A. The Historical Setting
- Capernaum on the northwest shore of the Sea of' Galilee, has now become Jesus' adopted, home area. It is called "his home town" in Matthew 9:1. His return seems to be a 'coming home,' Mark 2:1 Possibly he lives now with Peter and Andrew as He continues the Great Galilean ministry.
- Through the window of our text we see a team of four men walking heavily from one of Capernaum's side streets carrying a paralyzed man on his mattress. His ailment is not palsy, as in Authorized Version. NIV is correct in calling it paralysis. As the struggl1ng quartet nears Simon's home, they come upon an impossible situation. The crowd has overflowed the house and is so dense outside that no approach to the door is possible. To understand their idea of using the outside stairs to the roof, the home must be pictured in one of several styles: A two-story building with Jesus teaching on the top floor. Or, a very ample dwelling built around an open court. Or, more likely, a modest, single-story home. (Remains in the area show this type as being common.) Verse 2 might suggest that the Lord positioned himself near the doorway so as to be heard both outside and inside. As the intense faces peer down from above this is what they see: Jesus standing in the doorway earnestly teaching with Pharisees and teachers of Jewish law from over Galilee, Jerusalem and other parts of Judea seated about Him. Luke tells that the Spirit's power is present to heal.
- This event marks the beginning of controversies. Edersheim compares certain aspects of the scene with that on Mt. Carmel when Elijah confronted unbelieving Israel. Both cases did in fact end in a victory for God. However, hostility seen here will be ever-growing. The very next chapter at verse 21 indicates that even His own family felt He was losing His mind, while the teachers accused Him of being demon possessed. Despite present popularity, this hostility will increase.
B. Contemporary Setting
- At first glance we today might be a bit envious of religious interest in Capernaum. The modern fire marshall would have had his concerns with crowded conditions attending Jesus' ministry. However, it appears that the present day rash of interest in things supernatural is somewhat like the stir in Capernaum. Sober reflection on our part is called for when we remember the judgment Jesus pronounced against Capernaum, Matthew 11:23, 24; Luke 10:15. Today even the ruins of Capernaum are not distinct.
- Going at once to the deep issue of forgiveness of sin, Jesus plunges us beneath the rippling surface interest into the depths where our needs really lie. Just as then, so now, all hearts need to be searched in this regard. The universal question is, Am I right with God -- has He truly forgiven my sins? Who can measure the vastness of' this question? Many are the physical and emotional ailments of our day which take their rise out of the disturbance coming from unconfessed , unrelieved sins. 1 John 1:5-10 makes it abundantly clear that there can be no fellowship with God until this matter is settled.
THEME: The study of forgiveness of sins should help us clarify our relationship to Jesus Christ.
I. APPROPRIATION OF FORGIVENESS, 1-5
A. The Picture of Need
1. Bits of dust and other substance from the roof overhead begin to sprinkle Jesus' audience. The four men on the rooftop have to break or dig their way through according to verse 4. Luke says the rooftop is tile. One can imagine the four intense faces peering through the large opening, looking down on the scene below.
2. Without hesitation they begin lowering the paralytic, still in his bedroll. Mark, alone, uses a Latinism in his word for the bed or mattress. Writing with special concern for Gentile Christians, he employs a term familiar to the most common people.
B. Faith and Forgiveness
1."When Jesus saw their faith" -- the faith of the four helpers -- He spoke the word of forgiveness to the paralysis victim. Thus , we are informed why Jesus said what He said. On the very face of it, this shows His sovereign grace. As for the victim, he paid nothing, nor did anything to merit Christ's forgiveness. Neither does this mean that others can earn our forgiveness from God. Men can, of course, pray effectually one for another. (1 John 5:16) In this case, however, we may be quite sure this man also had some faith, allowing himself to be lowered in utter helplessness through the roof to Jesus' feet. There he finds "the forgiveness of God is a gift to be received, not a reward to be merited." (John Stott, Christ the Controversialist, p. 117) Forgiveness is His entirely through the Lord's free mercy and not at all because of the man's merit. It was simply faith in their hearts that brought this greatest of blessings.
- Though "fools mock at sin" (Proverbs 14:9 NAS) man's most fundamental need is to have a right relation with his God, since all men have sinned. Jesus therefore goes to the root of the man's real need when He releases him from guilt. Forgiveness is absolutely essential.Bending over the immobilized, helpless form, Jesus pronounces in tender words the absolution. Seeing the simplicity and certainty of this expression of forgiveness should stir our hearts to claim the same in definite faith.
II. SOURCE OF FQRGIVENESS, 6-10
- The Question: Blasphemy or Deity?
