03-10-2013 message by Pastor Rich Doebler
Mark 2:1-12 (NIV)
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.
2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 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.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 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? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’?
10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralytic, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 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!”
Jesus has often been misunderstood and misinterpreted. Especially when, on occasion, he said things that seemed extreme — over the top, strange. To the average person, his words often didn’t make sense.
In fact, Jesus did and said things that caused even his family to say, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). As a result, they tried to “take charge of him” — today they would try to “have him committed.” Others said, “He is possessed…he has an evil spirit” (Mark 3:22,30). His words, at times, seem crazy to us even today — perhaps especially today, because many in society question whether “absolutes” can exist.
For them, “straight” talk is considered “crazy” talk.
Yet, as we said last week, maybe it’s when we consider Jesus’ extreme statements that we can begin to find balance and hope. Perhaps it’s only when we get in touch with the amazing, outrageous Jesus that we can find the solution for our own crazy lives.
So for a few weeks we’re hitting some key statements made by Jesus found in the Gospel of Mark.
Last week we looked in Mark, chapter 1, at the crazy thing Jesus said to the unclean leper: “I am willing” — willing to cleanse him, willing to touch him, willing to become unclean himself in order to help.
We saw that no matter how desperate our situation or how repulsive our sin or unworthy we feel, Jesus willingly touches us. The clean touches the unclean. The righteous touches the unrighteous. He exchanges places with us — the sinless One took our sin, so we can take on God’s righteousness!
But being willing — wanting to help — is one thing; being able — having the power to help — is another!
It doesn’t much matter if someone is willing to get dirty if he does not have the power to make things clean. If you’re stuck in the mud, you need more than sympathy. You need more than someone who feels sorry for you.
If you’re stuck in the mud, it’s nice if someone is willing to get down in the mud with you, to be comfortable wallowing around in the mud, to suffer with you in your terrible situation. But you need more than that!
When you’re hopeless and helpless and dirty, you need someone who can clean you up. When you’re stuck in the mud, you need someone who can get you out and set you free!
I have vivid memories from when I was a boy, visiting my grandparents on their farm in SE Kansas. One time — perhaps I was 8 or 9 — I was standing on the tractor hitch behind my grandfather as he drove back from the field and into the barnyard.
I don’t know what made me do it, but as we drove past the barn, I spontaneously decided to jump off the moving tractor.
That was a mistake.
What with the momentum of the tractor, and the wet, sloppy mess in the barnyard, my landing was less than graceful. My feet slipped out from under me, and I landed flat on my back, spread eagle in a smelly, wet mixture of mud and manure.
I can still remember the feeling of icky ooze soaking through my clothes.
My grandfather stopped the tractor and turned around to see what his grandson was up to. He sat high up on the tractor, looking down at me lying flat in the muck. And he laughed.
I was miserable lying there, but there he was, high and dry, laughing! Of course, that was because he had a totally different perspective than I did.
Our attitude often depends on our perspective, doesn’t it? It depends on our point of view. That’s why we should always try to see things from God’s perspective rather than from our own. We get discouraged and frustrated and upset because we’re stuck in our problems, because we feel miserable, because we’re a hopeless mess.
But God doesn’t see things as we see them. From his point of view, there’s always hope. There’s always a solution. God has a plan.
Here’s where it gets good! God’s plan is to come down to where we are — not just to wallow around with us in our despair, but to GET US OUT! He’s not just a God of therapy; he’s a God of deliverance!
He wants to set us free from our sin, from our addictions, from our habits, from our negative thinking and our negative attitudes. He wants to pick us up, clean us up, and keep us up. He wants to set us free!
My grandfather climbed down off the tractor, came over to where I was still lying in the manure, and he reached down and picked me up. Then he walked me over to the farm pond nearby and he “baptized” me (more or less). Using his big, strong farmer’s hands, he splashed water all over me. He started with my hair, then splashed water over my neck and shirt. Finally he scrubbed down my pants and shoes. He washed me all over.
It would have been no good to me if my grandfather had come down off his tractor but could not pick me up. It would have been no good if he could not rescue me from the mess I was in. If he came down but couldn’t wash me clean, what good would it have been?
