Which is Easier to Say…?

Intro: A real miracle-worker would draw a crowd, wouldn’t he? (Even the fake ones we see today can become quite popular) Jesus had been performing miracles so frequently that He could not even hide from His popularity. At the end of Mark 1, Jesus takes pity on a man with leprosy. “If you are willing, you can make me clean,” said the leper. “I am willing,” Jesus replied. “Be clean!” And it was so. Jesus told him to go to the priest, offer the purification sacrifices commanded in the Law of Moses, and receive permission to resume his life. Strangely, however, he also told him, “See that you don’t tell this [miracle of healing] to anyone.”

1) Notice what happened… “However, he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the matter, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places; and they came to Him from every direction.” (Mark 1:45) Jesus returned to Capernaum. This was Peter’s hometown, but Matthew (9:1) calls it Jesus’ “own city“. Capernaum had become Jesus’ headquarters and base of operations, and He may have resided with Peter as He worked in this area. Matthew’s account of this period includes a series of 9 miracles following the sermon on the mount in Matthew 8-9. These wonders spoke directly to Jesus’ power or authority.

        • After Jesus cleanses the leper mentioned earlier, Matthew tells us that He healed a centurion’s servant without ever laying eyes on him (8:5-13) He healed Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (8:14-15) – These wonders displayed Jesus power of disease and suffering, and the impact of sin on the physical body.
        • After that He calmed the seas (8:23-27); – This vividly displayed Jesus’ power of nature and the impact of sin on the creation.
        • Later, on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, He cast out demons from two men, sending them into a herd of pigs (8:28-34). This was clear proof that Jesus help power over Satan and was a preamble to Satan’s defeat at the cross & resurrection. Jesus was healing and casting out demons to such a degree that Matthew links His activity to the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53 – “He Himself took our infirmities And bore our sicknesses.” (Matt 8:17). Matthew was not attempting to connect physical healing to the effects of the cross, but rather to show that Jesus miracles were clear evidence that He was the One who was to come. But Jesus’ miracle working pointed further…
        • In Mark 2 we read the account of Jesus healing a paralyzed man in Capernaum. Read Mark 2:1-12 This is a fascinating event and there are some lessons for us here. I want to take a look at those involved in the event.

I. The Four Stretcher-Bearers: Mark 2:3 – “Then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.” Who were these 4 men? Were they hired to bring him or were they friends on a mission? We cannot ignore their part in this man’s healing.

A. They went to a lot of trouble to get this man to Jesus. What an incredible scene. Unable to get him through the door they take him to the roof (possibly via steps on the outside), and they dismantle the covering of the roof. Two-story houses were common in Palestine and it is likely that the room with the overflow crowd was on the second floor, where most visiting and socializing were done. This was no easy task.

1. I am convinced that these four were friends on a mission. They proved themselves this man’s friend in putting his needs above their own and risking the reproach of the crowd to get him to Jesus.

a. The Jews considered those with severe disabilities as being guilty of some heinous sin for which God was punishing them. As a result they often shunned them and this added a social stigma to their disability. The idea is in clear view in the words of Job’s companion, Eliphaz who asked Job, “Who ever perished being innocent?” (Job 4:7) and Bildad said to him, “If your sons sinned against Him, then He delivered them into the power of their transgression” (8:4). Even Jesus’ disciples carried this erroneous theology in their question to Jesus about the man born blind, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he should be born blind?” (John 9:1-2). People such as this man were often excluded and marginalized by society.

b. Though suffering is the result of the presence of a sin cursed world, it is not connected with the personal guilt of one’s sin.

B. “When Jesus saw their faith…” (Mark 2:5) – As this man was let down through the roof into Jesus’ presence, the Lord took note of faith. But the text says He saw “their faith”. The plural pronoun here refers not just to the paralyzed man, but must also include those who brought him.

1. What did they believe? Some conclude that these four men and perhaps the paralyzed man, had faith that Jesus could forgive his sins. As we mentioned, their theology may have connected his suffering to his personal sin. Jesus, seeing the direction of their faith, immediately responded by forgiving the man’s sin. John MacArthur comments… “Because he associated the paralysis with his sin, his first concern was for forgiveness, which to his thinking would have automatically brought healing. And although his theology may have been erroneous, he was right in believing that his first and greatest need was spiritual.

a. It seems evident that they believed that Jesus could help their friend. Jesus was the answer to His problem, so they sacrificed to bring him to Jesus. How much would I risk, and how trouble would I go through to get a person to Jesus?

II. The Paralyzed Man: As much as anyone whom Jesus healed, this man depicts helplessness. In this sense he represents all of us before God. We have been paralyzed by sin, and without Jesus I am helpless. In Matthew’s account when this sick man was brought to Jesus, Jesus said, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.” (Matt 9:2)

A. “take courage” – The ASV renders Jesus’ words as “take courage” or don’t be afraid. This man’s life had been punctuated by fear. No doubt on most days there was not much to cheer about. But Jesus dispelled fear through the reality of forgiveness. The word here is Tharseo (Thar-seh’-o) and refers to refers to subjective courage, that which is deep and genuine — in contrast to tolmao which refers to outward manifestation of boldness (gritting the teeth to help endure pain or whistling in the dark). Jesus pointed him to the complete inward elimination of fear. An unrepentant sinner is separated from God and under divine judgment. But if his sin is forgiven he no longer has reason to fear, because he is no longer under judgment. God takes the sin away. Heb 2:14-15Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

1. “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us,” David declared (Ps 103:12).

