Photo by Sgarton on Morgue File.
Who’s the last person you saw before reading this prompt? Whether it’s a family member, a coworker, or a total stranger, write a post about what that person is thinking right now.
It is interesting to have this prompt this particular morning. I say that because I have been reading and pouring over the first couple of chapters in the gospel of Mark. In fact, I taught from the first half of chapter one last night at my local church. Mark is a fascinating gospel. Most scholars agree that Mark was the first gospel written, which they refer to as Markan priority.
As most know, we have four gospel accounts in the New Testament (NT). Have you ever thought about why we have four? Why not one? We only have one Romans. We only have one Revelation. And while we do have multiples of others: two Corinthians and two Timothys . . . etc. why do we have four gospels? While there are many reasons we could list, I think one would be to show the importance of the life and ministry of Christ. After all, Jesus and his life is the whole gospel message. The rest of the NT makes no sense apart from the events of the gospel narrative.
When you look at the four gospels, scholars tend to group the first three together (i.e. Matthew, Mark and Luke) and refer to them as the Synoptic Gospels. This terminology simply implies that these three gospels approach the life and ministry of Jesus from the same viewpoint. It does not mean they are identical, a simple reading of the three would show this is not the case. But, it means they follow something of the same outlook, the same approach. John, the fourth gospel, on the other hand, has his own style and flair. The prologue to his gospel opens with, In the beginning was the Word (Logos) and the Word was with God and was God. (Jn. 1.1) Obviously, a very different approach than the other three!
Again, this does not mean that the Synoptic Gospels do not express confidence in Christ’s divinity; they certainly do. It is only to say John has a different style, a different approach. It is not altogether different from his three counterparts; in fact, they share much in common, but it has a different feel to it.
Mark, for his part, writes in a deliberate and expedited way. One of Mark’s favorite words is immediately. He moves from one event in Jesus’ life to the next quickly. He writes in rapid-fire succession. It is the style of the old TV show, Just the facts Ma’am. He gives us enough, he does not short change us, but he gives only what we need to believe and affirm the person of Christ.
If you want more detail, you will have to consult the other three gospels. Mark is too purpose-driven to get bogged down in too many details.
What does any of this have to do with the prompt, you may rightly ask? Well, I am glad you asked! In the second chapter of Mark, we read of Jesus’ healing of the paralytic (Mk. 2.1-12). In the account, Jesus returns to his second home in Capernaum and word soon gets out that Jesus is back home. When word gets out, people from that area flock to the house and crowd in. Mark tells us that the door of the house was impassable because of all the people who had thronged to see and hear Jesus.
Jesus welcomes the crowd and teaches them the word; meaning, he expounds for them the Hebrew Bible (i.e. the Old Testament or OT). As this is happening, four men arrive at the house carrying a paralytic on a makeshift cot or gurney. We are not told anything about these men. Were they friends? Relatives? Associates? How old was the paralytic? How did he become paralyzed? Was he born with the disability? Did he have an accident or some sort of health issue that caused his paralysis? We are not told. All we are told is that the man indeed was a paralytic and he was carried along by four men to meet Jesus.
Mark actually gives us a bit more detail here than the other two gospels that record this event. In Matthew he simply notes, some people brought the paralytic to Jesus. In Luke he states, some men brought him. So, Mark gives us the detail that it was actually four men. (It is possible there was a larger group accompanying the man, but only four who actually carried him. Again, in the end, it does not really matter; but, it is interesting to ponder.)
Again, who were these men? Were they friends of the paralytic’s? Were they relatives? Did the paralytic just happen to see them passing by him and ask them to take him to see Jesus? Again, the text does not tell us. I feel, from the spirit of the text, that these four men had a vested interest in him. I am prone to think they were at least friends of the man. After all, they take the time to carry him, perhaps a rather long distance on foot. They go through the trouble of problem solving a way in to see Jesus. They go through the trouble of removing part of the roof to lower him down to Jesus. From what Jesus says, they, along with the paralytic, had faith in Christ and his abilities. So, I think there was some closeness to these men, though we can not be sure to what extent.
