Authority to Forgive

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One of the challenges with any kind of religious activities that are observed weekly is that we can easily fall into the rhythm and habit and fail to think about what those things mean. This is a concern that many people have about the Lord’s table.
Churches in our tradition usually observe the Lord’s table on a monthly basis, but there are some that only observe it quarterly, and others who observe it annually. The argument against a more frequent observance is usually something along the lines of “I think it would just become too routine and it would lose its specialness”
There is some truth to this. Anything you do more regularly than not you run the risk of losing the “specialness” of the activity. My usual reply to those kinds of arguments is to ask “do you only sing songs once a month? do you only preach a sermon once a month? Aren’t you afraid of those things losing their specialness, too?”
The reality is that our time of corporate singing and time in the Word certainly can become routine and habitual to many and the moment can lose its specialness....but who ever said we needed to pursue specialness?
I’m not worried about losing specialness. What is of great concern is losing intentionality.
We can maintain a weekly observance of the Lord’s table, preaching, singing, prayer, etc. but if we simply go through motions and fail to be intentional about what we are doing, that’s where the real danger lies.
This can be true not only of practices that we keep, but words that we use. There are many words that Bible uses to express what we have in Christ. Redemption. Forgiveness. Reconciliation.
Sometimes we can use a word so much that we run the risk of losing intentionality with how we use it. I can say the word Gospel, Christ, Repent, Believe, or any number of words that we are so used to hearing, and we can simply nod our heads or even say “Amen!” and yet the meaning of those words doesn’t sink in, or we fail to be intentional about how we use those words or listen how others use them.
That is a mistake I don’t want us to make in our text today. Today’s text contains a familiar story. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the joke “four friends that raised the roof”. But this story isn’t about the friends. It really isn’t even about the man who was healed. It isn’t about the scribes or the crowd. This is a story about Jesus and his authority. But if Jesus doesn’t have authority in the area that this text reveals today, then , then his authority over all those other things we’ve already seen doesn’t really matter as much, if at all, and are all in serious trouble.
Let’s begin to read our text for today.
Mark 2:1–4 ESV
1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.
Jesus returns to Capernaum. This city seems to be like “home base” for Jesus and his ministry. He will often return here before traveling again.
In some ways, the scene picks up where things were left off in chapter one. Chapter one ends with the crowds coming to Jesus from every quarter.
Now he returns home and its more of the same. Things are so crowded that there was no room even at the door for someone to enter in.
This is a problem for those bringing the paralytic man. Its hard to get in and out with a stretcher. So they go for the roof.
>>>Explain the house situation. Flat roof. Exterior steps. Used for entertaining. Large beams, smaller branches, mud and lime to seal it off. Dig through the roof to lower man down
Now see Jesus’ response:
Mark 2:5 ESV
5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
This is a fascinating verse for several reasons.
Jesus doesn’t address his physical condition, only his sins.
Jesus’s words are in response to the faith of his friends.
God uses individuals with faith to bring people to Jesus. In many ways, every time we have a Gospel conversation we are like individuals carrying a paralytic on a stretcher to Jesus.
When you share your faith, do you believe that the Gospel is powerful enough to have its effect.
Does a lack of this kind of faith lead you to refrain from sharing the Gospel?
Well this man, he gets his sins forgiven. Now, this is another one of those words that we are so used to that we can gloss over that detail. In reality, this statement from Christ should have made us sit up straight in our chairs.
That’s the effect it had on the Scribes.
Mark 2:6–7 ESV
6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
The scribes:
i. Well respected religious leaders
ii. Study, transcribe, copy, commentate on the Law. They were legal experts and often provided interpretations on the Law were needed.
iii. And the bad end of a comparison in Mark 1:22. That’s going to sting.
b. Jesus’ words invoke the charge of blasphemy
i. What’s the answer? Who can forgive sins but God? No one!
ii. A mere human can say it, but doesn’t make it true.
iii. Scribes are right. This would be a blasphemous statement. Unless….
iv. Jesus knew their thoughts because *spoiler alert* He’s God!
Look at Jesus’ response.
Mark 2:8–9 ESV
8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?
a. The Question
i. Which is easier to say? Sins forgiven or stand up and walk?
ii. Sins forgiven. They may never know if you’re being truthful until they die.
iii. Harder to say walk because if they don’t you will look like a fool.
Mark 2:10–12 ESV
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 say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
b. The Action
i. Talk about a drop the mic moment right there.
ii. He does not stop at the easier saying
iii. Jesus tells the man to walk and he does!
iv. The people are amazed, and rightfully so.
v. But as amazing as this healing is, it isn’t the main point. Jesus has already demonstrated his power over physical maladies. He made Peter’s mother-in-law well, healed a leper, cast our demons, and so many other things. So if we miss what Jesus said right here, we miss the point of this entire section.
vi. The main point is found in the words “so that you may know that the Son of Man” That’s Jesus “has power/authority on earth to forgive sins” That’s the main point.
vii. The healing was intended to be proof that Jesus wasn’t blaspheming.
viii. Proof that Jesus is God in human flesh with real, genuine authority and power to forgive sins.
V. Our response
a. Now let’s think on the significance of what was just said.
i. Religious leaders sought to earn favor with God through the Law.
ii. Jesus just offered immediate forgiveness.
iii. What is such common terminology in our churches today was a radical concept.
iv. We are so used to this idea of forgiveness that I think it loses some of it’s wonder for us today, so let’s remind ourselves of what is at stake here.
b. Our sins make us worthy of hell
i. No matter how small we think they are.
ii. I don’t know about you, but I’m a terrible sinner. Certificate.
1. I think evil thoughts, I do evil things, I say evil words.
iii. Even if I was the best, James 2:10 whoever keeps the whole law but offends at just one point, it’s as good as breaking the whole law! Still a law-breaker!
iv. But Jesus Christ has authority to forgive sins
Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can understand it?”
v. Col 2:14 says that our sins stand as a certificate of debt that is against us and hostile and opposed to us. This certificate of debt lists all our sins and cries out “Guilty, guilty, guilty”
But Jesus Christ has the authority on earth to forgive sins!
vi. Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God
vii. Romans 6:23 the wages, or the payment or penalty of my sin is death!
ix. Revelation 21:8 says “But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars—their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”
x. But Jesus Christ has authority on earth to forgive sins!
xi. Though I deserve hellfire for my sins, and I have this certificate of debt that cries out against me, it opposes me, it is hostile to me, Jesus Christ has the authority to forgive my sins! He takes this certificate of debt and nails it to the cross and he declares, IT IS FINISHED. Paid in Full.
xii. This is so important for us to remember! Are you encouraged by this truth? For the Christian this should cause us to shout and sing with the Psalmist when he says “Rejoice and be glad in the God of your salvation!”
d. Processing. How are you processing this today?
There are different ways that we might respond to truth such as this.
i. You might think “I don’t need my sins forgiven. I will take care of it myself.” You might remember several years ago during the 2016 presidential campaign that President Trump said he had never asked God for forgiveness and didn’t feel the need to. Whatever anyone thinks of his politics, that is a very concerning statement, and yet many live with that same kind of hubris. Too many passages flatly contradict that claim. Everyone needs forgiveness, and our sins cannot be removed apart from Jesus Christ.
ii. Maybe you think “My sins are too great to be forgiven” The man in Mark 2 was a paralytic. He couldn’t have had many sins. But mine are far greater. Well, stick around for another week. the very next passage has Jesus offering the call of discipleship to a tax collector, a man who would have the reputation of cheating, exploiting his own countrymen, and just an all around sleaze bag. You sins are not to great to be forgiven.
iii. Maybe you’re here and you’ve already trusted Christ. It’s sadly ironic that many people who would have a biblically correct understanding of the truth of the Gospel, need for forgiveness, and profession of faith in Christ, that we can walk around like we’ve got life all figured out. Many churches have the reputation of being a prideful church filled with people who think they are better than everyone else. This is so sadly ironic because the Gospel should humble us. We need God’s grace, not just for salvation, but every day.
So if you are hearing my voice today and have not trusted in Christ, I hope and pray that you would do so. Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, and its because of what he accomplished on the cross.
iv. If you are here and you are already a Christian, I hope you are encouraged by this reality. I hope you can see yourself in truth and what the great grace of our God has brought about by saving you.
v. And finally, remember that Jesus responded to the paralytic based on the friends faith. I hope that you are encouraged and emboldened to share this message of forgiveness with others. There is no greater message! Let’s believe it, Thank God for it, and proclaim it. Let’s Pray
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