This past Sunday, I preached through Mark 2:1-12. I’ve linked to the PDF and mp3 versions of the sermon. They are, more or less, identical in content. So if you’re interested, what follows is an excerpt followed by links to the sources.
Mark 2:1-12: And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 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. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 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. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 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? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But 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, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 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!”
Today’s text has three references to seeing which structure the narrative. The first seeing is done by our Lord. He sees the faith of the four men and the paralytic (v.5). The second seeing is typically translated from the Greek as know in verse 10: “…that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” And the third seeing is done by the people who say that they had never seen anything like what they had just witnessed Christ doing (v.12). The word used by Mark is εἴδω (eidō), and it can variously mean see or know or pay attention to/have regard for someone. There are other words in Greek which can also be translated as knowing, so the use of the word eido in this short selection of verses is interesting. Why? Because Jesus says that his opponents may know (eido) that he is the Son of Man by means of his healing of the paralytic.
Christ is, in effect, saying: “Look and know that I AM.” The miraculous healing of the paralytic is meant to be a sign pointing beyond itself and to Christ’s identity as the Son of Man who has authority on earth to forgive sins. The title “Son of Man” brings our attention to the OT book of Daniel, where we learn that Daniel
… saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Jesus is claiming that he is the Son of Man of which Daniel prophesied. Hence, Jesus has the same dominion and authority that the Son of Man was to have, according to Daniel’s prophecy.
Daniel saw the Son of Man in a vision; the people of our Lord’s time saw the Son of Man in the flesh. Daniel saw only that the Son of Man was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, and that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; but the people in our Lord’s time, and we ourselves, see that Christ forgives the sins of all who come to him in repentant faith, whether Jew or Gentile, rich or poor, slave or free, and makes us a kingdom of priests to our God. Jesus’ self-identification as the Son of Man is tantamount to a declaration that the kingdom of God has come near to man, which is precisely how he began his preaching ministry. He declared: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) And here we see another instance of how the kingdom of God has come to earth: God was in Christ reconciling sinners to himself.
Thus, Christ does not only forgive the paralytic’s sins, but raises him from total paralysis to newness of life. Note the pattern: The kingdom of God comes first in the forgiveness of sins, and then in the raising of the body. As Jesus explains in John 5:24-29, after he forgives and raises a different paralytic:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”
These paralytics, the one in Mark and the one in John, serve as an illustration of the nature of fallen man. Man is entombed within himself, unable to rise and walk in the light of God’s Word.
As one bible scholar has noted, our Lord’s words point even farther beyond the prophecy of Daniel. In Psalm 8:4-8, David asks:
…what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
That this son of man is no mere son of Adam is evident from the fact that David goes on to declare:
…you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
These words, which should be known to the so-called scholars of the day, apparently fall on deaf ears. And this happens more than once in our Lord’s earthly ministry. For when the children cried out “Hosanna to the Son of David!” and the scribes and chief priests angrily asked “Do you hear what these are saying?” Christ further identifies himself as the Son of Man who fulfills Psalm 8:2, which declares:
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’…”
Through one man’s transgression death, corruption, decay, and strife entered into the creation. It was subjected to the curse of God. Yet Jesus, the Last Adam makes all things new. And here we see that this is the case. It is sin which brought corruption and death; therefore, Jesus forgives sin and restores the paralytic, performing in miniature what he will fully accomplish at the consummation of all things.