Sunday, December 18, 2005

Matt's Messages - Who Can Forgive Sins?

“Who Can Forgive Sins?”
December 18, 2005
Mark 2:1-12

For the last two weeks, we have begun working our way through the Gospel of Mark. Two weeks ago, we were introduced to Jesus, as it were, for the first time. Mark is introducing the Roman world to this amazing, unique person in human history. Introducing Jesus. Last week, we were introduced–we were confronted–with Jesus’ authority. Authority to call followers, to teach His own message, to order around demons, to heal the sick, and to cleanse the unclean. That’s who this Jesus is! He has come with authority.

Now today, we go further into understanding Jesus’ identity.

And that’s an important thing for us to do during this season. This is the Christmas Season. Christmas fever is in full swing. Shopping, decorating, baking, wrapping, etc, etc, etc.

And Ostensibly, at least for Christians, this season is about Jesus. And it’s important for us to think together about Who He is.

And that’s what the Gospel of Mark is all about. Lots of people in the Gospel of Mark are busy trying to figure out Who Jesus is. Who Jesus thinks He is, and Who Jesus really is. And that forces some big decisions.

We who are Christians can forget how important it is to think about and to decide Who we believe Jesus is. We take certain things for granted.

But the people in the Gospel of Mark didn’t have it all figured out. Mark told us in the first verse of His gospel that Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of God.” We know that, but His first readers needed to be convinced. And the people in the book are in the process of figuring it all out.

They definitely know that Jesus is an authority. And that Jesus is a healer. And that makes Him popular. Remember, last week, Jesus had become so popular that he couldn’t enter a town openly but had to stay outside in “lonely places.”

Well, in our story for today, He come back “home” (so to speak) to Capernaum by the sea of Galilee.

Let’s pray together and then work our way through Mark 2, verses 1 through 12.


This is probably a familiar story. Try to read it with me this morning like all that you know about Jesus so far is Mark chapter 1.

Mark chapter 2, verse 1.

“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. [It was on Channel 10.] So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them.”

Remember last week, the healing meeting that happened after sundown on the Sabbath at the door to Simon and Andrew’s house? “The whole town gathered at the door.” Well, this time, there is no room left even outside the door!

And Jesus is preaching. Probably the same thing He was preaching in chapter 1, verses 14 and 15: “...the good news [the gospel] of God. ‘The time has come. The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news [the gospel]!’” And then more fully explaining what that meant.

So, there’s this huge crowd at the door of someone’s house, probably Simon and Andrew’s house again.

Are crowds good?

Maybe and maybe not. Followers come out of crowds, but the crowds themselves aren’t really followers. They are excited by the miracles and intrigued by the teaching, but they are not (as a crowd) committed to our Lord. And they are fickle.

And, today, they are in the way.

There is someone who needs Jesus’ help. And he can’t get to him. V.3

“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. [This man can’t move, but he has some friends.] 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.”

This is quite a scene! You might already know that Palestinian roofs were constructed of wooden beams “laid parallel to each other about two or three feet apart. Then crosswise over the beams, sticks were laid close to each other, thus forming the basic roof. Upon this was laid reeds, branches of trees, and thistles. The whole thing was overlaid with about a foot of earth, which was then packed down [with a roller] to resist water. All told, the roof was about two feet thick. During the spring, grass [grew] on these primitive roofs.” [Kent Hughes, Mark Volume One, pg 62]

These men somehow carried their paralyzed friend up on top of the roof of this house, and then dug a hole in the roof, probably dropping dirt on everybody inside (which includes Jesus, and, we’ll see, some religious leaders), and then lowered the man on his mat, bit by bit into the house!

That is creative! That is gutsy! That is friendship! That is vandalism! I wonder what Simon’s mother-in-law thought of that one! We’re not told. What we are told, is that Jesus saw in their actions, faith. V.5

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”

Jesus saw in their actions that they had faith in Him.

Notice, that genuine faith always leads to action. Living faith always leads to works.

Jesus could see their faith because He saw that they acted on it. They trust Him to heal their friend. And they acted like people who trusted Jesus. Desperately!

Now, catch what He said to the paralytic. “Son [authoritative yet affectionate], your sins are forgiven.”

Now, why did He say that?

Is that why his friends brought this guy to Jesus?

Maybe. Maybe they knew. Maybe everybody knew that this man was paralyzed as a consequence of his sins. That might be.

Or maybe it was a surprise to everyone. The Bible is clear that not all suffering is directly caused by sin. To the contrary.

Regardless, Jesus first spoke to this man’s deepest need–forgiveness.

Do you realize that forgiveness is your deepest need?

We Americans think that our deepest needs is to feel good about ourselves.
Our deepest need is to be loved and “made much of.”
Our deepest need is self-esteem.

But the Bible says and Jesus’ knew that our deepest need is to be forgiven of our sins against God. We have offended a holy God and earned His just wrath.

And Jesus tells this young man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Just like that.

Now, that raises some big questions, does it not?

There were some folks present who were shocked at this word. They knew that Jesus healed, but this was something completely different. V.6

“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?’”

They get it! They get just how shocking this pronouncement of forgiveness is.

“Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

They are saying, “Who does this guy think he is?”

And they are asking a good question (albeit with a wrong attitude).

Jesus picks up on their attitude. In fact, He can read their minds. V.8

“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'?”

Think carefully before you answer!

Jesus has a little riddle going on here.

