Welcome to our worship today at Christ Lutheran! We’re glad you’re with us in person or listening on the radio.
This morning we continue our sermon series “In the Footsteps of the Master”---following Jesus through the Gospel of Mark. And today we hear of an amazing event that happened at Capernaum on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s a beautiful place.
Today archaeologists have uncovered much of the town, including the ruins of a synagogue.
Since there only would have been one synagogue in a town this size, and the Gospels tell us that Jesus preached and taught at the synagogue in Capernaum, this is where those events happened.
And close by to that synagogue, there is the foundation of a home that many archaeologists believe was the home of Jesus’ disciple, Peter, who was from Capernaum. A church that was built over top of that house--- which was the way that early Christians protected important places.
It’s also possible that this is where Jesus was when he healed the paralyzed man in todays’ reading from Mark 2 since Jesus spent time at Peter’s home. If this is not the place, it was certainly one very much like it.
Typical houses were built of stone with wood beams for the roof, with branches across and then clay on the top. So keep that in mind as we hear the beginning of what happened that day in Capernaum.
Mark 2:1-4 “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 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.”
Our Tuesday morning Men’s Bible group was studying this section of Mark. We were discussing how these men lowered their friend through the roof. And the men thought it would be good to demonstrate how that happened so if you’ll just look up------no, not really. We didn’t have enough time to pull that off.
But Jesus is teaching an overflow crowd when all of a sudden there’s branches and dirt and dust and debris dropping down on everybody. This was not a nice neat trap door they opened up. This was ripping a hole in the roof big enough to lower a man through it. It shows something about the determination and urgency of these men---not to mention the strength of their faith that Jesus could heal their friend.
Mark 2:5 “ When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
“When Jesus saw their faith”---not asking for anything themselves, but for their friend. Aren’t these the kind of friends we’d all like to have? No limit to what they would do for you.
And notice that Jesus responds based on their faith---not that of the paralyzed man. When people act out of faith in Christ, it can benefit others who may not even know Jesus yet.
And it gets even more interesting. Look what Jesus says. “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Didn’t Jesus know what the man needed? Yes he did!
But what we see here is Jesus dealing with first things first. At the very beginning of Mark, we hear about John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus, about him baptizing Jesus and then Jesus being tempted by Satan in the wilderness. And then we are introduced to Jesus’ primary mission---
Mark1:14-15 “…Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
Jesus came to announce the Good News of his heavenly Father and through his life, death and resurrection, he was himself the Good News in the flesh. And that Good News included feeding hungry people. It included freeing demon-possessed people. It included healing paralyzed people. But those were secondary to him reconnecting people with the Kingdom of God.
And what is it that prevents people from knowing they are part of God’s kingdom? Our sin! So Jesus says to this paralyzed man---“Your sins are forgiven.” He knew that the man had a much greater burden than paralysis.
Now it’s hard for us to recognize that there’s a bigger problem when we’re challenged by something like paralysis, or cancer, family conflict, financial trouble, or addiction. I don’t want to minimize those problems in any way.
But Jesus wanted to deal with the man’s relationship with God because that rift of sin was preventing the man from knowing the freedom that God could provide.
Now that doesn’t mean that our sin is the cause of our suffering. Sometimes people believe that they are ill or distressed because of some sin they have committed. And sometimes we can see the direct connection between our sinful actions or those of others and our problems or illness. But mostly it’s not like that. In the case of the paralyzed man, Jesus could have made the connection between the man’s sin and his paralysis clear, if that was true. But he didn’t.
He didn’t require the man to confess his sin before he would heal him. And the man was not automatically healed when his sin was forgiven---which should have happened if that was the cause. And Jesus didn’t even ask the man if he had faith. He acted on the faith of the four friends.
Our sin and the sin of all people is the cause of so much distress in our world. But seldom can we say that our sin directly caused the problem. And even in those cases, the Lord’s forgiveness applies especially then.
In John 9, Jesus was asked whether a man was born blind because of his sin or his parents. Jesus said that it was neither.
Another barrier to us seeing our need for God’s forgiveness is that we often try to minimize our sin. We compare ourselves to a criminal, a mass murderer and we come up looking pretty good. But we forget that foremost, sin concerns our relationship with God. So how we measure up to God’s goodness and holiness is the measure of our sin. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see a printout of that measurement! Compared to God, we are all light years away---separated by the self-centered actions, thoughts and attitudes that constantly come between us.
Like the paralyzed man, we all need to hear the good news from Jesus---“Your sins are forgiven!”
But some people there that day in Capernaum didn’t think that was good news, because Jesus wasn’t following their protocol.
Mark 2:6-7 “Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
They were right about God alone forgiving sins---sins against God. You and I can forgive each other for our wrongs. But the rest is up to God. But that was only part of their problem. They believed that the way God forgave sins was through the sacrifices and the ritual cleansings and all the things that went on at the Temple. They thought only the priests could speak for God. And here is this unknown teacher doing it himself.
Mark 2:8-9 “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? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?
Jesus was probably saying that neither forgiving sins nor healing was easier. Both are impossible for people---but both are easy for God. And Jesus continued---
Mark 2:10-12 “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.” 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!”
“We have never seen anything like this!” What was amazing? The paralyzed man picking up his mat and walking out of the crowded house in full view of everyone. What was amazing? Jesus implying that he was the Son of Man. The Son of Man is the glorious, mysterious figure of Daniel 7 and Ezekiel 1. He is the one who has authority over all the world. He is the one who is to be worshipped and glorified.
Many people in Jesus’ day equated the Son of Man with the Messiah. What was amazing? That this unknown rabbi was claiming that he was the Son of Man who had authority to forgive sins. But if only God can forgive sins, there is only one logical conclusion. But were they ready to deal with that?
How about you and me? Are we ready to deal with who Jesus really is and to open ourselves to what he offers?
Do we minimize our sin or do we recognize our sin and our need for forgiveness?
Are we only concerned with our immediate needs? With our own paralysis? We can be physically, emotionally or spiritually paralyzed. And understandably, we can be so wrapped up in that paralysis, that we miss the big picture.
Jesus cares very much about your immediate needs. Just like he took care of the hungry, the sick and the distressed.
But your biggest need, my biggest need, is to be reconnected with the source of all that is good. Our sin is always getting in the way. Our biggest need is to be forgiven, reconciled, reunited with our Heavenly Father who wants to care for our every need. And that needs to happen over and over and over again. Every day should be a new beginning as we repent, turning back to the Lord, as he welcomes us with open arms.
That may not mean that he takes care of every problem the way we want. Sickness and death are a reality of human life. But just as real is the Lord’s promise that when this life is over that all things will be healed. And that all things will be made new.
Revelation 21:1-7 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.”
We are God’s children, not because we are perfect, or even close to it. We are God’s children because he created us, because he provides everything we need day to day, because he came into this world in Jesus to bring us back into his Kingdom. We are God’s children because he forgives us and heals us in whatever way he knows is best.
When we turn to the Lord, Jesus says to us,
“Daughters and Sons, your sins are forgiven!”
Let’s pray together---Lord you can do all things. We thank you for the gift of your forgiveness and new life. Give us the confidence and faith to turn to you to take away our sin, to heal our paralysis, and to know that no sin is beyond your forgiveness. And then let us be the kind of friends who share your good news of healing from sin and paralysis with those around us, that they too may be blessed by you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.