These are my notes from a sermon series I did through the gospel of Mark. It has not been proofed for spelling or grammatical errors. I present it to you as-is.
What is your greatest need? If God could do anything for you right now, what would you want Him to do?
- Is it a financial need? Maybe you said something like I need my college debt paid off, a job, or a new car.
- Is it a relational need? I need my marriage healed. I need reconciliation with my kids or parents.
- Is it a physical need? I need God to heal my cancer, my Alzheimer’s, my Parkinson’s, my heart problems, my migraines, etc.
- Is it an emotional need? Healed from depression, bi-polar, anxiety, fear, worry, anger, bitterness, rage, loneliness.
All of those are valid needs and God is concerned about each one of those. But the greatest need of your life is forgiveness of sins. That may not feel like the greatest need in your life, but it is. This is the difference between Jesus and us. What we think are our greatest needs usually are connected to our greatest discomforts or displeasures. We think so temporary and immediate and physical that we don’t understand what our real need is. To go from thinking I need relief from this to I need forgiveness of sins is a paradigm shift in our thinking. It takes us from the physical to the spiritual, from the temporary to the eternal. Once you do that, you are now thinking like Jesus.
The miracle that Jesus does in Mark 2 illustrates and teaches us how far removed we are from understanding what our real need is, but it also teaches us about our real need.
Mark 2:1-12 says, When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7 “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” 8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” 12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!” (NLT)
Jesus’ passion and drive was to preach and teach about the Gospel of the Kingdom, the Good News of the Kingdom of God. And He would demonstrate His power and authority by miracles. But He didn’t’ come primarily to be a miracle worker, but to preach that Good News.
Beginning in Mark 2 through the middle of Mark 3 you have five controversial encounters with Jesus. The controversy surrounding Jesus is beginning to grow because of what Jesus is claiming about Himself, and His authority, and His personhood are becoming more and more clear. We see the first of these controversial encounters in Mark 2.
Look at verse 1, “When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat” (Mark 2:1-3, NLT). There is one undeniable truth that has appeared over and over again in the gospel of Mark. Jesus is committed to teaching the truth of God’s Word. Throughout the gospel of Mark you see the priority and power of Jesus’ words and teaching. Let me show you what I mean.
- Back in Mark 1:14 we are told, “Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. ‘The time promised by God has come at last!’ he announced. ‘The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!’” (vs. 14-15, NLT).
- Then in Mark 1:21 we are told, “Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority – quite unlike the teachers of religious law” (vs. 21-22, NLT).
- Then in Mark 1:27 we are told, “Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. ‘What sort of new teaching is this?’ they asked excitedly. ‘It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!’ The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee” (vs. 27-28, NLT).
- Then in Mark 1:38 we are told, “When they found him, they said, ‘Everyone is looking for you.’ But Jesus replied, ‘We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.’ So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons” (vs. 36-39, NLT).
- Then in the story we just read in Mark 2:3 we find Jesus surrounded in a house by various people and we are told that the paralyzed man was lowered through the roof to Him “While he was preaching God’s word” to the people (NLT).
- Then in Mark 2:13 we are told again, “Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him” (NLT).
Throughout Mark you will find an emphasis on Jesus’ preaching and teaching. There is authority in the words of Jesus.
- It’s by the word of Jesus people repent and begin to follow Him.
- It’s by the word of Jesus that this paralyzed man is forgiven.
- It’s by the word of Jesus that this paralyzed man is healed.
- You will see over and over again that when Jesus speaks the blind see.
- When Jesus speaks the lame walk.
- When Jesus speaks the demons flee.
- When Jesus speaks the dead are raised back to life.
There is authority in the words of Jesus and they have the power to change your life if you will receive them as truth and believe them.
