Authority to Forgive, Mark 2:1-12

“So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”


Jesus is back in Capernaum and again He is teaching.  This time the setting is not in the synagogue, but, in someone’s home.  And the home is packed, and people are mobbing around the outside of the house to try and hear and see anything Jesus says or does.  By this time Jesus is a household name and He is attracting a lot of attention. Mark brings us now to the time when Jesus got the attention of 4 young men, and their paralyzed friend.  It’s a familiar story in the Gospels: someone who has no hope hears about Jesus and goes to Him. 


First, Jesus is Commanding Attention.  Everyone came to Him, and, everyone there who is within earshot of Jesus isn’t giving up their spot.  Do you notice how it says in verse 4, “they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd…” No one was moving to let them through! Call it rude, call it insensitive, whatever, nobody wanted to miss what Jesus said – not even to let a paralized man through.  Where was the handicapped parking? Where was the fire chief? The passage before this taught us that a leper had to shout “Unclean!” wherever he went so people would know a leper was present. I think had this group of guys done that that crowd would have parted faster than the Red Sea!  


Application:  Be serious about hearing the Word of God preached.  What was Jesus saying? He was “preaching the word to them” verse 2 says.  Look how they hung on every word! How many things do you let distract you from listening to the word?  How easily do you let other things come first and come before sitting under the Word of God?  


Second, their Determination to Get to Jesus.  We don’t know anything about this young man or his friends.  We don’t know if they were good kids or troublemakers, how old they were, their occupations…nothing.  But they are legendary because of their determination to get to Jesus. When the crowd wouldn’t let them through they resort to a radical plan “B”.  They run up to the roof, dig a hole through the roof, and lower the guy down, and in dramatic fashion interrupt Jesus’ sermon.  


If it sounds ludicrous its really not when you understand the way houses were made back then.  The roof of a house was flat and was accessed by a staircase. It was normally the spot where you went to relax.  So these guys took their buddy up the staircase onto the roof, probably not many people because you wouldn’t have been able to see or hear Jesus from there.  They began to dig through the roof between some of the timber rafters. It would have been easy because it was basically earth and straw and mud and maybe tile – and the timbers were far enough apart for a person to fit through easily.  


So imagine you’re there front row listening to Jesus, its so packed you’re literally at His side.  All of the sudden some dirt crumbs start falling on your head. More people notice it, Jesus keeps preaching even though He’s noticing it too.  Then a hand comes through, more hands, tearing the roof away, dirt and mud and straw falling on the people packed in the room below. Finally the paralized guy comes over the edge and is slowly, carefully let down.  By this time Jesus has yielded and – perhaps smiling – is watching with everyone else this fantastic event. (The homeowner is probably hoping the miracle Jesus does tonight is repairing his roof.)


Application:  Get to Jesus.  Whatever you do in this life, get to Jesus. 



Jesus now sees the man finally laying on the floor in front of Him.  The whole place is quiet, except probably for the heavy breathing of the four friends on the roof.  Everyone’s eyes are on the paralytic, the paralytic’s eyes probably wide and locked onto Jesus. Jesus’ eyes looking back.  The dramatic pause. Will Jesus heal the guy?


Then Jesus speaks to him, “Son your sins are forgiven.”  This seems to present several problems. One problem for us, one for the paralytic, and one for the teachers of the law.


First is the apparent problem for the paralytic.  He came to Jesus no doubt to be able to walk again, run again, dance and jump.  He came so Jesus would heal his body. But in that moment did he feel Jesus didn’t get it?  Like Jesus was somehow misunderstanding what the paralytic came for?  


No Jesus most certainly was not misunderstanding anything.  The Jews connected sin and suffering. People who suffer must have sinned.  In John 9 this comes out when the disciples ask Jesus about the blind man, “….”  Job’s friends pointed it out the connection with the question “Who that was innocent ever perished?”  The Rabbi’s of Jesus’ day had a saying, “There is no sick man healed of his sickness until all his sins have been forgiven him.”  Sin and suffering, they go hand in hand. And it is not entirely untrue, as we’ve mentioned in previous weeks, that sin can be the cause of suffering.  The book of James says that if someone is sick they should call on the elders who will pray for them and anoint them with oil, “and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up.  If he has sinned he will be forgiven.” In other words, IF a specific sin is the cause of his physical sickness then God will forgive that sin and the sickness will leave. As James carefully points out though, IF sin is the cause.  Sometimes it is and sometimes it is not.  


So Jesus was not – to any Jew present – saying anything strange or extraneous.  Jesus was actually setting the stage for what comes next. This story about the paralytic is not about the paralytic.  Jesus loves him yes, but, Jesus is setting the stage for something bigger than the healing. Which leads to the next problem:  the problem the teachers of the law had with Jesus


Second, the teachers of the law had a problem with what Jesus said.  Their concern had nothing to do with feeling let down because He didn’t heal the guy.  They were appalled that Jesus declared the guy’s sins were forgiven. Who was this “mere man” to act as though he can do what only God can do?  


Only God can forgive sins.  Why? Because all sin is against God.  When you sin against another person you sin against them, and, you sin against God.  There are at least two reasons for this.  


First, that person is God’s creation, they belong to Him, and, so sinning against that which belongs to God is sinning against Him.  


Second, because sinning against someone else means you have transgressed God’s laws for how people are to behave with one another.  It’s His rules you’ve broken. David’s sin with Bathsheba and Uriah was not just a sin against those two individuals: one of immorality the other of murder.  That sin was also against God. Psalm 51 was written by David when he repented, listen to his words, “Against you, you only, have I sinned, and done what is evil in your sight.” (v4).  


This is why we need forgiveness from God.  



Now they did not voice this to Jesus or anyone.  It was what they were thinking. Sure you could’ve read their faces like an open book, but, they didn’t confront Jesus.  But Mark tells us they were thinking these things and that Jesus knew (v8). Jesus knows even our inner-most thoughts. First Corinthians 4:5 says, “Judge nothing before the appointed time; wait til the Lord comes.  He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts.” Psalm 44:21 says, “would not God have discovered it since He knows the secrets of men’s hearts?” Hebrews 4:13 says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Jesus knows everything.  


Now, verse 10 is the key verse, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”.  This is the point of the passage. This is what Jesus is using this miracle to prove. And this is the point: the power of Jesus to heal is the same power He has to forgive.  The word “authority” is key here, it is the “delegated authority”, as in “The Father judges no one, but, has entrusted all judgment to the Son”



Gospel Presented

Moment of Silence:  Personal Take-Aways

Pray to Receive Christ

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