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Jesus Forgives Sins

Date: May. 19, 2019

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Mark 2:1-12

Key Verse: Mark 2:5

Humanity is flawed. All people make mistakes. We mess something up and cause problems. Our history is filled with mistakes leading to horrible problems. Many Romans thought that by killing Julius Caesar, the Roman Republic would be saved, but instead, the time of emperors arose. The Turks easily conquered Constantinople in 1453 because someone left the gate open. In the 13thcentury, the ruler of Persia sent back an envoy from Genghis Khan without a head, and in response Genghis Khan invaded Persia and destroyed it. In the 14thcentury, China had a great navy and had trade routes all over south Asia and eastern Africa, but the emperor chose to make the nation isolationist and it became illegal to trade with foreigners, which helped in the rise of European merchants. China would have had much higher influence in the world, except for that policy. In World War I, a British soldier came across a wounded Adolf Hitler on the battlefield. He couldn’t kill him in cold blood and let him live. That choice allowed Hitler to become the man who would start the largest war in history and one of the worst mass murderers. Gavrilo Princip attempted to assassinate the Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand, but failed. In his failure, he went to a café. After the assassination attempt, the Archduke’s driver took a wrong turn and ended up right in front of the same café, five feet from Princip. So, Princip took the opportunity and killed the Archduke, his wife and the driver. In 1962, Decca records rejected the Beatles who were auditioning, saying, “The Beatles have no future in show business”. In 1997, Michael Dell, founder of Dell Computers was asked about what he would do with Apple if he were in Steve Jobs’ shoes. He is quoted on saying, “I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders.” In 1999, the NASA Mars Climate Orbiter was lost because one team used Imperial measurements and the others used metric. These are big mistakes and I didn’t even mention the Titanic. We all make mistakes, and the mistakes that we make towards God, we call sins. That includes all the things that we do that go against God. When we see the impact of all our mistakes, we usually feel pretty bad about it sometimes to the extent that we become affected physically. We can become weak, distracted and just carry a heavy burden in our hearts. We seek healing through forgiveness and only the people affected by our mistakes can forgive us. In today’s passage, we see a man who was brought to Jesus for healing, but he received more than that. He received forgiveness.

Our passage begins, “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.” (1) These events take place a number of days after the previous passage, where he healed a man with leprosy. After he healed the man, Jesus warned him to not tell anyone about what had happened, but the man did not listen. He told everyone of his healing, and Jesus was not able to go anywhere without a crowd following him. It made it very difficult to Jesus to preach to the people. After a few days attempting to preach, Jesus returned to Capernaum his home base. There was a strong possibility that he had taken up residence in Peter’s house. The people of Capernaum heard that he had returned, and, as verse 2 says, they gathered at the house in such great numbers that there was no room inside or outside the house. As the crowds came, Jesus began to preach to them. The people may have wanted to see Jesus perform miracles, but he taught them instead.

While Jesus was preaching to the crowd, something happened. “Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.” (3) Some men heard about Jesus being in Capernaum and they brought a man, perhaps their friend, to him. We don’t know a lot about the paralyzed man. He may have been born that way or had a terrible accident happen to him, but he couldn’t walk. In those days, there were no wheelchairs. If you could not walk, you could not get around except for someone carrying you. You wouldn’t be able to get a job or have any real contribution to society. Those who were paralyzed were stuck begging in order to survive. They were looked down upon in society. People thought that if there was something wrong with you, then you must have done something wrong to deserve it. You must have angered God to end up the way you were. It was a hopeless life, but the men that brought this paralyzed man had compassion on him. It says that four carried him, but there may have been more with them. They brought the man on a mat to see Jesus, but they could not get in because of the crowd.

So, they improvised. “Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on.” (4) The houses of the time had flat roofs with an external staircase to access the roof. The roofs were made of compacted clay, covered in tiles. It was no small effort to climb the stairs while carrying the paralyzed man on a mat. It was no small effort to rip up the tiles and dig a hole in the clay large enough to fit the man. It was a pretty big undertaking. On top of that, they had to construct a way for them to lower the man on a mat safely down to Jesus. They had to do a little engineering work to get him down to Jesus.

Now, just think about what it was like inside the house. Jesus was inside preaching. Eventually, everyone would hear some scratching and scraping from above. Not long after that debris would be falling in the room. Then the first bit of a hole would appear. Next the hole would become bigger and bigger until it was big enough to allow a person through. I have no idea if Jesus kept on preaching through all of it or if the homeowners were getting all wide eyed and livid about the ever-expanding hole in their roof. Finally, the people would see a mat with a paralyzed man descending from the ceiling, dangling by the ropes his friends used to lower him. Slowly, the man was precariously lowered into the room right in front of Jesus. It must have been a very awkward time, and the homeowner must have blown a gasket. A bunch of strangers just put a hole in his roof. Were they going to help close the hole they made?  Were they even going to apologize for their actions? There is no mention of either and there is no mention of anyone’s reaction to the man coming down, except for Jesus.

Jesus reaction is recorded in verse 5, “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Jesus saw all the men’s actions as acts of faith. He wasn’t concerned about the debris or damage. Jesus saw their motivation and heart in the situation. They wanted to help the paralyzed man so much that the crowd didn’t stop them. They would do whatever it took to get the man in front of Jesus. They had that much faith that Jesus could heal the man. That faith moved Jesus to say to the man that his sins were forgiven. Jesus didn’t heal the man, not initially. Instead, Jesus forgave the man of his sins.

The act of Jesus forgiving the man of his sins causes a number of scholars to think that the man’s paralysis is connected to his sins and that his sins are the cause of his paralysis. It is possible that the man committed some sin that resulted in him becoming paralyzed. Maybe in a moment of pride, he did some “Hold my beer” moment, where he did something so stupid, he injured himself. Perhaps in a moment of anger, the man got into a fight with someone and lost badly. Maybe the man’s paralysis was a daily reminder of the sin he had committed. If some of that is the case, then the men who brought him to Jesus, might have been his friends from before the paralysis and they really wanted to help the man get back on his feet because of the constant reminder of his sin. Perhaps by first forgiving the man of his sins, Jesus opened the door for his physical healing, too. The man had to know that the dumb mistakes of his past no longer had to affect his future. The burden he carried could be lifted and he could be healed.

Now, to those there in attendance, what Jesus said was something quite peculiar. There were some religious leaders in the audience and they had their own thoughts on what Jesus had to say. “Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (6-7) The teachers of the law were there listening to Jesus along with the crowd. I don’t think that the teachers of the law came to Jesus with ill intent, but they were genuinely curious about the content of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus had been growing famous for his miracles and his teaching. He didn’t teach like the teachers of the law. Jesus taught with authority. I am certain that they were there to bear witness to such teaching and to determine where he got such knowledge from. The teachers of the law saw themselves as the authority on the law and, as such, saw themselves as the gatekeepers of the knowledge the law imparted. In order to preach, people had to have the approval of the teachers of the law.

They took seats of prominence in the room, because that is what they do, after all, they were important people. When they heard Jesus words to the paralyzed man, they scoffed and thought to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They thought that Jesus was blaspheming because only God can forgive sins. Blaspheming is the act of insulting God, in this case by equating one’s self with God. Only God can forgive sins. That part is true. If a person were to take God’s place in forgiving sins, then they would be blaspheming, but Jesus was not an ordinary person. In his case, Jesus was not blaspheming because he was God and could forgive sins.

Now, why is it that only God can forgive sins? Shouldn’t there be many ways to become righteous? Fittingly, today’s Intro Daily question on our website is, “What is sin?”, and the answer is, “Sin is disobeying or not conforming to God’s law in any way.” A sin is going against God. Now, if I were to go against Mike or do something horrible to him, can Wofai forgive me for it? That doesn’t make much sense to do so. Forgiveness must come from the one who was wronged. In the case of sin, only God can grant forgiveness because sin is committed against him. Sin is defined as going against God, so only God can forgive sins. The only way to get right with God is for God to forgive us of the wrongs that we have done to him by disobeying him.

