Mark 2: 1-12

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 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. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.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. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 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? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 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!”

I don’t know whether Jesus was standing under a straw thatched roof or a tiled roof.  I believe they used both back in the day.  But you can imagine the scene: He’s teaching that the Kingdom of God has taken a huge step forward with his coming, and in the middle of some point there’s a noise overhead, then some residue starts to fall, and eventually daylight breaks into the room. 

Then the room grows even brighter as the four men carve the roof hole wide enough to fit the bed – remember this wasn’t even their house! – and then they lower him directly in front of Jesus.  Did they bring ropes and attach them to his bed to lower him? – I’m sure there was at least one fisherman one among them who knew something about knots.  

Or did they recruit the aid of some people below, lowering him down as far as their arms could stretch; and then a few people below reaching up and grasping the bed all around…like a musician being crowdsurfed onto the stage at a concert!  What a day he’s having – the paralytic is the center of attention!  

We can imagine what this unfortunate guy looked like – probably by his taut posture as he lay on the bed you could immediately tell that there was something off.  He was probably thin, his muscles atrophied after some period of disuse.  If he was fully paralyzed, a quadriplegic, he mouth might be encrusted with dry spittle. 

A sad spectacle.  

Very interesting: Matthew and Mark and Luke, who all recorded this event, say that Jesus didn’t react to the sad spectacle, though.  They all say, “when Jesus saw their – the four men who carried the paralytic – faith…”  Jesus responds to faith.

  • Faith is the condition, the attribute, the instrument which elicits the divine response!  {Repeat}  This is a by the way, but don’t think that your situation is dire enough such that God will automatically, inevitably respond to your need.  No! In faith, go to him with your need.     
  • Faith is located in the heart, or soul, or spirit, or mind – something intangible somewhere deep in a person…but almost always presents on the outside.  Here it presented like determination, and problem-solving, and knot-tying, and not caring who was bothered –  – so that they could get their friend to Jesus.  They believed Jesus could help, that belief hardened into a resolve, and then launched them into action – FAITH.  

So, moved by these men’s faith, Jesus is ready to help.  But, oh, man, is this not a little irritating?  He looks down on that man – who’s maybe curled up, maybe lying with an arched back, his shriveled body drowning in his clothes – and says, (wait for it) “Your sins are forgiven.”  

Ah, come awn!  Isn’t this just what “religious” people do?!?!  All these real, obvious, unbearable problems in the world, and all they want to talk about is sin.  

Let’s learn two lessons here: 

  1. You can be a paralytic, and still need your sins to be forgiven.  

You don’t need your body to be working to be a sinner.  Much of our sinning, indeed the vast majority of our sinning, occurs in our speech and in our thinking.  Without using our body, we can mentally access old images in order to lust.  

Just in our minds, we can be faultfinders, self-righteous, silent before God, full of self-pity, envious, clamoring for attention and affirmation…

Yes, we sin on the outside, but most of our sin only shows up in our heart.

  • “Christ came into the world to save sinners.”  For God, the pressing matter, the great problem to be solved, is that we’re sinners.  

Sinners who sin.  A sinner is a human being who falls short of what he/she was created for.  

And for what were we created?  To bear the image of God. 

  • Specifically, to use God-like traits, granted only to humans (reason, self-consciousness, etc) in special service to God.  
  • By our maleness and femaleness, especially as they come together in marriage, to portray particular truths about the fundamental relational nature of the one God in three Persons.  
  • To rule the rest of creation in God’s stead. 
  • To reflect the praises of the rest of the creation back to God.  
  • In short, to glorify God.  

But we’ve fallen short of God’s glory.  Sinners.  We’ve failed to acknowledge God and trust Him and thank Him.  We’ve turned to other gods and given them our trust and attention.  Looked to them for consolation and direction.  In abandoning the Creator God we’ve lost our orientation – becoming foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  

We’ve failed in our maleness and femaleness, we’ve failed in our relations with the opposite sex.  We’ve failed generally in our relations.  Heartless, ruthless.  By our relationships with each other we haven’t told the truth about the love between the Persons of the Triune God.  

We haven’t managed the creation well.  We haven’t worked with integrity.  We haven’t worked with God in mind.  We haven’t managed our own families well, our own selves.  We lack self-control.  

All of this to say, we’ve failed at image bearing.  Which is to say, we’ve failed at what we were made to be.  We failed at being human.  

And we all fail in many ways.  Each of us turns to his own way.  We are sinners who sin, variously.  Our various sins are the sundry presentations of our unhealth. 

And so, though it doesn’t get as much attention as disease and depression and divorce, our sin-ful-ness is always the basic and pressing problem.  That’s why Jesus, as he stood before a man who obviously had a host of other needs, chose to address that first.

Here might be a helpful analogy:  One morning you’re out walking your dog. On the way home, about 100 yards from your house, your dog steps on a nail that had fallen out of the truck of the roofer who had been working on your neighbor’s house a few days ago.  You had seen nails on previous walks and asked your neighbor to please pick them up.  

When the nail pierces her foot and sticks out the other side, the dog yelps, then begins whimpering.  Blood streams out the side of the nails.  You pick him up and carry him home.  Drops of blood mark your path.  That dog is heavy, in obvious pain; all you can think about and seethe over is the careless neighbor.  

You get home.  You don’t want to bring the dog inside so you ring the doorbell.  Your wife and kids open the door and there are loud exclamations at the sight of the dog – one of the smaller kids starts to cry.  You tell your wife to get a towel, get the keys.  She scurries to gather these things; you’re telling your kids to settle down.  

You get into the car and race toward the vet.  You manage to call ahead to let the vet know that you have an emergency.  As you enter the door she’s waiting for you.  