1. The Scribes are correct in insisting there is only One who can forgive sins and that is the One against Whom sin is committed: viz., God Himself. Their contemptuous reference to Jesus as "this fellow" (v. 7) befits one if, indeed, he is guilty of blasphemy. Scripture assigns the merciful characteristic and responsibility of forgiveness to God alone. (Exodus 34:6, 7; Isaiah 43:25) The implication is bold and clear. Either Jesus is blaspheming or He is God. And, all men have to come to terms with Jesus Christ as the forgiver of sins .
- Movement in the Gospel records is from Jesus' works to the Worker Himself, from amazement at His power to some understanding of His Person. This movement was controlled and moderated by the Lord's efforts to restrain emotional enthusiasm and His emphasis on teaching. He sought to found faith in the truth, rather than have it spring only from excitement over wonder works. This early controversy will move with increasing intensity into the basic question, Who is this One? So it was in John 5:18.
B. The Answer: Jesus is Divine.
1. Jesus makes it clear in verse 10 that His objective in this particular miracle is that the onlookers might be convinced "that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.
2. John's counterpart passage at 5:27 says Jesus has "authority to judge because he is the Son of Man." Thus we see this Divine prerogative exercised on earth by the Savior. Mark's first usage of the title "Son of Man" has significance here. The self-emptied One on His divine mission is also the One Who alone forgives sin. By implication then, the Son of Man is divine. The creator in human form stands before the unsuspecting, unbelieving creatures.
III. EVIDENCES OF FORGIVENESS, 10-12
- The Place of Proof
- Our text, verse 9, is the first recorded instance of a way of reasoning favored by Jesus -- that of offering alternatives for choice. Declaring absolution, perhaps, looks easier. But, He will use the lesser to prove the greater. This suggests the problem of proving forgiveness., How could the poor paralytic know that he was, in fact, a newly forgiven man? How could the curious, doubting onlookers know? Indeed, how may we today know for certain that our own sins have been pardoned? One cannot climb to heaven and inspect the Divine legal ledger.
- Often Jesus refused to perform miracles when signs were demanded. Frequently, He went to great lengths to avoid demonstrations, by working in private. Though John terms His wonderful works as "signs" it is clear that they were employed to bear out our Lord's teaching and especially to make clear His own Person and ministry. Jesus here uses this physical healing as an evidencing sign that He does forgive sin and that this particular one's sins are indeed forgiven. And, it should be added that there is a strong possibility of personal sin being at the root of this case of paralysis. If so, it is especially fitting that, once the sin was removed, the ailment resulting from that guilt also be removed.
B. The Priority of Forgiveness
1. Careful note needs to be taken of what Jesus said in verse 10. He does not say that He heals so that the victim may now know full benefits of the atonement. Nor, is the healing to teach us that physical ease and material wealth issue from Calvary. Rather, the man, still helpless, is already forgiven. Forgiveness and healing are two different things. Forgiveness of sin is the great essential outflow from Calvary. A true believer will not escape all the dire consequences of humanity's fall into sin. However, through Jesus' atonement we may escape: 1) All guilt and condemnation. 2) All element of punishment in our heart-circumstances and know instead the providential blessing of Romans 8:28.
2. With dramatic authority Jesus commands the sick man to rise in perfect health and strength, roll up his bedding and head home. Luke 5:25 makes clear the drama of this climax, adding that the man makes his exit praising God. He makes no return trip to the roof in his suspended bed. The crowd is astounded and makes way for him as he leaves with song and springing step. One could only wonder what he might reply if asked along the way, Why are you so happy? It is to be doubted whether he fully understands that the healing certified an even richer reward, that of forgiveness. Jesus places highest premium upon this. (Luke 10:20) We today have our certifying evidence of this inner work of God: As the Spirit says to us what Jesus spoke to the paralytic, Romans 8:26 with Mark 2:5. In addition there are vital alterations in the believer's character, a sense of alignment with God's great providential care and a growing hope regarding the eternal future.
- It is simple both to approach Jesus Christ and to trust Him for the forgiveness of all sin. This is the abundantly clear purpose of His ministry. (I Timothy 1:15) It is further possible for us to know that the pardon is truly granted.
- Often the troubling, hurtful results of our sin are much in our prayers, yet we fail to bring the real root issue to the Savior. This encouraging text should lead us to His feet and direct us to look into His face, expecting a full release from sin. His blood covers all.
- What hindrances might confront a modern seeker after Christ?
- Why is the forgiveness of sin so very important?
- What moved Christ to forgive the paralytic?
- What moved Christ to heal the paralytic?
- How does this scene set forth the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, i.e., that God has indeed come to earth in flesh?
- What do you think might have been this rejoicing, healed man's answer if he were asked, Why are you so happy? And, what might need to be added to make his answer more complete?