Sunday, May 14th, 2023
Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA
And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house. 2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. 3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. 6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only? 8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? 9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion. 13 And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him. 15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Father we thank you for sending your Son, the Lord Jesus, to be our great physician, to heal us from our sicknesses, but more importantly to forgive our sins, we ask for your Holy Spirit now as we consider this text, for we ask this in Jesus name, Amen.
Well this morning we begin a new chapter in Jesus’ ministry, and already we have seen that Jesus has come to reverse the effects of the curse. The same curse that Jesus according to his divine nature, pronounced upon the serpent, the woman, and the man, in the Garden of Eden, Jesus comes to undo.
Mark has demonstrated for us in various ways that Jesus is God, He is the Messiah, but that divine identity is something that Jesus is presently keeping under wraps, when the demons declare he is the Son of God, he commands them to remain silent, when he heals the leper, he tells him to tell nobody, and yet despite these gag orders, the word has gotten out. A miracle worker has come to Galilee, and as Mark ends chapter 1, he says, “and they came to him from every quarter.”
So Jesus’ star is rising, his popularity is increasing, he has gone from an obscure carpenter in Nazareth to someone that all men seek after. So looking at our text this morning, there are two basic sections:
Verses 1-12 describe the healing of a paralytic and the forgiveness of his sins.
Verses 13-17 describe the calling of another disciple, this time it is Levi the Tax Collector.
And again he entered into Capernaum, after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
If you remember how chapter 1 ended, Jesus healed the leper and traded places with him. The leper can now rejoin society, he can go about his normal life, but Jesus is forced to dwell in the wilderness, he can longer openly enter the city.
So here he attempts to enter Capernaum, he goes to Peter’s house, and word gets out that Jesus is back.
2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
So immediately a crowd gathers and its standing room only, Mark tells us, there was no room “so much as about the door.” Every place to sit or stand and hear is taken.
And Jesus, knowing the purpose for which he came forth, the reason for his incarnation, begins to preach to them.
Now while he is preaching in Peter’s house, we are told in verse 3-4…
3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
So to set the scene, you can imagine an ancient home in Capernaum, it was typical to have what we call a deck on the roof of your house, so these are flat roofs where you have additional living space to eat, or relax in the evening, or set out clothes or food to dry. And there was typically a ladder or set of stairs that led up to the roof.
And there is actually pretty good evidence that archaeologists have found this very housein Capernaum, a church was eventually built on top of it, and you can go visit the remains to this day.
So this was a decent sized house (5,000 square foot plot), probably had a couple courtyards within the walls, and these four men climb up to the roof and begin to tear it apart.
The roof was probably made of thatch or tiles, and you can imagine sitting inside the house and dirt is falling on your head while your trying to listen to Jesus preach, and if your Peter or Peter’s mother-in-law, you might be a little upset that someone is destroying your roof.
How would you respond if this was your house?
In verse 5, we see how Jesus responds.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
Jesus sees the faith of these four men. He sees their faith by their actions, by their boldness, that they truly believe that Jesus can heal their friend.
But the first thing Jesus does is not heal the man, but rather, announce that his sins are forgiven, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”
Now why does Jesus do this?
There are a few reasons for this, but the first is because there is a connection between this man’s paralyzed state, and the state of his soul. For as bad as being unable to walk is, Jesus saw that this man’s soul was in even worse shape. He had sins, and those sins needed to be forgiven. Jesus saw and knew that it was more important for this man’s soul to be saved, than for him to walk again.
So that’s the first reason, Jesus forgives his sins because it is the thing he most needs.
And this should serve as a reminder to all of us, that God knows better than we do what we actually need. We think we would be better off if we had more money, better health, a bigger house, a better job, better friends, a better spouse, etc. But God knows what we actually need to live eternally with Him. And oftentimes what we see as a great obstacle to our happiness, is what God gives us to increase our happiness in Him.
People often wonder, if God is good and loving and all powerful, then why does He afflict us? Why does he allow so much pain and suffering in our lives?
And the Christian tradition has answered this question by saying, there are basically 5 reasons or 5 causes for why God afflicts us. Sometimes He afflicts because:
1. He wants to increase our merits. He wants to add to our heavenly rewards. Examples of this would be someone like Job, or the great martyrs.