Let me pause for just a moment. You can listen to God’s Word preached every week, read the Bible every day, listen to Christian podcast, or read Christian books week after week but it will do you no good until you mix God’s truth with faith. Listen closely at Hebrews 4:2 which says, “The Good News was preached to us just as it was to them. But the teaching they heard did not help them, because they heard it but did not accept it with faith” (NCV). The words of Jesus and the message of Jesus will always have authority, but you will miss the blessings and benefits of His truth in your life if you don’t accept what He says with faith. When you mix God’s truth with your faith then you are going to have transformation in your life. There is authority in the words of Jesus.
This takes us to verse 3, “four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith….”
Jesus saw “their faith.” Now, this could have been a supernatural seeing. He could have seen their hearts and minds in such a way as to divinely know they had faith just like He did the religious teachers who had questions in their heart about who Jesus was and what He said about the forgiveness of sins.
However, faith always produces actions of some kind that are in alignment with that faith. Last week we looked in detail at the actions these men took as a result of their faith. We saw six characteristics of faith that you and I should have when it comes to following Jesus.
- We saw they had a compassionate faith: This is being convinced that Jesus can and will help the person you care about, so you take them to Jesus.
- We saw they had a persistent faith. This type of faith does not give up because of obstacles and detours.
- We saw they had a creative faith. This is a faith that is innovative, resourceful, and inventive. Its comfortable thinking and acting outside the box.
- We saw they had a courageous faith. This is a faith that is brave enough to do what others would not.
- We saw they had a sacrificial faith. This is being willing to pay the price for God’s glory.
- We saw they had a unified faith. This is the combination of several believers joining their faith together to accomplish a mission.
The bottom line they had faith and Jesus used their faith to bring about two incredible miracles and to teach a very valuable lesson.
Mark tells us in verse 5, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, ‘My child, your sins are forgiven’” (NLT). From that statement we see the two needs of every person, including you. You have these two needs and Jesus can meet both of them.
- First of all, you have physical needs. The man was “paralyzed.” We don’t know how bad it was. We don’t know if it was from the waist down or from the neck down. We don’t know if he could move any of his muscles. But his physical need was evident to all and affected all of his life. Just like this man you also have physical needs. Jesus knows this.
- Secondly, you have spiritual needs. Jesus looked at the man and said, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”[i] As important as his physical need was, his spiritual need was more important. We don’t know if his suffering was directly due to any particular sin in his life. It is Biblically possible that it was or wasn’t. But regardless, we know this: this man was a sinner which meant that his ultimate need was not healing from God but holiness before God. And this is the ultimate need in all of our lives. Our ultimate need is never physical. Our ultimate need is always spiritual.
In fact, all of our physical suffering, ultimately goes back to a spiritual source. When sin entered the world, so did suffering and pain of all sorts. Every headache we have, everybody-ache we feel, every form of cancer, every type of tumor testifies to the reality that this world is not as it should be.
Out ultimate problem is that we are separated from God by sin in a world that is full of suffering. So our ultimate need is not to be rid of our maladies but to be reconciled to our Maker.
This brings us to verse 6, “But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, ‘What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!’” As soon as Jesus told the man that his sins were forgiven, he looks over at “the teachers of religious law” and He sees their questioning, accusing hearts. They don’t have to say a word, for Jesus knows what is in them in the same way that He knows what is in every one of our hearts right now. All of our hidden motives, all of our secret thoughts, all of the sin we don’t want anybody else to know about, all across this room, not one of us escapes his gaze, and nothing in our lives is hidden from His eyes.
Let’s give credit where credit is due. The “teachers of religious law” thought to themselves, “This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”[ii] Their thought about God being the only One who could truly forgive sins was correct. To understand this you need to know there are two types of forgiveness.
- First, there is you forgiving someone who has sinned against you. The Bible says Ephesians 4:31, “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:31-32, NLT). Then in Colossians 3:13 we hear this repeated, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others” (NLT). You forgiving someone has many powerful traits to it for you and the one being forgiven, but the one trait it does not have is eternal.