Long story short, (some of you are thinking too late!), they climb onto the roof, remove part of the roof and lower the man down to Jesus. There is quiet a bit we could say here, but for sake of time we will move on. The gospels tell us that Jesus saw their faith and because of their faith said to the paralytic, Son, your sins are forgiven (Mk. 2.5).
Again, not to take up much time here, but picture this. What purpose do you envision they had for getting this man into the presence of Christ? Did they do all this so he could have a front row seat, so to speak, and listen to Jesus teach? Did they do this so the man could introduce himself and tell Jesus that he thought he was a great guy? While all this may have been part of it, this is not ultimately why they went through all this trouble to get him to Jesus. Why did they do it? What is their hope? That Jesus will heal the man of his paralysis, right?
But, Jesus does not do this, at least, not at first. Instead, Jesus deals with the more important matter, the man’s spiritual condition. This man was lost, without hope, not only physically in that society; but, more importantly, spiritually. Jesus addressed the real need first. I’m sure there was a second or two pause when the four men look at each other, look at the paralytic and then to Jesus thinking, wait a minute, that’s all well and good, but what about his body?!
And here is where today’s prompt comes in to play. There were some religious leaders there that day listening to Jesus teach. When Jesus pronounced the man’s sins forgiven, they begin to think in themselves, what is Jesus saying? He is blaspheming! Only God can forgive sins! You see, they did not say this aloud; rather, they were thinking this in their hearts/minds. And, you know what, they were right! Only God can, ultimately, forgive sins. That of course is the whole point of this event: Jesus is God in flesh (i.e. the Incarnation).
Jesus, per the prompt, knowing what they were thinking, asked them why they were asking such questions in themselves. Imagine sitting next to a guy thinking about “X” and all of a sudden he looks to you and asks, why are you thinking about “X”?!
So, Jesus poses a question of his own for them to consider. He asks, which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise, take up your bed and walk?” (Mk. 2.9)
I suppose it is how you look at it. In one way, saying get up is easier. Why? Because in reality only God can forgive sins. The forgiving of sins, ultimately speaking, is only the prerogative of God. So, really, it is something that a man cannot say, lest he commit blasphemy.
But, I think the answer is really it is easier to say your sins are forgiven. If I say this to a man, say a paralytic, and you then look at him are you going to see any marked change in him or his appearance? Probably not. (Yes, I know when a person comes to Christ and is truly forgiven of their sins, we may see smiles and even a glow of joy, but not always. And even this could be subjective to the witness. I mean, the person is not going to grow two feet taller or anything like that!)
Whereas, when I say to the paralytic, rise and walk; in other words, be healed and you look at him, if what I said is true, you will see a marked difference, will you not? Yes, you will see the paralysis healed and the man rise up and be able to walk!
So, Jesus does just that. Jesus even gave a commentary concerning it, but that you may know that the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus) has authority on earth to forgive sins (Mk. 2.10). You see what Jesus does here? He links his ability to forgive sins with his ability to perform miracles. Again, there is a lot we could say here, but we will move on.
Then Jesus says to the paralytic (exactly what the paralytic had been hoping for), I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home (Mk. 2.11). Mark gives us the result, And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all . . . (Mk. 2.12).
Luke adds, that as he did so he was glorifying God! Yeah, I bet he was!
All three gospels that record this event, tell us the people who saw this were amazed. They were astonished and asked among themselves who Jesus was that he was able to do such things.
To conclude, this same Jesus who some two-thousand years ago was sitting in a house in Capernaum and encountered a paralytic, is the same Jesus who died and rose again. He is the same Jesus who now sits at the right hand of the Father, making intercession, as our High Priest, for all who believe and trust in him. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is Messiah, Savior, God and King.
Just as the paralytic’s sins were forgiven that day, so too can your sins be forgiven. How? Paul tells us succinctly in Romans, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (i.e. forgiven of your sins) (Rom. 10.9).