Text: Mark 2:1-12
Introduction: Two weeks ago we started a new preaching series called Why Jesus? We’ve been looking at what makes the carpenter from Nazareth so appealing that His followers at the time of His ascension to heaven, a tiny of group of 120 people (See Acts 1:15), would feel compelled to tell His story throughout Israel and the Middle East. It didn’t take all that long for the good news to travel to what is today southern Europe and from there it went to every corner of the globe. What was the result? Christianity became the greatest movement the world has ever seen, amassing over two billion followers of Jesus Christ.
In our first message we started with the claim made by Jesus’ disciples that He is the Son of God. John the Apostle helped us see, in the first chapter of his gospel, that Who God is, Jesus is and what God does, Jesus does. The son shares the same attributes and abilities as His father, including the ability to create. The logical conclusion they arrived at was that Jesus was the Son of God or God the Son. Then we spent some time together last week looking at His humanity, starting in Hebrews 2:14-18 and then jumping around the New Testament. We saw that Jesus was fully human. He had a human birth and a human body just like ours. And it turns out that our Lord came with a very specific purpose in mind … to undo all the damage done to the created order when Satan tempted Adam and Eve and they at from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3). Jesus came to destroy him who holds the power of death, that is the devil, and to free humanity from living in constant fear of it.
Now this morning we’re going to look at passage found in Mark 2:1-12 that provides us with another perspective on Jesus — this time as our healer. LET ME READ IT TO YOU. Before we jump in to an explanation of the text let me give you a little more background on Jesus. In Mark 1 we see that He began his ministry by being baptized by John in the Jordan River, then He called twelve men to be His disciples. A short time later in Capernaum, He delivered a man from an unclean spirit. Many witnessed it, and soon His fame began to spread. While staying in the home of Peter and his mother, Jesus continued to do good by healing those who were sick (including Peter’s mother) and casting demons out of others who were oppressed. Then, because the need was so great, Jesus and the disciples traveled to more villages preaching the good news and ministering to people. One of those was a leper who lived as outcast. Jesus dared to touch the man and he was healed. This brings us to our passage for today where Jesus, back in Capernaum, heals another man who was a paralytic. But this time, His concern was not so much with the man’s suffering, terrible as it was, as it was with something else entirely…his salvation. Let’s see what we can learn about Jesus as our healer from this story.
Jesus can heal our souls. The setting was the house of Peter where the Lord stayed when He was in Galilee. Because He had become so popular with the multitudes, the place where He was preaching the Word (the gospel) was packed with people. Now of course the crowd itself wasn’t the measure of our Lord’s success in ministry. They were just a curious group who wanted to hear what the teacher would say. Perhaps they hoped to see a miracle since He had performed a few already. In the account in the Gospel of Luke (Luke 5:21) we’re told that some of the Pharisees were also there. They were the guardians of the oral traditions and Old Testament law. Likely they were there to listen to this teacher who was drawing all kinds of attention and judge for themselves if His message deserved their approval and blessing. They represented a system of legalism that was based on the assumption that it was possible to earn one’s way to heaven. The Pharisees taught that by keeping the law and all the rules and traditions that surrounded it, a person could be deemed righteous and deserving of eternal life with God.
