Archive for October 2nd, 2008

Mark 2:1-12 Jesus Heals Spiritual Paralysis

Posted on October 2, 2008. Filed under: The Gospel of Mark |

Mark 2:1-12 “Jesus Heals Spiritual Paralysis”

Sunday 12 September 1999 AM

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Outline:

Introduction

I. Hard Hearts Back Home

II. The Fantastic Faith of a Few

III. The Sickness of Sin

IV. Healing and Forgiveness

V. The Amazing Power of New Life

Conclusion

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Introduction: This morning’s text is one of my favorites in Mark and could easily result in at least 4 sermons; but I know many of you get tired of a text if I preach more than one sermon from the same text so we will try to squeeze all of this text into one sermon, but it will take two hours… (just kidding!)

            Seriously, there is a lot of action, doctrine and practical application in this rich story that most of us remember well from a childhood SS or VBS lesson. This story marks a serious change in the Gospel of Mark, a corner is turned, the plot thickens right here in this house with a hole in the roof.

            In ch. 1 Jesus is seen to be in conflict with Satan and the wild beasts in the wilderness, then he confronts a demon possessed man in the synagogue service, and he confronts the evils of diseases like leprosy. But now in ch.2 we get the first hints at confrontation with the Jewish leaders who hear Jesus claim to forgive sin. This incident starts a course of building conflict in Mark’s Gospel. Hendricksen writes (1975, NTC, p85-86) “At first the scribes merely reason in their hearts (vss6,7) against Jesus. Next, they complain about him to his disciples (2:16). Afterward they become bolder and protest to Jesus himself; yet not immediately because of what he is doing but because of what he is allowing his disciples to do (2:24). But in the 3rd ch. they begin to scheme how they may destroy him (v.6) and charge him with being in league with the devil (v22). Of course the conflict could not be avoided; for he stressed love, they legalism; he God’s holy law, they their law-burying tradition; he freedom, they bondage; he the inner attitude, they the outward act. How they hated to surrender to him their prestige, their hold on the public.”

            Mark is showing how radical Jesus is in that he claims more authority than a normal rabbi would when He calls disciples to himself, he violates the ceremonial law by touching an “unclean” leper, he casts out a demon from a faithful member of the local synagogue, and now he seriously challenges the Jew’s theology by claiming to be able to forgive sins! Yes, this passage is a turning point in Mark’s Gospel! In the verses from 2:1 to 3:5 Mark includes a total of five conflict stories showing us how radical and disturbing Jesus is to the traditional Jewish leaders. These stories will challenge and confront us as well as we study them over the next few weeks.

            This morning, the main point I want you to experience and understand is that when we are lost in our sins apart from Christ, we are powerless-paralyzed in our sinful condition and we are desperately in need of the spiritual healing that only Christ can provide, that is, forgiveness of our sins and the gift of new life. In this story this morning we will see:

I. Hard Hearts Back Home

II. The Fantastic Faith of a Few

III. The Sickness of Sin

IV. Healing and Forgiveness

V. The Amazing Power of New Life

 

I. Hard Hearts Back Home

            In verse one notice that the people of Capernaum heard that he had come home. In Matthew 4:13 “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulon and Naphtali- 14 to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: 15 Land of Zebulon and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles- 16 the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” So, although Mark does not say it, this is a fulfillment of prophecy according to Matthew.

            Jesus had already ministered in Capernaum, teaching, preaching, casting out demons and healing. Now, after his first preaching mission, he returns and is preaching in a house (Peter’s? His own house?) and it is standing room only! Imagine if you had been a resident of Capernaum…. what excitement! But listen to J.C. Ryle’s evaluation of the hard hearts at Capernaum: (1857, pp.19-20) “…nothing that Jesus said or did seems to have had any effect on the hearts of the inhabitants. They crowded to hear him…they were amazed…astonished…filled with wonder at his mighty works. But they were not converted. They lived in the full noon-tide blaze of the Sun of Righteousness and yet their hearts remained hard.  And they drew from our Lord the heaviest condemnation that he ever pronounced against any place, except Jerusalem: Matt. 11:23-24 “And you Capernaum, will you be lifted up to the skies? No, you will go down to the depths. If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the Day of Judgment than for you.”

            Ryle continues, “It is good for us all to take good note of this case of Capernaum. We are all too apt to suppose that it needs nothing but the powerful preaching of the gospel to convert people’s souls, and that if the Gospel is only brought into a place everybody must believe. We forget the amazing power of unbelief, and the depth of man’s enmity against God. We forget that the Capernaites heard the most faultless preaching and saw it confirmed by the most surprising miracles and yet remained dead in their transgressions and sins. We need reminding that the same Gospel which is the savor of life to some is the savor of death to others, and that the same fire which softens the wax will harden the clay. Nothing, in fact, seems to harden people’s hearts so much as to hear the Gospel regularly, and yet deliberately prefer the service of sin and the world.”

