We spent the first five weeks of this series exploring chapter one that has helped us (almost in a shot gun kind of way) see with a broad lens what the Kingdom of God is like. Here’s a brief bullet point lay out of what we have learned in Mark 1:
– Johnny B (Johnny the Baptizer) is the one who Isaiah said would be crying in the wilderness to prepare the way for the Messiah (the Anointed, or Holy One of Israel; the Savior who will save Israel from her oppressors)
– Jesus came, God in the form of a man; God Himself broke into human history
– Jesus identified Himself with humanity through baptism, but God identified Jesus as the only one in Israel who He was pleased with
– Jesus identifies with mankind by suffering and being tempted in the wilderness, but Jesus responds unlike any other human
– Jesus declares that the gospel is that God’s kingdom was at hand in Himself
– Jesus calls people to follow Him and chooses to select men who were not the socially elite, nor seemingly qualified
– Jesus teaches like no other teacher
– Jesus has authority over demons, sickness, disease, and social expectations
And now today we’re going to discover that Jesus also has authority over sin and has the power to not just heal or cast out demons, but to forgive sinners. Jesus continues to give us not a picture of what it means to be a Christian, but what it means and looks like to be a citizen of heaven. This is what we are after, kingdom-mindedness, the kind of life that moves us to kingdom-living, which in our cultural-Christianese environment, is not a popular, nor successful way to live.
Jesus is wanting us to be revolutionized as we read about Him, and it’s not just His words that are meant to transform, but His actions.
As we enter today’s text, I want to remind us of where Jesus has been geographically. The first scene in Mark was at the Jordan river then Jesus was thrust out into the Judean wilderness east of the Jordan. Then Jesus, passing along the sea of Galilee (likely near Capernaum) chooses some disciples to follow Him, then He teaches and heals in Capernaum. Then he leaves Capernaum and goes from town to town through out the region of Galilee and now He is returning to Capernaum which is his home base during his ministry years. This is where is we enter the text for today:
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Mark 2:1-12
Now, I don’t usually read a passage and see themes that stick out to me and then preach through that passage based on the themes, but as I continued to read this passage, the Holy Spirit very clearly kept revealing these FOUR words and had them pop out at me… and they all started with an “F”! Maybe He’s wanting to redeem the letter “F” after all these years of abusing the “F” word. So here we go, the first “F” word being…
“My son your sins are forgiven” What would the paralytic say to that? What?! It’s my legs that have the problem, not my sin! Why are you forgiving me… for invading your party? I came for you to heal me so I can walk! Thanks for forgiving my sins and all, but Jesus, I want to walk!” Sometimes we come to Jesus with healing that we desire, and it’s limited in scope, and when Jesus gives us something different, it may be easy to say, “What the heck are you doing? Do you even care for me?” (stories of my headaches!)
Meanwhile, the scribes are thinking to themselves, “What! Only God can forgive sins. How dare this man mock YHWH! He must be dealt with severely!” And to their thoughts. Jesus says to the scribes: “What’s harder, to say pick up your bed & walk, or your sins are forgiven?” Jesus came to forgive our sin once and for all so that we can be made right before God, after all, if we are going to be in His family (adopted), then our sin must be dealt with! The paralytic came for new legs, Jesus gave him a new family, a new heart, and new legs! Great deal!
What we must not lose sight of in this passage though, is that Jesus was more concerned about cleaning and healing this brother up from the inside than he was on the outside. Physical healing is one thing, but the forgiveness of sins (in the narrative of Scripture) always means that God has come to dwell with His people! God is always “present” when sins are declared forgiven.
It will take Jesus dying on a cross to re-unite us to our God once again. Once that happens, we won’t long for more.
Forgiveness must happen because sin is real; it’s at the root of every evil, every sickness, all filth… So just how do we receive forgiveness of sins through Jesus? Aha! I’m glad you asked… this leads us to the second “F” word…
What does this belief, this faith look like? Look at Mark 2:4: And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
It is laying your life at the feet of Jesus. “Here I am Lord, I entrust all of me to you, I’m helpless without you, I give you my all. I don’t have a back up plan! I don’t have a secret closet that I’m keeping from you. I’m desperate, and I know I’ve tried everything but you, but now I see you are all I got. Would you make me well?”
Faith is giving your WHOLE life to Jesus. It’s not just saying it with your lips, but faith moves our will so that we act on this faith in our daily life! Are you going to Jesus for help, or is He your last ditch effort for relief?
Our fear index is high right now. Grown men are weeping, they’re scared of not being able to provide. They’re scared of taking responsibility and failing. Jobs are being lost. New jobs aren’t being generated. Money isn’t there like it used to be. Failure is around every corner. Governments don’t seem stable. Nations are on the brink of war. Many of us are paralyzed by tragedy in our lives. Families are falling apart. This leads me into the third “F” word that jumped out at me in this passage.