I’m sure Jesus was a captivating preacher. It’s not hard to imagine the crowd listening to His every word as He preached the good news to them. And while this was taking place inside the house, four men appeared outside carrying a paralytic friend. Because he was unable to walk, they hoped to bring him before Jesus. He had already healed others. Perhaps He would do the same for their friend. When no one was willing to make room for them to carry the paralytic inside, they became desperate and opted for their back-up plan. They made their way to the roof and began pulling the tiles, thatch and mud away until there was an opening big enough to lower the man through. I suspect the people inside saw this as a serious distraction at first. But their minds likely changed when they realized that here was the potential for Jesus to perform yet another miracle. Imagine the surprise of the crowds, particularly the Pharisees and teachers of the law, however, when instead of healing the man, they heard Jesus utter six words in response to the men’s faith that any Jew would have considered blasphemous. “My son, your sins are forgiven.” The scribes did not say a word, but thought to themselves, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming. Who can forgive sins but God alone.” And this is where we see the real heart of Jesus when it comes to His priorities in ministry. Though He certainly had some sympathy for the suffering the poor fellow endured day in and day out, He was far more concerned with the condition of the paralytic’s soul than He was His body. That’s why, when the man put His faith and trust in the Lord, Jesus did for the paralytic what He continues to do for all who repent and believe in Him. He forgave the man’s sin and received him into His kingdom. The salvation of our souls is always the highest priority to Jesus. And it is the most important kind of healing that a human being can experience. Sure, outwardly, the paralytic was incapable of standing on his own two feet, and that was a real tragedy, but inwardly something far worse was destroying him … his own sin-hardened heart. He was sick in a way that only Jesus understood. That’s why in verse seventeen of Mark chapter two, He said this to some of the same Pharisees — “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Knowing that the act of forgiving the paralytic’s sins was clearly inflammatory to the Pharisees and scribes, Jesus decided to offer some proof that He had the authority to forgive the man of his offenses against God. “Why do you question these things in your hearts?, He asked. “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? If you follow the Lord’s logic, it is easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven.” For how would anyone know whether or not the man’s sins really were forgiven? The best anyone could do would be to speculate as to what took place that day. On the other hand, if Jesus could make a paralytic walk, wouldn’t that provide sufficient proof that God had wrought a miracle of biblical proportions through Jesus? Listen to these words from Isaiah 35:5-6 that describe how what will happen when God’s people experience joyous fellowship with Him in Zion — “Then the eyes of the blind will be opened, and the ears of the deaf will be unstopped. Then the lame will leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will shout for joy.” When God comes to His people, the miraculous becomes the norm. Here in Mark 2 Jesus wants everyone to know that He (as the Messiah sent by His Heavenly Father) indeed has authority to forgive sins, so He continues … “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 with that, the man did as he was instructed. He took up his mat and he walked home for the very first time. In a bit of an understatement, Mark writes, “And all the people were amazed and glorified God saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Did they really understand what had happened that day? Probably not. The crowd, including the Pharisees and scribes, missed the fact that a man’s soul was healed. His sin was forgiven. At that moment, he inherited eternal life because that’s what happens to people who put their trust in Jesus Christ for their salvation. Application: This is the most important kind of healing that anyone can ever experience. When Jesus healed a person of a physical ailment, it only relieved their suffering for a time. But when the Lord heals our sick and dying souls, they come alive forever. Illustration: Several years ago, a man I only knew casually, came into my office, sat down and said to me, “I need Jesus in my life.” Now, I’ve shared my faith hundreds of times over the years, but I’d be hard pressed to remember an occasion where leading someone into the kingdom was easier than this one. As he looked at me with tears in his eyes, he told me how he knew his soul was sick and that only Jesus could heal him. I listened and then said, “Well, it just so happens that I can help you with that.” We spent a few minutes talking about a Christian is and isn’t and then I led this man in prayer to receive Jesus as his Savior and Lord. When we were done, I asked him to meet with me once a week for four weeks so I could teach him more about his new relationship with Christ. He agreed. A month later, I invited this man to join with me and some others in a discipleship group that would help him learn even more about the Christian life. Again he agreed, jumping in with both feet. Since that time, he has continually invested time and energy in getting to know God on a personal level. And the Lord has healed his soul in the process. This past year, my friend asked me this question, “Can God call a man well into his sixties into the ministry?” I assured him that God can do anything, including that. Today, my friend is enrolled at Trinity International University and is working on a Master’s in Theology so that he can pastor a congregation. Jesus is the great physician who comes to heal the sick and broken-hearted, people not unlike the paralytic in this passage. And when He does, it changes everything for those who believe. That’s the greatest kind of healing of all. But there is another kind of healing in this passage that we can’t ignore.
Jesus can heal our bodies. We can’t ignore the fact that this is what He did for the man in this story. One moment he was unable to move at minimum the lower half of his body and the next he was walking out of the house carrying the mat that had been his bed for years. And who was responsible for that? It was Jesus. If you read the Gospels you see that Jesus was always healing people of their physical ailments. He enabled the blind to see and the deaf to hear. He stopped the flow of blood in a woman that had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. He made the lame to walk and cleansed the skin of lepers. In fact, throughout His earthly ministry there wasn’t one disease or sickness that ever got the better of Him. He healed them all.
And if you’re wondering if Jesus heals people today, of course He does. Often, it happens in response to our prayers. Remember what the Bible says in James 5:14-15 — Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. I’m sure you’ve seen the Lord answer your prayers for some who were sick so that they fully recovered. And our hearts are filled with joy and gratitude to the Lord each time. But what about those occasions when healing doesn’t come in spite of the fact that we prayed with great faith that it would? I remember a girl at my college who was a leader in the Campus Crusade for Christ movement who shared that her father had been diagnosed with cancer. Many of us joined her in praying for his healing. We prayed often and with great sincerity, yet several months later, he died anyways. As young and pretty zealous believers in Jesus, we had hardly considered that death was a possible outcome. So you can imagine how her father’s death caused us to question why Jesus failed to come through in this instance.