2. When missionaries in northern Alaska were translating the Bible into the language of the Eskimos, they discovered there was no word in that language for forgiveness. After much patient listening, however, they discovered a word that means, “not being able to think about it anymore.” That word was used throughout the translation to represent forgiveness, because God’s promise to repentant sinners is, “I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer 31:34).

3. Jesus forgave His sin first: What does this teach us? The declaration of Jesus had profound implications:

            • It was an assertion of his deity, the convictions of all ages sustaining the view that “only God” can forgive sins.
            • It was an indication that he had read the heart of the man & was willing to act on what He saw.
            • It proved that Jesus understood the man’s greater need as forgiveness. It would seem that this man’s most obvious problem was his invalid legs, but Jesus saw deeper. He knows what our real problem is. 1 Tim 1:14-1514 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. 15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. Paul says that sin caused the creation itself to be “subjected to futility” – it places meaninglessness on all that we do. It is a “bondage of corruption” that only God can deliver us from. (Rom. 8:20-21)

4. The most distinctive message of Christianity is the reality that sin can be forgiven. That is the heart and lifeblood of the gospel, that men can be freed from sin and its consequences. Gospel preaching directs men and women to the reality of their guilt and through the work of Christ who gives them real hope.

5. Jesus connects the healing of physical disease with the forgiveness of sins in this event. Jesus had displayed his power over disease many times. Why would they doubt His power over sin? Sin and suffering go together. If suffering is to end, sin must be dealt with. We treat symptoms, Jesus solves the problem.

6. The scribes did not miss the point. They immediately began “reasoning in their hearts” that Jesus had just spoken blasphemy because only God can forgive sins. They were right about that. That truth is precisely why Jesus words and actions here work together. Jesus was God, and what was about to happen was the irrefutable evidence.

B. which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? (Jesus reads their hearts) Jesus’ rhetorical question is an interesting one. The question itself is an item to interpret. Is one easier of these than the other?

1. There is a sense in which we could say that forgiving sins is “easier to say” because it does not demand any empirical evidence that it has taken place. Whereas if you say get up and walk, the proof of you power (or lack thereof) will be made immediately evident.

2. There is also a sense in which both things are equally impossible for men and both are as equally possible for God. The point Jesus may have been making here was that no one but God could either heal disease with a word or could forgive sins, and He can do both with the same divine ease.

            • John MacArthur writes“Even their own distorted theology should have led the scribes and Pharisees to believe in Jesus’ divinity. If, as they believed, sickness and disease were the consequences of sin, then removing disease would be connected to dealing with the sin that caused it. In their thinking, all healing of disease would have to involve at least some forgiveness of sin — which by their own declaration only God can grant. They were trapped in their own theology and logic.” Certainly Jesus opponents were left speechless because the proof of one becomes the proof of the other.

C. “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” (Mark 2:10-11) In order to show His power to forgive sins – which they could not see, He would cause a paralyzed man to carry his bed home by himself – which they could see and could not deny. You have no reason to doubt the spiritual power and promises of God.

D. vs. 12 – Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”

        • The miracle was wrought upon the Savior’s word of command. Typical of all Jesus’ miracles, this one, like all the others, was complete and immediate, accomplished by a word, without difficulty or physical assistance. Jesus made it look easy! It was much more trouble for his friends to get him there than it was for Jesus to heal him! The blood of Jesus covers sins without problem or reservation. He more than provides. Notice again Paul’s words about his own forgiveness in 1 Tim 1:13-143 although I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14 And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.
        • Luke says that the crowd was “filled with fear“. The word for fear is phobos (fob’-os). This word is used extensively in the scriptures. Most often if refers to reverence for God. It is used to describe the reaction of the disciples when they saw Jesus walking on the water (Matt 14:26); the reactions of the people after the raising of the widow’s son at Nain (Luke 7:16) and after the healing of the demoniacs at Gerasa (Luke 8:37). It is used to describe Zacharias’s response to the appearance of the angel (Luke 1:12) and the spectators’ response when he regained his speech (v 65). It is used of the shepherds when they heard the angels sing (Luke 2:9), of the guards at the garden tomb when the angels rolled the stone away (Matt 28:2-4), and of the women after they visited the empty tomb (v 8). It is used to describe the feelings of the people who witnessed the signs and wonders of Pentecost (Acts 2:43). It is used of the response of the people to the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:5, 11) and to the demons overpowering the unbelieving sons of Sceva who tried to cast the demons out in Jesus’ name (19:16-17). In the synoptic gospels and Acts the term is never used to speak of anything other than the feeling in a person’s heart when he is confronted with divine power.
        • It is the substance out of which obedience and right living flows. Acts 9:31Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied. Phil 2:12therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; Eph 5:20-21giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.
        • We never saw anything like this! … Have you? The crowd glorified God, who had given such authority to men. We do not know how much the crowd knew about Jesus, but they could not deny what he just did, and they knew the power came from God, and that He had given such authority to men, since Jesus was obviously a man. Ironically, the truth of the miracle was that Jesus was not just a man, He was also God.

Conclusion: Do you have faith in Jesus’ power to forgive sins? Which is easier to say…? Jesus has given clear evidence of His power over sin (both it is consequences (healing the body) and its guilt (paying the penalty on the cross.) Will you come to Him today?