The images in Mark’s gospel have been building in showing us who Jesus is. Jesus is the one who possesses authority like no other. Jesus has authority to call people to follow him, something other people did not do. Rather than saying, “Follow God,” Jesus said, “Follow me.” Jesus has authority over unclean spirits. Unclean spirits know that Jesus is the Holy One of God who has come to destroy the power of Satan (1:24). Jesus has authority over our physical sicknesses, showing that he came to heal us spiritually as Isaiah prophesied. We have seen Jesus having authority over diseases, cleansing a leper so that he is whole. Jesus has come to cleanse Israel and cleanse those who would come to him. As the Gospel of Mark opened, we saw the declaration that this is the beginning of the good news about Jesus as the prophet Isaiah declared. This gospel is showing the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies. But now we are going to see a shift in the Gospel of Mark. Chapters 2-3 will record for us the building resistance against Jesus. Jesus is now going to be challenged by the religious leaders for his actions and teachings.
Jesus has returned to Capernaum after traveling through the region of Galilee teaching and healing. People find out that Jesus has returned home (2:1). There are so many gathering into this house that no one else is able to enter, not even at the door. What is Jesus doing in the house? Verse 2 says that Jesus is preaching the word to them. Jesus has come to preach the good news of the kingdom (1:14-15; 1:38). Jesus has returned to Capernaum and his mission continues: to preach the gospel of God. Now there are four men who come carrying a paralyzed person on a stretcher. It is important to see what is happening. We have a lame man. He cannot walk. He is paralyzed. So these four men carry this lame, paralyzed man on a stretcher to see Jesus. But there are so many people crowding the house that they cannot enter. It is easy to visualize. Have you ever been in such a crowd that someone asks to pass by you but you have nowhere to move to allow the person to go by? The place is so crowded there is no way for these four men to get this paralyzed man who is laying on a stretcher into the house.
But these men and this paralyzed man will not be turned around. Verse 4 tells us that because they could not get to Jesus they climb to the roof, unroof the roof, and lower the stretcher down in the house. Now there is a lot for us to consider. This is not as much of a heroic feat as it would be for our houses. The typical Galilean home had an outside stairway leading to the flat roof. Further, a typical roof was constructed of large wooden beams with smaller pieces of wood in between, covered by a thatch consisting of grain, twigs, straw, and mud. Tiles would then be placed on top. So it did not require a jack hammer to break through the roof. Once on the roof, these men start taking off the tiles and then removing the straw, mud and branches to make a hole large enough to lower this lame man down into the house.
Now we need to visualize this for a moment. Jesus is teaching in the house. You hear some noise on the roof but Jesus keeps on preaching. But then these men get a hole in the roof and lower this man down on the stretcher. This is another show stopper. Everything would stop and the crowd would be looking up as this man is lowered down. It is a stunning scene. Jesus sees their faith and says to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now this is also a showstopper. What would you expect Jesus to say to this paralyzed man? “Rise up and walk!” But that is not what Jesus says. Jesus says something completely unexpected. Jesus tells the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven. What is Jesus doing? Why does Jesus say this? This is the big question that looms over this text.
The Conflict (2:5-7)
This declaration by Jesus immediately causes a conflict. The teachers of the Law start questioning in our hearts. “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” I want us to recognize that their question is right. Who can forgive sins but God alone? Exactly! Jesus is God. This is exactly what Jesus wants people to understand. Jesus is not a good moral teacher. Jesus is not merely a prophet. Jesus is the Lord! But the charge of blasphemy will be used by the religious leaders to condemn Jesus to death (14:64).
Jesus’ Answer (2:8-12)
Now Jesus knows what was going on in the hearts of these teachers. He knows what they are thinking. Jesus not only has the power to forgive sins but also shows another power that belongs to God alone: knowing people’s hearts. Jesus is showing divine knowledge over their hearts. So Jesus asks them why they are questioning these things in their hearts. This should have captured the attention of these teachers. “Hey, Jesus knows what I was thinking!” But Jesus wants to prove who he is and why he said what he said. Look at verses 9-11.
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.” (Mark 2:9–11 ESV)
Jesus’ question is to redirect their thinking. Jesus is saying, “I’m not just a miracle worker; I am the Savior. Any miracle worker can say, ‘Take up your mat and walk.’ But only the Savior of the world can say to a human being, ‘All your sins are forgiven.’” Jesus is not claiming to be a miracle worker. Jesus is claiming to be the Lord of the universe. Nothing in Jewish literature indicated that a man or messiah would have the authority to forgive sins. Jesus has the authority to dispense the forgiveness of God.
