Passage- Mark 2:1-12
Ask anyone at the moment what their biggest need is and most would probably answer- “An end to Covid”. The disruption to families, society and the economy is unprecedented in many of our lifetimes. Add to that the immense human cost and the pain felt by so many and you have the standout need before our very eyes. However, we know that Covid will end at some stage, and life will return to a degree of normality. At which point, other ‘biggest’ needs will bubble back up to the surface again- global warming, wars, cyber-crime, recession, poverty. But there is a bigger problem that we all face. It’s a problem that no amount of vaccines, human ingenuity, or financial muscle can resolve. It’s a problem that if we choose to reject the only solution available, will have an eternal impact upon us. To see this problem we turn to a familiar story told by Mark in his gospel (2:1-12).
Huge crowds had gathered to hear Jesus preach and some friends brought their paralysed mate to Jesus in the sincere belief that he could heal him. In fact, they’re so determined that they make a hole in the roof and lower their friend down. But Jesus’ reaction was not exactly what they expected- “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (v5) The friends and the man himself thought they knew his biggest need, to be able to walk, and probably wondered, what do his sins have to do with it? Let be clear, it’s not wrong to turn to God for healing or to alleviate some major crisis that we face. But Jesus’ response shows us that the man, and each of us, have an even deeper problem- our sin. This is not just the wrong things we do, like cheating, gossip, lust and greed, but is the underlying heart condition of us all. We don’t want God to be God. We want to run our lives our way and this means that we’re not God’s friends but his enemies. That’s why Jesus says to the man- “Son, your sins are forgiven.” You see, forgiveness is more important than any other human need. If I am unforgiven then I can’t be right with God; I can’t know God’s presence in my life; I’m unprepared for death and the judgment that follows. If I am unforgiven then I will pay for my own sin in eternity in hell. No forgiveness means no hope.
“Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v6) As sin is our rejection of God, which is what the teachers of the law believed, then only God could forgive. Hence they think Jesus is blaspheming because he’s doing something only God could do. But Jesus knew what they were thinking, and so poses them a question, “Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up take your mat and walk?’” (v9) How would you answer that? Well, it’s easier to say “your sins are forgiven” because there’s no way of proving whether you’ve pulled it off or not. Whereas to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk” is much harder because it will either happen or it won’t. Then Jesus adds- “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (v10) At which point the man got up, took his mat and walked in full view of everyone. So Jesus proves that he has the authority to forgive the man’s sins, which is easy to say but hard to prove, by healing the man, which is hard to say but easy to prove. The conclusion that we draw from this is that Jesus has authority to forgive sins, because he is the Son of God.
In v10 Jesus uses a term to describe himself- “the Son of Man”. This may not mean much to us but to a Jewish audience, especially the teachers of the law, it was a loaded term. The Old Testament prophet Daniel, some 500 years earlier, had a vision of this Son of Man figure, who was given authority, glory and sovereign power by God. He would have an everlasting kingdom and all people and nations would worship him (Daniel 7:13-14). By using such a loaded term for himself, Jesus was effectively pinning a target to his chest, one that the Jewish authorities would eventually fire at and hit the bullseye. They would have Jesus executed on the cross for blasphemy. This was the most heinous, evil act committed by man, but God would use it for his glory and our good. As Jesus made clear- “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (10:45) His own Son’s death was the price God required as payment for our sin, so we could be forgiven. And the proof that this price was sufficient, was three days later, God raised His Son to life.
Points to Ponder
-Jesus is the only Saviour who, if we have Him, will fulfil us, and if we fail Him, will forgive us. We were made by Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16). The deepest need in every one of our hearts is to be rightly related to the God who made us. This is only possible through faith in the Lord Jesus. Consider whether you have such faith?
-Someone once said- “When Jesus is all you have you’ll realise Jesus is all you need!” With many props in life removed as a result of Covid (eg routine, work, sport, family, pleasure, travel) may we delight in the Lord Jesus more and more as His people.
Dear Lord God. Thank you that you know us better than we know ourselves. Thank you that our sin does not shock you or cause you to reject us, but rather, in love, you have given your Son for our redemption. Please help us to trust the Lord Jesus and to keep trusting Him as our Saviour, Lord & our greatest treasure. Thank you for your Spirit’s presence in our lives as you seal of ownership. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen