“Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Sometimes, when a good thing is done in a way or at a time that no one was expecting, it doesn’t seem so good anymore. Have you ever noticed that? I believe the cynical adage is that no good deeds goes unpunished. That could have been the theme of Jesus’ whole ministry. He did a whole lot of good things during His three years in the spotlight and yet again and again He did them in ways that broke the mold. They broke the mold for a people who were very much fond of their molds. The result was a whole lot more conflict than you would think someone so committed to doing good would attract. This first story in Mark 2 is a perfect example.
If I was going to give a title to Mark 2, it would be this: “Mark 2: In Which the Tension Increases.” The first chapter of Mark was really about introductions. It introduced us briefly to John the Baptist, Jesus, His central message, and the basic approach He took at the beginning of His ministry. And in the beginning of His ministry, His popularity soared pretty high pretty quickly because of the kinds of things He said and did. No one had ever taught like He taught and no one had ever done like He did.
The thing about someone new coming on the scene like this is that the old guard will tolerate him only so long as he doesn’t pose any kind of a meaningful threat to what they see as their kingdom. Oh sure, they may not call it that, but they understand what their territory is. More importantly, they understand when their territory is being threatened. When Jesus’ popularity began to soar and He started doing things that they could not help but see as intentionally provocative, they began to go into battle mode.
When we last left Jesus, He and His first few disciples were traveling around Galilee, preaching the message of the coming kingdom of God in the towns and villages around Capernaum. When He left Capernaum, the last thing Mark records Him as having done was heal some people on the Sabbath. First there was the demon-possessed man in the synagogue. Then there was Peter’s mother-in-law that afternoon.
Mark includes a little note in 1:32 that I had honestly not recognized for its importance until as I was writing this very blog (I’m learning with you as we go) that the people of Capernaum brought all their sick to Peter’s house for Jesus to heal them after the sun had set. The reason for the timing was the Sabbath ran from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. Before sunset, it would have been a violation of the Sabbath command to travel to where Jesus was and for Him to perform the healings. They wanted the ministry Jesus could provide, but they weren’t quite ready to receive it on the Sabbath for fear of breaking what they had always been taught was the law. As soon as the sun was down, though, they were on the doorstep.
When Jesus got back to town, people were ready. Word had spread ahead of His arrival and a crowd quickly mobbed the place where He was staying (probably Peter’s house again). The line was out the door and down the street. Folks at the back weren’t sure if they were going to be able to get to Him before He quit. I suspect tension was high in the background of people celebrating the miracles Jesus performed.
Needless to say, the house was packed. There was hardly room for anybody to move as they listened to Jesus speak and watched Him heal folks. In the middle of this scene, dirt started to fall down on Jesus’ head. Suddenly, a hole opened up in the roof. Some friends, wanting to make sure their paralyzed friend was able to get to Jesus to be healed, broke open a hole in the roof in order to lower his stretcher down into the room.
Most of the folks in the room would have been indignant at the distraction. Peter would have been furious about the mess. People who had been waiting in line outside would have been irate about the cutting. Jesus just looked at the party, marveled at the faith of these friends, and said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Now, the group probably expected a number of different things from Jesus. That wasn’t on the list. Be healed. Get up and walk. Why didn’t you wait in line like everyone else? Something, yes, but not this. Not, “your sins are forgiven.” Physical care was one thing. Everyone could handle that. Spiritual care of this nature–the very forgiveness of sins–was something entirely different. This man hadn’t done anything to Jesus that anyone there could imagine. Jesus didn’t owe Him any forgiveness. And if He was talking about his personal sins against God, those were something only God could forgive. Jesus didn’t have any business assuring this man that God was going to forgive him. Only God could do that. And yet He did.
The self-righteous reaction from the Pharisees was immediate. We’ll look in more detail at the fallout of this next week, but for now I want you to see just this one thing: Jesus broke the Pharisees mold and they didn’t like it. At all. They were expecting one thing, He did something completely different, and they didn’t know how to handle it. There’s a challenge in here for us.
We like our molds too. As we go through our lives, we gradually get comfortable with a certain set of circumstances. Once we’ve done that, we don’t like to break from them if we can help it. And yet, Jesus isn’t confined to our circumstances. He’s got His own agenda and He wants to invite us to be a part of it. This will necessarily mean leaving behind what makes us comfortable. It will mean breaking out of our molds and surging forward into new and sometimes scary territory. But if we are going to follow Him well, this is exactly what we’ve got to do. If we want to experience the full and glorious weight of the eternal life He is calling us to receive, we will have to be willing to step out of our boxes and follow Him wherever He goes.
That means we’ve got a choice. Even if you would count yourself a follower of Jesus you have a choice. Are you going to stay comfortable in your box, or are you going to follow Jesus? You can’t do both. The former is safe. The latter leads to life. It won’t always be safe and will often be inconvenient. But the life is sweet. What will you choose?