Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Six
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 11, 2018
God has once again given us the privilege of coming before His word together. We are in Mark 2 - starting at verse 1. The section of Mark’s gospel account where Jesus is establishing His credentials. Who Jesus is and why we should believe Him - why we should trust Him with our lives. Why we should be all in - committing ourselves - to follow Jesus.
If you’re able - please stand with me - as we come together before God’s word. This morning we’re going to do things a tad different. You all are group one - the narrators. You all get to read what’s in black. You all are group two. You get to be Jesus. You get to read what’s in red. Because Jesus spoke in red.
And when He returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that He was at home. 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.
And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic carried by four men. 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.
And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
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? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgiven sins” - He said to the paralytic - “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
We’re going to divide this event into two parts because we want to focus on two things that are going on here. There are secondary things and there is the main thing. God gives us opportunities to deal with secondary things. Jesus always deals with the main thing.
First - The Secondary Things. The issues that God gives us the opportunity to deal with.
Many of us have heard this account a few times before. Yes? So, let’s be careful. Let’s walk through it together and make sure we’re sure we’re not just assuming we’re on the same page with Mark.
When we left Jesus last Sunday - after the disobedience of the “made clean” leper - who went out and told everyone that Jesus had healed him - because of all the people that running after Jesus because of all the miracles - Jesus wasn’t able to enter into a town unless He snuck into town.
Here in chapter 2 - Mark begins with Jesus some days after that, apparently, having snuck into Capernaum - which we saw a few Sundays ago is this fishing town on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee.
The picture on the right is what Capernaum looks like today. If we went to Israel today we could take the tour. A real place in real time with real people.
Mark tells us that Jesus - sneaks into town - and comes back home. Who’s home we don’t know.
Could have been the home of Simon and Andrew. Some have suggested that it was the home of Mary and other member’s of Jesus’ family that may have moved to Capernaum. Some have suggested that it may have been a home that Jesus’ Himself owned. Some have suggested that it was a home owned by friends of Jesus that may have been in some real sense a kind of “home” to him.
We don’t know. What we do
know is that it was a place that Jesus considered home. That it was a
kind of Galilee area base of operations for Jesus. And
whosoever’s house it was probably was a pretty good size
given the numbers of people that Mark is talking about
Mark tells us that when Jesus gets into to town someone takes a selfie and posts it on Facebook. “Hanging with Jesus in Capernaum” - and so “many were gathered there.”
How many were there? Many enough. Most houses had a door that led directly out to the street. Some houses - lifestyles of the rich and famous - some houses had an entrance area with a door or a gate. Many enough that Mark goes on to tell us that there was no room in the house and even at the door.
Luke’s account gives us more backfill. There were Pharisees and teachers of the law that had come from all over Galilee and Judea and even from Jerusalem - which was about 70 miles - or 3 days journey - away. And they’re all sitting in the house. (Luke 5:17)
Jesus had attracted enough attention from the masses that the religious leaders had showed up from all over to check out Jesus. Which is the first place in Mark’s account that we’re introduced to conflict. Jesus getting push back. What this crowd is seeing - even though they don’t know it yet - what their seeing is the first in a series of events that will lead Jesus to the cross.
So the great theological minds from all over Israel had come to Capernaum - into the living room of this house - in order to examine this illness healing - demon casting outer - leper cleansing teacher from Nazareth.
A thumbs up - stamp of approval - from these religious leaders and Jesus has it made. A thumbs down means they’ve labeled Jesus a heretic.
Emphasis large crowd. Mixed purposes for being there. And a potentially explosive situation.
Mark goes on to tell us that Jesus was preaching the word to them. “Word” translating the Greek “logos”. Technically that means the whole of Jesus’ teachings. Jesus on point. Why He’s come.
Jesus speaking with the authority of God. Jesus correcting their theology and doctrine and understanding of the Messiah - the Law and grace and salvation. The “good news” of God’s kingdom being at hand. Jesus Who is the “good news.” Repent and believe.
Jesus is bringing the word. And then it happens.
A typical Palestinian house at that time was a small one-room place with a flat roof. Something like this. The roof was made of wooden beams with tiles set between them - then thatch and earth were placed over them.
A large crowd packed into this small house - the crowd spills out into the street. Jesus is in the middle of all this - teaching. People outside are trying to hear what’s going on inside. People inside are just trying to breathe.
Wouldn’t you have liked to have been there - to see this first hand?
If this was Peter’s house - imagine Peter the burly - rough - fisherman - can you him standing there stressing trying to figure out what to do? Imagine anyone who’s house this is trying to process this?
