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Forgiveness is Offensive?
Imagine for a moment—you’re a executive manager of a company—everyone looks to you. Scratch that, you’re a tenured professor and an important figure on your campus. You’ve helped set up the program and are conducting several important research projects. Then you get assigned a Graduate Assistant. And the students love it when you miss class and you GA has to teach for you. In fact, as soon as they see you’re not there, they call all their friends and class attendance triples—every seat is taken, some sit on the floor, others stand in the back of the room. To add insult to injury—while you were away defending your request for a grant, in the middle of one of your experiments, this graduate assistant comes in and reorganizes everything—“trust me, I know better then the Professor does”—he changes the procedure, changes the subject of the experiment, changes the objective—all because he insists he’s got a better way.
What do you say when you get back and see what’s going on?
“I don’t care how popular you with the students: Who gave you the right to make these changes? Who do you think you are?”
“Don’t worry Professor,” the graduate assistant says. “I’ve already finished all the experiments and processed the data—thanks to my changes, I’ve more than justifies your grant and may in fact revolutionize the field. You can thank me later.”
Welcome to the world of the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law with Jesus on the scene. A young, upstart teacher who knows more than you do, is more popular than you are, and has an uncanny way of proving it.
As we’ve been looking at the Gospel of Mark—it only gets worse in ch. 2
1. Offending Crowds--Read 1-4
a. Standing Room Only—Once again, Jesus was attracting a crowd—unlike any crowd that ever came for one of the regular Saturday Sabbaths. Clearly Jesus was something different—He had some spark about Him that everyone was attracted to—an uncertainty that they were about to see God do something in their midst that hadn’t been done before. He was continuing to do what He had said was His purpose—Jesus was preaching the word to the crowds.
b. A little professional Jealousy would be understandable at this point—What’s He got that I don’t? He’s no better than I am. Heresy is always able to attract a crowd—if it’s popular, it must be wrong.
c. Into this crowd comes Desperation personified. Here was this man who was trapped in his own body—paralyzed—he could not go to Jesus on his own. Taking care of this man required others giving of themselves and their willingness to help. We have no idea how he got this way—whether he was born paralyzed or due to some accident. But he had friends and family that believed that if anyone could help him, Jesus could.
d. But there was a problem. There were many obstacles in the way. The crowds, the popularity, the limited space. I suspect there were even those who didn’t think someone like this paralytic deserved to be in Jesus’ presence—b/c he probably is so sinful that he deserves
e. Think about the obstacles you face in bringing people to church or bringing people to Jesus. What reasons do we give? “They work on Sunday”, “I’ve already asked them before and they said no.”, “I’m worried about what they will think of me.”
f. What if these friends had given up—“Oh well, there’s a crowd. I guess we should just take him home.” “These people are rude—can’t they see our friend needs to see Jesus.” “I really don’t want to dig through the roof—last time I checked, destruction of private property isn’t a good evangelism strategy.”
g. It is my belief that we give up too easily in seeking to bring our friends, family, co-workers to Jesus. They say “No” one time, and we tuck our tails between our legs and never bring it up again.
h. Determination and Persistence and realizing that Jesus is the only One who can truly heal and forgive—Jesus saw that kind of faith commendable and He responded to it.
i. Vs. 5—it was their faith, the faith of the men bringing the paralytic that Jesus sees and responds to. This man’s body was twisted and paralyzed physically, you would think that Jesus would address this problem first—but He doesn’t. Apparently, in Jesus’ mind, the man’s greater need was spiritual—maybe He saw that everyone else thought sin was the problem.
j. “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Even if Jesus never healed his physical body—providing forgiveness for his sins was the greater miracle.
k. Here again, Jesus offends the teachers and leaders—this time by proclaiming forgiveness.