Which is easier to say?

Not, which is easier to do, but which is easier to say?

It’s certainly harder to forgive sins, at least, sins against God. More on that in a minute. It’s easier to actually heal someone.

But it’s easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because it seems impossible to verify.

“Oh sure, you say my sins are forgiven, but I can’t see it. But I could see it if you made these legs walk again!”

It’s easier to say that sins are forgiven. But it’s harder to do. Jesus says with a knowing look: V.10

“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!’”

Jesus did the hard thing and the easy thing. The easy thing to say and the hard thing to do.

The fact of His healing proved the fact of His forgiveness. And it amazed everyone. “We have never, and I mean never, seen anything like this!”

Now, what just happened?

Remember, in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus shows us Who He is by what He does.

What has Jesus done?

He has healed, yes, but more fundamentally, He has forgiven someone’s sin.

Question (with the teachers of the law in v.7): “Who Can Forgive Sins?”

Now, I don’t mean who can forgive a certain kind of sin, like if you sin against me, who am I to forgive you that sin?

For example, if Brian Lockwood goes out after the service and with malice intent takes an ice-pick to each of the tires on my Dodge Caravan, I should be the one to forgive him. (If he repents. I should be ready to forgive him if he doesn’t. What a mean guy!)

But who can forgive sins against someone else?

For example, if Brian goes out to the parking lot and slashes the tires of Keith Folmar’s Jeep, and then I come up to Brian and say, “Brian, I forgive you for doing that.” Who do I think I am?

Where do I get the authority to forgive sins against someone else?

As if I were the most offended party?

Now, you do know, don’t you, that God is the most offended party every time there is a sin committed?

Yes, people are offended when sinned against. But it wouldn’t be sin if it wasn’t an offense against our Holy Creator God.

Remember when David sinned with Bathsheba? He sinned against Bathsheba. He sinned against Uriah the Hittite, her husband. He sinned against his nation when he failed in his example of godly kingly leadership.

But Who did He offend most? Psalm 51:

“Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.”

David saw that he had offended God most.

So, the teachers of the law are right about this:


No one else is qualified. No one else is holy enough. No one else is so offended as God is.

But what has Jesus done in the Gospel of Mark?

Jesus has forgiven sins! V.10

“That you may know that the Son of Man (Jesus’ favorite name for Himself) has authority [same word as last week: exousia] to forgive sins” “He said to the paralytic, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” And he did. And it proved that He was authorized to forgive people’s sins.


I remember the first time that this sunk in for me. It was in a church history class with Gregg Quiggle at Moody Bible Institute.

Jesus forgives sins.

That means that He is either a lunatic or what?

God Himself.


In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus shows us Who He is by what He does.

And by forgiving sins, Jesus is showing us that He is God Himself.

He shares in deity.

He is God in the flesh.

“Veiled in Flesh, the Godhead See, Hail the Incarnate Deity!”

Jesus is God Himself.

Sometimes, in this story, we get caught up in the faith of these four desperate and creative men who bring their friends to Jesus. And, I think, they are an inspiration for us.

But the main thing this story is trying to show us (and not everyone gets it!) is that Jesus is God Himself, able to forgive sins.

That truth forces some decisions.

We have to decide if we believe what Jesus says.

Maybe you haven’t gotten there yet.

Do you believe that Jesus is God Himself?

That the baby born in the manger isn’t just a baby, isn’t just a king, but God to be worshiped?

This is Who He grew up to be. The miracle worker in Capernaum Who told this man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Some people decide that he is blaspheming (v.7).
Some people try not to decide and that is deciding by default that Jesus is lying or mistaken.

But Mark believed and I believe that Jesus is Who He claimed to be: very God Himself.

That’s the miracle of Christmas.

Not family, not memories, not presents, not good feelings, not even angels or shepherds or wisemen. Those things all point to this:

Jesus is God Himself!

And there are implications for that. Today, I have three.


I don’t know how to say this in a way that expresses how big this is!

Worship Jesus! He is God.

Don’t just be a “churchian” or a “godlian.” Be a Christian. Worship Jesus.

And don’t worship anyone or anything else. Worship Jesus. He is God Himself.

Worshiping Him means more than just singing songs to Him. It means following Him with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It means loving Him and bowing before Him and His Word.

Be amazed at Who He is! Worship Jesus.


Only Jesus can forgive your sins.

It doesn’t seem big in chapter 2. But the rest of the Gospel of Mark will show what Jesus had to do to forgive these sins.

He had to die.

He died (according to chapter 10) as a “ransom for many.”

“The many” are those who put their trust in Jesus as their Savior and their Lord.

That’s how you get forgiven. Not by earning it, but by receiving it as a free gift purchased by the Cross of Christ.

Be forgiven, put your trust in Jesus.

You have to believe He is Who He said He was and that He did what He said He would do. But if you do, and put yourself in His hands, you can have your deepest need met: forgiveness.

I invite you to trust in Jesus.


Follow the example of these four brave, desperate, and faith-filled friends and do what it takes to get others introduced to Jesus.

This Christmas Season is an ideal time to talk about Jesus with friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, and even strangers.

Ask them, “Do you know what Christmas is all about? It turns out that Jesus is actually God Himself. And He forgives sins. Do you believe that? Do you want to know more about Him?”

Be a friend. Bring others to Jesus.

Who Can Forgive Sins? Jesus, God Himself.