Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Startling Encounter with Jesus

A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Now some 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?”

Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “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.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Mark 2:1-12

Again right at the beginning of this passage we are reminded that Jesus' priority in life is to be about His Father's business. As the people find that Jesus has returned home and the crowds gather hoping for a chance to encounter the popular healer and teacher, what do we find Jesus doing? Taking up an offering? Enlisting an army to lead a revolution and make Him king? No, He is preaching the Word of God., proclaiming His truth, announcing His coming kingdom, and expanding His glory. May our hearts be set so singularly on God's purposes as well! 

Into this typical scene (i.e. Jesus teaching a crowd) comes a disruption. Four men make an opening in the roof of the house and lower their paralyzed friend through it. Their determination to get their friend to Jesus reveals their faith in His ability to bring healing. Their faith is even noted by Christ and in some way accounted for in His decision to heal the paralytic. May we show the same determination to bring our friends to Christ for the healing they need!

As surprising as this interruption must have been, Jesus' response had to be even more surprising. He says to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Jesus' statement must have seemed "inappropriate and even irrelevant to the immediate situation" (Lane, p.94). This man has come for healing not for forgiveness. Please understand that Jesus is not saying that this man's paralysis is God's punishment for some specific sin he has committed. (Jesus clarifies that not all health issues can be traced back to specific sins in John 9:1-7.) Rather, he is making the point that all health issues are symptomatic of sin's general stain on creation. So it is because of sin that this man is paralyzed. If there was no sin in our world then he would not have been paralyzed. However, it is not necessarily because of his own sin that he is paralyzed. Again Lane is helpful. "Sickness, disease, and death are the consequence of the sinful condition of all men. Consequently every healing is a driving back of death and an invasion of the province of sin" by the advancing kingdom of God. 

Not only is Jesus' audience startled by His response but it becomes a source of conflict. Believing that Jesus is merely a man, the scribes accuse Him in their hearts of blasphemy. But Jesus corrects them in a most astonishing way. He proves His power to forgive sins by healing the man on the spot. The same paralytic that was lowered into the room through the roof walks out of it carrying his mattress under his arm. And the Bible says that all of them (presumably even the scribes) were amazed and praised God because of Jesus' great work. May the kingdom of God advance in us in miraculous ways that bring startling change to our lives and drive people to praise God! 

For further reading...
  • Romans 2:16, II Timothy 4:1, & Acts 10:41-42- Jesus has the power to forgive sin not only because of His death on the cross, but also because He is the final judge of the living and the dead. One day we will all stand before Jesus and have to give an account for how we lived our lives. 
  • John 9:1-7- Although sickness and disease is the result of sin, it is not always causally related to specific sins in the life of the ailing. In other words, sickness is not always God's punishment on people for their sin. Sometimes sickness is simply a symptom of living in a fallen world. 
  • Mark 14:61-64- It is the same charge, i.e. blasphemy, which sends Jesus to the cross later in His ministry. 

*Lane, William L., The Gospel of Mark. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.: Grand Rapids, MI. 1974. 

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