The Diagnosis of the Great Physician, Mark 2:1-12 Psalm 130
As most of you know, I’ve been sick for the last couple of weeks. It became pretty obvious to everyone who heard me and saw me, that I had some sort of a virus or something. Just to be careful, I took a Covid test which came back negative. But after about 8 days or so though I decided maybe I should see the doctor and see if there was something they could do for me to help me get better.
I think we tend to give too much credit sometimes to doctors. The problem is that they are limited in what they can see. They look in your mouth, maybe they can see a couple of inches down your throat, look up your nose, in your ears, but basically they have to try to figure out from the outside what’s going on inside. From their observance of you externally, they try to make a diagnosis of what’s going on inside, and then make a prescription to hopefully help you.
My Doctor determined after all the looking, and prodding, and taking deep breaths, she said I was sick and I would have to let it run it’s course. She did give me an anitbiotic, but said it might not help because it may be viral and not biological. What we all really want though is a doctor who can somehow look past the external, and look inside and make the correct diagnosis, find the root of the problem and address that, cure that.
We sometimes hear Jesus referred to as the Great Physician. While it was evident that He was able to heal from any kind of illness or disease, that was not really the purpose for why He came to earth. Back in the last chapter, we read that He had been healing the whole town until late at night. And early in the morning, the disciples look for Him and He’s no where to be found. That’s not logical from a ministry point of view. Everybody is coming to hear you, to see you, and you disappear. You want to keep it going, build on the momentum. Bigger is better, you know.
When they finally found Him and told Him that everyone was looking for Him, He said something very strange; ““Let us go somewhere else to the towns nearby, so that I may preach there also; for that is what I came for.” Jesus didn’t come to heal the world of disease, but to preach the gospel of salvation. That was His purpose. Healing, in fact, was sometimes an impediment to His mission. Mark goes on to say that the news about His healing spread so much that He could no longer go into a city, but He had to stay out in the wilderness.
Well, eventually He comes back home to Capernaum. He has a house there, which we don’t know if He owned it or borrowed it, or rented it. But for a time He lived there and He had come back home from perhaps many days of preaching in the wilderness. Vs 1,” When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them.”
Once people heard that Jesus was home, they started flocking to His house. The crowd might have been as many as a couple of hundred people or more either in the house, or trying to get in, standing in front of windows, and doors. It’s interesting to think that there were not only HIs disciples in the crowd, but some that were His critics. Luke tells us that the scribes and Pharisees made up some of the crowd. So the religious men of the city came in to try to find fault with what He was doing and saying.
But Jesus is preaching the word to them. That’s what He came to do, and He is doing it right in His own house to whoever came to Him, for whatever reason they had come. His priority is to preach the word, the gospel of salvation. It’s important that we as a church keep our priorities right. We don’t let our ministry receive it’s priorities from the world. I’m often asked if we could participate in this cause or that cause, or join this ministry or that. And sometimes it’s not that these causes don’t have merit, but that is not what we are called to do. We are called to preach the gospel of salvation. That’s our priority. And I don’t want to get sidetracked by other peoples political or social agendas that they try to use the church to advance. Jesus was doing what He came to do, preach the word, the gospel of the kingdom.
But while that is going on, there is a small group of men who are determined, or you might even say, desperate, to get their friend to Jesus. But the crowd is so thick outside the house they can’t even get close. Vs3 “And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying.”
I said these men were desperate. And it’s obvious that they were. They weren’t going to let anyone stop them from getting their friend to Jesus. There is no indication in the scripture of what had caused this man’s paralysis. But if I had to guess it was due to an accident. Most paralytics were resigned to being beggars on the street for the rest of their lives. They lived in the worst sort of squalor and poverty. This man still had friends willing to do this for him, which to me indicates that it was something that happened fairly recently, like an accident had caused it.
It really doesn’t matter how it happened. But to the Jews, such a calamity was an indication of God’s judgement against some great sin of that person. And maybe it’s possible that this man did have some sin that he thought was the reason that he had contracted this disease, or had this accident. Who knows, really? And we are not told.
