Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 February 10, 2019
“Thus We Never Saw”
Have you ever taken your car to your mechanic with what, in your eyes, seemed to be a small problem—only to have the problem be much bigger than first thought? Have you ever gone to the doctor with what seemed to be merely nagging symptoms, only to discover that your condition was more serious that your symptoms suggested? These sad conditions illustrate what many charged with diagnosis and cure will tell you: In many cases, the presenting problem is not the fundamental problem. We see such a scene in God’s Word today. Let us hear Mark’s Spirit-led retelling of the scene—and, in the hearing, let us hear what the Spirit says unto our souls.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
We meet Jesus today at an early point in His public ministry. Already He has considerable renown. He goes about Galilee preaching and teaching—and that with authority. He teaches not as the scribes, with appeal to earlier human authorities (rabbis, e. g.) in bibliographic detail. He teaches, in content and manner, perfectly consistent with His written Word, the Bible—and He teaches on His own authority. Moreover, He confirms the truth He teaches by signs and wonders, such as healing, exorcisms, and, later, resurrections—including, supremely, His own. Hence, great crowds attend upon His ministry—and a large crowd gathers to hear His Word at His home in Capernaum. The crowd filled the house, barred the door, and likely spilled over into the area in front of the door.
Upon this scene come five men. Four of them carry a cot, on which lies a fifth man—a paralyzed man. Because of the crowd, they cannot come near the door—and, therefore, they cannot come to Jesus by the usual means. This impediment, though considerable, is not insuperable—for the four men bearing the fifth man use extraordinary means to get the man on the cot to Jesus. What great effort these four men display, and what great effort they expend. They carry the man to the roof. Once upon the roof, they remove a portion of said roof—likely made of thatch—and lower him to Jesus.
Jesus, seeing their faith, responds most curiously, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The man appears to need physical healing. Why speaks He thus? Why not merely heal Him, as apparently He did for many others? Note that, though He addresses not the man’s presenting needs, He addresses the man’s fundamental need. The man serves as no mere object lesson for Jesus. He, like the rest of us, have a need for right standing with God through Christ—including forgiveness of sins—that is fundamental to everything else in life and in eternity.
Now Mark introduces the scribes—certain experts in Jewish law—who question Jesus in their hearts. They ask themselves, each in his heart, “Why does He speaks thus? Who forgives sins except God?” They conclude implicitly that Jesus is not God, and they make their implicit conclusion explicit by stating, “He blasphemes.”
Jesus displays, contrary to the scribes’ view, that He is God—and, therefore, that He blasphemes not. He does this by discerning their thoughts. He asks them, “Why do you reason thus? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven?’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat, and walk.’?” How, naturally, did Jesus discern their thoughts? He did this not naturally, but supernaturally, because He is God.
Jesus further displays that He is God in what comes next. He tells the scribes, and the crowd, “But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins.” Fast after this utterance, He commands the man to rise, to carry his mat, and to move along to his house. This the man does—to the great astonishment of all. The former paralytic walks away healed and, more fundamentally, forgiven. Only God can do these things—and God in the flesh did these things that day.
The crowd reacts with great astonishment—and that to a degree that struggles to express itself verbally. We do read here in Mark’s Gospel that they say, en masse in a sense, “We never saw anything like this (literally We never saw thus.).” Luke’s account of the crowd’s reaction (in the parallel account, Luke 5:17-26, esp. 5:26) is this: “We have seen extraordinary things today” (or strange things, KJV, or remarkable things, NIV: cf. Greek paradoxos [paradoxoV]: incredible, unusual). Truly we never saw the like of Jesus—either in His Person or in His works.
There are two lessons for us today—which is one more than I generally list for you. Let’s repeat an important side lesson first: The presenting problem often is not the fundamental problem. This is true in medicine, it is true in machinery, and it is true in the things of God and the pastoral care of people. Moreover, our fundamental need, as we will recall presently, is for forgiveness of sin. Having that, with its attendant right relationship with God through Christ, we have all.
Now comes the main lesson: Jesus hath authority to forgive sin. This is true both by virtue of Him being God incarnate and because He atoned at Calvary for the sin of everyone who believes. Remember that not every malady in this life is attributable to a specific sin. Many a Christian today makes the same error that Jesus’ disciples did in the Gospel, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind (John 9:1-41). Some of our trouble is the direct result of our sin, but most is not—it is merely the side-effect of living in a fallen world.
Know this, beloved: No matter what you’ve done—or are doing—come to Christ for forgiveness. He will remove your guilt and its penalty. He also will weaken the power of that sin, and sin generally, in your life as you avail yourself of His appointed means of grace (Scripture, prayer, worship, fellowship, etc.). He, furthermore, will one day deliver you from all sin forever—either when He calls you to Heaven at the end of this life or when He returns to consummate history and God’s eternal plan. Therefore, if your fundamental problem be solved through faith in Christ, then your presenting problems—though yet considerable at times—shrink in comparison. Moreover, He will handle your presenting problems in His good way—in His good time. May He give us faith to trust Him to work in our lives in this way. We, too, like the crowd that first-century day in Palestine, never saw this—until we, like at least some of them, met Him.
 This notion of God’s deliverance from the penalty, power, and presence of sin I obtained from Michael Green, in his Evangelism through the Local Church (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1990). Dr. Green went to Heaven on February 6, 2019—on Wednesday of last week—at the age of 88.
I obtained the verbiage here used for the return of Christ from The Essentials of The Evangelical Presbyterian Church.