            When Jesus announces that the man’s sins are forgiven He perceived in the hearts of the teachers of the law that they considered him to be blaspheming, that is , taking on himself the prerogatives of God, for only God can forgive sin. They were highly shocked and offended, deeply disturbed at what Jesus said. I can just see their faces turning red, I can hear them shift uncomfortably in their seats, clear their throats. Their hearts were hard. Even after Jesus heals this man they do not change their opinion.

            It is amazing how, whenever God starts doing a real work, there are those who oppose it, they strive against God, they quench the Spirit. Donald English writes, (1992, BST, p.68) “Mark does describe a development which seems to be universal, that the doing of good will not go unresisted. At the individual level there seem always to be those who will resent, criticize, suspect or oppose it. At the corporate level there will be some vested interests challenged by those who seek, out of love and for no gain, to set others free.”

            My own experience confirms that most of the opposition I have experienced in my Christian life has come from other Christians, religious folks, not the world! Hard hearts exist in the Church just as they do in the world. R. Kent Hughes writes (1989, Crossway, p.64), “The real paralytics were the Pharisees and scribes. In marked contrast to the 4 stretcher bearers, they were just sitting there. As religious leaders, they should have been directing the traffic to Jesus and his free clinic. When the roof opened, they should have reached up to receive the poor cripple. But instead of love, there was indifference. Instead of faith, there was only criticism.” Hard hearts are too proud to help.

            Capernaum had more than its fair share of hard hearts that day, despite all the excitement, underneath it all, the hard hearted critics and hard hearted consumers of religious entertainment, curiosity seekers there to see the show. Let us all examine our hearts to make sure we are not hard hearted and resisting what God wants to do here in our midst!

 

II. The Fantastic Faith of a Few

            But hard hearts were not the only life forms there that day! Praise God there were four men who believed in Jesus and loved their friend enough to do whatever it took to get him to Jesus. Perhaps they were childhood friends, longtime friends of this man who was sick and paralyzed. They had missed the previous time when Jesus had been in town, but now they were eager to help their friend to Jesus. When confronted with the crowds at the door they surely had to think “Well, do we wait til Jesus comes out? No! We must take him to Jesus immediately! Let us get on the roof and cut a hole and lower him down to Jesus” These guys had to have been young men, probably fraternity brothers at Hebrew U. This too closely resembles a frat prank. Can’t you hear the protests of their sick friend, “Wait guys, you don’t have to do this, really you don’t! Hey! Be careful going up the stairs now!” Or it could have been a really serious and somber occasion, the man could have been about to die and his friends did not think he would last until Jesus came out of the house. Maybe they were so desperate that they would resort to these unusual and socially disreputable methods to bring him to Jesus.

            J.D. Jones (1914, Kregel, p.42-43) writes, “What true and genuine friends these men were! Theirs was no fair weather friendship. They had heard of Christ’s power and they determined they would carry their friend to Him….What magnificent faith these friends had! It was faith that was not daunted by difficulties. It was not an easy task to bring their friend to Jesus, but they persevered, in spite of all obstacles…There are difficulties still in the way of bringing friends to Christ.”

            R. Kent Hughes (p.63) writes, “Their faith was persistent… creative…sacrificial…A faith that brings Christ’s power to the world is always willing to pay the price. Few Christians have impacted the Church more in our day than did Francis and Edith Schaeffer, but it was with a cost. Schaeffer wrote in his book The Church at the End Of The 20th Century: ‘in about the first 3 yrs of L’Abri (Their Christian retreat center/commune in Switzerland) all our wedding presents were wiped out. Our sheets were torn. Holes were burned in our rugs. Drugs came into our place. People vomited on our rugs…How many times have you had a drug taker come into your home? Sure it is a danger to your family and you must be careful. But have you ever risked it? ‘ “

            The idea is that these men risked a lot to bring their friend to Christ. Here is a beautiful picture of the task of evangelism, the privilege of evangelism. They carried a helpless sinner to Jesus. Here is the glorious task that we are allowed to participate in. When was the last time you tried to carry someone to the Saviour? Is bringing people to Jesus part of your Christian lifestyle? Are you a witness for Christ, and I don’t mean just witnessing by your lifestyle, though that is a prerequisite, I mean are you actively sharing a verbal witness of Christ? It has been my pleasure to be working where I have for the past two and a half years because I have been allowed to witness to many people. In these days we must be persistent, consistent witnesses.

