Today I’d like to look at Mark 2:11-12. This is a great story. It tells us a lot about Jesus and I believe can tell us about some ways we think about evangelization.
Here’s the story in brief. Jesus is teaching at a house. It is full of people. People inside and probably surrounding it as well. His ministry is really starting now. People are showing up to hear this new teacher and perhaps see a miracle.
A group shows up with a paralyzed man carried by four of them. They have brought this man to see if Jesus might heal him. But when they get there, they can’t get into the house or near Jesus. So they go up on the roof (quick note here – these roofs were flat and often had a space to gather). They opened the roof and lowered the man. It says that Jesus saw their faith and then said to the paralyzed man, “child your sins are forgiven”
Now there were some religious scribes or teachers there. When they saw this, they began to talk among themselves asking, “Who does this guy think he is? Only God can forgive sins.”
Jesus senses this. He then says to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘rise, pick up you mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins . . . ” He says to the paralyzed man, “Get up, Pick up your mat and walk.” The man got up, picked up his mat and walked out in full view of everyone. The people were amazed and praised God.
It’s such an amazing story from so many different angles. The diversity of people at the scene. Poor, paralyzed, powerful scribes and more. All to see this new voice, this man who they were only beginning to get a look at. It tells us so many things about all of the main people in the story.
First let’s look at Jesus. He loves all of these people. I can imagine Him teaching and people are trying to figure out what He is saying. He can see light bulbs come on for some, resistance from others. People keep showing up. And then all of a sudden an interruption. From the roof of all places. Jesus was always focused. But He also always seemed to have time for the interruption. If it was earnest. Seriously, think about how many times in the gospel accounts that Jesus is on His way somewhere or speaking or about to do something and there is an interruption. Often from someone unimportant in society. And certainly a lot of people seen as unimportant or worse by the religious leaders. Heck, a lot of the times even the disciples didn’t want there to be interruptions. But Jesus always stops for the person seeking Him.
This time is no different. Jesus sees the faith of the people who have brought their friend. He sees this man and says that his sins are forgiven. Now hard stop. Why does He start here? Obviously these friends who brought this man, the ones whose faith Jesus saw and honored, did not bring the man here for this. They brought him hoping for physical healing. Why does Jesus start here.
Here’s my take, and that’s all it is as I don’t pretend to know the mind of Jesus. I think there were two big reasons. First and foremost Jesus knew this man needed to be forgiven more than he needed anything else. The truth is, this is what we all need more than anything else. We can’t enter into eternal life without forgiveness. Regardless of if this man ever walks or not, that’s short term. Long term, as in eternity, forgiveness of sins is far more important. It is of first importance. That is why Jesus starts there.
Secondly, Jesus is separating a person’s condition from his spiritual standing. In that time a lot of people thought that your condition was a result of your sin. A person born blind was that way because of his or his parents’ sin. A person killed randomly must have sinned in some way to deserved it. Jesus points out in several places that this is not the case. And here he demonstrates it right away. While the man is still paralyzed he is forgiven.
Finally Jesus is for the first of many times challenging the religious leaders. He knows what they are going to think. He knows that they will say that He is a blasphemer. Most of them won’t believe Him. Really this is the first confrontation. Not only does He challenge them but He actually ups the ante. He says basically, “Want me to prove it? Fine.” And He then heals the man. All the people celebrate. Except for the religious leaders who are left being upset someone got healed.
We can all have the tendency to limit God to our religious leanings. We need to be careful in that. Jesus is not so easily tied up in a religious box. Even today. Is there anywhere that you are boxing Him in?
Next week we’ll look at the friends who brought this man, the paralyzed man himself and what that has to do with evangelization. But for today here are a couple of take aways.
First, do you see the forgiveness of you sin as your most critical need? If you don’t, it might be time to revisit that. I know I need to.
Second, do we see it as other perople’s biggest need? That’s not to say we should walk around telling each person that they need to be forgiven. I’m certainly not suggesting walking up to someone with a physical need and leading with that idea. But it’s important for us to remember that we have a short temporal life, no matter what our condition.
It’s also important to recognize that someone’s condition may well not be tied at all to their sin. This should cause us to have compassion before judgment. It doesn’t mean that we don’t judge right and wrong. It just means that it’s not the best starting point in our hearts.
Finally, remember that Jesus looks at you and offers forgiveness. No matter what you’ve done or are doing. If we seek Him, forgiveness is available. Is there something that you need to seek forgiveness for right now?