2. Offensive Forgiveness--God’s Territory
a. Why is forgiveness offensive? Why in this case would Jesus even bring up its need?
b. Our culture is not so different from theirs. Many times, when we see bad situation happen to someone, we try to figure out why. In many cases, we look at the things that person has done to bring it on themselves. Today, we just couch it in medical terms: “If he had just eaten better all those years, he wouldn’t have had that heart attack.” “She smoked at least a pack a day, it’s no wonder she’s got cancer.” “I can’t have too much sympathy for someone who risked his life like that—(parachuting, sex, rock climbing, speeding)”
c. This man must have been considered sinful—why else would this man be so paralyzed—He must have done something to deserve it. God must have been punishing this man for something. He was the type that the Pharisees and Teachers of the Law would have counseled by saying, “brother, confess your sins, and God will heal you. Confess your sins, have faith—and if you are worthy—God will heal you.” Gee, you’re not healed—either you’re more sinful than thought, or you must not be worthy.
d. And with that—they could walk on by and never give him another thought. I hope you see from this passage that sometimes healing is not about your crying out, not about your persistence, but the persistence of those praying for you.
e. Son, your sins are forgiven.
f. How dare He say that— READ 5-7--forgiveness is the realm of God’s alone
g. Psalm 51:4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
h. Isaiah 43:25 "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.
i. The audacity of Jesus is astounding. By saying this man was forgiven, Jesus was claiming to be able to do something only God could do—he was blaspheming. Only God had that kind of authority—Only God could forgive sin. These teachers understood the implication immediately.
j. Jesus was walking into a realm that the teachers of the law would never go—they could never pronounce forgiveness—but Jesus did and
k. He did it without the sacrifice—Jesus didn’t tell the man to get cleaned up, to go to the temple and make offerings. Jesus demanded no confession or repentance from the man. He responds to faith—and a desperation—He cleanses.
l. For some, this willingness to forgive and show mercy is unacceptable and offensive. They want to see the wicked get toasted—they look forward to the Fire & Brimstone. Jonah in the OT was hoping that Nineveh would be destroyed—James & John, the Sons of Thunder wanted to call down fire from heaven simply because a Samaritan village didn’t welcome Jesus.
m. The thought of Forgiveness & Mercy Offends, especially those that think of themselves as righteous. To suggest that forgiveness was available without sacrifice drew into question the entire existence of the people, the law, the Temple.
n. Does Jesus offer forgiveness at no cost? Think about that? When someone wants to give you a gift, many times we receive it with suspicion—“what’s the catch?” or “what do you expect in return?” or “what’s this going to cost me?”
o. Jesus says, “you can be forgiven at no cost to you. All I ask is that you repent—stop going the wrong way—Trust & Receive.
3. Offensive Knowledge & Healing?—6-12
a. Jesus knew their hearts—sometimes there’s nothing more disconcerting to realize that someone knows exactly what’s going through your head—knowing exactly how you’re going to respond, what you’re going to say or do. How could they know me so well? Am I that transparent?
b. It’s disturbing playing a chess master when they can predict your moves in advance.
c. Of course, knowing someone knows you so well is also a sign of love and closeness—see Jesus knows your heart and mind because He shared in our creation—He loves us so much that He knows us. But our hearts are also like open books before Him—His word cuts to our hearts.
d. Which is easier? Some people claim a lot of things—that doesn’t make it true. Some people claim to be prophets, some healers, some mouthpieces for God—but just because they claim it, doesn’t mean it’s true.
e. Under other circumstances—with someone else—you and I would be right there with the teachers of the law—“excuse me? You can’t really speak for God!”
f. Jesus acknowledges it—anybody can make the claim—but not everybody can back it up. “Get up, take your mat ant walk.”
g. Jesus command over the physical condition—which they had likely attributed to sin—was proof that He had command over the spiritual condition.
h. He did this “so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”
i. Jesus had knowledge of their hearts. He proved to have greater authority than the teachers of the law. And that claim—that Knowledge & Authority was offensive.
j. Jesus claims to know more than you know—Jesus claims more authority over your body than you have—Jesus claims more authority over your sin than you have.
k. Is it any wonder that some of His listeners were offended? He didn’t sugar coat or gloss over this man’s need of forgiveness, but confronted it with the offer of forgiveness.
l. Many people are offended at Jesus—many people allow obstacles to stop them from coming to Jesus. And sadly many times we who are here—we the ones already before Jesus are the Obstacle—blocking those who are desperately coming to Jesus.
m. Are there any obstacles in your way today? Jesus has the authority to heal and forgive—to give purpose and meaning. See past all those obstacles, all those things that are between you and Him and come—just as you are.