Mark 2:1-17 Authority to forgive sin

Reading: Mark 2:1-17

Last week we read a miracle list that filled the last half of the first chapter of Mark. Mark chapter 2 also begins with a healing — but it is different — it is much longer, and it gives some information about Jesus that we rarely think about; where does Jesus call home, and what is it like when he goes home?

Capernaum is one of the three towns that Jesus might call home, the other two being his birthplace, Bethlehem, and Nazareth where he grew up. It was a small town by the sea of Galilee, with an economy dependent upon fish. The disciple Peter’s home was in Capernam, and there is a church build on the ruins of an ancient house that many believe Peter lived in.

Remember, I told you one of the things I love about Mark is that in Mark, Jesus seems the most human. Jesus just went on his first preaching tour, and what happens? Can Jesus take off his sandals, scratch his feet, and rest? No — people hear Jesus is home, and everybody starts banging at his door — his house fills up with people, and there are people outside listening to hear what He might say. The people who run to Jesus’ door are not just the common uneducated people, but even the scribes have come to hear Jesus teach.

Now, there is a whole crowd of people at Jesus’ home — the crowd is so big that you can’t even get there. Some people come hoping that Jesus can heal their friend, just like Jesus healed so many others while he was going on his preaching tour. They got to the house, and the house was full, and there was a crow of people pressed at the front door; so they bring their friend up onto the roof, make a hole in the roof and drop him down to Jesus.

What I’ve always found remarkable is that Jesus does not get angry for them destroying the roof. I’ve read that most likely this roof was of a kind that needed repaired very often; at least annually, or if it rains hard; most likely, it would be a flat roof sealed with sun-dried clay, so the roof would need re-sealed every time the clay cracked in the sun or the rain washed too much away — so, it is not quite as obnoxious as it sounds, but, you still wouldn’t be thrilled to see somebody digging a hole in your roof.

Anyways, this paralyzed man is lowered into the room, and Jesus says something different than what he had said in former chapters. Jesus says: “Your sins are forgiven.” He did not just heal the man, but told him that his sins were forgiven first. This is rather surprising, as this isn’t why the man came. The literate people talked among themselves complaining that Jesus couldn’t have any right to forgive sins, the Jesus proved he could by telling the man to get up and go home.

This makes me wonder why did Jesus need to publicly forgive the man’s sins before he was healed? It also makes me wonder why the educated scholars of the Torah really cared about his sins. Personally, I suffer the sinfulness of the powerful much more than I suffer the sinfulness of the powerless. I do know that in John’s gospel when Jesus healed the man who was born blind, he was asked who’s sin caused the man to be born blind. There is the idea that if somebody is suffering, it is a just punishment seems to be a repeated false idea. Job speaks against, Ecclesiastes and many of the Psalms speak against it, yet it is repeated again and again — even today. Whatever this man’s sin was, I am sure that it did not affect the lives of those who cared so much about Christ forgiving it.

After Jesus heals the paralyzed man, he goes to a Tax collector’s house, and eats with the guy’s colleagues and friends. Now, this is very much different than forgiving a man who didn’t have the ability to harm anybody; these Tax collectors were collaborators with the occupying Romans, thus traitors to the people of Judah, they were sinners of the worst kind — sinners who’s sinfulness clearly harmed everybody around them. The question comes — why does Jesus eat with sinners — even sinners of the worst kind; and Jesus responds: “Those who are well have no needs of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”