But for him and for his friends, there is a desperation born out of the knowledge that there is no other hope for this man. He has a life sentence, really a death sentence upon him that can never be changed unless they can get Jesus to see him. This may be this man’s only chance to ever see Jesus, and they are going to do everything possible to get to Him. So unable to enter through a door, they climb onto the roof of the house, and right in the middle of Jesus’s sermon, they start tearing up the shingles to make a hole big enough to let down their friend.
It would be good to have friends like that, wouldn’t it? Friends willing to risk their lives for you, friends who want what’s best for you, even if it means that they have to do something crazy. Jesus told us that we are to love our neighbor as ourself. That’s what it means to be a friend of someone. I wonder how good of a friend are we to others? How much do we love our neighbor? How willing are we to do whatever is necessary to see their greatest need met? How desperate are we to take our friends to Jesus? Or do we really care as much as we would like people to think. Do you recognize that Jesus is the only hope for your friends? That they have the sentence of death upon themselves and they are without hope, unless you can get them to Jesus?
Well, they practically destroy Jesus’ house, and completely interrupt His message, but they get their friend lowered down in front of Jesus. They aren’t recorded as asking for anything. The paralytic isn’t recorded as saying anything either. I guess everyone figures this is self explanatory. It’s pretty obvious what the problem is, and Jesus is the healer. Nothing really needs to be said.
But Jesus is the Great Physician. And He is able to look past the outward appearance of things and see the root of the problem. And the greatest need this man has is he needs to be forgiven. He needs salvation. So it says in vs5 “And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’”
It’s unclear from the text whether Jesus is seeing the faith of the friends, or the faith of the paralytic and his friends. I have to assume it is the faith of the paralytic and his friends. What was their faith? I suppose it has to be that Jesus is the Son of God, that He is able to save, to heal, to do miracles because He is the Son of God.
But it’s a mistake to think that faith is required for God to heal. When God raised Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus did not have faith that Jesus could give him life. Lazarus was dead. When Jesus healed many people, they weren’t always even in His presence. He was acting on someone else’s bequest. The demon possessed man didn’t have faith, and yet Jesus healed him.
But to be saved requires faith. Jesus saved this man. His biggest problem was that he was a sinner, with the condemnation of death upon him. All disease, all illness, death, is all ultimately the result of sin. Whether this man lived as a paralytic or not for a few more years was nothing in comparison to the eternal destiny of his soul. And Jesus looked into his soul and saw this man’s greatest need, and He forgave him of his sins. He gave him the greatest blessing, that of being made right with God. And that took away the curse of sin, so that he received eternal life.
This man’s faith was incomplete, perhaps. He had not enough information to believe everything that there was to know about Christ. But there is another component of salvation in addition to faith, and that is the sovereign grace of God. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, [it is] the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” I think the argument can be made that it is by the grace of God that you are given saving faith. All of salvation is of God. And Jesus sovereignly bestowed the grace of God upon this man, giving him faith, forgiving him of his sin, and giving him eternal life. This was the purpose given by the angels to Jesus being born into this world, who said in Matthew 1:21, “you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
Well, this great miracle of salvation which Jesus does here doesn’t exactly bring the house down, no pun intended. I can almost see people in attendance scratching their heads, wondering how could Jesus have missed the obviously most important need right in front of Him? But among the crowd are His critics. And they seize upon what Jesus said in some sort of self righteous indignation.
Vs. 6 “But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?’” Well, they were actually correct in their theology. They are absolutely right. Only God can forgive sins. Because sin is against God, He is the one offended, and only He can expunge it, forgive it, do away with it.
What they are incorrect in is their reasoning. They reason that Jesus cannot be God. He doesn’t come with the right education, the right pedigree. He’s not part of their clique. He actually interferes with their agenda. And so since they have already discounted any possibility that Jesus is God, they assume then that what Jesus says is blasphemous. He is claiming to be able to forgive sins, which is the provenance of God only, and that, in their minds is impossible. In fact, to take it a step further, they won’t let Jesus be God.