In our remaining time, I want to share with you four principles regarding our Lord and the subject of healing. If you’ve been disappointed in your life when it seemed that your prayers were ignored, and someone you hoped would be healed was not, perhaps you’ll find some encouragement from them. Let’s start with this one.
- Jesus heals purposefully. During His three years of ministry, the Lord brought healing for a variety of purposes. Sometimes it was meant as a sign that Jesus was the Promised One of God. That’s the way it was in John 4 when a royal official begged Jesus to come to Capernaum and heal his son who was close to death. He did not go, but healed the boy anyways. John commented that it was the second miraculous sign that Jesus performed. On other occasions Jesus healed because He was moved with compassion for those who were suffering. This is what motivated Him to cleanse the leper I mentioned earlier from Mark 1. Sometimes it appears our Lord healed as a means of confronting the hard hearts of the Jewish religious leaders. In Luke 14, we’re told that a man came to Jesus who was suffering from dropsy. The Pharisees and scribes were on hand and carefully watching Jesus to see if He would heal on the Sabbath. The truth is that they cared little for the poor man’s suffering. After all, they believed that if people were stricken with a disease or some kind of physical ailment, it was God’s judgment on them. Jesus healed the man as a way of condemning these spiritual leaders who should have had compassion for one of those under their care, but did not. The point of all these is that when the Lord heals, He always has a purpose in mind. Maybe it’s to affirm His love for you, or perhaps it’s meant as a sign to someone who does not yet believe in Him. In any case, He has a purpose in healing and we should not forget that!
- Jesus heals selectively. Here’s what I mean. Sometimes Jesus heals us from our suffering and sometimes He strengthens us through it. This is what took place in the life of the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 12 we’re told that he was given a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to keep him humble because of certain revelations God had given him. He doesn’t tell us what it was. We’re left to guess. I, along with others, believe it had something to do with his eyesight because Paul made a couple of comments that pointed to some problems with his vision. He commented on the large letters he used to write with his own hand in Galatians 6:11. He also said of the church in that region of the world that “if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me” (Galatians 4:15). Remember that it was on the road to Damascus when Paul first met Jesus that he was stricken with blindness so that he could see nothing. So Jesus had to send Ananias to him so that he had regain his sight. If this is what plagued the apostle, we know that it bothered him enough that he petitioned the Lord three times to remove this thorn in his life. But the answer from God was always the same … “My grace is sufficient for you. For my power is perfected in your weakness.” Because of this Paul said, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” Apparently it was better for the great apostle not to be healed, but to lean more fully on the Lord. I suspect that when Jesus doesn’t heal us, it is for the same reason. He wants to use our suffering to cause us to trust Him all the more with our lives.
- Jesus heals completely. If you look at every instance in the New Testament where Jesus healed a person, it was always a complete healing. He didn’t make the lame to crawl or the blind to squint. He didn’t give the mute the ability to mumble or a leper a brief respite from his suffering. He always healed them completely. So it seems reasonable to think that if Jesus chooses to bring healing to your life today, it will be the same.
- Jesus heals eventually. This is the great hope that all of us share in Christ. We have eternal life and know with certainty that when we die, we will immediately be in the presence of the Lord. And the suffering that we encountered in our mortal bodies will be over. And when we receive our new bodies, they will be imperishable, incorruptible and immortal. We will never again be sick, never need the healing touch of Christ, because we will already have experienced it once for all eternity.
Conclusion: I have diabetes. My pancreas doesn’t work right. It doesn’t make enough insulin to break down the sugars in my body. I knew I’d get it because all of my family has it. This means that I can’t eat the foods I really enjoy like pasta, bread and potatoes. I know that barring an accident, I will someday die of complications of it. Perhaps I’ll have a heart attack or a stroke and my life will come to end. But I’m not worried because I know that when I go to be with the Lord, I will no longer suffer from the disease. The Bible reminds me that in heaven there is no pain, sorrow or suffering or death. I will be in His presence and I will be free of any physical ailment that I might have to deal with during my time here. While I’m not trying to speed up the process to get to heaven, I look forward to stepping into eternity and receiving a new body that will be imperishable and incorruptible. Until then, it looks like God’s plan for me is to trust Him to strengthen me through this particular trial. I intend to and I hope you do too if God should choose to call you to wait until you’re home in heaven too.