- Secondly, there is God forgiving someone of their sins. Even though we are to forgive like God has forgiven us the results are not the same. When God forgives there is an eternal quality about it. For example look at Ephesians 1:7, “He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins” (NLT). That is talking about redemption. That is talking about eternal life. God’s forgiveness produces eternal life. Our forgiveness does not.
When Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” Jesus was doing what only God could do.[iii] To the religious teachers that was considered blasphemy. What is ironic is the fact that Jesus was reading their hearts and minds, which is something only God can do.
So verse 8 tells us, “Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, ‘Why do you question this in your hearts?’” That’s an interesting way to say it. If Jesus were simply reading their body language or knowing what some of them were thinking because He knew His statement was controversial Jesus could have just, “I know what you are thinking” and simply meant He had a good idea of what they were thinking. But Jesus didn’t say that, because Jesus was also God in the flesh.
Jesus asked, “Why do you question this in your hearts?” The “heart” refers to the depths of who you are. The heart is the seat of your thoughts, and the seat of your desires, and the seat of your emotions, and the seat of your motivations. Jesus looked past their body language and looked past the expected reaction to His statement and was seeing into the depths of who they were. As God, Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and feeling better than they did.
This shows us two things:
- First, Jesus is demonstrating another divine quality. In a subtle way, Jesus was demonstrating His ability to do what only God can do. Read the hearts and minds of people.
- Second, Jesus was confronting the hearts of the people. Jesus is not interested in simply behavioral modification, but heart transformation. That’s why He will address your heart. This is why Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (NLT).
So Jesus is confronting the heart of these men and this takes us to verse 9.
Let’s take a closer look at Jesus’ question in verse 9, Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? Jesus was not asking which is easier to do, since both are beyond human ability. Rather, He was asking which is “easier” to claim as a convincing reality. Obviously, it is easier to “to say” that someone’s “sins are forgiven” since there is no way to physically prove or deny it. However, telling a paralyzed person to “stand up, pick up your mat, and walk” is something that can be immediately tested.
Jesus knew they were questioning His ability to forgive sins so Jesus basically says, “You obviously are questioning my ability to do this, and so I’m going to present to you evidence of my Messiah-ship and the fact that I am actually God in the flesh in your very presence. I going to prove to you that I can do both and by the one that you can see.”
This takes us to verse 10.
Jesus says in verse 10, “So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.”
- First of all notice Jesus says, “I will prove to you.” Some translations say, “So that you may know” (NASB) or “so that it’s clear” (Msg). Jesus is about to do something in the physical that will show His authority and power over what we see, but this will also serve as evidence of His authority and power over what we cannot see.
- Second observation, Jesus refers to Himself as “the Son of Man.” Notice the phrase “Son of Man.” This is the first of 14 times when Jesus will refer to Himself in the book of Mark as the “Son of Man.” This is a title that will be associated with Jesus’ suffering, humiliation, and death, but it’s more than that. Listen carefully to the prophecy about Jesus from Daniel 7:13, “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal – it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14, NLT). Now, the son of man is not merely a humble reference to Jesus’ humanity. It is a powerful statement of Jesus’ authority. And His authority is all over this event.
- Third, the point of this miracle is to demonstrate Jesus’ “authority on earth to forgive sins.” Look at what Jesus says here, “So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.”[iv] Jesus is telling them, “I am about to do two things that are impossible by humans and only possible by God. One you will see and one you will not see. One physical miracle and one spiritual miracle. If I can do one, then I can do the other. If can do both, then that makes me who I say I am.”
With this let’s go back and focus in on two statements by Jesus. The first one is in verse 5, Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.” And the other statement is in verse 10, “I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.”
This is the greatest news of all. We said earlier that our ultimate need is not physical but spiritual because all of our physical suffering ultimately goes back to a spiritual source, sin. We said our ultimate problem is that we are separated from God by sin in our world that is full of suffering. So, our ultimate need is not to be rid of our maladies, but to be reconciled to our Maker. And this is what Jesus has come to do. If sin is ultimately the root of all our suffering, then what we need most is for someone to solve that problem.
