[Mark S. 2] Jesus, Healer
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We all crave healing, don’t we? You don’t need to have a chronic medical condition or some sort of serious illness to feel it. The whole-body weariness that accompanies even a mild case of the flu or the persistent aches and pains that come along with aging are reminders that our bodies are fragile and imperfect. When the Fall happened in Genesis 3, sin entered the world and brought a curse on the whole earth: including our bodies. Humans became vulnerable to pain, illness, and death. Since then, we’ve been longing--consciously and unconsciously--to be healed, body and soul.
The passage we’re looking at this month, Mark 2:1-12, teaches us that Jesus has the power and authority to heal us from effects of the curse. Through his death on the cross, he heals us of our sins and gives us hope for resurrected bodies that will be eternally healthy and whole. Let’s look at Mark 2:
1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 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. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 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. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 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? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 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!”
At this point in Jesus’ life, he had been baptized by John the Baptist, tempted in the wilderness, and called his first disciples. His ministry had officially begun. He had been traveling around the region of Galilee, teaching and healing the people, and casting out demons. Large crowds were drawn to him because of this, to the point that Jesus could not openly enter towns without being mobbed. The beginning of this passage tells us that, once again, a large crowd had sought Jesus out to hear him teach, this time at his home in Capernaum. The crowd was so large, that, when a group of four men brought a paralyzed man to be healed, the door to the house was totally blocked. The men had to make a hole in the roof to lower the paralyzed man down to where Jesus was so he could be healed. Jesus saw their faith and declared to the paralyzed man that...his sins were forgiven?
I can just imagine the looks on people’s faces when Jesus announced this: surprise, confusion, astonishment, and maybe even anger. Why would Jesus forgive a man’s sins when he needed to be healed? How could Jesus even have the authority to forgive sins? The scribes, in particular, weren’t happy with what Jesus said.
The scribes knew that only God can forgive sins. They believed that by claiming the ability to do so, Jesus was committing blasphemy. According to Old Testament law, blasphemy was a very serious sin that was punishable by death. It’s interesting that the scribes believed Jesus had committed blasphemy here. They clearly understood the implications of what Jesus was teaching: he was claiming divine authority equal with God, albeit indirectly. However, because of their lack of faith, they didn’t understand that Jesus was speaking the truth, and simply believed that he was committing an egregious sin.
Before these religious leaders even said anything, Jesus perceived their thoughts and confronted the scribes about them. He challenged their thinking, stating that it would be easier to say that the man’s sins were forgiven than it would be to actually heal him. Referring to himself as the Son of Man, he told them that he would heal the man’s paralysis in order to prove that he had the divine authority to forgive sins as well.
Verse 10 is Mark’s first use of “Son of Man,” which is an important title Jesus uses for himself throughout the book. The phrase “Son of Man” alludes to a passage in Daniel, and is a title of authority over creation. Daniel 7:13-14 says: “I 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.” The religious leaders didn’t seem to understand the meaning of this Old Testament reference, however, probably thinking Jesus simply meant that he was the son of a man. Notably, the second occurrence of the phrase “Son of Man” occurs in 2:28, where Jesus declares himself “lord even of the Sabbath” just before he heals a man with a disfigured hand. This is another teaching/miracle that affirms Jesus’ divine authority. Afterward, Jesus’ conflict with the Jewish religious leaders escalates, and they begin plotting to kill him. In today’s text, however, we don’t get specific insight into the scribes’ reaction to Jesus’ words.
After addressing the scribes, Jesus healed the man’s paralysis. He told him to pick up his bed and return home, which the man stood up and did. The crowd was completely amazed by the miracle. They said to one another that they’d never seen anything like it and they glorified God.
Sometimes, I don’t really know how to respond to stories of miraculous healings in the Bible. I know that they still happen today. I have believing friends who’ve amazed their doctors and beating all the odds by conceiving, walking again, or surviving when they “shouldn’t have.” I also know believers who haven’t: faithful Christians who continue to struggle with chronic illnesses or life-changing injuries that they prayed to be healed from. My ongoing struggle with infertility makes me a part of the latter group. How does Mark 2 ask believers to respond, whatever their experience with miraculous healing is?
I think that we are called to worship God in faith.
We must worship, because, through Christ, God has given us the healing we need. He has made a way to salvation and provided for perfect, bodily healing that will never be taken away from us.
Mark 2 demonstrates to us that Jesus’ miracles had a clear purpose: to bring glory to God by revealing Jesus as his Son. As the Son of Man, he has the authority to forgive sins. On the cross, Jesus became the blameless sacrifice, taking on the punishment sinful humanity deserves to create a path to spiritual healing for God’s people, setting us free from our slavery to sin. Although Jesus had not died and risen yet in Mark 2, his forgiveness of the paralyzed man was still based on his sacrifice, as it is now for all believers. And, no matter how well or ill our bodies are faring today, we know that Jesus has secured for us the promise of perfectly healed bodies when we are resurrected to live with him for eternity.
I want to close us with Revelation 21:3-4. It’s a familiar verse for many, but I think it’s a necessary reminder of the promise we can trust when we feel our need for healing: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’” This is a promise we can rely on. Because of Christ, we have a secure future: free from pain, fear, and sadness and free to enjoy God forever.