Cornerstone EPC Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734 January 29, 2023
“Your Sins Are Forgiven”
Today we meet Jesus early in His public ministry. He is teaching, to be sure, but He also performs various wonders to verify and to validate His teaching. We meet another man as well—a man needing healing. He gets that healing, and he gets something else as well—something even more fundamental to his well-being. Let’s examine these, and learn what God intends for us to learn, as we hear the Word of God read and proclaimed once again in this place.
(HERE READ THE TEXT)
Our narrative today opens at Capernaum—a town located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee.1 Mark, led by the Holy Spirit, notes that Jesus was at home—possibly Peter’s home.2 Jesus, however, was not alone in the house. Many gathered together there until there was no more room there, not even at the door, and the crowd spilled out from the house into the surrounding area. Jesus preached the word to the assembled throng—a throng presently increased by five souls.
Four men come into the crowd. They carry a fifth man, a paralyzed man, on a cot. The men would draw near to Jesus in order that Jesus may touch their friend, thus healing him. They have heard of, and perhaps they have seen, Jesus’ works which Mark records in the first chapter of his Gospel. It appears that they believe their friend will be healed if they can get him sufficiently close to Jesus. They cannot draw near, however, because of the crowd. Yet they simply must bring their friend near to Jesus. What happens next must remain—and shall remain—forever in the annals of heroic ingenuity, effort, and faith.
These four men somehow get themselves, and their paralyzed friend, to the roof—whether by stairs, or by advanced climbing and lifting techniques, or by some other method. Then they remove a sufficient portion of the likely-earthen roof (thatch, sod, or similar) to create a path to Jesus. Then these four men, by some method, lower the paralyzed man to where Jesus is. Behold this dramatic act, and marvel at the faith-driven resolve to effect it.
Jesus sees both the prodigious effort of the four men, and He sees the commendable faith underlying that effort. He then honors that faith, and effort, in curious fashion. He does not pronounce the man healed—at least, not yet. Jesus, rather, issues a dramatic pronouncement: He says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Notice that Jesus deals not immediately with the paralytic’s apparent need—to wit, healing from said paralysis. He deals immediately, rather, with his fundamental need—namely, forgiveness of sin.
This dramatic act, and dramatic pronouncement, engenders a series of dialogues. First, note how the scribes question within themselves. They wonder why He speaks thus, for only God can forgive sin. They that deduce that He blasphemes—for apparently He, apparently a mere man, usurps a prerogative belonging to God alone. They deduce wrongly, though, for Jesus is no mere man. He is God incarnate—fully God and fully man—and, thus, perfectly authorized and capable to do just as He claims.
Second, Jesus speaks with the scribes. He wonders why they question these things in their hearts (How did He know they questioned within themselves?). He then asks, “Which is easier…?” Is it easier to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say to him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk”? Both are impossible with man, but both are possible and actual with God. Jesus then argues from the seen to the unseen. Should He make the paralytic well, which all can see, then all may deduce that He can effect the unseen—again, namely, the forgiveness of sins.
Third, Jesus speaks to the paralytic. He issues to the paralytic three simple commands: to rise, to pick up his bed, and to go home. This the former paralytic does—to the amazement of all. The authority to heal testifies to the authority to forgive—and, presumably, the former paralytic now stands forgiven. Hence, the former paralytic has received two profound blessings—the forgiveness both grounding and heightening the healing.
Fourth, the crowd enters dialogue within itself. They are greatly astonished—almost to speechlessness, but not quite. They also glorify the Lord, even as they exclaim, “We never saw anything like this.” Luke, led by the Holy Spirit, renders the crowd’s reaction in similar vein, “We have seen extraordinary [KJV: strange] things today.” Indeed, they have seen remarkable things, but they shall see greater things than this in God’s good providence.
Jesus performed in today’s text what the Apostle John calls a sign: a miracle to a purpose. John, in his Spirit-led Gospel, tells us plainly what Jesus performed these signs: in order that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing we may life in His Name (John 20:31). We learn in today’s text, from Jesus’ healing of the paralytic, that Jesus has authority to forgive sin.
Here is the take-away for today: If you be in Christ, your sins are forgiven. The Apostle Paul, writing to the Ephesian Christian households, writes that in Jesus we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7). In fact, Jesus’ blood cleanses us from all sin—as the Apostle John writes in his first general letter to the Church (1 John 1:7). Therefore, as Paul asserts to the Romans, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1).
Yet one question may nag your soul today, namely, “Can, or will, He forgive me for that?” Then you fill in the word that with what you think is the worst that you’ve ever done. Then you wonder whether whether God will, or even can, forgive you. If this is something that worries you, then hear this good news: The answer is “Yes.” He can, and will, forgive you—if you be in Christ by faith (cf. 1 John 1:9). This is not to go out and to live a life of license, but this is to live a life of increasing holiness empowered by the Spirit of the living God. Remember Jesus’ gracious pronouncement and command to the woman taken in adultery: Jesus condemns her (and us) not, but she (and we) are then to forsake that sin (cf. John 8:11). In Christ, O believer in Him, your sins are forgiven. Bring them to Him for forgiveness.
1Herbert G. May, ed., Oxford Bible Atlas: Third Edition (New York: Oxford University Press, 1984), 86.
2See Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset, and David Brown, Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (1871. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961), 954. Many refer to this commentary either as Jamieson-Fausset-Brown or, even more simply, as JFB.