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Mark 2:1-12 “Only God Can Forgive Sins”

Have you ever been healed? How do you know? You or someone else prayed and your symptoms went away. You can see the results. Have you ever been forgiven? How do you know? That’s harder to see. Even with people who say they’ve forgiven sometimes they haven’t.

Has God forgiven you? How do you know? Do you know because you have a good feeling inside? Well what if that good feeling goes away? Is there an objective reason you can know you’ve been forgiven. Surprisingly, I think there is.

That’s what we’re talking about in this section. We’re going to see this in three points…

  1. Action: Jesus Forgives Sins (2:1-5)
  2. Reaction: The Scribes Accuse of Blasphemy (2:6-7)
  3. Connection: between healing and forgiving sins (2:8-12)

Action: Jesus Forgives Sins (vs 1-5)

In verses one through five we are given the setting for the action Jesus took.

It’s been a few days, exactly how long doesn’t seem to be Mark’s concern and Jesus was able to return to Capernaum. Remember he had to leave because of the Leper’s disobedience.

See, there’s a theme running through all these healings and it’s that Jesus wasn’t just interested healing people.

For example, when he went away to pray after healing many at Peter and Simon’s house he told them it was time to move on and do more than just heal, he wanted to preach the word.

And, after healing the Leper, he literally “drove him out” probably because the man was only interested in physical healing, not in being obedient. That’s probably why he told him to be quiet because he wasn’t interested in being mobbed by a people who were only interested in what they could get for themselves and not in hearing what he had to say.

So now he’s back in Capernaum, maybe even to Peter’s house doing what he came to do, which is preaching. Jesus said in 1:38…

38 … “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Verse 2 of chapter 2 tells us he “preached the Word to them.”

What was the content? Probably something very similar to what he said he was preaching in 1:15. After John was put in prison…

14 Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”

What’s the good news? That if we repent and believe our sins can be forgiven.

What are we doing right now? We’re building the context leading up to the action Jesus is going to take of forgiving the man’s sins.

So, there were a lot of people who wanted to hear this message. How many? So many that that there was no room left, not even outside the door.

There were so many that the crowd prevented anyone else from getting inside or from leaving. The fire marshal would not have been very happy.

So Jesus is preaching, doing what he came to do, and His preaching is interrupted by these guys who want their friend to be healed. Most preachers would see this as a great inconvenience, but not Jesus.

For Jesus this is just an opportunity for the perfect object lesson. What’s Jesus preaching about? Most likely he’s telling people to repent and believe the gospel. He’s telling them what their greatest need is.

But what are most people concerned with? What are these guys poking there heads through the rook concerned with? Physical healing. Not that they shouldn’t be, but there’s more to be concerned with than that.

Right then, the roof is opened up by these guys who have primarily physical healing on their minds. Did they come to receive forgiveness? No. They came to have their friend walk again. Just like the Leper, they have faith that Jesus can heal him. And Jesus can, but that’s not the man’s greatest need. Jesus takes action:

5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

He forgave the man’s sins. The paralyzed man does nothing. We aren’t even told he had faith directly. It was their faith. Maybe that’s in there to remind us that even our faith is a gift. Even our faith is something God gives us (Eph 2:8-9, 2 Peter 1:1, Phil 1:29, Acts 3:16).

Were they disappointed? Maybe. People often are when they are brought to Christ for the wrong reason.

People are often disappointed when they are brought to church expecting Jesus to fix all of their problems. They’re told Jesus will fix their marriage. They’re told Jesus will cure their addictions. They’re told Jesus will fix all of their financial troubles.

And Jesus can, but he’s even more concerned with fixing their greatest problem.

Following Jesus certainly has practical benefits, but what happens when your marriage gets worse, you’re still addicted to whatever, and you lose your house?

If you don’t see your need for forgiveness, then many people give up on Jesus because they don’t have much use for him. I think this is what happened to the leper we read about last week.

After he was healed, the leper had everything he wanted, but not everything he needed. He’d been healed. How was obeying Jesus going to benefit him now that he had what he wanted?

So if these first five verse we see Jesus doing what he came to do. He’s preaching and addressing the man’s greatest need which is the forgiveness of sin.

Reaction: The Scribes Accuse of Blasphemy (vs 6-7)

6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

We aren’t told the reaction of the paralyzed man or his friends but we are told the reaction of the Scribes. It’s the scribes reaction Mark wants us to consider which gets to the heart of why Mark is writing.

The big question Mark wants us to think about is Who is Jesus? There are only two options: either Jesus is a lunatic, pretending to be God or he really is the Son of God. The Scribes are right. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Can the Pope? No. Can we forgive one another? Yes, but we still have a problem because all sin is ultimately against God. King David said “against you, you only, have I sinned.” The paralyzed man had sinned. He had sinned against Jesus, even though he’d never met him before. He’d sinned against God and on the basis of being God, and doing what he did on the cross, he had the power to forgive his sins.

The scribes don’t even have to say the words out loud. Jesus knows their thoughts, just like he knows ours. Who do you think Jesus is? Is he a nice guy who might be able to give you what you want? Maybe he can heal you of your sicknesses and make your life happy? Or do you see him as the Son of God, the only one who can fix your sin problem?

The scribes are unable to accept that Jesus is God. Healing people and making people’s lives better is one thing but forgiving sin? Claiming to be God? That’s too far. And it’s ultimately what led to his death.

When Donald Trump was asked if he’d ever asked God for forgiveness he said,

"I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a better job from there. I don't think so," he said. "I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't."

Sadly, that’s the same response many Americans have who don’t understand who God is what there greatest need is will say. But we can’t just “try and make it right.” How do you, a finite limited sinful human being make it right with an infinitely perfect and holy God?

And to try to do so reveals who you really think God is. You really just think of God as other person who can be appeased with a few good deeds. God’s wrath isn’t appeased when we say we’re sorry.

With a person you can “make it right” by giving back what you stole, saying you’re sorry, etc. but that doesn’t work with God because those things don’t even come close to paying the penalty for our sins.

Jesus is the only one who can “make it right.” Only his blood spilled on the cross for your sins can satisfy the debt that you owe.

And this leads to a connection Jesus makes between what’s easy and what’s difficult.

Connection: Jesus connects what’s “easy” with what’s “difficult” (vs 8-12)

He asks them:

9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?

Well, it’s easier to say “Your sins are forgiven” because it’s difficult to prove if you’ve really been forgiven. The result is invisible.

It’s harder to say “Get up and walk” because it’s obvious whether or not you have the power to heal. The results are visible.

This is how you can know you’ve been forgiven. You’ve been forgiven because of who Jesus is. Jesus is God. He says…

10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”

You can know you’ve been forgiven not because of subjective feeling you have in your heart but because of who Jesus objectively is and because of what he’s objectively done.

Jesus is the Son of Man. What does he mean by that? It’s a term Daniel used in Daniel 7:13-14.

13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all nations and peoples of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.

Who was Jesus? He’s the Son of Man. He’s the one who came from heaven in sovereign power and was given authority over everything, even sin. He’s the one who can forgive sin. So when Jesus preaches “repent and believe the gospel” and you do, you can know you’ve been forgiven on the basis of who Jesus us.

Have you ever been healed? Maybe you’ve been dramatically healed. Maybe you’ve been healed through surgery or medicine.

All of us have received physical healing, but at best it’s only temporary. Even when Jesus healed it didn’t last forever. The person eventually died. And we will all eventually die unless Jesus comes back in our lifetime.

So the more important question we need to ask ourselves is Have we been spiritually healed? Has Jesus forgiven your sins?

Have you asked him to? Donald Trump hasn’t asked him to. He doesn’t see the need. Do you?

God is able to forgive sin on the basis of who he is and what Jesus did on the cross. He doesn’t just whimsically forgive everyone. He forgives because the debt has been paid. He forgives because of what Jesus did. He forgives because Jesus has already suffered enough on your behalf. He forgives those who see their need and come to him for forgiveness. That’s the gospel.

The gospel is for sinners, not for people who think they’re pretty good. If I walked up to you and randomly said I forgive you, you would rightly ask for what? My forgiveness doesn’t mean anything to you unless you know what you did wrong.

The gospel starts with realizing your need for forgiveness. In fact, the greater you see your need for forgiveness, the greater your understanding of the gospel.

I can’t convince you of your need, only God can. Pray that he’ll show you.

After the man was lowered through the roof and physically healed we are told…

12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”

The people were amazed at what they could see. But even more amazing was what they could not see. The man’s sins had been forgiven.

Jesus said it. He is God so it happened. His sins were forgiven by the only one who could forgive sin, by God himself.

Mark 2:13-17 “Jesus Friend of Sinners”

Mark 1:40-45 “A Leper Cleansed”