But if this was not a large enough statement, Jesus pushes this further in verse 10. Not only does Jesus say that he has the authority on earth to forgive sins, but he calls himself “the Son of Man.” This term is used only one time in the Prophets and it is found in Daniel 7:13-14. Turn in your Bibles to this passage. Listen to Daniel’s vision.
13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13–14 ESV)
I want us to see the simple message of this vision. The Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days and receives rule, glory, and a kingdom so that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. He has an everlasting rule and a kingdom that will not be destroyed. This is the picture of Jesus. Jesus has all authority on heaven and earth. Notice that this is exactly what Jesus is saying in Mark 2:10 — “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then look at what happens. The paralyzed man immediate picked up his stretcher and went out of the house in front of their eyes (2:12). Everyone in the house is amazed and glorified God saying that they had never seen anything like this.
What is the message of this account and why does Jesus perform this miracle in this way? Isaiah prophesied that certain things would be happening in the life of Israel so that they would know that the new exodus had begun. Listen to Isaiah 35:3-6.
Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, “Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.” Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy. (Isaiah 35:3–6 ESV)
What is one characteristic of the arrival of the kingdom? The lame the leap like a deer. Listen to what else Isaiah said about the arrival of the kingdom.
For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us. Your cords hang loose; they cannot hold the mast firm in its place or keep the sail spread out. Then prey and spoil in abundance will be divided; even the lame will take the prey. And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick”; the people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity. (Isaiah 33:22–24 ESV)
Look at what is going to happen. The Lord is our judge, lawgiver, and king. He will save us. Then Israel is described as weak and helpless. But that is all going to change when the Christ came. Then the prey and the spoil would be in abundance. Even the lame will be able to walk and capture prey. No one in this kingdom is going to say they are sick. The people who are in this kingdom will be forgiven their iniquities. Notice how the physical imagery is tied to the spiritual meaning. When the lame and the sick are healed then the people who live there will be forgiven their sins. When this lame man is presented before him, what does Jesus say? “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This is just like Isaiah said would happen. The king has arrived with his kingdom on earth and that power is displayed in Jesus forgiving sins on earth. Do not forget to notice the power of Jesus’ words. All that he has to do is say it. Jesus’ words have the authority to forgive sins. Jesus’ words have the authority to make the lame walk. Healing and forgiveness belong together and it is amazing that these religious teachers did not see it.
Jesus Has Come To Solve Your Life Problem (2:5)
I want to draw our attention back to verse 5 as we conclude the lesson. What we need to see is Jesus declaring something very important about who he is. Jesus has come to fulfill your greatness need. Jesus has come to solve your greatest life problem. Now see it: your greatest problem is not your suffering. Your greatest problem is your sin. Our greatness need is not comforting our pain. Our greatest need is rescue from our sins. Our main problem is not what has happened to us or what people have done to us. Our greatest problem is how we have responded to that. This is an empowering revelation. We cannot do anything about what other people have done to us. We cannot reverse the past. We cannot fix the hurts. We cannot undo the pain. Nothing can fix those pains. Those wounds remain in our lives. But we can do something about ourselves. The thing that we can do is see what our greatest need is. We can see what our greatest pain truly is. We can see what our lives need the most.
This paralyzed man’s greatest need was not to walk. We would all look at him with physical eyes and think that healing his legs was exactly his greatest need. But Jesus makes a statement open the eyes of everyone to a spiritual awareness. Our comfort is not our greatest need. Our health is not our greatest need. Our security or wealth are not our greatest needs. Our greatest need is that we see our greatest problem that Jesus has come to solve.
Our problem is that we all have ignored the Lord, rebelling against him by living our lives without reference to him. We tell God that we will live our lives exactly how I want to live it. Our greatest problem is not what people have done to us but what we have done against God and against others. We have a sin problem and it is our greatest problem. Jesus may not give us long lives. Jesus may not give us healthy bodies. Jesus may not give us financial security. Jesus may not give us good jobs or happy families. But Jesus is giving us exactly what we need and he wants you to seek him for that need. Do not seek him to fix these external physical concerns. Seek him for eternity. Seek him for forgiveness. Our sin being forgiven every day is our greatest need. There is nothing more important today than for your sins to be forgiven. There is nothing more important tomorrow than for your sins to be forgive. There is nothing more important on any given day than for your sins to be forgiven. You have Jesus and you have him fulfilling our need. This should be a moment of exaltation when Jesus declares what he has come to do: to forgive sins. We should not grumble for the rest but be rejoicing because today our greatest need has been given to us again. Do not be distracted by the world. Jesus is your greatest need today and he will give you want you need if you will seek him in faith.