Sermon Notes

January 14th 2021

Thoughts on the Sunday School Lesson January 17th

Called in Authority / Mark 2:1-12 (MSG)

1-5 After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that He was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to Him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.” 6-7 Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, “He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins.” 8-12 Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, “Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . .” (He looked now at the paraplegic), “Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.” And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”

INTRODUCTION

The authority to which our subject alludes is Jesus’ authority to heal —physically and spiritually. Physically, Jesus heals those suffering from infirmity. Spiritually, Jesus forgives sin. In so doing, Jesus prophetically presents Himself as the fulfillment of God’s promise to be bring Messiah into the world.
Sadly, Jesus’ presence and activity are not celebrated by religious orthodoxy. Rather, it is met with skepticism and disapproval. Yet, the powerful impact of Jesus’ activity cannot be denied.

LESSON BACKGROUND

Just prior to the healing that comprises our printed lesson, Mark 1:40-45 records Jesus’ healing of a leper. Mark highlights two impressive things about this miracle for us. First, the appeal of this leper to the will of Jesus (verse 40). This is unique among the miracles. It is significant that this leper said, “If You are willing to make me ‘clean,’ You can do it.” This would have been in line with the teaching of orthodox Judaism, that leprosy was not just an ailment, but was a judgment of God against sin. From that perspective, it would be entirely consistent for this man to ask Jesus, not just to heal him, but to make him “clean,” to remove from him the judgment for his sin.
Jesus does not speak explicitly to the issue of sin in this man’s case, though in healing the man, he does use the language that the man used in his appeal, and the language that the people witnessing this event would have understood: “You are clean.”
Second, the compassionate response with which Jesus answers this beseeching appeal. In concern, Jesus touched the man. This is important because it meant that Jesus was putting Himself in the place where this man was. As a leper, this man was ostracized from society, considered to be under God’s divine judgment. No one was to touch him, for fear of coming under the same judgment by the religious orthodoxy. This meant that it was entirely likely that this man had not been touched by anyone for some time. But as a part of his healing, Jesus identifies with this man through a touch. Clearly, the touch was not necessary for Him to heal, but it was to make a statement to those who witnessed this event—and to us. We cannot serve people until we are willing to forsake convention and identify with them where they are.
Verses 43 and 44 indicate Jesus’ intention in this healing. It was to be a witness to the priests of Jesus’ healing power, representative of the power of God on display in the world. The last record of anyone’s being cleansed from leprosy was in the days of Elisha—Naaman, commander of the Syrian armies (II Kings 5).
Clearly, this would be for them a manifestation of a sign of the Messiah. Spiritually, leprosy was symbolic of the presence of evil and God’s judgment. Now here was One who had power to cleanse the leper. Isaiah had prophesied that, when Messiah came, He would perform physical miracles, including the cleansing of lepers. Jesus intended the priests to see this healing as a witness to them of who He was.

INTO THE LESSON

1-5 After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that He was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to Him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.”
As Mark moves to this second miracle, he underscores the faith of these five men, the determination of their faith to reach Jesus.
This incident is a beautiful commentary on the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew 11:12, “Since the days of John the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven has been advancing with force. And forceful people are taking hold of it.” In this word, Jesus is saying, if we really want His kingdom, then God will give it, even though it is an interruption of the program He had in mind. So, these men came with force, ready to take what they knew God was offering at that moment.
There are three remarkable and beautiful aspects of the faith exhibited here:
• They dared to do the difficult. It was not easy to bring this man to the Lord. They had to carry him through the streets of the city—perhaps many blocks. When they found the doorway blocked, they had to carry him to the roof. Yet these men managed this difficult task. They dared to do the difficult. It serves as an illustration for us about bringing men to Christ!
• They dared to do the unorthodox. They were not limited by the fact that it was not at all customary to break up a roof. They did what was necessary and risked the disapproval not only of the owner of the house but also every person there by interrupting the meeting to get their friend to Jesus. The remarkable thing is that Jesus never rebuked them, never criticized their interruption. He never does. There is never an incident recorded in which Jesus got disturbed about an interruption by someone intent on receiving something from Him and pressing through to Him despite the disapproval of those around. This is a necessary quality of Christianity in the 21st century.
• They dared to do the costly. They laid it on the line—at cost to themselves. The roof would have to be repaired; it would have to be replaced. But the consideration of that cost did not give them pause. That was secondary. The primary concern was to get the man to Jesus. The need of the man was of greater concern than the cost, which to less motivated men, would have proven to be prohibitive.
6-7 Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, “He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins.” 8-12 Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, “Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . .” (he looked now at the paraplegic), “Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.” And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”
It is evident from Jesus’ words that this paralysis was caused by some moral difficulty. He understood instantly what was wrong and foregoing the physical, He goes right to the heart of the problem: “Your sins are forgiven.”
This was a problem to the scribes sitting nearby. They were thinking, “How can He say this?” But Jesus knew in His spirit that they questioned within themselves His words. This is not omniscience; rather, it is the manifestation of the spiritual gift of discernment in its fullest degree. Jesus knew what was going on in their minds.
He challenges them by asking, “Is it easier to say to this man ‘Your sins are forgiven?' Or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk?’” In this case, Jesus is connecting sin with infirmity and the forgiveness of sin with healing. The Bible makes it plain that this is not always the case (John 9), but sometimes it is. Jesus does this intentionally—no one confesses to a sin—to draw attention to His being Messiah, not just a healer. Others could perform healing, but only God’s Christ could forgive sin.
Jesus said to the man, “Get up. Take your mat and go home.” The man obeyed and was instantly healed. Before their eyes he walked out. And all the people—except for the scribes—rejoiced and gave glory to God.
What amazed them was not merely the healing, but Jesus' understanding of the problems of human nature. What amazed them was the fact that He understood so clearly that physical and emotional problems are often caused by spiritual disease and maladjustment, that the center of security and deliverance and liberty lies in what goes on between a man and God.
This is the lesson we find so difficult to learn. We are all seeking the secret of adequacy. How can you handle life? How can you be poised and confident and courageous? How can you be freed from inner tensions and turmoil and anxiety and insecurity? We struggle to try to do it on the level of our relationships with one another, trying to heal our relationship with a neighbor, or our spouse, or children. And we ignore this great revelation: Our healing begins with our relationship to God. Only the man who has heard Jesus say, “Your sins are forgiven,” is free from that tension within, thus enabling him to cope with life outside.

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