The Ultimate Authority
Dr. Stephen Johnson
Mark 2:1-12
October 06, 2019

Jesus was a man with authority.

In Mark one we saw him exercise his authority to call disciples.
We saw him teach with authority.
We saw him with the authority to cast out demons.
And we saw him exercise authority in healing.

In today’s text, we are going to see him claim the ultimate authority and then prove his claim was legit.

But before that we need to set the scene for one of the most interesting and theologically significant events in the life of Christ.

Our text is found in 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 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 souls” - 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!”

Jesus has returned to Caperaum - what is now called the city of Jesus. His base of operations.

The ruins show that it wasn’t really a very big town. It would take you no more than 15 minutes to cross the whole town.

So his presence there would easily have been known to everyone in town. News that he was back would easily have spread throughout the region. So people came.
They wanted to see another miracle.
Perhaps they themselves were hoping for a healing touch.

They came to hear him preach. To hear for themselves this man who taught with authority.

The house was small - barely the size of some storage sheds in today’s world. Not even the size of a two car garage.

It was a typical Palestinian peasant’s house. A small, one room structure with a flat roof. Access to the roof was by means of an outside stairway. The roof itself was usually made of wooden beams with thatch and compacted earth in order to shed the rain. Sometimes tiles were laid between the beams and the thatch and earth placed over them.

The crowds entered this home to listen to Jesus. Pressed about the doorway and each window is a group of people listening in, perhaps waiting for the moment when Jesus would walk out on the street so they might perchance see him heal someone.

The crowd was great, pressing upon him and flowing outside the home.

While he is teaching there is a distracting noise from the roof. Dust starts falling around him. Pretty soon sunlight comes streaming through a hole in the roof which is being enlarged by four men determined to bring their friend to Jesus.

With the doorway blocked they could have said, guess we better come back another day. Maybe we can wait outside and hope he walks our way.

Instead they do what most of us would deem inconceivable.

They tear apart someone else’s house and lower their paralyzed friend down in front of Jesus.

I hope that when I die there are actually six men other than my children who are willing to carry my coffin!

This guy had four friends willing to carry him to Jesus.

Good friends help you move.
Great friends help move you to Jesus!

By their actions these men showed ingenuity and persistence which Jesus saw as faith.

These men revealed five traits we ought to have:
1. They were deeply concerned about their friend.
2. They had faith to believe that Jesus could help
3. They did more than pray, they took action.
4. They did not permit difficult circumstances to discourage them.
5. They worked together and dared to do something different

And Jesus saw their actions as faith. Seeing their faith Jesus responds to the man now laying before him.

Certainly as the man was being lowered down in front of Jesus the room went quiet.

Our text tells us that sitting with Jesus that day were some scribes. They may well have demanded front row seats due to their perceived importance.

The scribes were men who were schooled in the written law of God and its oral interpretation. They were admitted to a closed order of legal specialists only after they were deemed fully qualified and had been set apart through the laying on of hands. Only once in Marks Gospel are they mentioned favorably - 12:28-34

28 And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
29 Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31 The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

32 And the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher. You have truly said that he is one, and there is no other besides him. 33 And to love him with all the heart and with all the understanding and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (ESV)

These men knew how to ask good questions, and at least one of them was pretty good with answers!

As guardians of the teaching office they challenged Jesus concerning both his message and his refusal to submit to the oral law which the scribes regarded as binding in its authority.

This incident is recorded in each of the synoptic gospels, Matthew writes of it in chapter 9, and Luke in chapter 5.

In none of the gospel accounts have we seen the scribes and pharisees set against Jesus until this point.

But this appears to be a key moment in the ministry of Jesus. For it is in this context that the scribes and Pharisees begin to turn on him.

For throughout the rest of the gospel the teachers of the law sought to ensnare Jesus on some theological point.

Jesus spoke with authority, the people knew it and it must have really irked the “teachers of the law”

When Jesus responded to the man lowered in front of him with the simple statement:
“Son, your sins are forgiven.”

The scribes found it hard to hear.
The seemingly simple statement Christ made to the man was infuriating to the scribes.

For anyone but God to claim to forgive sin was blasphemy. Since the teachers did not see Jesus as God, therefore he blasphemed.

Before this some of them may have even thought that Jesus might have been the Messiah. But in Jewish teaching even the Messiah could not forgive sins. That was the right of God alone. They did not recognize who Jesus really was. They didn’t recognize the Messiah as the Son of God who has authority to forgive sins.

According to the scribes the Messiah would exterminate the godless in Israel, crush demonic power and protect his people from the reign of sin, but the forgiveness of sins was never attributed to him.