LO: When she sees you walking in and carrying the dog, her eyes narrow and concern shows on her face.  Strangely enough, you can tell it’s not about the nail.  

And then, after rather casually extracting the nail and giving the dog a shot, she turns to you and speaks soberly: you might not realize that you’ve lost a lot of weight and I don’t like your skin color.  You need to go see your doctor and get bloodwork done pronto.  

My, how quickly perspective changes.  What you thought was the major problem…the thing that had you rushing around chaotically, that turned your rage onto your neighbor, that had your family all hot and bothered…it turns out that was relatively easy to solve…and the real problem didn’t have your attention at all!  

Friends, Jesus came into the world firstly to save sinners from their sin, because He’s perceived that that’s far and away our Great Plight.  He came not firstly to build hospitals.  Nor to lift people from poverty.  Nor to give them inner peace.  Nor to create stable families.  

And not even to heal people from physical maladies.  

Though, yes, he did heal them!  Why did he heal them if he was there mainly to address the sin problem?  

And that’s a great question which has a two-fold answer: 

#1 – Jesus healed people because he wanted to connect his mission – coming to save sinners – to the various problems of the world.  What has brought disarray and division and divorce and disease and depression – all the “d words” that can be summarized by “DEATH” – into the world… is sin!  Sin lies at the root of the world’s problems.  

#2 – And Jesus wanted to demonstrate that the world that is being renewed/remade through His addressing the problem of sin is a world where sickness and sadness are gone.  The miracles of healing were signs to demonstrate that when the Kingdom of God is fully installed, all will be well and all manner of things will be well.

Friends, if the sin problem isn’t dealt with we’ve only bought ourselves a little more time.  

Conversely, if sin is attended to, eventually all other ills will be solved too.

Well. when Jesus tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven, a shadow falls over the faces of onlookers.  Disapproval.  Shouldn’t have said that.  Outside the authorized temple apparatus, how can a man speak for God to say that sins are forgiven?  

Because sin isn’t just a negative condition.  It also denotes a rupture in a relationship.  The most important relationship: between an individual and his Creator.  So how can Jesus, presumably standing outside the relationship of God and an individual, pronounce forgiveness?

I have three boys: Ben, Kai, and Paul.  They fought a good deal growing up.  Imagine that, without provocation, Ben sucker punches Kai and it knocks the breath out of Kai.  Bad boy, Ben!  But then Paul steps in and says, you’re forgiven, Ben.  

What’s wrong with that?  Paul wasn’t the one who was sucker punched, who was wronged, so he can’t be the one extending forgiveness.  

And when we sin, we wrong God, and it is always an affront to God.  Whatever you’re doing or not doing, whoever else is affected by it, the main point about sin is that God takes it personally.  When David confesses his sin of adultery and murder and chicanery, he says this to God: Against you, and you only have I sinned.  In other words, relative to the grievance that God has suffered by our sin, other people’s grievances are hardly worth talking about.  

Whether we realize it or not, our lives are lived before God, in relation to God.  Thus (and to repeat), our sins insult the Creator, who made humanity at large and each one of us individually to bear His image, to glorify Him. 

Our sins are an affront to God.  And yet, Jesus, that Son of Man, that very paragon of humanity, stands there and says, “Your sins {against God, and God only} are forgiven.”  In other words, I’m speaking for God.  

As the onlookers silently churn, He throws out a question to help them sort out their thoughts: Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 

Now, that’s a very interesting question.  Which one of those phrases is harder to say?  As a stutterer, I vote for the first one.  

Jesus’ point seems to be: words aren’t hard.  I just said something you found provocative, but anybody can say things.  But is there anything backing their words?  Any power or authority behind them, so that those words, in fact, change matters?  

To put a finer point on what he meant: I told the man his sins are forgiven.  Do I speak for God?  Were his sins then forgiven?  And, if so, does anything change for him?  Is sin a real problem, or just a concept, a conundrum contrived by theologians?  

Did anything happen when I said your sins are forgiven?   And was whatever happened a big deal?  

I sat with someone this week who told me about the time she believed God in Jesus, when her sins were forgiven.  I asked, ‘was that an emotional moment… did it feel dramatic?’  She said, “No.”  

Forgiveness of sins is invisible and often doesn’t feel like anything.  Jesus implies that sin is our important problem.  He claims to speak for God.  He speaks of forgiveness of sins. But is this whole discussion just theoretical?  Is forgiveness of sins just a daydream?


Then Jesus says, so that you may know that my words are, in fact, effective…

So that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, that there is a Man who speaks for God and doesn’t need any religious apparatus backing Him…

So that you may know that the wildly important yet unobservable thing did actually happen… 

Let me prove that by showing you something not as important but observable…

He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 

And that hitherto weak, stuck man digs his heel into his bed, plants his hand into the dirt floor, engages his pectorals and lats, and gets himself up from the ground.  And following Jesus’ instructions, he finds himself already strong enough to pick up his bed, and he exits the crowd to make his way back to his home.  

What joy awaits him there!  And also, what purpose and joy for the future: as he carries away his bed, it becomes an emblem: he’ll no longer be associated with that cot, that place of short sleep before the long sleep, that symbol of death.  He’s ready to work, to be productive.  

The Lesson: The most sobering reality in the world today is nothing else other than that people are sinners, failed image bearers, and on their way to hell, the trash heap of the cosmos.  

But, thanks be to God, through Jesus, there is forgiveness of sins.  The Man, Jesus, spoke for God, acted for God.  He did!  And God says, through faith in Jesus, our sins are forgiven.  


To those who have received forgiveness through Jesus, there’s joy in front of us as we head homeward.  And through the forgiveness offered and accomplished by Jesus, we are brought back from the dead.  Now there is meaning, there is work that God has given each of us to do, there is a renewed image bearing.  Thanks be to God!  


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