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Healing the Paralytic

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
January 28, 2024 12:01 am

Healing the Paralytic

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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January 28, 2024 12:01 am

Four desperate men stopped at nothing to bring their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his series in the gospel of Mark, showing that Christ had the authority to give this man something far greater than physical healing.

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But he does recognize that the man has a deeper problem than his paralysis, and it is the problem of sin. And Jesus said, I did this not only to heal this man body and soul, but I did it that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority, the power on earth to forgive sins, which is like saying that you may know that the Son of Man is God incarnate. There are incredible accounts for us in the Gospels of Jesus' healing ministry and of His miracles, from raising the dead and cleansing lepers to what we'll hear today, Him healing a paralytic.

But what all people need is more than the healing of the body, it's the forgiveness of sin. You're listening to the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind, as we're spending several weeks looking at the public ministry of Jesus, as recorded for us in the Gospel of Mark. And remember, you can study the entirety of Mark's Gospel when you give a donation of any amount in support of Renewing Your Mind at As our way of saying thanks, we'll send you the hardcover edition of Dr. Sproul's expositional commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Jesus was more than a miracle worker. He was God incarnate, and as such, He had the power to forgive sin. Today's passage is one text that helps us see the clear implication of Jesus' claim to deity.

Here's Dr. Sproul in Mark chapter 2. We continue our study now with the Gospel of Mark, and I will be reading verses 1 through 12 from Mark chapter 2, and ask the congregation to stand for the reading of the Word of God. And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and then it was heard that He was in the house. Immediately many gathered together so that there was no longer room to receive them, not even near the door. And He preached the Word to them. And then they came to Him, bringing a paralytic who was carried by four men.

And when they could not come near Him because of the crowd, they uncovered the roof where He was, so that when they had broken through, they let down the bed on which the paralytic was lying. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, Son, your sins are forgiven you. And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, Why does this man speak blasphemies like this?

Who can forgive sins but God alone? But immediately when Jesus perceived in His Spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven you, or to say, Arise, take up your bed and walk, but that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins. He said to the paralytic, I say to you, Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.

And immediately He arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that they all were amazed and glorified, God, saying, We never saw anything like this. Beloved, this is the unvarnished, inspired, infallible Word of God. May that Word pierce our souls. Please be seated.

Please be seated. Let us pray. Again, our Father, as we look at this text and get another glimpse of the person and work of Jesus, we ask that You would give us understanding, that in understanding these things our affections may be kindled to a flame of passion in our love and devotion towards Jesus. For we ask it in His name.

Amen. Mark continues his narrative. He had told us earlier that Jesus had made His headquarters in Capernaum, but that the crowds had so pressed against Him there, it became no longer possible for Him to continue the mission that the Father had sent Him to perform, namely to preach the coming kingdom of God. And we remember that Jesus then withdrew from Capernaum and took His ministry to the other villages around the Sea of Galilee. Here in the text this morning, we read that Jesus returned to Capernaum, and we read that it was heard that He was in the house.

Another way of translating the text here is that He was at home, which adds more credibility to the notion that Jesus made His home in Capernaum after His family had moved away from Nazareth. And it's also possible that at this time the home that was in view was the home of Peter, that Peter was perhaps again sharing with Jesus. But in any case, He comes to the house, and no sooner does Jesus come into the house, but once again a huge multitude presses together in order to gain entrance to this place to hear Jesus teach and to watch Him perform His powerful works. Mark describes the scene in this manner, that so many people were pressing about that the whole house was filled with people, and not only that, but they were crowded outside at the door so that you couldn't even get close to the entrance to the house.

Now on a couple of occasions, so far in our study of Mark, I've asked you to use your imagination, try to visualize the scenes in which Jesus operated in the first century. And once again, this morning I'm going to ask you to try to imagine yourself being one of those people who had made it inside the house, and that you are in a posture of rapt attention as you're listening to the teaching of Jesus. And while Jesus is speaking and you're listening, you look up and you see some dirt falling from the ceiling, and you think to yourself, what's up with that?

Is there an insect up there disturbing the roof? And you try to keep your attention on Jesus, but your curiosity has the best of you because this disturbance continues at the ceiling, and you look up and you see pieces of the ceiling being removed. Now you can look up and see the sky, and the hole in the ceiling gets bigger and bigger.