I needed help — real help — not just one who would sympathize with me in my mess.
Jesus is one who sympathizes — but he is also one who can help! He can wash away the filth of your sin. He can cure the disease of your heart.
This week we’re looking at another crazy thing Jesus said in the Gospel of Mark — words which show again how incredible and amazing Jesus was. What he said and what he did were absolutely outrageous to the people there. And though his words angered and upset some, they astonished and awed others.
Verse 5: When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” To say such a thing was crazy. The teachers of the law — in fact, every good Jew at that time — knew that only God could forgive sins.
They saw only two ways to respond to someone who acted as though he were God: (1) Condemn him as a blasphemer (as the teachers did) or (2) Call him crazy and put him in an asylum (if there were any).
However, well-known author C.S. Lewis, who wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, pointed out that we have three options, three ways to respond to the outrageous things Jesus said:*
(1) Declare him deluded and out of touch with reality — in other words, he was crazy.
(2) Judge him as a deceiver — a charlatan, an evil person who used and manipulated people for his own gain.
(3) Believe him; accept him for who he claimed to be — the Son of God.
Liar, lunatic, or Lord! I think the people in the house that day knew instinctively what the options were, but the religious leaders immediately dismissed the third possibility. They couldn’t imagine that this Jesus might actually be God in human form.
That left them with only two choices: either he was crazy, deluded, and out of his mind or he was a wicked, evil deceiver — or both. Either way, they thought he was committing blasphemy.
Jesus confronted their skepticism head on (v 8-11). He addressed their silent accusations by demonstrating God’s power.
Words alone don’t prove much. It’s easy to say something; it’s harder to do it. It’s as easy to say “be forgiven” as it is to say “be healed.” And since the people couldn’t see into the spiritual realm and assess the condition of the man’s heart to see whether or not his sins were forgiven, Jesus did something they
could see and backed up his words with a demonstration of power.
By healing the paralyzed man Jesus proved that he possessed God’s power and authority.
By showing he had the power to heal, he demonstrated that he also had the authority to forgive sins.
His words sounded crazy because they were crazy…for anyone else. But they were not crazy for the Son of God — Immanuel, God with us, the Word made flesh, God in human form.
To the paralyzed man, however, Jesus’ words may have sounded crazy for a completely different reason. His friends brought him for healing, so he could walk again. (That was a crazy notion all by itself!) But Jesus didn’t start with his physical needs…first, Jesus met his spiritual needs.
What are your real needs?
Here was a man who had lived for years with the shame of being less than perfect. His body didn’t work properly. He couldn’t do the things others did. He wasn’t like everybody else. He wanted to feel “normal,” but he was often left on the sidelines, looking on, while others lived their lives.
Now put yourself in this man’s place for moment. Imagine all he had gone through before he found himself that day lying on that mat in front of Jesus. He certainly had a physical need; but Jesus recognized a deeper need within him — a deep, spiritual hurt that he had carried for a long time.
You see, he lived in a time when sickness was largely viewed as judgment. We talked last week about the stigma attached to lepers, but it was true in a general sense for anyone going through hard times.
Those who were sick, women who could not conceive, people killed when a tower collapsed on them, cripples begging by the temple gates — all were seen as victims of their own behavior. The conventional wisdom of the time said that anyone who suffered probably deserved it.
Just like Job’s comforters in the OT who blamed Job for all his troubles, people blamed people for their own misfortunes. Even Jesus’ disciples one time asked Jesus about a blind man, “Who sinned?” they asked. “Who sinned? This man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (John 9:2)
So here was this man who carried a deep spiritual shame. He lived a life of frustration, discouraged and hopeless, wondering if somehow he was himself to blame. All his life he had heard judgments and put-downs, so it’s likely he felt that he deserved his troubles — he must have done something or thought something wrong, and that was the reason why he’d been cursed with this disease.
Spiritual problems go deeper than physical problems. We need to go to the root of the matter. This man was not only paralyzed in his body; he was paralyzed in his spirit. He was stuck in condemnation and guilt and shame.
Some of you may be treating the surface problems and missing the deeper issues. You’re praying for a physical healing or financial help or a better job or some solution to a conflict — but God is more interested in your heart, in your spiritual condition, in your eternal destiny.