We need someone with power, not just over disease and demons; we need someone with power over sin and death. And Mark 2 makes clear, this someone has arrived. The religious teachers were right, only God can forgive sins. Yet what they failed to see was that God, in the flesh, was standing right in front of their eyes. And this is the good news of the Bible, the greatest news in all the world. God has not left sinners alone in a world of sin and suffering. God himself has come to us. He has lived the life we could not live, a life of perfect, sinless obedience to the Father. And then, though he had no sin for which to die, he chose to die on a cross four sins as our substitute. Jesus died for our sins.
And then the good news keeps getting better because Jesus didn’t stay dead for long. Jesus rose from the grave in victory over sin and death. And now, He offers reconciliation to God for anyone, anywhere who repents and believes in Him. This is the gospel.
Yet sadly, it is not the gospel that is being preached in many places around the world. I hear of a false gospel that is being proclaimed that if you believe in Jesus, you will be healed of all your diseases now. That if you trust in Jesus, you will be free of your sicknesses today. It is not the gospel, because the gospel is much, much better news that that. The gospel of Jesus isn’t saying, “Trust in Jesus, and your HIV/AIDS will be gone.” The gospel is not saying, “Trust in Jesus and your cancer will gone.” The gospel is going everywhere in the world and saying, “Trust in Jesus, and your sins will be gone.”
When that happens, then the root of suffering is severed. When our sins are gone, we are reconciled to God with the very righteousness of Christ. Which means that we can know – no matter what happens in this life, with bodies that are all wasting away – that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will ever be able to separate you and me from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
For all who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins, you can know cancer will not have the last word. Tumors will not have the last word. Alzheimer’s will not have the last word. Parkinson’s will not have the last word. Pain will not have the last word. Heart attacks, flus, and hospice care will not have the last word. Death itself will not have the last word. Because death and all his friends have been defeated by the Son of Man.
His name is Jesus. And He will have the last word. The good news of the Kingdom is not that Jesus will heal you of all your sicknesses now. The good news of the Kingdom is that Jesus will forgive you of all your sins forever. And forgiveness is God’s greatest gift because it meets our greatest need. Jesus has authority to forgive our sins.
So we are told in verse 10 that, “Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!’ 12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out” (NLT). We almost take this for granted when we see this in the Gospels, and we’ve already encounter Jesus’ authority in the previous events. May we never cease to be amazed and awed and absolutely encouraged by the reality that when Jesus speaks, sickness disappears. Jesus speaks and disease is gone. Jesus speaks and the demons flee. Jesus speaks and death itself obeys. Jesus has authority to heal our sickness. None of those things are in control. Disease is not in control. Demons are not in control. Death is not in control. Jesus is in control. He has the authority, not them.
Because of the forgiveness of sins every believer will experience perfect healing. What’s wrong with you physically right now? Migraines, eye sight, tumor, cancer, liver, lungs, back, neck, depression, anxiety, or something else. All those and more are going to removed and healed when you get to heaven.
But we miss the excitement and anticipation of going to heaven because we are so focused on what’s happening on earth and in our life. We are so focused on wanting the temporary and physical miracle that we don’t really trust God in other areas because He isn’t providing what we want.
What’s sad is we are constantly asking God to heal our headache, heal our backache, heal our cancer, and to remove this disease or that illness while we are being eaten alive with greed, lust, selfishness, unkindness, rudeness, pride, laziness, and self-centeredness. Let’s beg God for forgiveness of our sins more than we are asking for temporary physical relief from an illness. Let’s think eternal rather than temporary.
If you knew that all your problems and pains were going to be gone in the morning would they seem so big to you today? Probably not and that’s exactly how it is once you get an eternal perspective on your life. This temporary stuff you complain about is very short when compared to your eternity.