Now I know that there have been disturbances and distractions in congregations where I've been preaching, and it's maddening to a speaker to have everybody's attention directed away from the one who is speaking, and I don't know what Jesus felt like when everybody in the room started looking at the ceiling. My guess is that our Lord Himself looked at the ceiling and this disturbance that was taking place, just a little word of background. In Palestine at this time, the normal structure of a house was to be one story with walls and with walls, and on top of that one story was a flat roof. And the normal way in which roofs were constructed were the beams were set across resting on the walls of the house, and then between the beams were interlaced sticks and reeds, and within the reeds and sticks then were woven a kind of thatch like we know of, thatched roofs. If you want to go down to Disney World to the animal kingdom, you can see buildings down there with authentic thatch roofs. And you had this thatch that was woven on top of the sticks, and then on top of the thatch was several inches of mud. And this mud was packed down hard against the thatch, and they even had a kind of roller in the ancient world that they would get up to the roof, and they would roll out this mud until it was very hard and stable. And there were stairs that went outside the building up to the roof, because the roof was the place where people would go just for fresh air. They would often eat their meals on the roof, receive company on the roof. So the roof served sort of as a… like we would have a deck in our houses today.

Now there's one technical problem here. In Luke's version of this story, he gives us a detail that Mark doesn't. He tells us that the men who came and began to disturb the roof did this by removing the tiles from the roof. And some critical scholars would say, ha, Luke's made a mistake here because homes in Palestine did not have tiled roofs like we find throughout Europe even to this day.

But there are a couple things I want to say about that. First of all, the Greek word that Luke uses that is translated by the word tile can simply refer to any kind of hard-baked clay, ceramic, so on. And also we know that as I've already told you, Capernaum was an upscale village along the shores of the Sea of Galilee, and we know that there were European settlements in Capernaum and that there were places in Palestine in the ancient world, particularly among the upscale communities where actual tiles were used.

So either this home has real tiles or hard sun-baked mud that had the effect of ceramic tile. In any case, Mark tells us that while Jesus is teaching, these four men come carrying a stretcher stretcher or a pallet upon which this paralytic, this paralyzed man is lying. They're obviously coming seeking healing for this afflicted gentleman, but they couldn't get anywhere near Jesus. The entrance to the building, as I said, was blocked by this crowd that was there. And so pressing on with their mission to get this suffering man to Jesus, they carry him up the stairs to the roof, and they began digging on the roof, taking apart the tiles, cutting through the thatch, breaking the sticks to make a hole big enough for them to let this man down that Jesus may touch him.

Now, of course, I have to ask questions like that. When I use my imagination, I'm looking up there, how big of a hole? Do they make the hole big enough that they can let this man down on the stretcher horizontally, room for the whole stretcher and the man? That would be a big hole in the roof. Or is it just a small hole that they let him down feet first on ropes?

I certainly don't think they're going to drop him down their head first into the room, but my guess is they made the hole big enough to let the man down on the stretcher. But the thing that's so amazing to me is how determined these men were to bring relief to their friend, that they'd destroy, at least temporarily, somebody's roof and interrupt the teaching of Jesus, doing anything they can to bring their friend to Jesus. Now it says here that when Jesus saw their faith, He spoke to the paralytic. He saw this wretched man on the stretcher, and He looked at him in compassion, and He said, "'Son, your sins are forgiven you.'" Now there's nothing here in the text that would suggest that the man was looking for forgiveness.

What he was looking for was healing. But notice Jesus doesn't say, sir, your sins are forgiven. He addresses him as an adult would a child, and this is not a child, as one who's in a superior position of authority would to a subordinate.

He calls him Son. He said, Son, your sins are forgiven. Well, that statement was so radical that it occasioned a reaction from those who were the theologians, the clergy of the day, who were part of that crowd listening to Jesus, paying attention to every word. Already they're beginning to try to trap Jesus if they can, but the scribes are there, and we read that when they heard Jesus say to the man, your sins are forgiven, some of them were reasoning in their hearts, why does this man speak blasphemies like this? Well, why were they thinking of blasphemy? All Jesus said was, your sins are forgiven. Why would that be blasphemy? Because every scribe knew the principle in Old Testament Judaism that no man, not even the Messiah, would have the authority to forgive the sins of human beings, because they took the position and held it tenaciously that God and God alone has the authority to forgive sins. And so what does Jesus say?