“Everyone who’s anyone in religious leadership is sitting in my living room and God is here in my living room preaching the word - speaking Scripture even as He speaks - teaching people about God’s kingdom - and someone’s tearing my roof apart. Do I just stand here and act spiritual or go up on the roof and punch somebody’s lights out.”
Then whole sections of roof start coming down. The crowd is trying to move back away from the shower of debris. Scooting their chairs back. Then the whole ceiling just gives way.
There’s a hole in the ceiling - four heads peek over the edge. Jesus and everyone else are looking up at the faces in the hole. Then a man on a bed - literally a bed like for camping - a cot or pallet - a stretcher - is lowered down. Down into the crowd. Down in front of Jesus.
Jesus is looking at this man lying on the bed - who’s looking up at Jesus with expectation in his eyes. Jesus is looking up at these four friends on the roof - peering down through the hole - looking down with pleading eyes.
Verse 5: And when Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Mark tells us this man was paralyzed. Unable to move on his own. Dependent on his friends. He had to be carried. A paralyzed man who was convinced that Jesus could heal him.
Four men who were determined that Jesus should help their friend. They were convinced that Jesus could heal him. So they carried him and lowered him to Jesus.
And Jesus - seeing their faith - Jesus declares the sins of this man to be forgiven.
Let’s pause there and think together about secondary things. The issues that God gives us the opportunity to deal with.
A while back I read about two ladies - both of whom were concert pianists - both of whom had had strokes. One was paralyzed on the right side. One was paralyzed on the left side. So that neither of them could play the piano. Somehow they found each other and began to play as partners. One played the right hand part. The other played the left hand part.
In ministry with Jesus there are two parts - two responsibilities. On one hand there are the parts of ministry that Jesus gives us the responsibility for. On the other hand there are the things that Jesus deals with - His responsibility.
There are a number of secondary issues here - the physical need of the paralytic - the huge crowd - getting the paralytic to Jesus - and so on.
These four men were determined to carry the stretcher of their friend. They were determined to find the answers to each problem as it came up - finding the home - knowing where and how to cut the hole in the roof - and then risking everything to lower their friend right in front of Jesus.
Proverbs 18:24 says, “There are friends who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (RSV)
Moving through Scripture there’s example after example of what that means.
Aaron and Hur - and how they held up the arms of Moses in the defeat of the Amalakites. (Exodus 17)
David and Jonathan and their friendship and the ways in which they encouraged, supported, and loved each other - even in the face of death. (1 Samuel 18)
Paul and the young pastor Timothy. (Galatians 6:2)
Peter and his disciple Mark. (1 Peter 5:13)
That’s our goal. Be a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Be a stretcher bearer. Be the brother or sister in Christ - the person of encouragement and support who stands by the side of a friend no matter what the difficulty. These are the secondary issues that God gives us responsibility for.
Let’s be real. All of us have times in our lives when we’re like that paralytic - laid out on a stretcher needing to be lifted up. We don’t know when those times will come - we can’t schedule them - tap them into our tablet. A death - illness - unemployment - situations at work or at home - school. They come often without preparation and warning. Suddenly there we are. Laid flat out. Or at least feeling like it.
What destroys people - often with suicidal results - is when people find themselves on stretchers and they feel that no one cares. Or, there’s no one there to carry their stretcher. Times when it’s easy to give up on faith and God and life. If there’s no one there to carry our stretcher - we’re on dangerous ground.
On the Message Note are these two pictures of stretchers - a bed with four handles. Meaning this is a take home take away for when we head out there.
Notice that the first picture has “me” written on the stretcher and blank spaces on the handles. Put your name in the middle - “me” is you.
In your mind - thinking about those handles. If you were to put a name on each of those handles - the name of a brother or sister in Jesus who would carry your stretcher - who you could go to for help - or maybe you’ve relied on them in the past - who would they be? Take time - today - tomorrow - to write in the names of those people.
Sometime this week get in touch with those people. Text or tweet them - Facemail - or some ancient form of communication like a phone. Or this stretcher - pun intended - talk to them face-to-face.
Follow through. Tell them what you heard in church today and how you thought of them. Tell them you believe in them as stretcher bearers. Let them know how much you appreciate their encouragement and support.
And then - looking at the picture of the second stretcher. On one of the handles is a place for your name - “me” is you. The other three handles are blank.
Have you ever tried to lift a loaded stretcher by yourself? Pretty near impossible. That’s not God’s design for the church. A stretcher has four handles. Meaning we get to lift together.
Praise God for what He does in and through us as a congregation. The Prayer Tree that Karen Gonzales coordinates. The Benevolence ministry that Margi helps coordinate. And we could go on and on naming stretcher bearers here at Creekside. How God uses us in each others lives. That’s huge to be part of all that. How God gives us opportunities to help each other through the issues we all struggle with.