So Jesus heals the man at both levels. He heals them spiritually by forgiving Him of His sins and physically by healing his paralyzed condition. Mark then says in verse 12, “They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, ‘We’ve never seen anything like this before!’” (NLT). The word “amazed” means to be astonished, confused, or even to lose one’s mind. The people were absolutely going berserk over what they just saw. This lead to them to “praise God” and give Him glory.
For most in the crowd, this response was still reflective of a superficial faith. Though they were amazed, and though they gave God credit for healing the man, they still viewed Jesus as just a man to whom God had granted authority. In spite of the obvious miracle and the unprecedented demonstration of divine power, many remained unconvinced of Christ’s deity. They witnessed His supernatural works, but they refused to believe in His divinity. John put it this way in John 12:37, “But despite all the miraculous signs Jesus had done, most of the people still did not believe in him” (NLT, cf. 1 Cor. 1:22).
My biggest need is not what is outside of me and what I can see. My biggest need is inside of me and what I cannot see. I don’t need my back healed today, I need my sins forgiven.
Jesus’ miracles functioned as signs validating His claim that He possessed divine authority to forgive sinners. Moreover, Jesus not only had the power to forgive sinners, He became the perfect sacrifice on which divine forgiveness is based. The words Jesus spoke to that paralyzed man are the same words He still speaks to all who come to Him in genuine faith: “Your sins are forgiven.” The greatest benefit Christianity offers to the world is the forgiveness of sins. Jesus Christ made forgiveness possible through His death on the cross. He offers that forgiveness to all who are willing to repent of their sin and believe in His name (cf. Rom. 10:9-10).
[i] “This was a calculatedly outrageous statement. From our perspective it seems cruel. Here is a wretched paralytic, barely able to raise his head, hoping for a cure, and Christ says, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ From the Pharisees’ perspective, this was blasphemy, for only God could forgive sins. Why did Christ say it? First, the man may well have been a paralytic due to some personal or imagined sin. Many Bible scholars think so…. Second, regardless of the man’s physical condition, his greatest need by far was forgiveness of sin. Forgiveness was a far greater work, for it cost Christ his very life. Thus he met the man’s greatest need first and eternally. Third, Jesus pronounced forgiveness first to trap the Pharisees with the implications of the healing he was going to perform” (Hughes, Kent. Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior. 65).
[ii] Because he claimed a level of authority that belongs only to God (cf. Matt. 26:65; John 10:33), the scribes saw Jesus as a blasphemer. From the perspective of the Jews, blasphemy was the most horrendous crime a person could commit. The first-century Jews identified three levels of blasphemy. First, a person was charged with blasphemy if he spoke evil of the law of God. Stephen (Acts 6:13) and Paul (Acts 21:27-28) were each wrongly accused of doing this. A second, more serious, type of blasphemy occurred when a person spoke evil of God directly (cf. Ex. 20:7). Cursing the name of the Lord, for example, was a crime punishable by death (Lev. 24:10-16). A third form of blasphemy, even more heinous than the other two, took place when a sinful human being claimed to possess divine authority and equality with God. For a mere mortal to act as if he were God was the most egregious offense of all. It was this form of blasphemy that the Jewish religious leaders charged Jesus with committing (cf. John 5:18; 8:58-59; 10:33). Eventually, they would use these same accusations to justify His murder (John 19:7; cf. Lev. 24:23). (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 104).
[iii] “Now unless the speaker is God, [forgiving sins] is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, rev. ed. New York: MacMillan, 1965, 40).
[iv] Jesus purposely waited to heal the paralyzed man until after He declared His authority to forgive sins. Disease and disability are consequences of living in a fallen world, meaning that sin’s permeating effects are the root cause of all sickness and suffering. By healing the paralyzed man, in demonstration of His power over sin’s effects, Jesus proved His authority over sin itself. The Lord thus performed the undeniable miracle of physical healing so that everyone watching “may know that the Son of Man” had “authority on earth to forgive sins.” (MacArthur, John. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, 105).