Vs8 “Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?” Notice something here. They had not said anything. He is able to know their thoughts without them saying anything. If they had been willing to consider it, this is yet another indication that He is God. God knows the secrets of the heart. The Lord said to Samuel in 1 Sam. 16:7, “God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”
But unfortunately, the scribes had their eyes blinded to that as well. Jesus continues in vs9 “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–He said to the paralytic, I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”
Notice first of all the strange question Jesus asks of them. Having read their thoughts, that they were accusing Him of blasphemy because He claimed to do what only God could do, He asks, “”Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’?
Well, to our minds, it’s easier to say “your sins are forgiven” because no one can see whether or not that is true. To say “get up and walk” is something that they could see the result of. And so that is harder.
But I think Jesus is saying that it’s actually harder to forgive sins than it is to heal a body. For in God’s justice system, sin is not merely winked away. In order for God to forgive us of our sin, He had to exact justice upon someone who would bear the penalty for our sin. The penalty for sin had to be paid, in order that the sin might be forgiven.
So which was easier for Jesus? To accomplish atonement for the sins of the world so that man might be forgiven, or to simply restore the man’s nervous and muscle system back to working order. I would suggest the task of redemption was tremendously more difficult. It literally broke the world when Jesus died on the cross. Heaven and earth ground to a stop, the lights went out, heaven went dark, hell broke open, graves were opened, the curse under which the whole world was bound was broken. The world was turned upside down. Oh yeah, redemption was much harder. But the Pharisees could hardly have known that. They couldn’t see the spiritual realm. They only could see the external, the temporal, the physical realm.
So because they were too blind to see, Jesus said, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”–He said to the paralytic, I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.”
This is all the evidence you need? Fine. I’ll give it to you. “So that you will know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Do you think that convinced them? No, I doubt it. The scripture shows that every evidence Jesus gave as to who He was only served to harden their hearts, to make them hate Him more. They began soon after this to plan to put Him to death. That was their answer to His evidence.
So the paralytic got up and rolled up his pallet and walked out in the midst of everyone. And everyone was amazed. But some at least must have believed in who He was because Mark say that they were glorifying God. Unfortunately, I have to imagine most were glorifying God because the paralytic was able to walk, not because the paralytics’s sins were forgiven. I hate to sound cynical, but I think that was the way it was for the most part, and it is born out in scripture. Most people only seem to appreciate what God can do for them in the physical realm. They don’t care that much about the spiritual.
I’m reminded of a pastor’s conference I was invited to attend years ago that was held by a large denomination. They are a little more charismatic than what I prefer and so I no longer attend that conference anymore. But one time we were listening to a missionary give a report of taking the gospel to a part of Africa, I believe, that had not heard the gospel before. At every village, he said, they would preach the gospel and then the whole village would get saved and be baptized. And this happened at one village after another. They were just very receptive to the gospel. But at one village as they were baptizing the new converts, he said a woman began to wail and cry and they discovered that her baby had just died at that moment. She brought the baby to the missionary, and as she handed the baby to him while I believe he was still in the water, the child came back to life. And immediately the men in attendance at the conference jumped to their feet and gave a standing ovation for this baby being brought back to life.
I was really struck by that. A thousand pastors are there listening to accounts of one village after another coming to salvation in Jesus Christ, and there is hardly the grunt of an amen from the crowd. But when a baby is supposedly brought back to life, then there is a standing ovation. I think its human nature to be more concerned about the physical than the spiritual. I suppose that is why the Lord sometimes lets us experience sickness and death and heartache in the physical so that we might be brought to think about the spiritual.
Because the greatest problem of our lives is not our financial situation, it’s not our health, it’s not how soon we will die, or whether we have a loving wife or husband in this life. The greatest problem is the problem of sin. The disease of sin. There is a cure for sin. And you need that cure. All sickness and death and all the world’s problems are the result ultimately of the curse of sin. But Jesus became cursed for us, He paid the penalty, He paid the price, that we might be forgiven of our sins and receive new life. The Great Physician has examined you today and diagnosed your greatest problem. He has the prescription to save you. I hope that you are not blinded today to the reality that Jesus is the Son of God, who came to save the world from their sins. If you trust in Him as your Lord and Savior, He will forgive your sins, and cleanse you from all unrighteousness, that you might have new life in Him. That is your greatest need, and Jesus is the answer. Turn to Him and receive forgiveness of your sins, and new life through Him.