************ Sermon on Mark 2:5 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on June 6, 1999
"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.
2:13ff the Pharisees are offended that Jesus eats with tax collectors and sinners and question His disciples about this.
2:18ff the Pharisees wonder why Jesus' disciples do not fast as do their disciples and John the Baptist's.
2:23ff the Pharisees confront Jesus about the unlawful behavior of His disciples; namely, the picking of some heads of grain on the Sabbath.
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 Holy Communion – 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 Jesus is staying at. The crowd is so large that the house is full and there is room for no one 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 this man needs first and foremost – whether he realizes it or not – is forgiveness. This is the most important thing. Health, prosperity, food, clothing – important needs all – are all secondary to the need for forgiveness.
My brothers and sisters, this is our first need as well. Our first and greatest need is for forgiveness. So, this morning in the Lord's Supper Jesus assures us of His forgiving love. When we eat of the bread and drink of the wine 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:
(Mk 2:7) "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"The teachers of the law see at once the theological implications of what Jesus is saying. They know that it is only God Who can forgive sins. So here, in forgiving the paralytic's sins, they realize Jesus is claiming to be God. And this, according to the scribes, is blasphemy. The fact is, congregation, if Jesus is not God He is guilty of 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 In response to the charge of blasphemy Jesus asks a question of the scribes:
(Mk 2:8b,9) Why are you thinking these things? (9) Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?The scribes think it is easy, far too easy, to say, "Your sins are forgiven." You see, it is a simple matter to see if a man is healed but it is impossible to tell if a man is forgiven. Talk is cheap and anyone can say, "Your sins are forgiven," but not anyone can say, "Get up, take your mat and walk."
In fact, though, forgiveness of sins is harder, much harder, than healing. Any prophet or faith healer can heal but only God can forgive sins. Furthermore, 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.
B 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 commands the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and 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 stand up, picks up his bed, and walks out. What a miracle!
C 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 that sin and disease, forgiveness and healing, are frequently interrelated concepts. Look at Psalm 103, for instance. David cries out,
(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."
What does this means for us? As we come to the Lord's Table we celebrate that Christ is not mere talk, a dispenser of cheap grace. We rejoice that ours is a Savior Who has the power to forgive, Who does 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." Jesus healed and Jesus forgave out of grace when He saw faith.
B My brothers and sisters, this same faith is required of us. The promise of the Lord's Supper, the forgiveness of sins, the healing grace of the Gospel, is ours out of grace only when we respond to the Gospel in repentance and faith.
Subtopic: Of God
Title: Claim What Is Yours
A little boy came to the Washington Monument and noticed a guard standing by it. The little boy looked up at the guard and said, "I want to buy it." The guard stooped down and said, "How much do you have?" The boy reached into his pocket and pulled out a quarter. The guard said, "That's not enough." The boy replied, "I thought you would say that." So he pulled out nine cents more. The guard looked down at the boy and said, "You need to understand three things. First, 34 cents is not enough. In fact, $34 million is not enough to buy the Washington Monument. Second, the Washington Monument is not for sale. And third, if you are an American citizen, the Washington Monument already belongs to you."
We need to understand the same three things about forgiveness. First, we can not buy it. Second, it is not for sale. And third, if we repent and believe then, out of grace, we already have it.
If you, my brothers and sisters, 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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