This is the sermon text, largely as preached at MacAlpine Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, New York today. I did one part unscripted…so you might want to listen too. I’ve heard a clap or two from some in this congregation before, but this was the first time I’ve ever heard a congregation clap after a sermon. May all the praise go to Jesus.
Click here for the sermon audio.
Jesus did things that led everyone who saw them to exclaim, “We never saw anything like this!” Our passage today is about one of those things – the healing of a paralytic. The paralytic who was brought in on a stretcher or bed of some kind through the roof, no less, because the home was so crowded that people could not get in the door, and when Jesus told him to do so, that paralytic rose to his feet, picked up his bed, and walked home. And people who saw it, including many openly vocal critics of Jesus, were amazed. No doubt they all knew this paralytic and his friends, so they knew this was no trick, but they were not all ready to start following Jesus just because He was able to heal the paralytic. Today I
will not be trying to do anything that will make you say, “We have never seen anything like this.” We suspect that most of the “preachers” who allegedly have done similar things today are frauds trying to
trick us. You know the kinds of show-men that I mean. But I am going to proclaim the word of God and if you believe in Jesus then you will see this great miracle in God’s word.
I. One of the most shocking things about this story is that Jesus says, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
A. The four men had not brought the paralytic to Jesus in order for Jesus to say, “Son your sins are forgiven,” they brought the paralytic to Jesus so that Jesus would heal him. This is only the beginning of chapter two in the Gospel of Mark but already Jesus has healed many people and His reputation for doing so is spreading. And these four men believed that Jesus
could heal their friend. So they brought their friend to Jesus. After all, it was not like their friend could go to Jesus on his own two feet. And so great was their faith that Jesus could heal him that they were not deterred when they could not get their friend through the door. They determined to make their own door into the home where Jesus was living at the time. You and I might complain if someone made a hole in our roof to get into our home to see us, but I guess Jesus figured that it was easy enough to fix – that did not concern Him, He was concerned about the well-being of this man who was unable to move. But He says, “Son, your sins are forgiven”? We are right to be shocked by Jesus’ response since the man is clearly there not to hear that his sins are forgiven but to be healed.
B. But if we can put ourselves into the story for a moment and imagine that we were hearing Jesus say these words we would be even more shocked because we would believe that only God can pronounce the forgiveness of sins. And we would think, “Who is this man to declare, ‘Your sins are forgiven’? You and I today have gotten over this shock because we hear every Sunday the pronouncement of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. But to the people hearing this, whether they were open critics of Jesus or they were interested in what
He was doing and saying does not matter, to them this would be incredibly shocking. A prophet or priest might pray that someone be forgiven, but they could not proclaim the forgiveness of sins. So they had never heard anything like this before.
II. But even more shocking than saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven,” was Jesus saying, “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home” and the man who had been paralyzed got up, picked up his bed,
and went out.
A.  The people of Israel had been trained to think of illness and other physical problems as symbols of sin. So healing this man of his paralysis was a fitting prophetic sign of forgiveness of sins. Sure Jesus had been going about healing people for some time now, but this time Jesus made the connection between healing and forgiveness. So that is the message of this particular act of healing in the same way that earlier healings showed that Jesus was bringing in the kingdom of God as He casted out demons and a healing later in
this chapter showed that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath. It was one thing for Jesus to say it, it was yet more shocking for Jesus to show it.
B. But the other reason that seeing this was shocking was that it was a demonstration that Jesus is a true prophet of God. If you were in that house when Jesus said, “Son, your sins are forgiven” and you are thinking to yourself, ‘How do I know if this is the word of YHWH?’ Remember too that he was preaching (Mark 2:2) from the Torah, Prophets, and Writings of the Hebrew Scriptures. Thus some are also thinking, “How do I know if His interpretation is the word of the LORD?” (At this point I opened the Bible to Deuteronomy 18:15ff and then turned also to Deuteronomy 13:1ff. This is part of the Torah of Moses. Deuteronomy 18 teaches that we aren’t to seek God’s will in the ways that other nations did, that a prophet is speaking the word of the LORD when a prophetic sign comes to pass, and that there will be one prophet in particular who will come (the Christ). Therefore, a prophet would speak and then the prophet would tell you something that would happen in short order and the key would be whether what the prophet said would happen came true. Deuteronomy 13 reminds us that God can test us by allowing a sign to happen when a false prophet encourages us to seek other gods. Jesus, of course, isn’t doing the latter, thus He shows that He is the Prophet like Moses who is greater than Moses. This is the totally unscripted portion of the sermon.) And so Jesus healing the paralytic passes the test of a true prophet showing that Jesus has the authority to say, “your sins are forgiven.” It is a demonstration that showed those who were listening that Jesus was not speaking presumptuously – He was speaking the very word of God. So Jesus showed them something they had never seen anything like it before. He healed the paralytic so that they might know that He had the authority to say, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
III. And you too can know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins and that your sins are forgiven. This is why each week you hear the pronouncement of forgiveness of sins in Jesus’ name. I don’t need to do a miracle like you have never seen before so that you today know that you are forgiven, you have this miracle in the word of God to show you that. You know that I have the authority to say, “Your sins are forgiven in Jesus’ name” because I’ve been ordained as a teaching elder or minister of the Word and Sacrament. Nevertheless, I don’t speak on my own authority but on Jesus’ authority. In fact, you are invited to look through the opening the four men made in that roof into that crowded house with Jesus to hear the words, “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.’” We do not have to wait until we enter heaven or until the final judgment to hear the pronouncement of pardon – Jesus has the authority on earth to tell you this today. Jesus, the prophet like Moses from among their brothers, indeed, not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters. May you never cease to be shocked to hear, “Son or daughter, child of God, your sins are forgiven.” May that reality amaze you so that you want to share about the forgiveness you have found in Jesus with others. But above all, may you know that your sins are forgiven. May we give thanks to God for the forgiveness of our sins in Jesus’ name.