Think about the names that can go on those other handles. People who can go with you as you visit or can pray with you about specific needs - or to help meet those needs. People that we can work within supporting and caring for each other. We lift together.
Imagine how the lives of those friends were changed by what happened that day. How would the paralytic remember his friends? Years later the four would remember the day their friend’s life was changed forever. They would remember the role they played - their part in that transformation.
Imagine hearing them telling their grandchildren about it. “I was there. I carried the stretcher. It was my saw we used to cut open the roof.” - the secondary issues.
It’s our responsibility - our awesome privilege given by Jesus - to deal with the secondary issues of a problem.
The second part of this account is what Jesus deals with.
The Main Thing.
Going on in verse 5. “When Jesus saw their faith” - the trust that these four friends and the paralytic had in Jesus - then Jesus says to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Let’s make sure we’re tracking with Jesus.
We’ve seen people appealing to Jesus to meet physical needs. Which He’s done and He will do.
Jesus being true to form with everything we’ve seen Jesus doing so far - we’d expect Jesus to say something like, “Thou art healed of thy paralysis. Go thou therefore unto thy dwelling place.”
But in Capernaum that day the need was different. The main thing isn’t the physical need of this man. That’s a secondary issue. And Jesus is dealing with the main thing.
While everyone else is looking at the physical Jesus is seeing something a whole lot more. Jesus is seeing the faith of these 5 men. He’s seeing the faith of the paralyzed man lying on a stretcher at His feet.
Whatever issues this man is dealing with - physically or otherwise. Maybe as a result of his physical condition. Whatever guilt he carries. Whatever doubts about himself. Whatever depression or anger. Whatever secondary issues this man may have been struggling with the main thing here isn’t emotional or psychological. It’s not physical. It’s spiritual. Specifically the sin of the paralytic.
Which is what Jesus responds to - the main thing. The spiritual need of the man.
How Jesus responds to the spiritual need of this man is outrageous. It is so far off the scale that there is no scale. It’s just jaw dropping astounding. “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Which - Mark tells us - did not go over so well with the Pharisees and teachers of the law - who had gathered from all over Judea and Galilee - who were seated and duly assembled to evaluate Jesus’ teaching. Thumbs up or thumbs down. Probably at this point Jesus has pretty much failed the exam.
Because they get what Jesus is getting at. The implications behind Jesus’ declaration. Jesus claiming to have authority to forgive this man’s sin.
Mark clues us into what’s spinning around in their minds. “Why does this man speak like that? He’s blaspheming!” Meaning what Jesus said is totally defiant - in Your face - irreverent arrogant contempt for God. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity - Lewis gives us insight into why the religious leadership was understandably deeply concerned:
“Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity [foolishness] is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.” (1)
Who does this carpenter from Nazareth think He is? Only God has authority to forgive sin. Which is 100% true. They’re right.
Are we clear on this?
In what’s spinning in their minds there’s nothing wrong with their theology - the part about only God being able to forgive sins. What’s messed up is their reasoning.
The way that they’re processing what Jesus said is that since only God can forgive sins then Jesus must be blaspheming. Jesus must be some kind of arrogant lunatic. Go get some stones.
But that’s not possible. Not according to how the religious leadership understood God.
Which is at the heart of the conflict that Mark is introducing us to here. The conflict that leads Jesus to the cross. Their understanding of God verses Who Jesus is. They missed the “good news.”
Going forward through Mark’s account we’re going to see this over and over again. The religious leadership arguing with Jesus about the Mosaic Law - questions about the Sabbath and other fine points of religious duties and commandments and how they processed and codified all that in ways that were crucially important to the religious leadership and what all made sense to them.
Because their understanding of God was distorted by seeing God through the lens of a moral code of unattainable righteous living that was found in the fine points of a burdensome law that meant living in constant fear of the Holy Almighty God - a fear that was based on God’s judgement and wrath.
“The God of our fathers - the God of Moses - God would never come to us and do what this man does - with such humility and grace. Therefore this man cannot be God.”
And in that understanding they had so totally missed the reality of Who God is - His character and how God operates in His creation - towards His people - towards us.
Which is easier to say to this man: A) Your sins are forgiven. Or, B) Get up and walk.
Answer… A. Easy to say. How would we ever prove his sins weren’t forgiven?
Verse 10: But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgiven sins” - He said to the paralytic - “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”
Jesus says the difficult thing. His authority - or not - will be obvious to everyone.
Proof “that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgiven sins.”
“Son of Man” is a title that Jesus intentionally uses to identify Himself.
It’s important for us to understand what Jesus means by that title. What Jesus intends for those there - and us - to understand about Him - about His authority to forgive sin.
