************ Sermon on Mark 2:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on May 13, 2018
"Your Sins are Forgiven"
The Gospel writer Mark wants to make one thing perfectly clear: Jesus is on the way to the cross and the grave. We glance ahead to what the Gospel writer says in chapter 3:
(Mk 3:6) Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
Why do they want to kill the Lord? In a series of 5 stories Mark paints a picture of increasing conflict between Jesus and the established Jewish authorities:
-in our Scripture reading this morning (2:1ff) the Pharisees think it blasphemous that Jesus forgives sin and question Him on His authority to do this
-in 2:13ff the Pharisees are offended that Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners and question His disciples about this
-in 2:18ff the Pharisees wonder why Jesus' disciples do not fast as do their disciples and John the Baptist's
-in 2:23ff the Pharisees confront Jesus about the unlawful behavior of His disciples; namely, picking heads of grain on the Sabbath
-in 3:1ff the Pharisees are angry that on the Sabbath Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand
Right from the outset of his gospel Mark is showing us the conflict which ultimately leads to the cross and the grave.
Like Mark, we are also interested in the cross and the grave. In a few moments we will be celebrating the Lord's Supper -- in which we remember and celebrate the fact that Jesus went to the cross and the grave so that we could have forgiveness of sins.
The message of Scripture this morning is the same as the message of the Lord's Supper: namely, that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins.
I Christ Forgives Sin
A Our Scripture lesson starts off with Jesus returning to Capernaum. As is usually the case, His presence cannot be concealed from the people for long. The word spreads that Jesus is back. So a large crowd of people gather at the home at which Jesus is staying. The crowd is so large that the house is full and there is no room for anyone else even at the door.
Mark tells us of four men who bring a paralyzed friend to the Lord to be healed when they hear Jesus is in town. Because of the large crowd they are not able to get their friend near Jesus. Everyone wants to see and hear Jesus and no one wants to give up his or her place for the crippled man. So, the four friends make an opening in the roof above Jesus and lower the cripple until he is right in front of the Lord.
B When Jesus sees the crippled man He says, "Son, your sins are forgiven." This pronouncement is surprising, to say the least, because it seems inappropriate and even irrelevant to the immediate situation. The man is paralyzed. His friends go to the trouble to bring him to Jesus and dig their way through the roof not to get his sins forgiven but his body healed. They, with the crowd, are expecting a miracle, a healing.
Do you realize what Jesus is saying here? He is saying that the cripple's real need is not a healing of the body, even though the body is paralyzed, but, rather, a healing of the soul.
What is man's greatest need? The greatest need of man is to escape the wrath of God. The greatest need of man is to escape God's judgment of everlasting hell fire.
Let me ask a simple question: What sends people to hell? You say, "That's simple pastor. The answer is sin. People go to hell because of sin." What sends people to hell? The answer isn't sin. The answer is unforgiven sin. It is unforgiven sin that sends people to hell. The only occupants of hell are those whose sins have never been and never will be forgiven. Heaven, on the other hand, is only occupied by people whose sins have been forgiven.
Man's greatest need is to escape the wrath of God. And, what causes man to escape the wrath of God is the forgiveness of sins.
My brothers and sisters, this is our greatest need as well. Our first and greatest need is to escape the wrath of God. And for that to happen, we need the forgiveness of our sins.
This morning in the Lord's Supper Jesus assures us of forgiveness. When we eat of the bread and drink of the juice we are reminded of the crucified body and shed blood of the Lord whereby we are granted forgiveness of sins. In the Lord's Supper Jesus says to us what He says to the paralytic: "Son, daughter, your sins are forgiven."
C The Pharisees take great exception to these words of Jesus and in their thoughts accuse Him of blasphemy:
(Mk 2:7) "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
You know what? The Pharisees are right, exactly right. No one but God can forgive sins. Jesus is claiming to do what only God can do and if He was just a man this is blasphemy. But Jesus was and is and always will be God. As part of the triune Godhead His is the authority to forgive.
