This sermon is offered by the CRCNA as part of our Reading Sermons series.
Scripture: Mark 2:1-12
Everyone likes a story. And the healing of the crippled man by Jesus is one of those Biblical stories that catches our attention. Here we find Jesus in Capernaum again, most probably at the home of Peter. There are crowds of people because hospitality and socializing were always a big thing in the times of the Bible. But this gathering is something more. Jesus is in the house and there are people crowding around to see, hear, and touch Jesus. Just think of all the poor, the sick, and those unable to get close to Jesus to experience what they think they most need. Just a touch, a word, some attention from the Master will make them whole.
And here in Capernaum we see four men carrying their paralyzed friend to Jesus. What faith and perseverance these men have. And since they are unable to get their human cargo to Jesus the ordinary way, through the courtyard and the door, they go up on the roof. And on the flat roof they take out a piece of the mud caked thatch and let the mat, the crippled man was lying on, down at the feet of Jesus.
Now Jesus doesn’t ask, “What do you want?” He knows what the man needs. He sees the friend’s faith. Jesus speaks, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (vs. 5) Surprise! Undoubtedly they all came for a healing and received salvation as well. This is the surprise, if you will, of the miracle of grace.
Now this story is a story of a miracle. When we think of the life of Christ it is always the miracles which impress us. The story which ends chapter one of Mark is about the cleansing of a leper and now we read today of the healing of the man who couldn’t walk. In fact, in the book of Mark there are some seventeen miracles recorded. People are always looking for a sign, something outside of the ordinary, something extra. You remember the time when the Pharisees accused Jesus of being Beelzebub or of having his power when He cast out a demon. (Mt.12:22ff. Lk. 11:14ff.) Jesus had some rather strong things to say to them. And they even asked for a sign. But Jesus answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign!” And He goes on to speak of the sign of Jonah and how the people of Nineveh were more righteous than they, for the Ninevites repented at the preaching of Jonah.
And we live in a world today where seeing is believing. But, you see, Jesus is not doing miracles to arouse the ire of the unbelieving Pharisees. Jesus does miracles to reveal that He is the Son of God - true God - with power. And in Scripture, again and again, the sign or miracle directs us to the person who comes with the message. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news,” says Jesus in Mark 1:14. And we think of that summary statement in John’s gospel 20:30-31: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”
Now this is the message. The lame man is lowered before Jesus and, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” This is ever God’s promise with repentance and faith. “Your sins are forgiven.” This is the greatest miracle Jesus ever performs. It meets our greatest need. It costs the greatest price. And it brings the greatest blessing and most lasting results.
As the account continues we see the conflicting response to Jesus and His message. For when God speaks, depending on the heart of the hearer, there is either a very positive or very negative reaction. First notice the very negative response recorded in verses 6 and 7, “Now some of the 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?’” How can Jesus talk this way? This is blasphemy. He claims to forgive sins. This fellow claims to be God. And this is the reason the teachers of the law were so opposed to Jesus. He was breaking into their well-practiced ritual of religious self-righteousness. And here comes Jesus in person to set them and us free. And He comes with the power and authority of God, for that is who He is. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Give them credit: they had this part right.
Now, if the Jewish authorities just let this pass, they might as well pack up and leave town. Then Jesus is right and they are wrong. Then law keeping as a means of righteousness and salvation won’t do it. Then the whole sacrificial system will be undone. Then the need for a hierarchy of priests and scholars who alone have a corner on the truth and a stranglehold on individual believers will be gone. And the whole religious superstructure of Judaism will be demolished. These religious leaders were struggling for their lives, their positions and their very reason for existence. They were in bondage to keep others in bondage.
After the leaders charge him of blasphemy, Jesus speaks and acts, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘get up, take your mat 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 tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” And that is just what the lame man did. And everyone was amazed and spoke the doxology in praise of God, “We have never seen anything like this.” And we say, “Of course not.” This is the Son of Man’s doing. This is God’s doing. God enters into our world and lives and we can never be the same again. What a difference: God works and believers respond in amazement and praise. And unbelievers are either indifferent or oppose the Son of Man.
But this story from God’s Word confronts us with the Christ and a call to respond. “Which is easier?” our text and the Lord Jesus ask, to say, “your sins are forgiven” or “get up, take your mat, and walk.” I suppose the simplest answer to the question might be: It’s easier to say, “your sins are forgiven,” because you can’t prove Him right or wrong. But really the two go together. God is the God of wholeness: body and soul. In Psalm 103 we are encouraged to praise God and the Psalmist tells us why, “…who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases.” God has come in Jesus Christ to restore, bind up, save, and heal what has been lost, broken, and sick because of sin. The four men in faith brought their crippled friend for a healing and he really got healed. He had his sins forgiven (what God knows is so important) and his body healed (what we think is so important). So which is easier? It doesn’t really matter if you are God.
In this portion of Scripture Jesus reveals Himself. “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.” What do we say to this? The teachers of the law said, “Blasphemy.” Everyone who saw it was amazed and praised God, “We have never seen anything like this.” But think of the man on the mat. He could walk, run, step. In fact he walked out in full view of them all. There is nothing more said about this man. All we need to know is he had been set free to live before man and God as a real live exhibition of God’s marvelous grace in forgiveness and healing.
Christ meets sinners. That is the purpose of His coming. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Lk. 19:10) Jesus said that to Zacchaeus in a tree. He meets a man with leprosy begging to be healed. He is confronted by a paralytic on a mat let down before Him through the roof. He meets us sitting or standing in church. And why are we here? Is it to worship, to sing, to listen, to put in our time, or to meet Jesus?
And as Jesus meets us today by His Spirit in this passage He reveals Himself as the one who has authority on earth to forgive sins and to heal diseases. Have you met Him as your Healer and as your Savior? He is the only one. Oh how you need Him. Come in faith. Believe and receive Him whom to know is eternal life. Amen.
Prayer of Response
Father in heaven, we thank you for your word. We thank you that in Jesus our sins are forgiven! We thank you that your grace saves body and soul! We long for the day of your appearing when all will be made new. May we heed your call to come to you. In Jesus name. Amen.
Order of Worship
Welcome and Announcements
SERVICE OF MEETING GOD
Call to Worship: Psalm 95:6,7
Opening Hymn: “Now With Joyful Exaltation” PsH #95: 1,2,4
Invocation: In Whose name is our help?
Congregational response, “Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
Prayer for God’s greeting, “May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with us all. Amen.”
SERVICE OF RENEWAL
Call to Confession: Isaiah 55:6,7
Hymn of Confession, “God, Be Merciful to Me” PsH #255: 1-4
Prayer of Confession
God’s Rule of Thankful Obedience: I Corinthians 13
Hymn of Dedication, “Spirit of God, Who Dwells Within My Heart” PsH #419: 1,3,5
SERVICE OF THE WORD
Prayer for God’s blessing on the Word
Scripture: Mark 2:1-12
Message: “The Miracle of Grace”
Song of Response, “O Come, My Soul, Sing Praise to God” PsH #297: 1-3
SERVICE OF THANKSGIVING
Song of Thanks, “What Shall I Render to the Lord” PsH #178: 1,2,4,5
SERVICE OF DISMISSAL
Word of Exhortation: Hebrews 13:15-17
Doxology: #320:1,2 “Lord, Dismiss Us With Your Blessing”
Benediction (read as a prayer): Hebrews 13:20,21