3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Who are your friends? Are they the kind of friends who fight for you to be with Jesus, who believe in Jesus when you don’t? Do you have the kind of friends who say nothing to you when you bail on your responsibilities? Do you have the friends who encourage unfaithfulness? Are your friends more like fans of yours, never disagreeing or confronting you when it’s appropriate?
Do you run with a crowd like the paralytic did? Friends who will carry you to Jesus. With good friends like the paralytic, it’s okay to be paralyzed by tragedy here on earth, as long as we end up at the foot of Jesus with faith that He alone has the authority over our battle. Good friends keep you in check and hold you accountable for inaction, when action is necessary. Good friends call you out when you are living dangerously or neglecting your marriage or children. Good friends aren’t satisfied with sin in your life.
What kind of friend are you? Are you a fair weather friend, a fan of the cool person and looking to be accepted so you don’t say anything that may rock the boat, or are you a friend with character and passion, and a desire to see people, communities, churches, reconciled to God? Oh, we are in need of good friends in this world. Did you catch the words of Jesus: 5 And when Jesus saw “their” faith (the friends), he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Friend, your faith might be what’s needed to bring other friends before the Savior and healer. What kind of friend are you gonna be? We have enough fans, we need friends! When we meet with Jesus because of good friends and/or faith in Him being our only hope, forgiveness isn’t the only outcome. Spiritual formation happens as well which brings us to the final “F” word that the Lord drew my attention to…
11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
This is the last and final word that stuck out to me in this passage. This might be the most important one, but it’s also the one that we can’t control. This happens as you live your life. You receive healing from Jesus, or you remain stuck in other ways.
We are all being formed by something. The things we put our faith in. The kinds of friends we run with. The forgiveness we receive or don’t receive. The forgiveness we offer or withhold. Everything in life is formative. Our habits, routines, rituals (tv shows, news at night), etc.
None of these behaviors are neutral in how they affect us. In other words, they all inscribe particular ongoing habits, they train the way we think and dream, develop our character (good or bad), such that they become second nature to us.
The decisions we make today, and the next day, and the next, are decisions that are shaping us and are going to impact the life we have, the relationships we experience, etc… What is forming you the most these days? Take some time to think about it right now.
Most of us want more of the Lord and the best He has for us, but we aren’t sacrificially live a certain way so as to experience more of Jesus. No, most of us just think Jesus should understand that my life is busy and it’s hard to give up all my time on FB and studying, or working and providing for my family. “Jesus, don’t you know I got goals I want to achieve.”
And this all is the very reason we are more formed by our over-busy, consumer-driven, material-loving, people-pleasing, sex-addicted cultures. We are formed by what we love, and Jesus is not on the top 10 list these days, nor are other people.
New Questions to Ask
“What if the questions of our lives as disciples focused first and foremost on “whom”: Whom are we to love? If our lives as Jesus followers are devoted to being good neighbors to those whom Jesus loves, and if we know the love that most distinctively reflects the love of Jesus Christ is love for those most in need, many of whom we might otherwise reject, ignore, or walk by, then who are those we will earnestly love in Jesus’ name?”
“It is my impression that this is not the [main] question that most shapes church life and disciple-formation. Instead, the first question tends to be what: What Bible should I use? What church should I attend? What activity should I join? What gifts do I have? What needs to be done? What do I get the most from at this church?
These questions do matter. They do. They are understandable and useful. They have their place. But when they become the framing questions, [the formative questions], they commonly siphon off the more exposed, less controllable risks of growing in love, especially if it means loving those from whom we may feel we have little to gain, and perhaps a lot to lose.”
“The heart of God moves relentlessly, unflinchingly towards engagement with people. This is precisely what astonishes the psalmist when he writes, “What are human beings that you, O God, should be mindful of us?” (Psalm 8:4). God pays attention to us. In Jesus Christ, this becomes even more intensified and plain” Mark Labberton, Micah Group, Burden.
So what are we going to do about this?
I pray that we would be a church marked by these “F” words: “forgiveness, faith, friendship, and godly formation” that asks the question, “Whom am I called to love? Who is God calling you to this week?” “Whom is God moving you to stop judging and start loving?”
Rom. 2:4: Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
Maybe this week God is calling you:
To receive or extend forgiveness?
To trust in God’s provision or silence?
To place your faith in Jesus for the first time?
To be a good friend instead of a fan?
To cut off that which is forming you to the world and place yourself around friends and settings that help form you into the image of Christ?
Christ Jesus has come to make you whole, but not just you, all those around you as well. Share Jesus with your friends. Seek justice. Love to be merciful to those you want to punish. Be humble and point to Jesus, not yourself. Listen to others and respect their voice and not be so concerned about your own voice.