 

III. The Sickness of Sin

            This poor soul was a paralytic or palsied man. We do not know what the disease was, or if it was the result of an accident. Due to the desperation of the 4 friends I tend to think the situation was quite desperate, he may have been dying soon. But notice some things about his illness compared with sin.

            First of all, he was sick and it was obvious. The doctrine of sin is proved by the newspaper every day of the week. It is obvious that we are sinners; every aspect of society is infected with sin. No one is without sin, we are all in the same boat of sin. All we have to do is to look at our own life for one whole day and we will see plenty of sin. When we add to our list of things we have done that we ought not to have done, the list of good things we did not do that we should have done, we realize how desperately wicked we really are.

            Secondly we see that we cannot help ourselves. Eph 2;8-9 teaches us that salvation is all of grace, not of works. We cannot save ourselves. When we are lost in sin all our righteousness is as filthy rags, useless, trash. In sin we have no faith and “without faith it is impossible to please God” Heb 11:6.Romans 14:23 “everything that does not come from faith is sin.”

            Thirdly, our sickness leads to death. Rom 6:23″For the wages of sin is death”

            I have heard people explain our sin as being in the storm tossed waters and Jesus throws us a lifeline. Others say that we are going down for the third time and that Jesus swims out to us, drags us ashore and gives us mouth to mouth resuscitation. I look at it as if we are dead on the bottom of the ocean floor and he carries our lifeless body to shore and gives me new life. This sinner that was paralyzed pictures our total inability to come to Christ on our own. He was carried by friends and then forgiven and healed by the Savior. Let’s look at this healing and forgiving more closely now.

 

IV. Healing and Forgiveness

            I used to wonder why Jesus forgave the man first and then seemingly as an afterthought, in response to the questioning hearts of the Pharisees, healed the man. The reason Jesus did it in this order was to show clearly the sign (John’s Gospel refers to miracles as Signs) of sin being forgiven with a practical demonstration by healing a paralytic. Jesus was also revealing the hearts of these people as he revealed in a very convincing manner who he was. Jesus was deliberately challenging the way people thought about forgiveness, he was publicly claiming the power to forgive sin, which only God could do. This is a claim to divinity, proven by a powerful miracle.

            Here is one of those passages that people forget about when they say ridiculous things like “Jesus was just a good moral teacher or a prophet/mystic” Wait a minute! Jesus just claimed to forgive the man his sins, and the verb tense implies all his sins in the past and forever more! Any one who claims to be able to forgive sins is either nuts, or maliciously lying, or he is God in the flesh! He cannot be a good moral teacher and just a man.

            On what basis can Jesus forgive sin? First of all, because Jesus is God, God the Son, he can forgive sin. Here we see a hint of the doctrine of the Trinity, a clear claim to deity by Jesus. Secondly, he is the one who kept the law of God perfectly, he never sinned, and then he died in our place on the cross as our sacrifice. Jesus’ death is the basis for the forgiveness of sins.

            Jones writes (p46), “What a gracious word it was! He had delivered him from the burden and fear of his sin. Sin is to this day the world’s sorest plague. Sin is to this day the soul’s deadliest hurt. Physical pain is nothing to the guilt and shame of sin. And it is from sin and its haunting dread that Jesus came to redeem us.”

            Jesus linked healing and forgiveness for a couple of reasons. The Jews automatically linked sin and diseases. They figured if you got sick God was punishing you for your sins. They also linked forgiveness with being healed. But Jesus also knows that sin and diseases are linked in reality. Not in a one for one cause and effect way, but generally speaking disease is an outworking of sin in the world. When Adam sinned, not only were we all fallen in him, but the principle of decay, death and disease entered the world. Isaiah 53:5 “the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”

            English writes (p.68) “The intrinsic unity between the forgiveness and the healing in this story is crucial to our understanding of mission. This is not some scientific category of how much sin produces how much disease, or even which sins lead to which diseases. It is rather that both sin and disease are harmful to and destructive of human life, and Christians are called to oppose everything which threatens full humanity, and to do so in the name of the kingdom of God.”

 

V. The Amazing Power of New Life

            The man got up and walked home carrying his mat! He was completely healed, given the energy he needed, and he regained his ability to walk (any of you who have been laid up in bed for a while know it is hard to just get up and walk again!). Here we see a picture of the reborn man walking in the power of the Spirit! Walking by faith now, walking with the Lord. When Jesus gives forgiveness he also gives new power to live the Christian life; he lives inside the new believer with His Holy Spirit.

 

Conclusion: Are you still paralyzed in sin? Are you sick with sin and eager to be cured? Jesus can heal your soul today! Only Jesus can forgive your sin and give you new life!

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