A sermon based on Mark 2:1-12
Sunday, February 1, 2015 – Epiphany 4B
This Super Bowl is going to be awesome! I know, you're thinking, "That's easy for you to say. Your team is in the game." Well, what if I told you that I know that the Seahawks will win by exactly 28 points and that I will help them do it? That too was easy to say. It was so easy in fact that I'll gladly say it again: "I know that the Seahawks will win by exactly 28 points and that I will help them do it." But you don't believe me, do you? (That's okay. Neither do I. I don't know that my Hawks will win and I certainly can't help them try.) But just because something is easy to say doesn't make it easy to do, and it doesn't make it true.
This morning, when Jesus claimed to have the power and authority to forgive sins, some teachers of the law thought, "That's easy for you to say," but they doubted that he had the power to actually do it. So Jesus demonstrated that it wasn't just easy for him to say, but that it was easy for him to do. And we thank God that he gives us the proof that he does indeed have the power to forgive so we know that we too are forgiven. Our text for this morning is from Mark 2:1-12…
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 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. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
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? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…." He said to the paralytic, 11 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 12 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!"
I. Easy for You to Say, "Sins Are Forgiven"
The place was packed! It was standing room only in that house that day. Jesus had been gone for a few weeks, traveling around Galilee, and now he had come home to Capernaum. Word got out that he was back, and people came to the house to listen to the master preacher. And the house was packed; not one more body could have been squeezed in the door.
That caused a problem for some who desperately wanted to get in. Four men had some heavy baggage they were eager to deliver to Jesus: They carried their paralyzed friend on his mattress. Can you imagine their frustration and disappointment when they found out that this show was sold out? But that didn't stop them. They were determined and so they would find a way to get their friend to the one they hoped would help him.
So up to the roof they lugged their adult friend. And figuring the spot just above Jesus they dug a hole big enough and lowered him though. What great friends, huh? Wouldn't you like to have friends like that?
So picture it. The is sun shining through the newly installed skylight and there's a paralytic man on a mattress lying at Jesus' feet. The hopeful expectation was clear: "Do for our friend what you've done for so many others: Heal him. Make him whole again. Let him move. Let him walk. Let him enjoy life." But instead, Jesus spoke to a much bigger need. Without a word spoken from the men on the roof or the man on the mat, Jesus said, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
We can only imagine how those men felt. Were they relieved at the spiritual healing offered? Or were they disappointed that no physical healing accompanied it? Was the man who was let down through the roof let down in his hopes? We're not told what their reaction was. But we are told how the teachers of the law reacted. Even though they didn't say a word, Jesus knew what they were "thinking to themselves," "what they were thinking in their hearts." They though, "Well, that's easy for you to say, but what makes you think anyone would believe you?" "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
It was as unbelievable to them that some traveling rabbi, as impressive as he may been, could actually do what he was claiming to do, as it is for you to believe that I can not only predict, but affect the outcome of today's big game. "It's ridiculous!" they thought. "You can forgive someone for hurting you, but how can you forgive someone for a sin against God unless you are yourself God?!" And they refused to believe that Jesus could do this—that he could forgive sins.
How about you? Do you ever doubt that Jesus has the ability to forgive sin? How about the sins of that one guy who hurt you badly? Would Jesus really forgive him? Is it really that easy? How about the habitual sinner? The addict? The one struggling with homosexuality? The one who's life is a mess because of all of the stupid, sinful things they've done? Does Jesus really forgive them the moment they turn to him in faith? Too often we act like the teachers of the law and wonder, "Can Jesus really forgive that broken man lying on the mattress?" And make no mistake, it wasn't just the teachers' thoughts that Jesus could read. He knows your every thought too.
Or how about you yourself? Do you ever doubt that Jesus has the ability to forgive your sin? After all that you've done? After all the times you've doubted his word when you were in pain or facing problems? After all the times you've just plain ignored it? Can you really be forgiven for all that doubt which is really calling God a liar? Can you really be forgiven for all that you've done?
Or how about all the good things you've left undone? Before I asked, "Wouldn't you like to have friends like the friends this paralytic had?" But now, let me turn it on you: have you been a friend like that to others? Would you willingly carry ¼ of the dead weight of a paralyzed friend? Or would you make excuses? "It's too much effort. I'm too busy. I don't have the time or the money. It's too hard. It's too crowded. We'd have to go to the roof. So let's just go home." How many of us would even try to help a friend like that? How many of us do go out of our way to help others in their need?
And when we consider all of our sin, all the evil we've done and all of the good we've left undone, can't it sometimes seem pretty hard to believe that Jesus would really forgive our sins? Isn't it easy to hear those words of absolution, "I forgive you all your sins" and think, "Yeah, sure. Easy for pastor to say. If only he knew all that I've done. Easy to say, but not so easy to believe,"? Isn't it easy to think, "Easy for you to say, Jesus. But do you really forgive me?"
But Jesus knew that it was easy to say, "Son, your sins are forgiven," but hard to believe. So he would give those doubting teachers the evidence they would need to believe…
II. Easy for You to Say, "Get Up… and Walk"
Jesus knew these teachers' thoughts, so he challenged them: Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? Now, they didn't have a chance to answer, but you know what they would've said. "Of course it's easier to say 'Your sins are forgiven,' because nobody can tell if they are or aren't. The result is invisible. Anybody can say that, but who can verify that it happened?" "That's easy for you to say, because no one can prove it!"
But, what if he would say, "Get up and walk," and the man actually got up and walked? Then there would be no denying it! It would be obvious! Everyone could see it! There would be verifiable proof that Jesus could do what he said. If he could make the man get up and walk, which only God could do, it would prove that he also had the divine authority to forgive sins, which only God could do.
So he said, "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." And instantly, he was healed. His paralysis was cured. His muscles were strengthened with no need for physical therapy. Jesus' cure was perfect and complete. "He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all." He now carried the mattress that had so often carried him.
It's pretty clear proof isn't it? It's pretty simple logic: If he can heal the paralyzed man—a task that only God can do—then he is God and he can forgive sins—another task that only God can do. And with this evidence, the people believed: "This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'"
And God gives us this same assurance too. Jesus is God. He did heal the sick and raise the dead. He did live a perfect life for you and died to pay for your sins. He did rise from the dead to remove all doubt that when he says to you, "Son, [daughter], your sins are forgiven," it is absolutely true, whether you read it in your Bible or hear it from your pastor. Your sins are forgiven!
So let your doubts vanish like this man's paralysis did! Let your doubts vanish with your sins! "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" This man—Jesus, the God-man—has the right to forgive sins! This man—Jesus—has forgiven your sins! Be amazed! And praise God! Have you ever seen anything like it?!
Now, I really don't know who will win the Super Bowl this afternoon. But I do know who will win in life: Those who believe that it really is easy for Jesus to say, "Your sins are forgiven," those who believe he has the power to do it, those who believe what he has done to forgive their sin.