The Divine Authority of Jesus – Mark 2:1-12 (pt. 4)

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!”

c. Jesus exercises His authority to forgive (v. 5)

    Mark tells us that “when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'”  Can you imagine this scene?  The paralytic is lowered down into this room full of pulled.  A hush comes over this crowd as Jesus stands before the man.  Then, when everyone expects Jesus to physically heal this man, Jesus declares that his sins are forgiven.  This was an amazing declaration for several reasons.  First, it reveals that this man’s spiritual need was more important

to Jesus than his physical needs.  As much as this paralytic need to be healed from the physical malady causing his paralysis, he needed forgiveness even more.  In fact, forgiveness is the greatest need for all mankind not just this man.

Second, this declaration was amazing because in it Jesus is asserting Divine authority to forgive sins.  He is not simply stating the fact that this man’s sins were forgiven; Jesus is actually forgiving this man’s sins.  As we will see in the following verses, this is exactly how the scribes in the crowd understood Jesus’ statement, and Jesus did not correct them.  In other words, Jesus was not only declaring this man’s sins to be forgiven, he was also declaring himself to be God. 

Remember, only God has the authority to forgive sins.  It is against God that we have sinned, and for that sin we must be judged.  We must face the consequences for our rebellion against God.  But here Jesus is providing this man with forgiveness.  He is releasing him from the eternal consequences of his sin and granting him a pardon.  This would have been outrageous to the scribes in the crowd, especially since Jesus granted this man forgiveness based on faith rather than works.  The scribes were more than just a little skeptical of Jesus’ assertion that He has the divine authority to forgive sins.    

 

II. Jesus Authenticates His Authority to Forgive Sins (vv. 6-12)

a. Jesus’ authority is questioned (vv. 6-7)

Upon hearing Jesus declaration to this paralytic the scribes immediately questioned Jesus.  Mark tells us that “the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like this?  He is blaspheming!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?'”  The first thing that stands out in this verse about the scribes is that they were sitting!  In a room so full of people that there was no more standing room, these men were sitting down.  They had taken the places of honor.  They were scribes of the law and religious authorities.  They felt as if they deserved those seats above anyone else.  Jesus would later warn of men like this in Mark 12:38-40 saying:

Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.

These men viewed themselves as the religious authority for the Jews (even above Scripture; cf. 7:1-13), and as such they were there to keep an eye on Jesus.  There were concerned about His growing popularity, and they were

looking to find some fault with Him.  Therefore, when Jesus declared to have the divine authority to forgive sins their hearts probably began to race.  At a time when they should have been rejoicing over a sinner whose sins have been forgiven they immediately began to question Jesus’ statement in their hearts.  They understood the implications of what Jesus had just said.  He not only declared the paralytics sins to be forgiven, but He also declared that He had the same authority as God to forgive those sins.  This was a major problem in their minds.  Only God could forgive sins, and for anyone other than God to claim that authority it would be blasphemy. 

At this point the scribes were probably starting to get excited.  They had come to find fault with Jesus, and in their minds they probably thought that they had found it.  Blasphemy was a capital offense that was punishable by death (Lv 24:10-16).  In fact, this is the very charge that Jesus would ultimately be condemned of and put to death for (14:64).  I can almost imagine the grins on the faces of these individuals as they thought that they had Jesus trapped.  They did say a word to one another, and maybe no one else even noticed.  But none of this escaped Jesus. 