The book of Job begins by describing Job’s great wealth and fortunes, and when the book ends, after all of his suffering, those fortunes are doubled. God afflicts Job, and tests him, so that He can reveal more of Himself to Job. And those eternal treasures are signified to us by the physical material wealth that God gives to him.
So that’s reason number 1, God might afflict you to increase your heavenly rewards.
2. God often afflicts us to keep us humble.
The Apostle Paul is the great example of this. In 2 Corinthians 12, he describes this thorn in the flesh, this messenger from Satan that afflicted him, and he pleads with God to remove it from him three times. But God decides not remove it, but rather says, “My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
So sometimes, God lays us low, so that we will not become proud or haughty. He afflicts and weakens us, so that we rely upon His power and not our owns strength.
3. God sometimes afflicts us as discipline and correction for our sins.
This is possibly what is going on in our passage with the paralyzed man. Jesus forgives his sins first, because it was those sins that precipitated his paralyzed state.
We can imagine a robber who gets hurt while running away from the police, he crashes his car and is stuck in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. His affliction is the consequence of his sinful actions, but it is through that affliction that he becomes remorseful and repentant.
If a man is put in prison and there comes to know the Lord, that is a loving affliction compared to the eternal prison he was headed for.
4. Sometimes God afflicts us for no other reason but to glorify Himself.
This was the case with the blind man in John 9. A man was born blind, the disciples assumed it was because of his sins, or his parents’ sins that he was born that way, and Jesus says, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.”
Sometimes the only reason for our affliction, is for God to reveal his power when he delivers us. As my former pastor used to say, “God loves cliffhangers.” God is a master storyteller, and we are all characters in a story that is going to exalt and magnify the glory of God.
We don’t know if or when deliverance might come, and that’s what makes our faith in the midst of that uncertainty so precious and pleasing to our Father.
But if you belong to Jesus, you can trust that all things are conspiring for your good, and if you can’t see the reasons behind your affliction, that’s okay. What you can always bank on if you belong to Christ are two things: 1) It’s for your good. And 2) It’s only temporary.
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:17, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”
Whatever our present sufferings, if we look to Jesus and cling to Him through them, the blessings on other side will be exponential.
5. There is also a 5th reason the Bible gives for human suffering, and that is for those who are reprobate. For those who God passes over and leaves in their sins, their affliction is just the beginning of the pains of damnation.
One example of this would be King Herod in Acts 12 who is eaten by worms.
Acts 12:22-23 says, “The people gave a shout, saying, It is the voice of a god, and not of a man. And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost.”
Another example would Pharaoh and the Egyptians, who hardened their hearts against the Lord, and so for them the plagues were just the beginning of even worse torments in hell.
So those are the 5 principal reasons for why God permits suffering, for the elect they are always working for some greater good, and for the reprobate, they are the beginnings of God’s righteous judgment upon them.
Now returning to our text, Jesus declares this man’s sins are forgiven. He has been let down through the roof, he is still paralyzed, and the scribes consider Jesus words to be blasphemy.
6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, 7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
So these scribes are good theologians, they know that the only person who can really forgives sins is God. The priest might be able to declare a word of absolution or atonement (“God has forgiven your sins”), but Jesus is clearly forgiving sins as if He has the power to do so. He is speaking as one who has authority and not as the scribes.
This rightly perplexes them if they don’t believe Jesus is God, and it sets up a great revelation of Jesus’ divinity in what follows.
8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
Notice the irony here. Who else but God can read minds and see people’s thoughts? And here Jesus says, “why reason ye these things in your hearts?”
So already these scribes should know this is no ordinary man.
9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? 10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) 11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. 12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.
Jesus is crafty. Jesus is wise. And he intentionally forgives this man’s sins first (which is the more important thing), to provoke this charge of blasphemy because only God can forgive sins.
And then because the forgiveness of sins is invisible, it’s not something anyone there could prove had happened or not, He then commands the man to be resurrected, to arise, take up his bed, and go home.