Your sins are forgiven. They're thinking blasphemy. This man is acting as if he had the authority of God Himself. And one of the things that's fascinating in the New Testament record of Jesus is that there are some people like the Jehovah Witnesses and the Seventh Day Adventists who argue that the New Testament doesn't really teach the deity of Christ in spite of the explicit teachings of the text of the New Testament. But not only does the New Testament explicitly teach the deity of Christ, but we see in narratives like this the clear implication of Jesus' claim to deity. And the point is, is that what the Jehovah Witnesses, the Unitarians, and the Mormons failed to get, the contemporary Jews of Jesus' day, they got it. They understood that Jesus was claiming divinity.

That's why they're so exercised. That's why they didn't say anything yet, but they're thinking it inside themselves. Why does He blaspheme? Why does He presume to forgive this man of his sins? Well, Jesus reads their minds.

He knows what they're thinking. And so He perceived in His Spirit when they reasoned this way, and so He said to them, and notice this method of debate in antiquity of answering a question with a question. They're saying, why does He blaspheme?

Who can forgive sins but God alone? Jesus raises the question to them, why do you reason about this in your hearts? Which is easier to say to the paralytic? Your sins are forgiven you, or to say, arise, take up your bed and walk?

Let me just stop there for a second. Jesus poses a question, and the question is, which is easier to say? Your sins are forgiven, or get up and walk? How would you answer that question?

How would you answer that question? This is a difficult passage because on the one hand it would seem that the easier of the two options would be to say your sins are forgiven because nobody can test whether the sins are forgiven. There is no visible evidentiary test that can be taken to verify or falsify the truth of what Jesus pronounces. But if He says, rise, get up, take your bed and get out of here, then He's putting Himself to the test, and people are going to know whether He has the power to heal the man or not. Because if the man goes back out on the stretcher the way He came in except through the door instead of the roof, that would prove that Jesus didn't have the power to heal him. Or if He got up off the bed and walked home, that would also prove that Jesus did have the power to heal Him. So manifestly it would seem at least at first glance that the easier option when Jesus asks, which is easier, to say your sins are forgiven, or rise, take up your bed and walk? But I don't think that what Jesus had in mind was that it was easier to say your sins are forgiven because in that culture, in that context, in the presence of the scribes and the presence of His enemies, it would have been far easier for Jesus to say, get up and walk. Because Jesus knows if He says your sins are forgiven, the gauntlet has been laid down because He's claiming to be divine. And that is not an easy thing to claim in that particular instance. So Jesus is not saying, I took the easy way out.

No. I took the hard way out. Well now the plot thickens, and you're still there, remember. You're listening to this exchange, and you're wondering what in the world He means, which is easier. And He tells you why He did what He did, why He chose the words that He chose.

And listen carefully. But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins. Here's why I said it, not just to heal this man thoroughly, body and soul.

I went deeper than his paralysis. I went to the deepest need that the man had, his relief from guilt. Now this is not to say that the man's suffering was directly a result of his particular sin. It could have been, but the New Testament makes it very clear that we are not to ever draw the conclusion that our suffering in this world is on an equal basis with our guilt. It does teach that suffering enters the world because of sin. But Jesus is not suggesting here that the man's problem is that he's paralyzed by sin.

But He does recognize that the man has a deeper problem than his paralysis, and it is the problem of sin. And Jesus said, I did this not only to heal this man, body, and soul, but I did it that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority, the exousia, the power that we've talked about already on earth to forgive sins, which is like saying that you may know that the Son of Man is God incarnate. Two titles that are frequently used for Jesus in the New Testament, Son of Man, Son of God. And we have a tendency to say, oh, well, we believe that Jesus has two natures, a human nature, a divine nature, and that the title Son of God describes His divine nature, and the title Son of Man shows His solidarity with us in His humanity.

But if we make that assumption, we miss a very significant point that the New Testament makes about Jesus. Let me just take a moment to explain this. about Jesus.

