Mark 2:1-12, The Capernaum Caper by CHARLIE TAYLOR
Around about 27 A.D. there was quite a crime committed in the small seaside town of Capernaum located on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee. Included in the charges were breaking and entering, destruction of private property, and vandalism. We can read about this in Mark 2:1-12. Earlier in Mark 1:21-34, Jesus had made His base of operations in His Galilean ministry at Capernaum. Jesus stayed there at the house of Simon Peter, and in Mark 1:32-34 we read that Jesus had large crowds coming to Peter’s house to see and experience the many miracles that Jesus was doing. Jesus had left there to go throughout the Galilee teaching and healing, but in Mark 2, Jesus came back to Peter’s house in Capernaum. It wasn’t long before the whole town learned of His arrival and showed up at His door. Literally everyone needed healing of some sort, but Jesus would make it clear that healing and feeding were the means, not the ends of His ministry. What would you think if you were sick and went to the doctor and he said “Your sins are forgiven”? I’m sure you would be shocked and surprised, but that is exactly what Jesus did in Mark 2, faced with a paralyzed man who wanted healing, Jesus said, “My son, your sins are forgiven.”
Peter’s house was packed with people who wanted to see Jesus, and I’m sure the open doors and windows were even so full no one else could get in. Nevertheless, four men carrying a paralytic on a pallet were so determined to get Him in front of Jesus to be healed that they destroyed the roof of the house by digging a huge hole to lower the paralytic to Jesus. Can you even imagine the mess they made and what the people in the house yelled as all the debris from the ceiling rained down on them? Better still what did the owner of the house think as he saw his roof and ceiling destroyed? I wonder if he sent for the local gendarmes? Jesus, on the other hand, was quite impressed with the perseverance of the men who made the hole and lowered the paralytic down to Him. The text says that Jesus was impressed by their faith and that caused Him to respond positively to them. Like so many times in the Gospel stories, His disciples and the crowd were angry and objecting, while Jesus is responding favorably. Then, to everyone’s amazement, instead of healing the guy, Jesus forgave the guy’s sins. Who does this kind of stuff? Who is this guy—I thought only God could forgive sins! A hush fell over the surprised crowd, and then the story takes a pivot. Up until now, everyone had a favorable rating of Jesus and was seeking Him, but now for the first time a group of religious leaders called the scribes and Pharisees will object to Jesus, and Jesus will confront them with His deity.
The Forgiveness of God
Mark 2 emphasizes the most necessary part of Jesus’ deity, which is the authority to forgive sins—that is the emphasis in this story. Most people know the story from the point of view of the healing miracle, but clearly the emphasis is on Jesus’ authority as God to forgive sins. Forgiveness is mankind’s greatest need, and that is primarily what Jesus came to accomplish. The people in the stories, as well as professing Christians today all seem to think that Jesus came to fix all their problems in this temporal fallen world like: illness, social injustice, political issues, financial issues, and relationship problems. Nevertheless, Jesus gave His purpose statement in Mark 10:45, “to give His life a ransom for many”. Jesus came into the world to atone for sins, and He accomplished this as our vicarious sacrifice on the cross. It’s true that Jesus healed people, but He did not cure or rid the world of diseases. Jesus fed the 5000, but He left a significant part of the world homeless and hungry. Jesus gave to the poor, but He did nothing about world poverty. All those problems remain after the crucifixion, but the sins of all those who believe are forgiven completely and forever. Therefore God’s forgiveness is the focal point of the Gospel. Presented with the obvious physical need of the paralytic, Jesus responded by forgiving the man’s sins, which was his real problem. Jesus spoke first to the man’s spiritual need, and then He proved His authority to forgive by healing the man’s physical need. Someone might ask, “How did Jesus know he had sins to be forgiven?” First of all, as God, Jesus is omniscient and knows the heart of all people, but also the Scripture is clear that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom.3:23).
Mark 2:1-5, Willing to Take the Risk
Jesus was inside Peter’s house teaching the Word of God to a packed house. The Son of God came from heaven with the Word of God, and the people were always amazed at the depth of His teaching and the authority He taught with. Four determined men brought a paralytic man on a pallet in hopes that Jesus would heal him, but the house was full and the doors and windows were also blocked with people. Most people would consider that a barrier, an impenetrable roadblock, but not these guys. After surveying where Jesus was in the house, they took the paralytic up on the roof. The typical house in Capernaum had a flat roof with narrow stairs going up so people could go up there and get a breeze at night. The roof would have been constructed with wooden beams laid and poles crossing the beams. Then they overlaid a matting of branches and dried mud, and finally it was all covered with tiles. Luke’s account tells us the men pried up the tiles and dug a large hole in the ceiling. They even may have dug several holes in order to find Jesus. Can you even imagine the mess they made with all the dust and debris falling in on the crowd below? I’m guessing the people inside had some four letter words for those guys on the roof. We can ask ourselves—If you were the owner would you be more interested in your home being destroyed or helping the guys on the roof? I would probably dial 911 and have these guys locked up until they paid the damages. Imagine the risk these four men took to destroy someone’s house, commit a crime, and enrage the crowd below. I think their answer would have been, “LOCK ME UP, FINE ME, PUNCH ME OUT, BUT WE ARE BRINGING HIM TO JESUS!” The last time I taught this and asked my audience if they would take the risk, a guy came up and said, “I’d take the risk and I’d be willing to destroy your house as well!”
What motivated them to overcome the risks? Mark 2:5 tells us it was their faith in Jesus, and after seeing their faith, Jesus honored it by doing the unexpected—He said “My son your sins are forgiven”. At this point I will ask the reader a true or false question—God may or may not heal your physical problem, but He absolutely will forgive you if you have faith. The answer is TRUE. My next question is what is the forgiveness of God, or how is it distinguished from human forgiveness? Our human forgiveness just means to let it go, and may not include reconciliation. Jesus’ forgiveness meant the Law and justice were satisfied and sins could no longer be held against you. Secondly our guilt is removed and replaced by His righteousness. And thirdly there is a full reconciliation between God and those who believe.
Mark 2:6-11, Provoking the Pharisees
Knowing that the scribes and Pharisees were there, Jesus made a calculated provocative statement. Knowing that the Pharisees were looking for an opportunity to discredit Him, Jesus served it up. After He forgave the mans sins, Jesus knew what the scribes and Pharisees were thinking, and before they could even accuse Him of blasphemy, Jesus answered them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your heart?” Blasphemy in this case was the act of a human claiming to be God, and it was a serious charge punishable by death (Leviticus 24:16). The religious leaders had asked themselves “Who but God can forgive sins”. They were correct that only God can forgive sins, but incorrect that Jesus committed blasphemy. Jesus demonstrated His deity by: 1. Knowing their thoughts, 2. Confirming that only God can forgive sins, and 3. Physically demonstrating His authority by also healing the man’s legs. I love the way Jesus answered their question with a question, “Which is easier to say…?”, because in this way He lets them solve their problem.
Anyone can just say “Your sins are forgiven”, but only the power of God can heal a paralyzed man. In this way Jesus verified the moral miracle of forgiveness by the physical miracle of healing. In verse 10, Jesus made the connection clear by saying to the Pharisees, “But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”, and then Jesus commanded the paralytic to get up and walk. Jesus certainly had compassion, but it seems there was always a higher purpose to His miracles. This miracle proved Jesus’ deity and that He had the authority to forgive sins unto eternal life. Did the crowd get the message? Mark 2:12 records for us the response of the crowd, “they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying We have never seen anything like this”.
Principles: 1. God alone forgives sin so Jesus is God, 2. Jesus came primarily to deal with man’s sin problem. Religion tries to tell you He was about good deeds, social ills, giving health and prosperity, but NO—Jesus came so that we might be forgiven. The essence of Christianity is reconciliation with God, 3. These miracles announce what the future will offer in the Kingdom of God—a world w/o sin, a world restored to wholeness.
Conclusion—What About the Mess?
I still feel bad for Peter’s family left with a destroyed house. I feel better after reading about a dream Martin Luther had about 500 years ago. Luther’s house was a huge mess and Jesus was coming to visit. Luther tried to clean it up, but he couldn’t. When Jesus came, Luther met Him at the door and apologized, but when Jesus came into the house, it was clean with everything in its proper place!