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  1. PROSECUTION
    Is there a God? I will not try to say yes or no to this question. Rather, I will make this place a law court. I will ask you to be the judge, and I will be the prosecutor. The work of a judge is to make decisions, to approve or disapprove the truth of statements; the work of a prosecutor is to present all the evidence and arguments that he can possibly gather. Before we proceed, we have to be clear about one fact: all prosecutors are not eyewitnesses of crimes. They are not policemen. A policeman may personally witness an event, whereas a prosecutor obtains his information only indirectly. He places all the charges, evidence, and arguments collected before the judge. In the same way, I shall present before you everything that I can possibly find. If you ask whether I have seen God or not, I would say “no.” I am reading or demonstrating what I have gathered. My job is to search for facts and to call for witnesses. You are to arrive at a conclusion yourself.
    THE UNIVERSE
    First, looks at nature, the world that is before our eyes and every phenomenon in it. We all know that scientific knowledge is the rational explanation of natural phenomena. For example, there is an observed drop in the temperature of a patient. The drop in temperature is a phenomenon, and the explanation for it is scientific knowledge. When an apple falls from the tree, it is a phenomenon. Why does an apple not fly into the air? The explanation for this phenomenon constitutes knowledge. A man with knowledge is a man who has the proper explanations.
    ONLY TWO EXPLANATIONS
    The universe displays countless phenomena of diverse forms, colors, shapes, and nature. We cannot fail to notice these phenomena before our eyes. The explanation for all these phenomena is known as knowledge. All thoughtful persons have only two explanations as far as the origin of the universe is concerned; there is no third explanation. You have to take one or the other of them. What are these two explanations? The first says that the universe came into being through natural evolution and self-interaction; the second attributes its origin to a personified being with intellect and purpose. These are the only two explanations presented by all philosophers of the world. There is not a third one. Where did the universe come from? Did it come into existence by itself or through chance? Or was it designed by the One from whom we derive the concept of God?
    CHANCE EVENTS
    What are the characteristics of things that come about by chance? First, we know that they are unorganized. At the most they can be partially integrated. They can never be totally organized. One can achieve a specified goal by chance once, but he can never achieve a specified goal by chance all the time. Anything that comes together by chance can only be integrated partially, never totally. For example, if I throw this chair to the other side of the room, by chance it may come to rest at a perfect angle. If I do the same with a second chair, it may also lie neatly beside the first one. But this will not keep on happening with the third and the fourth and so on. Chance can only provide partial organization. It does not guarantee total integration. Furthermore, all random interactions are aimless, disorganized, and purposeless. They are without order and structure; they are loose, formless, disorderly, and not directed toward any meaningful purpose. Briefly, we can say that the characteristics of chance events are disharmony, irregularity, inconsistency, purposelessness, and insignificance.
    CONSISTENCY AND ORGANIZATION
    Now let us compare the things in the universe with these characteristics. Take, for example, the human being. He is carried in his mother’s womb for nine months and delivered; he grows up and eventually dies. This cycle is repeated for every single individual. Consistency can be observed. It is not a wild game of chance. Again, look at the sun above your head. It does not exist purposelessly. Rather, it has its purpose and significance. Look at the moon, the stars, and the myriads of galaxies through your telescope. Some stars have their own planets. They all follow definite tracks and patterns. They are all organized. Their manner of motion can be calculated and predicted. The calendar in your hand is derived from them. Even next year’s calendar can be printed before this year is past. All these show that the universe is organized, consistent, and purposeful.
    MICROORGANISMS
    Let us turn to the micro-world or quantum mechanics. Take a thin slice of wood. Put it under a microscope and observe its grain and structure, all meticulously regular and rhythmic. Even a blade of grass and the petal of a flower are finely fashioned. Nothing is unorganized or confused. Everything is disciplined and functional. All these things witness one fact to you: the universe, with its macro (the whole universe and galaxies) and micro aspects (quantum), is purposeful and meaningful and are bonded trasmiting movement or power. Can you say that all these came into existence by chance? Surely you cannot.
    CHANCE OR DESIGN
    The universe has to be created by someone with profound wisdom, vast knowledge, and intricate design. If you cannot accept the concept of random formation of the universe, you have to admit that it was created by such a God. There cannot be a third explanation. The choice is left to you. You have to decide if the universe came by chance or whether it was created by God.
    A DEMAND AND ITS OBJECT
    One witness may not be enough. I will call in another. This time we will consider man’s heart. Before doing so, we should also observe one fact: wherever there is a desire, there must first be an object for that desire. For example, an orphan who has never seen his father naturally has a desire for a kind of paternal love. I have asked many people who were orphans, and they all have felt this irrepressible yearning. By this we can see that every desire of the heart arises out of an object in the world. As human beings we have a need for social belonging. We need companionship and mutuality. If you put a boy on a deserted island and he grows up alone, he still has the yearning for companions, for beings like himself, even though he has never seen a human being. This yearning or desire is the very proof that somewhere in the world there is something known as “man.” At a certain age, man begins to think about posterity; he starts desiring children and grandchildren. This is not a mere fantasy. This desire stems out of the existence and possibility of offspring. Hence, where there is desire, there is an object for that desire.
    THERE IS GOD IN THE HEART
    Do we have any desires other than social identity and self-propagation? What other cravings do we have? Deep in everyone there is a craving for God. Whether they are highly civilized races, such as those among the Caucasians, or the ancient civilizations, such as the Chinese civilizations, or the African natives and uncultured aborigines, they all have a common craving –God. As long as they are men, they have a yearning for God, no matter what race or nationality. This is a fact. You cannot argue against it. Everyone is seeking after God. Everywhere man is craving for God. This is very clear. By applying the principle that we just mentioned, we can see that since our heart feels the need for a God, there must necessarily be a God in the universe. Since there is a need for God in the heart, there must be the existence of God in the universe. If no God exists, we would never have such a craving in our heart. We all have an appetite for food. In the same way, we all have an appetite for God. It would be impossible to live if there was only an appetite for food but no food. Likewise, it would be impossible to live if there was a capacity for God but no God.
    NEVER THOUGHT ABOUT GOD?
    Once, an atheist rudely rebuked me in a loud voice: “You said that a man has the psychological need for a God. But there is no such thing, and I do not believe in it.” I said, “Well, do you mean to say that you never think about God? In fact, even while you were talking, you were thinking about Him. This indicates that you do have a capacity for God. There is no one who has never thought about God. He may try not to think much about Him. Since this thought is in you, there must be such an object outside of you.
    “THE WORDS AND THE HEART”
    A young man once came to me to argue about God. He was vehemently against the existence of God. He gave me one reason after another for saying that there is no God. As he was enumerating the various reasons why God should not exist, I listened to him quietly without saying a word. Then I said, “Although you insist that there is no God and support yourself with so many arguments, you have lost your case already.” He said, “What do you mean?” I went on to explain: “Your mouth can say as much as you want about there not being a God, but your heart is on my side.” He had to agree with me. Although one can give all sorts of reasons in the head, there is a belief in the heart that no argument can defeat. A stubborn person may give a thousand and one reasons, but you can have the boldness to tell him, “You know better in your heart that there is a God. Why bother to look for evidence outside?”Now what would you say? After looking at nature and the universe, after checking with your inner feeling, it is up to you to decide whether or not there is a God. But you should not be irresponsible; your attitude must be sober because everyone has to meet God soon. One day you will all stand before Him. Everything concerning you will be laid bare. On that day you will know God. But now is the time for you to be prepared. We should all be prepared to meet our God.
    Finally is there is a God. Who is he? Who among all the most ancient religions of the world who was the only one who claim to be God’s son?
    There must be a written record of God and God’s son. Among all the ancients’ written records is there such a book?

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