Let me just take a moment to explain this. The title Son of Man is used for Jesus, I've told you this before over in a paid school, but some of you have come since then, and others have forgotten it since then. But the title Son of Man occurs 83 or 84 times, I forget which, in the New Testament. And in every single case except two of them, the title Son of Man is used by Jesus for Himself. In the New Testament, if you look at the frequency of titles that are used for Jesus, the number one title in terms of numerical frequency that is used for Jesus in the New Testament is the title Christ.

The number two title in terms of frequency is the title Lord. The number three title in terms of frequency is the title Son of Man. But what I find astonishing is that even though the title Son of Man is number three overall in terms of frequency, it's far and away number one in terms of Jesus' self-designation. When Jesus tells who He is, the favorite title that He used for Himself is the one that He uses for the first time here in the gospel of Mark, Son of Man. Well who's the Son of Man? This week, dig a little deeper, go back to the book of Daniel, go to the seventh chapter of Daniel where the seventh chapter of Daniel describes in graphic detail the appearance, description, and character of the Son of Man. The Son of Man is a heavenly being. It is the Son of Man who is appointed by the ancient of days to be the judge of the earth. It is the Son of Man to whom the ancient of days gives the kingdom forever. It is the Son of Man who descends from heaven and then ascends into heaven, so that when Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man, He's not practicing humility.

He's not saying, well I'm just a poor country human being. What He's saying is, I have descended from heaven. I am heavenly, not from this earth. And so that title is pregnant with theological significance of the deity and the office of Jesus. And Jesus said, that's why. I said, your sins are forgiven. That you may know that the Son of Man has divine authority.

I have the authority, the exousia, the power and the authority to say your sins are forgiven, and when I say your sins are forgiven, your sins are forgiven. And He looks at the man and says, rise, take up your bed, and walk. And He did.

And He went home. But the greatest thing that happened to the paralytic that day was not the healing of his body. It was the forgiveness of his soul. At the heart of the controversy that erupted in the sixteenth century between the Reformers and the Roman Catholic Church was the church's understanding of the sacrament of penance. And there are many factors to that, but part of the sacrament of penance was confession and priestly absolution, where the penitent church person would come into the confessional and say, Father, I have sinned, and it's been so long since my last confession.

He would recite his sins and so on, and he would have to go through his act of contrition and so on. And the highlight was when the priest would use the words te absolvo, I absolve you. Now some Protestants get really upset when they hear about that, and they say, what right does the priest have to say, I absolve you? Well, the church was very careful for centuries to point out that no priest has the inherent authority to forgive sins. Only God can forgive sins. But what the priest is saying in shorthand when he says, te absolvo, in the name of Jesus Christ, who does have the authority to forgive your sins, I declare you absolved by your repentance. And so the problem with Reformation wasn't with that. It was with other aspects of the sacrament of penance that we can treat it on another day.

But, you know, Luther kept the confessional. For this reason, he said, because people need a word, assurance that they're being forgiven. And very seriously I told you this again. Twenty-five years ago, a psychiatrist who had a very prosperous practice in South Florida seriously asked me to come on his staff, and he offered me what at that time would have been a princely sum of a hundred thousand dollars a year to join his team. I said, I don't even have a degree in psychology.

Why would you want me? And he said, because R.C., ninety-five percent of my clients don't need a psychiatrist. They need a priest because their lives are destroyed by unresolved guilt. Wouldn't it be great if Jesus came in this room this morning, and He walked up to you, and He put His hand on your head, and He said, your sins are forgiven. And as Christians, we know that our sin has been forgiven.

It was R.C. Sproul who said, the only cure for real guilt is real forgiveness. If you don't know if you've experienced that forgiveness and still carry the weight of your sin before God, I encourage you to download the free e-book, What is the Gospel, by visiting slash gospel. This is the Sunday edition of Renewing Your Mind, and today you heard a sermon that R.C. Sproul preached at St. Andrew's Chapel in Sanford, Florida, and I'm glad you're joining us. If you'd like to continue studying Mark's Gospel with R.C. Sproul, he has a verse-by-verse expositional commentary on the Gospel of Mark, and we'll send you the hardcover edition when you give a donation of any amount at Your support is helping countless Christians every day better understand God's Word. Show your support at, and receive this complete commentary on the Gospel of Mark. Jesus told the scribes and the Pharisees that no one puts new wine in old wine skins. What did he mean? Find out next Sunday here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-02-21 13:28:34 / 2024-02-21 13:38:30 / 10

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