February 28, 2016
A reminder to readers: We have begun a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers 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 paralyzed man, 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 by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “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 this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, “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!”
The second chapter of Mark’s gospel opens with one of the most familiar accounts in the entire gospel. In previous daily texts, we have explored how Jesus sees as God sees and touches as God touches. Now, in this passage, we are beginning to see just how radical the presence of Jesus is in this world. Some friends brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus for healing. They couldn’t get through the crowd, so they went up on the roof, removed the tiles and let their friend right down into the presence of Jesus! If you go to this place today, they have built a church on stilts right over this spot. The place where the paralytic was let down is now a glass floor in the church. You can look down on the very room where Jesus healed this man from the perspective of his four friends! When Jesus saw the paralytic, he did not see his paralysis. What the text says (and this is amazing) is that he “saw their faith.” He saw the faith of the four men who took drastic action on behalf of their friend to bring him to the feet of Jesus. If we only had such faith in bringing our friends to the feet of Jesus! Then, he says to the paralytic some radical words. Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven!” This statement is the catalyst which unites the religious leaders’ opposition to Jesus. They immediately recognize the significance of this utterance. They reply in verse six, “why does this fellow talk like this?” “He’s blaspheming! “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Even out of the lips of Jesus’ opponents, the gospel is being preached. Indeed, who can forgive sins but God alone?
We understand that we can say, “I forgive you” when someone comes to us and admits he or she offended us, hurt us or sinned against us, and says, “please forgive me.” We say, “I forgive you.” Every Jew, like the rest of us, understands that way of speaking. But, Jesus had never met this man in his life, yet Jesus acts as if He is the offended party. “I forgive you!” Jesus forgives this man’s sins against God and yet speaks to the man as the offended party. He is speaking as God would speak!
In the Jewish world, if people needed healing or forgiveness, they would go to the Temple. The Temple was the seat of forgiveness and the presence of God. He doesn’t say to the paralytic, “go show yourself to the priest” or “go to the Temple,” etc. Instead, by forgiving this man, Jesus is declaring that He is the Temple of God. He is the High Priest. He is the sacrifice! There is no other place to God once you are in the presence of Jesus. By healing and forgiving this paralytic, Jesus is saying, “you are already at the Temple, because I am the Temple of God in the world!”
We put so much into our buildings and rituals. We build beautiful church buildings. We have fancy altars with gilded candles. Pastors sometimes wear robes and stoles. But, what makes a church—any church—a true church is the presence of Jesus Christ! We don’t have to travel to Mecca like the Muslims or even go to Jerusalem on pilgrimage to experience the presence of God. Wherever two or more are gathered in his Name, He is present! This Son of Man has moved into our neighborhood! He, alone, has the power on earth to forgive sins. When we truly experience God’s presence, we can say as they did, “truly, we have never seen anything like this before!”
- When you go to church, are you experiencing the presence of Christ? What can you do to focus on Christ better as you enter into worship?
- Are there sins in your life this day which you need to hear the powerful words of Jesus, “Son, daughter, your sins are forgiven!” Will you let the healing, forgiving words of Jesus flow over you today?
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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.