular healing is a visual demonstration that he has the authority to forgive sins. He is the one who can restore on a level higher than the physical.
The next time Jesus would tangle with the religious leaders – they would criticize him for hanging out with the riffraff. He would explain that as a doctor he needed to be around sick people. But he wouldn’t be in a hospital when he said that. He would be in Levi’s house – and he would not be healing at the time. He would be treating sinners who needed forgiveness.
Jesus is a doctor who can treat more than diseases or injuries. He can dig down deep to find problems that do not show up on an x-ray. Jesus asked the question about which is easier. He meant ‘which is easier to claim?’ It’s easier to claim to forgive. But he healed the paralytic that day to prove that he can forgive sins.
But as he was healing him, he asked the paralytic to demonstrate his faith for the healing. As Heil puts it “no longer dependent upon the four men to carry him, the paralytic may now ‘rise’ by himself and ‘take up’ the pallet he was forced by his illness to lie upon'” (Heil, 61). Christ has the authority, but we have to put our faith in him.
Why Does Jesus refer to himself as the Son of Man here? This title “marked him off from all other teachers, and claimed for him a special position of his own” (Bennett, 30). Read Daniel chapter 7. It describes beasts, who represent four human empires. One after another, these empires emerge in history, and each is given authority on earth for a time. They were given that authority by God, who is called “the Ancient of Days.” But then someone else appears “with the clouds of the sky.” He is called “one like a son of man.” Daniel writes “To him was given ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty. All peoples, nations, and language groups were serving him. His authority is eternal and will not pass away. His kingdom will not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:14).
So, from Daniel 7, we learn that Jesus’ authority is permanent. He does not have temporary authority, like President Biden, or Vladimir Putin.
From today’s text, we learn something more about Jesus’ authority. His authority goes beyond the physical and political. He has authority on earth to do what his Father does in heaven. He can forgive.
When Jesus commissioned his church to share the gospel with all nations, he included the fact that he can forgive. We are commanded by our Savior to proclaim that truth. In Luke’s version of the great commission, we are told that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in his name to all nations” (Luke 24:17).
In every community just like ours all around the world, people need something money cannot buy. They need forgiveness. They need forgiveness more than they need to walk. They need forgiveness more than they need a car or a house or a job. Only Jesus can give them what they need. He has called us to pick these people up and bring them to him.
Alexander, Joseph A. The Gospel According to Mark Explained. New York: A.D.F. Randolph, 1858. pp. 33-39.
Allen, W. C. The Gospel According to St. Mark. London: Rivingtons, 1915. pp. 65-67.
Bennett, William Henry. The Life of Christ According to St. Mark. 1907. pp. 27-30.
Branscomb, B. Harvie. The Gospel of Mark. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1967. pp. 41-48.
Ford, James. The Gospel of S. Mark: Illustrated (Chiefly in the Doctrinal and Moral Sense) from Ancient and Modern Authors. London: J. Masters, 1849. pp. 36-43.
Goodwin, Harvey. A Commentary on the Gospel of S. Mark. Cambridge [Eng.]: Deighton, Bell, 1860. pp. 29-34.
Heil, John Paul. The Gospel of Mark As Model for Action: A Reader-Response Commentary. Eugene, OR.: Wipf & Stock, 1992. pp. 58-62.
Maclaren, Alexander. The Gospel of St. Mark. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1893. pp. 47-60.
Rowlandson, W. H. The Gospel according to St. Mark, with prolegomena. 1869. pp. 10-11.