The Divine Authority of Jesus – Mark 2:1-12 (pt. 3)

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.

b. Jesus becomes the object of faith (vv. 3-4)

From among those in this massive crowd Mark singles out a group of five individuals in v. 3, “And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.”  These men had to get to Jesus. They had seen His power and authority the last time that Jesus had ministered in Capernaum and they knew that He would be able to help them.  They had been waiting for Him to return, and finally He had arrived.  When word got to them that Jesus was “at home” they dropped everything that they were doing and headed out immediately.  Apparently, word did not get to them as quickly as it did to most people though.  Mark tells us that by the time they arrived “they could not get near him because of the crowd.”  You can almost feel their disappointment and

frustration as they realized that the line to see Jesus was longer than the line for Space Mountain-and there was no fast pass.  However, these men did not give up.  They knew that Jesus could help their friend, and this faith led to ingenuity.  Mark tells us that “they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.”

This sounds pretty ridiculous to us because of the way that our homes are built, but it is not all that ridiculous when you understand how homes were built during this time. 

  Most homes in first century Palestine were single story homes with flat roofs that were accessible by a staircase on the outside of the home.

The flat roof for an ordinary house would be constructed by laying beams about three feet apart from wall to wall.  Short sticks were laid closely together across the beams covered with a thick matting of thorn bushes.  At other times, as seems the case here, stone slabs or plates of burnt clay were laid across the beams.  A coat of clay was spread on top of this and rolled hard to keep out the rain.  They would be readily able to dig out a hole large enough for the purpose without damaging the rest of the roof.  Having cleared away the clay, they lifted the tiles to make the opening.[1]  

Now that they had an opening, they had to get their friend down to Jesus.  For this they used their friend’s bed, which would have been like a thick quilt, to lower him down.  Mark does not tell us exactly how they did this, but it doesn’t seem all that hard to figure it out.  They were on the roof of a fisherman’s house so their must have been fishing tackle lying around, including lots of rope.  There were four of them, so apparently each one of them tied a length of rope to the corner of their friend’s bed and slowly lowered him down into the house.  Mark does not tell us what the people did while all of this was going on, but you can imagine what an amazing scene this would have been. 

I do not want to push this point too far and miss the major point of this passage, but there is something instructive for us about the faith of these men.  They had faith that Jesus was capable of helping their friend and they did whatever it took for their friend to receive that help.  This conviction revealed that these five men had true faith and they were not just caught up in the hype over Jesus (1:40-45). Jesus himself recognized the faith of these five men.

[1] Hiebert, The Gospel According to Mark (Greenville, SC: BJ Press), 65.


The Divine Authority of Jesus – Mark 2:1-12 (pt. 2)

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.

I. Jesus Asserts His Authority to Forgive Sins (vv. 1-5)

a. Jesus draws attention (vv. 1-2)

The first thing that we see in this passage is that Jesus claims to have the authority to forgive sins.  But before we get to that claim we need to understand

the circumstances surrounding this claim.  In verse 1 and 2 Mark writes, “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 room, not even at the door.  And he was preaching the word to them.”

In the last chapter we read of Jesus first coming into Capernaum (1:21), and using the home of Peter and Andrew as a home base (1:29).  However, because the hysteria over Jesus’ ministry had risen to a fevered pitch, Jesus was forced to leave Capernaum (1:45).  Now, here in verse 1, we learn that after some time this hysteria had died down, and Jesus was able to return to His home base in Capernaum (presumably to the home of Peter and Andrew).

This peace and quiet did not last long.  It did not take long for the word to spread concerning Jesus’ arrival.  Once that happened there was sure to be a crowd around Jesus.  Mark tells us that there were so many curious onlookers coming to see Jesus that there wasn’t even any more room to get into the door.  The crowd was massive; the entire town had assembled to see what Jesus was going to do next.  But it was not just the town of Capernaum that had come to see Jesus.  Luke 5:17 tells us that “Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem.”  This was an interesting crowd that had assembled, and we will learn more about them in a few verses.