Doing a quick - Genesis to Revelation - study of what that title means - Jesus - using that title - is claiming to be the long waited for Messiah. God, Who has entered into our humanity to set right what is wrong in our relationships with each other and our relationship with God forever.
Jesus - the Son of Man - is the fulfillment of what God is doing to redeem us in our depravity and sin. Jesus fully God and fully man - on the cross - Jesus taking our place - taking upon Himself all of the wrath and judgement of God that should have been ours - to fully and completely deal with what separates us from God. God’s means of “by grace” redeeming us from our sin.
So that when we welcome by faith what God has done - God takes our unrighteousness and puts it on Jesus and takes Jesus’ righteousness and puts it on us - and we are made righteous by God - redeemed and forgiven and made right with God now and forever.
Son of Man meaning that Jesus is the One and only One Who is God and Man and able to voluntarily and vicariously and victoriously accomplish all of that.
Which is why Jesus the Son of Man - standing in the living room of that house in front of the many who were gathered - Jesus - and Jesus alone - has the authority to deal with the main thing - to forgive sin - their sins and our sins.
Jesus is miles ahead of the “many gathered together.” In a chess match they’re still studying why Jesus opened by moving His pawn forward and Jesus is already at check mate.
And Jesus sees beyond the cross to where God is going with all this - the “good news” of salvation in Him.
And while Jesus is dealing with the main thing of the paralytic He is also calling those gathered there - who have this messed up distorted understanding of God - to believe in Him - the Son of Man - God in the flesh - gracious and humble - dealing with the main thing of our lives.
Verse 12: And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
We can only speculate how many people were standing there thinking, “Jesus is so dead. He’s blasphemed God in front of our nation’s religious leaders. There is no way that paralyzed guy is going to get up and walk out of here.”
And yet he did. Immediately. Under the authority and in immediate obedience to Jesus “Before them all.”
Mark is strongly suggesting that even the religious leaders took a step forward in belief. How could they not? How could they deny what they’d just seen. The validation of everything they’d heard that had drawn them to Capernaum.
Genuine - God did it - miracles are instantaneous. There may be a process - spitting and here’s mud in your eye. But they happen in the now not the maybe in a while.
God did it miracles are complete. He gets up and walks - fully functioning legs. No crutches. No leaning on the pallet. He’s healed completely.
God did it miracles are instantaneous - complete - and undeniable. There is no room for a natural explanation. They’re unmistakably an act of God operating in a reality that only God operates in. An over-the-top display of God’s power that is intended to establish God given credibility - authentication - “authority” - to God’s representative - the message and the person speaking it.
If Jesus does the miracle then what Jesus claims about Himself has God given authority.
Point being: If Jesus’ authority to heal is demonstrated visibly then then what is not visible is also true - Jesus having authority greater than any authority any human has ever or ever will possess - God’s authority to forgive sins.
Processing all that…
Thinking about what Jesus deals with - the main thing.
How incredible it must have been - overwhelming - for that paralytic man - walking out of that house - assured that his sins were forgiven - his life transformed forever.
That’s something we need to see for ourselves. Like the paralytic - like those who were there in the crowd - we need to realize what God has done for us. God is passionate about forgiving our sin. He’s come in the flesh. He’s lived with us. He’s died on the cross. He’s alive. Jesus has the authority to forgive sins.
We need to hear His message this morning. We’re all too aware of our failure - the things about us that we’d be ashamed if anyone knew. We know about our sin and disobedience against God. We want to be set free from guilt. We need to know God’s power to heal us inwardly. Jesus has the authority to meet our deepest needs - to change us inwardly - forever.
That’s the tremendous reality of what Jesus does when He deals with the main issues in our lives.
If we really understand that then each of us has a homework assignment. Our God given opportunity to deal with secondary things.
On your message notes - the second stretcher picture - there’s a place to put a name of someone needing to be carried to Jesus.
The paralytic was outside the walls - seeking - looking for answers to his needs - needing someone to bring him inside to Jesus. Which is an encouragement for us to think about those who are outside the walls - these walls. Who we are friends with who need to be brought to Jesus.
What most people care about is seeing the love of Jesus Christ tangibly demonstrated by His church. Right? Seeing people that genuinely care about each other. Seeing people who are willing to reach outside the walls of this building and pick up the stretchers laying around our community.
There is no greater thing that we can do for someone than to bring them to Jesus. There is no greater experience in life - no greater joy - than being used by God - to be there as He brings someone to salvation in Jesus Christ.
People around us are waiting for us to pick up their stretchers.
1. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York, NY, MacMillan, 1977, page 55)
Recommended reference for this message:
Michael Slater, Stretcher Bearers (Ventura, CA, Regal Books, 1985)
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.