So, what the teachers of the law were thinking had some truth to it. Only God can forgive sins, but they could not fathom that the one standing right there in front of them was one of the persons of God. “Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things?’” (8) Jesus knew their hearts and asked them why they were thinking those things. They were having trouble making the connections of who Jesus was. Jesus had been telling people to be quiet about him, but now he was making a pretty bold declaration about himself. By forgiving the man’s sins Jesus was equating himself to God, just like the teachers of the law thought. For the first time in Mark’s gospel, Jesus is confirming his deity. He wasn’t merely a man from God. He was God in the form of a man. He was truly the man that John the Baptist was talking about, a man far greater than any other. This is big thing.

If the teachers of the law had opened their eyes, they could see it. So, Jesus helps them along. “‘Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’” (9-11) Jesus asks them which is easier: to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? It is a bit of a conundrum. As we already know, only God can forgive sins, so it is really difficult to honestly say that. However, it is just as equally hard to say the man is healed and back it up with a healing. Jesus was getting at that both things are only in the domain of God. If he could do one, then he had the authority to do the other. He wanted the people to know that he had the authority to forgive sins, so he told the man to get up, take his mat and go home.

Then, the impossible happened. The man who was lowered through the roof, the man who was carried to Jesus, the man who had been paralyzed got up, grabbed his mat and walked out. This was a man who hadn’t been able to walk for a while. The muscles in his legs must have atrophied and withered away. His legs were probably no more than skin and bones. He may even have forgotten how to walk, but at Jesus words, the nerve connections were healed, the muscles were restored and the knowledge of how to walk was given back to him. Without any struggle, the paralyzed man got up, grabbed his mat and left the house, this time, through the door. It was impossible for this man to be healed. Even with our medical knowledge, healing paralysis, which involves healing the spinal cord is impossible. Not many paralyzed people learn how to walk again. There are a number of injured people that have to learn how to walk again and it takes months and months of physical therapy to do so, but the man Jesus healed didn’t need any physical therapy. He got up and walked by the power of God alone.

Everyone was amazed, probably even the teachers of the law. No one had ever seen anything like it. It was more proof of who Jesus was, the Son of God, the Lord himself on earth. Jesus has the authority to forgive sins because Jesus is God. It is his decision to do with sinners what he wants. He is the Judge of life. The law says the sin deserves death, so Jesus, according to the law, has the authority to put us to death for our sins. All of our mistakes and sins deserve death because that is what the law says. Jesus has that authority to pronounce that judgement on us, but instead he chooses to forgive. Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, but to save it. Now a judge can’t just make a decision all willy-nilly. It must be based on the law.

So how can Jesus forgive us when the law says that we deserve death? Just to simply forgive makes it look like a mockery of justice. What kind of God and judge would let someone get off scot-free? It doesn’t seem any bit of fair. But whoever said that God was fair? He is just, but he is not fair, because if he was, we would all be dead. For we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and our sins deserve death. That is what is fair. Yet, God is still just, and he finds justice through atonement. Jesus does not forgive us on a whim, but through his actions. Jesus himself bore our sins on the cross. He took our punishment. He took our suffering and death to give us forgiveness. He, who was sinless, became sin and bore the full wrath of God, far more than we could ever take and he died on that tree so that we could find healing through his forgiveness.

Jesus died for us, even though we didn’t deserve it. I’ve committed so many sins in my life. I’ve caused so much pain and a life even ended because of my decisions. I don’t deserve a second chance or a third or a fourth. I am nothing, just a worm or insect. I don’t deserve life. I belong away from all other people. I belong in the grave. I was broken, incapacitated, paralyzed because of my own sin, but I was forgiven. Somehow, some way, Jesus chose to forgive me of all the horrible things that I have done. He died on the cross and took my punishment. It is the devil that tries to keep you down. It is the devil that reminds you of the horrible things you have done. It is the devil that gets us locked in the cycle of despair because we are horrible people, but it is Jesus that forgives sins. There is no condemnation in Christ. He has paid for all of our sins.

Think about that for a moment. No matter how deep the sin, no matter how crushing you sin is, Jesus paid for it all. All of those regrets that you have can turn to repentance and then forgiveness because our forgiveness was bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. This generation is filled with the feeling of being overwhelmed, of inadequacy, of loneliness, of the crushing weight of the world. Nobody knows what to do, but Jesus is calling, and he has the authority to forgive sins. He died on the cross to take away your burden. Jesus forgives you.

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Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

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