But come as you are! Come with your physical problems, as this man did. If you come, God begins to work. Jesus knew the man and his friends hoped for a physical healing. Seeing their hope and spark of faith, Jesus built on that to achieve something deeper, something greater than mere physical healing!
So here was Jesus telling him something no one else could say…or would say. Telling him his sins were forgiven! Telling him his slate was wiped clean. Telling him the past was over and done with. Telling him that all his guilt and shame were dismissed. Forgiven. Completely. Telling him was set free.
This was amazing! Crazy!
Years ago in another state I knew a man named Bernie. I spoke with him shortly after he got some terrible news, some tragedy had struck his family (I don’t even remember what it was). Bernie shook his head and said, “I wonder what I did to deserve this.”
Have you ever asked yourself that? What did I do to deserve this? The answer may well be, “Nothing. You did nothing to deserve this, Bernie.”
How many people live with guilt, burdened down by an overwhelming sense of blame? “It’s all my fault. If only I had done something different…if only I had not done what I did…if only I had been there…if only…if only.”
How many people live with guilt and shame and can’t seem to ever let it go. Their lives become consumed with grief, doing penance, trying somehow to get free from the burden they carry.
Maybe you’re one of those people. Maybe you struggle with guilt. You can’t let it go. Maybe you have prayed and asked God to forgive you of your sins — but you can’t seem to forgive yourself. You blame yourself for not being a better parent, for not being a more sensitive husband, for not being a more diligent wife.
Maybe you blame yourself for the way things turned out. You live with regrets. You wish you could do it all over again — but you can’t. And so you struggle on, day after day, weighed down with guilt and shame.
You need hear — everyone who carries a load of guilt needs to hear — really hear — the crazy, outrageous thing that this man heard: “Your sins are forgiven.”
This is not something you can hear with your ears alone. This is something you must hear deep in your spirit. These words must come from God’s heart to your heart.
Why? Because they must be more than words — they must be power. They must come with the supernatural power and authority of Jesus to set you free. The teachers were right: only God can forgive sins.
But if God forgives, if God picks us up, if God washes us clean — we’ve got to know it deep down; we’ve got to experience that power for ourselves. We must accept the crazy thing Jesus said so we can be free of guilt and shame.
When God forgives, you can forgive yourself.
Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” (Mark 4:9) What was he saying? He wanted people to go deeper than merely hearing audible sounds. He wanted them to understand by experience.
Jesus wanted them to hear more than words. He wanted people to encounter the power of the living God. He wanted them to grasp deep down in the spirit the significance and reality of supernatural things that sounded crazy in the natural.
Of course, it’s also possible that the answer to the question, “I wonder what I did to deserve this?” could be, “Everything. You deserved this. In fact, you are a sinner who deserves far worse than this.”
Because the truth is, if God treated us as our sins deserved, we all would be in a far worse condition than the paralyzed man. If we got what we truly deserved, we would have no hope. If we were to get what should be coming to us, then we would live miserable, hopeless, pathetic lives until finally we die and spend an eternity in hell, far away from God and far away from his grace.
But that’s another reason why Jesus’ words are so crazy — and so amazingly wonderful! They open the way to God’s mercy and grace and shut the door to what we deserve.
“Your sins are forgiven”
means we can be set free — free from what we deserve for the consequences of our sins,
but also free of the crushing burden of undeserved guilt and condemnation.
Jesus healed the paralyzed man, proving he had the power and authority to forgive sins. He proved that we can be set free from the crippling, paralyzing spiritual burden of being an unworthy sinner.
The crippled man was transformed into a brand new person — inside and out. He was no longer paralyzed, either in his legs or in his heart. Instead of being dead weight carried around on a mat, now he could walk through life with his head held high.
The people who watched were astounded and amazed…and they praised God. “We’ve never seen anything like this,” they said.
They knew God had shown up in the house in Capernaum. Because of Jesus’ crazy talk, they began to see God as a forgiving, merciful God. They realized there could be hope for them. They began to believe they could be free from sin and guilt and shame.
What about you? Do you know that freedom? Are you spiritually paralyzed or have you been set free?
*“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” – C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity