The Deeper Healing of the Servant King – Mark 2:1-12
We have been following the Servant King in the book of Mark. He’s been on mission. It’s been action packed, like an episode of 24. We will be going verse-by-verse in the book of Mark, but in about three weeks or so, we’ll stop at Mark 3 and jump to Mark 14. The reason is to prepare us for Good Friday and Easter. We will be in Mark 14-16 all the way to Easter and return and pick it up again in Mark 3.
As we pick it up in Mark 2, we find that the Servant King’s authority is questioned by the scribes. They are mini-self sovereigns who refuse to get off the throne of their own lives. This Servant King has all authority, but He uses it not to lord it over people, but to serve them and He will continue to do this all the way to the cross. And the deeper you embrace the Servant King’s service to you and I on the cross, the quicker we will WANT to (not have to) come under this King’s authority to obey and serve Him. Let’s explore that today by looking at three characters in the story: the four friends, the paralytic, and Jesus. First of all:
I. The roof-bursting determination of friends (vv.1-4)
Capernaum, as we said last week, is the town where Jesus did a lot of ministry. Unfortunately they saw a lot of wonders and signs, heard a lot of teaching, but never responded (Matt. 11:23). It seems also in v. 1, he was “at home.” We don’t know if this is a reference to Peter’s house or Peter’s own mother-in-law’s house or if it’s Jesus’ house.
Jesus is popular and there is a crowd once again. Crowds play an important role in the Gospel of Mark. Mark refers to crowds about 40x before chapter 10! However, they are never seen a measure of success. They are often fickle, passive, ambivalent or even hostile to Jesus and here we find they obstruct people from coming to Jesus. They don’t want Jesus or a Savior, they want relief from their problems.
Notice Jesus is “preaching the word” to them. As usual, Jesus is preaching repentance and believing in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). The Servant King is here! Get off the throne of your lives being ruled by bad masters and come under His authority. The Gospel! May we never tire of preaching and hearing the Gospel. I was at a conference a couple of weeks ago and a believer came up to me and said, “We can never get enough the Gospel!” And I’ll preach ten steps to a happy life when I run out of Gospel, which doesn’t look like it will anytime soon!
The place is packed. People have come from just about everywhere with every kind of need. People are jamming the doorways. Kids are sitting in the windows. Others are peeking over their shoulders. The capacity of the average Capernaum home may have allowed only about fifty persons standing close together. Latecomers are wedged into the entrance, standing on tiptoes. You have seekers needing healing or some sort of physical relief, you have spectators watching the show and you also have spies, the scribes sitting there waiting for Jesus to make a mistake.
Here come four friends carrying a mat. Maybe they were family, we don’t know. On the mat is their friend or relative who is paralyzed. Many beds were mats, so they probably just lifted him up from his bed where he would lie day and night. We don’t know how he became paralyzed or how long he’s been that way, but he was helpless, unable to walk.
Perhaps they tried to wedge their way in, but it’s a small house and you have a wall of flesh that is not going to let anything get through. Do they try to get in or give up? One of the friends says, “Hey, what about the stairs? The stairs that lead to the roof?” The sloping flat roof in those days consisted of wooden cross beams (usually made from trees, Isa. 9:10) overlaid with a matting of reeds, palm branches, and dried mud (see Ps. 129:6)…One could then dig into the earthen roof without causing irreparable damage. This is why we don’t hear the owner complaining (or it’s not recorded). All told, the roof was about two feet thick.
So they get to the roof and literally, “unroofed the roof.” With their adrenaline pumping, they begin burrowing into the roof like an animal, pulling back the straw covered with mud and making a hole to lower their friend, perhaps with sashes of some kind. Debris is falling everywhere and the scribes are shaking the dirt from their robes and the people are in shock as the paralytic man lies in front of Jesus.
I love these guys! This is a picture of people on mission. Pastor Ray Ortlund says, “How many more spiritually paralyzed people in this poor world would get to Jesus if Christians would unite together in their loving work?” What roof-bursting determination from these friends! As I was thinking about these four men, I thought this is a good picture of what our four small groups are aught to be! Small groups are where a lot of ministry takes place. I am so thankful for all our leaders! I want to highlight a few qualities in these men and think about it in light of our small groups. First,
a) Unstoppable labor of love
They don’t get to the door and see it packed and leave. They’re going to get this guy to Jesus somehow. Ministry can easily be turned into tasks and you can serve without love. You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving. I can get lazy and find a million excuses to be self-absorbed. Selfishness is the enemy of love, when I don’t have time to hold the edge of the mat to carry anyone to Jesus. Busyness means you have a crowded schedule. Jesus was busy, but He was never hurried. Hurriedness means you have a crowded heart. Martha in Luke 10 is hurried and when that happens, the Gospel gets minimized and self gets maximized. Discouragement, disillusionment, a demanding, ungrateful spirit and doubt all come in succession as a result.
It must have been hard work to get this guy to Jesus. There was blood, sweat and tears. This is anti-consumerism here. They are not in it for themselves. We need people in church to drop their shopping carts, as I read this week, and pick up a shovel. I am thankful to those of you who have given up your rights and needs for the sake of this ministry!
Usually the primary reason I burn out and get drained is a lack of preaching the Gospel to myself. Robert Murray McCheyne says, “No amount of activity in the King’s service will make up for the neglect of the King Himself.” Pastor Tommy Nelson adds, “If your output exceeds your input, your upkeep will become your downfall.” The bigger your gospel: The gentler your heart; the quicker your repentances; the fewer your gripes; the more your thanks.
b) Humble unity
Imagine if one of the four guys was 6’4” and the other was 5’2” and the third and fourth were 5’10.” There will have to be some adjustment by them. One might have to bend down. The other might have to stretch. Each one needed the other. None of them are the Savior!
Ortlund also notes, “In order for the four men in Mark 2 to get together to bring this paralytic to Jesus, they had to consent to go in the same direction. Otherwise they would not have succeeded. Then they had to consent to go at the same speed, and to the same place. Unity is costly for it means submitting to each other.”
Unlike the bigger churches, we cannot do hit and run church and we cannot do hit and run small group. We can’t pick and choose people. We have to work together. This will mean we let go of certain preferences like personalities we like or church preferences from previous churches. It might mean eating together even if we don’t like the food. I know there are things people don’t like about the way we do things. I don’t even like everything we do. If it’s not unbliblical, we have to let it go for the sake of the mission.
c) Courageous Innovation
What a creative way to get this guy to Jesus! It was dangerous and risky. It would have been bad if the paralytic fell from the roof and got killed. I guess Jesus would have raised him up anyway, but there were risks involved. The scribes could have kicked them out, Jesus could have been indifferent, people could have protested, they may fall, etc.
Theresa Flores, a sex-trafficking survivor, is the founder of SOAP (Saving our Adolescents from Prostitution). This whole week and especially today, Super Bowl Sunday, her organization will be distributing bars of soap with the National Human Trafficking Hotline number on the wrapping to hotels and motels in New York and New Jersey. She says, “There are three things in every motel: a Bible, toilet paper and soap.”
I pray we as a church could be innovative not for the sake of being innovative, but for the sake of mission and bringing people to Christ. I pray we can have this roof bursting determination and passion for the people in our lives that need Jesus, laboring for the Lord in humbly unity and unstoppable love. Secondly:
II. The deeper need of the paralytic (v.5)
Jesus’ gaze is now fixed on this man lying at His feet. Jesus says, “Son, you’re sins are forgiven.” Some have concluded that the reason for his sickness was because of his sin. In some sense it’s true because sickness is in this world due to sin that has come into this world. But I don’t know if I can make a direct correlation here that it was because he committed some sin that lead to paralysis.
Notice that Jesus calls him “Son.” One commentator says, “Jesus is the new Adam and is thus the forefather of all who are forgiven. Again we see Jesus remaking a family centered around Himself.”
Nevertheless, this must have been a huge letdown and disappointment. It seems like Jesus is blind to the paralytic’s needs. That’s nice, Jesus, but I want my legs back! What is Jesus saying when He forgives him? He’s saying, “You think you know the main problem of your life but you don’t. You have underestimated the depths of your longings and you are not going deep enough. You think your main need are legs, but your main need is having a true reason to dance.”
Jesus sees that the paralysis is deeper than it appears. Within that emaciated body lies a crippled soul, paralyzed from sin, atrophied from shame. The paralytic might have been thinking all of his life, “If only I could walk, I would be happy.” What would happen if Jesus just healed him and let him go? There will be euphoria: “I can walk! I won’t be unhappy ever again!” But give it a couple of months. The roots of human discontentment run deeper than we think. The euphoria won’t last and finally he will die into a Christless eternity.
The main problem in a person’s life is never their suffering. It is sin. Perhaps a lot of disappointment we feel in life is that we have confused our wants with our needs and we have not gone deep enough in the Gospel to see that our deepest needs have already been met?
Are there things we say like the paralytic, “If I had that….” we think that the empty places in our heart will be finally filled? Could this be the reason for our anger and unhappiness toward unanswered prayers? Those things are just legs, which will give you short-term happiness if you get them, but they won’t give you a deep enough reason to have joy and a reason to dance. We need a Savior who doesn’t give us what we want, but can see past our wants and meet our deepest needs. Jesus says, “I’m the only Savior that if you get me, will fulfill you, and if you fail me, will forgive you.” Thirdly:
III. The deeper and more determined love of Jesus (vv.6-12)
We have a problem at this point. Actually, we have a couple of problems. First of all, it seems like Jesus grants this man forgiveness without his repentance. Jesus doesn’t say, “Your sins are forgiven if…” Jesus had been preaching repentance all this time. John the Baptist was preaching repentance. Jesus is preaching repentance even at the end of the Bible in Revelation. How can He do this?
I think the clue is in Mark 2:8. There we see that Jesus can see the motives of our heart. We don’t have to say it. He sees the heart of the scribes and surely He sees the heart of this paralytic. There must have been some inarticulate cry in this man’s heart for mercy and grace. Do you know what this tells you? Do you see how deep His love goes? He is so loving, so gracious, so eager to pardon us, embrace us, forgive us and He even responds to small imperfect and weak groans of our hearts that our mouths don’t even know how to utter.
He is more eager to forgive than we are to ask for forgiveness! He is so aggressive with His grace. He comes to you pouring out His grace even if you give Him the smallest and slightest of openings. This is a huge comfort to me. Even this past week in prayer meeting, it dawned on me that I had bitterness in my heart. All this time I had denied and justified it as righteous anger and was blinded to my own sin. I am thankful that when I am slow to repent and blind to my sin and my mouth can’t even articulate all that I am struggling with and my own neediness, I have a Savior who is eager to pour overflowing grace into the smallest openings of my heart.
Second problem is the question Jesus poses here in this text. Let’s back up. While heaven rejoices, the religious leaders, in Ken Gire’s words, “are too busy scribbling mental notes to join in the dance. The reason syllogistically: Jesus claims the power to forgive sins. Only God can forgive sins. Therefore Jesus claims to be God. Precisely the point. Their reasoning was exact. It brought them to the right conclusion, but it didn’t bring them to Christ.” The hole in the roof tells us that it is faith that brings someone to Christ, not intellectual reasoning.
Jesus, knowing the hearts of the scribes, asks, “Which is easier to say…”Your sins are forgiven or to rise, take up your bed and walk?” Both are technically easy to say, but impossible to do, unless you are God. However, from a human perspective, to tell a paralyzed man to get up and walk exposes the speaker to ridicule if it is not successful; but how can a claim to have forgiven sins be falsified? The scribes would say, “It is easier to declare forgiveness (though it blasphemy). Anyone can declare that because it’s invisible.” So Jesus says, “to show you I am the Lord come from heaven with the authority to forgive sins, I say to you, pick up your mat and walk.” If Jesus could perform the bodily miracle, he was claiming authority to perform the spiritual one as well. So Jesus does the harder thing to prove the less difficult thing.
But is it the less difficult to forgive our sins? Jesus knows what’s harder.
It will be infinitely, infinitely harder to make it possible for our sins to be forgiven. In declaring forgiveness for this man’s sins and committing blasphemy in the eyes of the religious leaders, Jesus knows this means that the Servant King is now on the road to the cross. There will be a cost to this free grace and He will bear it. By demonstrating His authority to forgive and to heal, Jesus is showing us that His love is deeper than our sins and He is more determined to secure our forgiveness than these roof busters.
Author and Pastor Max Lucado says, “To heal the man’s body took a simple command; to forgive the man’s sins took Jesus’ blood. The first was done in the house of friends; the second on a hill with thieves. One took a word; the other took his body. One took a moment; the other took his life.”
We can stare at these men and wish we were like them. But we are more like the scribes. We have intellectual reasoning, but never move in to faith. We are always critical, watching and keeping Jesus at heart’s length. Will you create an opening for Him to pour grace to you today? Can we ask him to give us faith to see a Savior who went to greater lengths to bring us to God the Father. We need to see A Savior, a Servant King who burst through into the broken world He created to rescue us. In the person and presence of Jesus, God lowered himself into the abyss of our sin and suffering. In Jesus God became “a tiny human being dangling between heaven and hell.” He did it to save the people trapped below—you and me. Thus, the gospel is much more radical than just another religion telling us how to be good in our own power. It tells us the story of God’s risky, costly, sacrificial rescue effort on our behalf.
Jesus looks at this man and realizes that the only way for this man to get what his soul truly needs and to make his legs move and to make him dance again, is if Jesus gets His own legs nailed to the cross. Yes, scribes, it is far harder to forgive sins. It will cost Jesus His life and He was glad to do it because far stronger than the men who burst through the roof is love that burst through the heart of Jesus. Far more unstoppable than these men is His unstoppable love that will stop at nothing to effect our salvation and bring us to Heaven where we can truly dance again. And this poor man had friends to carry him at his hour of need. Jesus carried our sins alone, bore them alone, even at the abandonment of the Father.
One hot July afternoon in 1967, Joni Eareckson Tada dove into a shallow lake and fractured her spinal cord, leaving her as a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, unable to use her hands or legs. She says, “Lying in my hospital bed, I tried desperately to make sense of the horrible turn of events. I begged friends to assist me in suicide. Slit my wrists, dump pills down my throat, anything to end my misery!” Her friends wouldn’t do it. She says she realized that she was too helpless even to die on her own.
Trapped facedown, staring at the floor hour after hour, her thoughts grew dark and hopeless. “God, I am never going to trust you with another prayer again. I can’t believe that I have to lie facedown and do nothing but count the tiles on the floor on this stupid torture rack. I hate my existence.”
One night, one of her closest friends, Cindy, blurted out, “Joni, you aren’t the only one. Jesus knows how you feel—why, he was paralyzed too.” Joni glared at her. “What? What are you talking about?” Cindy continued, “It’s true. Remember, he was nailed on a cross. His back was raw from beatings, and he must have yearned for a way to move to change positions, or shift his weight. But he couldn’t. He was paralyzed by the nails.”
She realized that the physical pain of her Savior was nothing compared to the spiritual pain of carrying the weight of our sins and it was far worse than Joni will ever have to experience. In the next few weeks and months, she says, “God became incredibly close to me. I felt myself being transformed by the persistent love of my friends and family. And eventually I began to understand that, yes, God too loved me.”
Her focus changed from demanding an explanation from God to humbly depending on Him. “Okay, I am paralyzed. It’s terrible. I don’t like it. But can God use me, paralyzed? Can I, paralyzed, still worship God and love him? He began to teach me that I could.” Notice she doesn’t muster up determination to survive and even thrive. Even as a quadriplegic, it is Joni’s realization of the Gospel that fueled her to be determined to go on mission for Him!
After two years, Joni learned to maneuver a motorized wheelchair. She eventually got married. She learned how to drive and can paint masterfully by holding the paintbrush in her teeth. Today, almost 50 later, she speaks all around the world, started a ministry called Joni and friends, which ministers to people in the disability community. She still struggles, but like Paul, she is sorrowful, but always rejoicing (2 Cor. 6:10).
She adds, “I have also hope for the future now. The Bible speaks of our bodies being ‘glorified’ in heaven. I now realize that I will be healed. I haven’t been cheated out of being a complete person—I’m just going through a forty or fifty year delay, and God stays with me even through that. I now know the meaning of being ‘glorified.’ It’s the time, after my death here, when I’ll be on my feet dancing.
And one day I’m going to leave this wheelchair behind. I cannot wait. I may have suffered with Christ on earth, but one day in heaven I’m going to reign with him. For I sure hope I can bring this wheelchair to heaven. Now, I know that’s not theologically correct. But I hope to bring it and put it in a little corner of heaven, and then in my new, perfect, glorified body, standing on grateful glorified legs, I’ll stand next to my Savior, holding his nail-pierced hands. I’ll say, ‘Thank you, Jesus,’ and he will know that I mean it, because he knows me. He’ll recognize me from the fellowship we’re now sharing in his sufferings. And I will say, ‘Jesus, do you see that wheelchair? You were right when you said that in this world we would have trouble, because that thing was a lot of trouble. But the weaker I was in that thing, the harder I leaned on you. And the harder I leaned on you, the stronger I discovered you to be. It never would have happened had you not given me the bruising of the blessing of that wheelchair.’
Then the real ticker-tape parade of praise will begin. And all of earth will join in the party. And at that point Christ will open up our eyes to the great fountain of joy in his heart for us beyond all that we ever experienced on earth. And when we’re able to stop laughing and crying, the Lord Jesus really will wipe away our tears. I find it so poignant that finally at the point when I do have the use of my arms to wipe away my own tears, I won’t have to, because God will.”
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