Once Jesus had drawn a crowd to Himself Mark tells us literally that Jesus “spoke to them the word” (ἐλάλει αὐτοῖς τὸν λόγον).  Mark’s use of word (λόγον) here is no doubt the same as Jesus’ use of word (λόγον) in 4:1-20.  Jesus took this opportunity to fulfill His purpose (1:38), and preach the Gospel to these people (1:14-15).

The Divine Authority of Jesus – Mark 2:1-12 (pt. 1)


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, “My 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!”

Mark chapter 2 begins a new phase in Jesus’ ministry. Up to this point Jesus has yet to encounter any opposition from the Jews. But that will all change in chapter 2. One author described it this way: “Chapter 1 is the chapter of glory; chapter 2, of opposition.” This new focus on the opposition to Christ begins in 2:1-12 and runs all the way through chapter 3. In these conflict stories Jesus is the positive example and his opponents are the negative example. This means that we must positively respond to what we learn about Jesus, and we must negatively respond to how his opponents react to Him.
In Mark 2:1-12 the conflict that arises centers on the subject of forgiveness. FORGIVENESS is an important subject. Scripture makes it clear that all men have a responsibility to forgive those who have wronged them. However, because all sin is ultimately committed against God (Psalm 51:4), only God has the authority to forgive sins in an absolute sense. God is the only one who has the authority to dismiss one’s sins, and free him from the guilt of sin. The Jews in Jesus’ day would have been very familiar with this concept. The Old Testament is filled with references that make it clear that forgiveness belongs to the Lord: Isaiah 43:25; Exodus 36:6ff; Psalm 103:3; Daniel 9:9.
It is with this background in mind that we come to Mark 2:1-12. Here in this passage Jesus declares that He has the authority to forgive sins. This would have been a shocking claim to the Jews who were present at the time – particularly the religious leaders. They knew that the Old Testament taught that only God has the authority to forgive sins in this way, and here Jesus is claiming to have this same authority. As we will see, this claim was not well received by the religious leaders. However, Jesus not only claims to have the same authority as God he also publicly proved that authority.
So as we look at this passage main point that we must come away with is that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins. The only question is how will we respond to that authority?

Should we even be talking about this…

First of all, sorry for the long lay off. Last week I was off at camp, and this week I have been busy catching up & preparing for our new little one (who is due in just a couple of weeks). But that is not what brought be back to my “blog desk.”

Last night my wife and I were listening to the Al Mohler program–I know we are nerds–and it was “ask anything Wednesday.”  Usually I do not enjoy “ask anything Wednesday” because it usually turns into “ask a stupid question Wednesday,”  but yesterday one caller actually asked a thoughtful question.  I am not smart enought to quote the converstaion exactly (maybe you can find a transcript on Mohler’s website), but I will do my best to summarize.

The caller’s basic question was: “Dr. Mohler, what do you think of the books that have recently come out written by people who claim to have died, gone to heaven, and then been revived?” 

It is a good question.  And Dr. Mohler had a great answer.  He expressed great caution about these accounts for two reasons.  First of all, God has revealed to us all that we need to know about Heaven in His word.  How is a book from some guy off the street going to improve upon what God has already told us about eternity.  Second, even if these people did experience what they say they have then they should not even be talking about it.  “Why?” you ask.  Well, 2 Corinthians 12:2-4 gives the answer to that:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows.  And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. 

Here Paul is telling his readers that he was, in fact, called up into the third heaven and saw paradise. However, exactly how it happen is really unsure to to him. Additionally, Paul says that the things that were revealed to him “cannot be told” and “man may not utter” them.


Book Review: Running Scared

Edward T. Welch.  Running Scared: fear, worry, and the God of rest.  Greensboro: New Growth Press, 2007.  317 pp.  Reviewed by Paul Shirley (6/4/2007).

Fear, worry, and doubt are a deadly combination; a combination that seems to plague all of as at various time-even those of us who believe in the sovereignty of God.  This combination of emotions is so natural to us that we usually just accept them as part of life, and never deal with them.  This is dangerous for anyone, but it is particularly inappropriate for Christians.  We claim to be people trusting in a God who controls all things.  To live with constant fear, worry, and doubt would be completely inconsistent with that claim.  Thus, as Christians we must fight the constant urge to fear, worry, and doubt. 