Now imagine for a moment that you were in Peter’s house watching this all go down. What would seem more miraculous to you? What would you be telling everyone that you witnessed with your own two eyes? That a man had his sins of forgiven, or that a paralyzed man stood up and walked?
I think most of us would be more impressed by the miraculous healing. And what Mark is trying to teach us, and what Jesus is trying to teach these people, is that the forgiveness is a much bigger miracle than the casting out of demons, than the healing of a leper, or the healing of a paralytic.
Yes, these are all miracles and glorious testimonies of Jesus power. But what Jesus really wants us to learn is that we are all spiritually paralyzed. Sin has real consequences, and Jesus has the power to forgive us for our sins. That is the real miracle and the most important gift we should seek Him for.
This same lesson is reinforced by the calling of the 5th disciple. So far we have seen the calling of Simon and Andrew, James and John, all fisherman. And now Jesus is going to add a tax collector to his entourage.
13 And he went forth again by the sea side; and all the multitude resorted unto him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the receipt of custom, and said unto him, Follow me. And he arose and followed him.
This is the calling of Levi (also called Matthew) who wrote the gospel of Matthew.
And just as the other disciples were called to follow Jesus in the middle of their work day, so also Levi is called to follow Jesus while he is sitting at his tax office.
As most of you know, tax collectors (or IRS agents) are not exactly the most beloved people in society. Nobody gets excited when the IRS knocks on your door.
In Jesus day, as in our own, tax collectors represented the oppressive and often tyrannical power of the government. So for a Jew to become a tax collector was essentially to sell out to “The Man.” It was to exchange your nation’s heritage and patrimony for unjust gain, and so only the people of lowliest character would stoop to such vocations.
Levi was likely the same man that Simon, Andrew, James and John, had to pay taxes thru. To be a fisherman was an honest job, but to be a tax collector was to be numbered amongst the prostitutes, and so this was likely a surprising (and awkward?) choice for the other disciples to have Levi join the team. We can imagine Peter wondering, is this guy going to move in with us too? I already have a roof to fix, and now we’re associating with criminals, what’s next.
Following Jesus is uncomfortable, and this is just the beginning of that discomfort.
For Levi, he is forced to leave behind his tax-collecting business. In order to follow Jesus, he forsakes that life of sin. The next thing Levi does is have Jesus over for dinner.
15 And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. 16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? 17 When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Here Jesus punctuates and makes explicit the reason for everything he has done thus far. Jesus has come as a physician, and he is making house calls. He has visited the synagogue, he has visited Peter’s house, and now he is wining and dining with tax collectors in Levi’s house. It is not because all of these people and places have it all together, in fact it is the exact opposite.
Nobody is flattered when the doctor says, “alright, take off your clothes and let’s have a look.” The doctor is not there to admire the health and strength of your body, he is there to diagnose and fix what is wrong with you, to cut you open and sew you back together.
And this is the great misunderstanding that keeps the scribes and Pharisees from coming into the kingdom, it is their own blindness to their need for forgiveness. It is their failure to recognize that they are spiritual lepers, spiritually paralyzed, and need Jesus to heal them.
And so the way that Jesus loves these scribes and Pharisees is by telling them this proverb: “They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Jesus is saying to them, “you are correct that these people are wicked and need to repent. They are sinners indeed. But I am not here eating and drinking to flatter them, or build rapport with them, or tell them they can go on living in sin,” Jesus is there to call them to repentance. And if the scribes and Pharisees had some self-awareness, they would recognize that they are just as much in need of Jesus as the people they despise.
There is a God who all of us must stand before on judgment day. And Jesus is that God, and He has come in the flesh to forgive sinners. All of the miracles, all of the healings, all of the powerful and mighty works He did (and which the gospel writers recorded), were to help you and I believe that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.
Jesus is that Son of Man who Daniel beheld some 500+ years prior. It says in Daniel 7:13, “And, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14 And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
When you repent and believe the gospel, when you receive forgiveness from the Lord Jesus, you become a part of the Son of Man. And if you are united to the Son of Man, then you shall receive a kingdom which shall never be destroyed. And that is more valuable than any affliction, any trouble, or any earthly blessing you can possibly imagine. For in the kingdom, you have the King Himself.
In the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.