II Christ Demonstrates His Authority to Forgive
A Jesus knows what they are thinking. Jesus says what they are thinking. Wow, this must have come as a shock. Imagine that someone is able to read your thoughts. That should have been a tip-off -- a big tip-off -- to the Pharisees that Jesus was not a blasphemer, that Jesus was God, because only God knows what people are thinking (1 Sam 16:7; 1 Chron 28:9; Jer 17:10; Ezek 11:5). When Jesus read their thoughts, He showed He is God and therefore can forgive sin.
B To further prove He is God, to further prove He has the authority to forgive sin, Jesus heals the man.
He starts by asking the scribes a question about what is easier:
(Mk 2:9) Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?
How do you prove sins are forgiven? What's the evidence? How do you know someone's sins have actually been forgiven? Hard to prove, isn't it?!
Talk is cheap and anyone can say, "Your sins are forgiven," but not anyone can say, "Get up, take your mat and walk."
It is hard to prove forgiveness and we know it is hard to accomplish forgiveness. Grace is never cheap or easy for God. Don't forget, forgiveness comes only by way of the cross and grave. God had to curse and crucify His only Son in order to forgive. No, forgiveness is not easy at all; grace is not cheap; blood had to be spilled at the cross.
C In order to show that He is more than just a lot of talk, to show that He really does have the authority to forgive sins, Jesus gives the paralytic three separate commands: "Get up." "Take your mat." "Go home." To everyone's amazement the paralytic stood up, took his mat, and walked out in full view of them all. Imagine this: a man who is paralyzed for years, a man who has to be brought to Jesus on a bed by four friends, this man at the word of Jesus stands up, picks up his bed, and walks out. He is completely healed. He is instantly healed. What a miracle!
This miracle of Jesus shows that His is the power and authority to forgive sins. Even the scribes and Pharisees have to admit this. When they look at the Old Testament they see there a connection between sin and disease, forgiveness and healing.
(Ps 103:2-3) Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits -- (3) who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases ...Sickness, disease, and death are all the direct result of sin. Thus, when God grants healing He is defeating the power of sin. In the case of the paralytic, then, the healing shows that Jesus is triumphant over the power of sin, that He does have the authority to forgive sin.
(Ps 41:4) I said, "O LORD, have mercy on me; heal me, for I have sinned against you."
Early in the Gospel of Mark Jesus shows His authority over everything. He demonstrates His authority over Satan. He demonstrates His authority over evil spirits. He demonstrates His authority over disease. He demonstrates His authority over leprosy. He demonstrates His authority over the human body and paralysis. He demonstrates His authority in teaching by proclaiming the truth. He demonstrates His authority over the Sabbath. He demonstrates His authority over sin.
What does this means for us? Jesus is the Savior. He saves us from the wrath of God. He is not mere talk. He has the power to forgive.
III Faith and Repentance Required
A Who can claim Christ's forgiveness? To whom does Christ say, "Son, daughter, your sins are forgiven"?
The message of Scripture is that this forgiveness is not for everyone. It is only for those who repent and believe. In proclaiming the good news of God Jesus said:
(Mk 1:14b-15) "The time has come ... The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!"
In the case of the paralyzed man Jesus makes no exception to this. Verse 5 tells us "Jesus saw their faith." Whose faith? The faith of the paralytic and his friends. Jesus healed and Jesus forgave -- out of grace -- when He saw faith.
These men have faith that Jesus can heal. So when they can't shoulder their way through the crowd, they go up to the roof. Carrying a man on a mat is one thing. Carrying a man on a mat up a stairs is entirely different. If OSHA was there they would be in trouble. And then they dug through the roof. This would be a flat roof. It would be made of baked mud. Dirt and other debris was falling on Jesus and the crowd of people. When the hole was big enough they lowered their friend right in front of Jesus. Again, a dangerous procedure which would not meet OSHA's approval. By the way, they are going to have to fix the roof or pay to have it fixed. But they do this anyway. Why? Because they have faith. They have faith Jesus can heal.
Jesus saw faith, real faith, real conviction, the faith that saves, the faith that is the fruit of the Spirit. So He heals and forgives.
B My brothers and sisters, this same faith is required of us. The promise of the Lord's Supper is that we escape the wrath of God because of the forgiveness of sins. We can claim this promise only when we out of grace respond to the Gospel in repentance and faith.
If you repent and believe then I invite you to come to the Lord's Table and hear the gracious words of Jesus, "Son, daughter, your sins are forgiven."
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
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