To aid us in this fight Edward T. Welch has recently written Running Scared: fear, worry, and the God of Rest.  In this book Welch deals with the causes of fear and worry as well as practical strategies for dealing with them. 

Welch begins by pointing out the need to recognize our fears:

One useful life skill is to know when to listen to our feelings and when to ignore them.  As a general rule, the first step is to listen.  There is logic-a language-to fear and anxiety, just as there is to most emotions. (pg. 37)

Don’t forget, listening for fear is like listening to background noise.  At first you think there is nothing to hear, but then you notice the wind in the trees, birds calling for a mate, cars passing by, a plane overhead creaks in the floors, the water heater kicking in.  At first we might deny any palpable fears and their logic, but then we listen more carefully and notice that they are everywhere, speaking loudly.   (pg. 37)

Once we have recognized our fears we can then begin to deal with them.  And do not under estimate the importance of dealing with these issues.  Here is an interesting point that Welch made that should motivate us to deal with our fears:

Quick. What is, by far, God’s most frequent command?  The usual suspects include “Do not commit adultery,” “Have no other gods before me,” and “Love one another.”  The next group includes whatever commands you know you have violated, in which case they only feel as if they appear on every page of Scripture.  The actual answer is “Do not be afraid.”   (pg. 59)

Given the frequency of this command it is important for us to deal with this issue. 

As we trace out the cause of the fear in our lives we will find that they are usually the result of mixed allegiances in our own hearts.  In fact, Welch points out that this is the reason that God tests us so often is to reveal these mixed allegiances:

We are the potential traitors and don’t even know it.  God tests us because we are so oblivious to the mixed allegiances in our own hearts.  The purpose of the test is to help us see our hearts and if they are found traitorous, we can turn to God.  (pg. 75)

These tests will reveal the misdirected love that we have in our hearts which ultimately leads to fear and worry:

Worry, therefore, is not simply an emotion that erodes our quality of life or a pain to be alleviated.  It is a misdirected love that should be confessed.  It is trying to manage our world apart from God.  It is making life about our needs, desires, and wants.  (pg. 163)

Once we have recognized these issues in our hearts we will then be able to deal with them.  To this end Welch provides his readers with a helpful strategy:

One of the strategies for dealing with worry is to be overtaken by something more important than the object of your worries.  (pg. 106)

Welch is exactly right, and that something more important is Jesus.   We must replace our mixed allegiances with gull devotion to Christ if we are going to deal with the fear and worry in our lives.

Overall I found this book to be helpful for me as I deal with these issues in my own life.  I would recommend this book with several qualifications.  First, remember that this is a book about fear and that is why it is emphasized so much.  It would be easy to read this book and think that fear and worry are at the heart of al our problems.  This is not so.  Second, there is a lot of “fluff” in this book.  For every point made there are multiple illustrations, examples, and personal stories.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, but at times it was a bit over the top.  The book could be about 25% shorter and make all the same points.  Finally, this book will help you to begin thinking about this issue but it does not have all the answer (nor does it claim to).   If you are going to effective fight fear then it will take more than this book.  You will have to be devoted to Christ and His word to be successful in your battle.   


Title: Running Scared: fear, worry, and the God of rest
Author: Edward T. Welch
Reading level: 3 out of 10
Pages: 317

Citation: Endnotes
Publisher: New Growth Press
Year: 2007
Price: $10.87 at

ISBN-13: 978-0978556754

A Brief Return

We are back from vacation and feeling ready to take on the world.  Actually, now that I think about it, we took on the world while we were on vacation–Disney World.  Last week we went to Orlando, got a cheep room, brought our own food, and used the Disney passes that my grandmother got for us making it the least expensive vacation in the history of the world (which to me is synonomous with the best vacation).  It really was a good time for use to spend together, and a much needed break after a long semester.  I had intended to post a couple of pictures this morning but I forgot to download them from my camera.  So, just imagine three of the happiest people in the world sweating together at Disney. 

This week I hope to post at least one book review from a book that I read while we were out of town.   I would like to post reviews for both of the books that I read (one was really good), but I am not sure that I will have time this week.  On Sunday we leave for youth camp so things are a little busy this week.  So look for some activity this week and a light week next week.