The text tells us that the scribes heard what Jesus said and it raised in their hearts questions which we might ask if we were trained like them. “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming: who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Mark tells us that Jesus perceived their thoughts.
He knew what they were thinking.

And he responded to it.
He challenged them with a question:

Which is easier: to say to the paralytic “your sins are forgiven” or to say “Get up, take up your bed and walk”?

Neither of the two was easier.

Both were alike impossible to men and equally easy for God.

In reality, to the teachers of the law it would have been easier to make the statement about forgiveness because who could verify its fulfillment?

But to say, “Get up and walk” that could indeed be verified by an actual healing that could be seen.

The healing verified Christ’s claim that he could grant forgiveness. He did the miracle which they could see in order that they might know that he had done the other one that they could not see.

This is Christ exercising the ultimate authority.

The authority to forgive sins.

We often miss this powerful, redeeming point because we assume that Jesus was saying that the paralytic had deserved his ailment.

That is was his fault - the result of sin that caused his paralysis.

There is nothing in the text which says this directly.
While it is true that some sickness is a result of sin, not all suffering is a direct result of sin in your life.

Honestly, there are some passages, which, isolated from the larger context of a full reading of scripture seem to tie sickness to sin.

A famous one is II Chron 7:14,
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

After confession, and repentance God forgives and healing is the demonstration of that forgiveness.

Ps 103:2-3
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,

So it is perhaps understandable that some have come to believe that sickness is the result of sin.

That view was held by those present when a man born from birth was brought to Jesus and the Pharisees posed this question to Jesus:

“Who sinned, this man or his parents that he should be born blind?” John 9

The response of Christ is telling, it was neither.

He was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Not all sickness is the result of sin. And if we walk down that rabbit trail away from our text we will miss the most significant message it is seeking to teach us.

Our text is not seeking to teach us about the origins of sickness.
It is not seeking to teach us that Jesus has the authority to heal.

The purpose of this text is to show that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins.

He heals the paralytic, doing that which was more difficult in the eyes of man and thereby proving that he did indeed have the authority to forgive sins.

You see, at the end of the day, this is why Jesus came into the world - to reconcile mankind to God by offering forgiveness.

Forgiveness purchased through his life, death and resurrection. Forgiveness which is beyond our understanding.

Back in Exodus 34, after Moses had thrown the original stone tablets down shattering them, God instructs him to take two new tablets to Mount Sinai where he will again write the 10 commandments upon them.

While on the mount God speaks to Moses and says this:

Exodus 34:6-7

“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands of generations, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

God is a God of mercy! Here he reveals his mercy ratio - His forgiveness, his mercy extends to thousands of generations while his anger extends merely to four.

That is a ratio of 500 to 1.

If you’re going to bet, bet on his mercy!
Bet on his forgiveness.

The authority of Jesus to forgive sins is the most significant message of this text. We can be free from guilt.

Guilt is a normal, and often paralyzing emotion.

And our world is driven by guilt.
Society wants you to feel guilty about just about everything.

You’re too fat
You’re eating the wrong food.
You didn’t teach your kid correctly.
You aren’t saving enough for retirement.
You talk too much
You talk too little

You’re just a sinner!
It’s your fault you are paralyzed.
Or diabetic or have cancer or whatever.

The world wants to blame you and shame you.

Jesus wants to forgive you.

I love what he says to the paralytic.

Your sins are forgiven.
Your sins.
All of them.

That is the message of our faith.
Because of Jesus are sins are forgiven.
And to prove that Jesus wasn’t just pulling his leg - anyone can say your sins are forgiven - but Jesus then told the man to get up and walk.

Just to prove that he had the authority to forgive sins he amazes those in the house by this healing.

The cure was instantaneous. In full view of everyone the man walked out.

I imagine the four guys on the roof flying down the stairs to meet their buddy.

They’ve had a birds eye view of the whole event.
And now their friend is walking.

The response of the crowd was one of amazement and giving praise to God for what had happened. Never before had they seen anything like this.

When God works in marvelous ways the natural response is to praise Him publicly.

But the significance of this story is not to be understood in terms of Jesus’ pity on a helpless cripple that moves him to heal the man’s paralyzed body.

The significance of this story lies in the forgiveness of sins. Early on in his ministry Jesus lets it be known that he is the Son of Man and that his healing of people spoke to far greater power and indicated his true identity.

We can be amazed and glorify God. We can remark that we have never seen anything like this.

If we read the scripture and focus only on the miracles we may miss the Jesus we really need to see.

If we come to him merely to see miracles we will miss his true identity. His ultimate authority.

Not everyone who comes to Jesus will be healed.
But everyone who comes to Jesus will be forgiven.

For if we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive.

With a ratio of 500 to 1 he will extend to us his mercy. His love and his forgiveness.

There is therefore no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.


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