GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
...on the surface, what's going on here is a miracle. There's a man who's paralyzed, he’s brought to Jesus, Jesus heals the man and begins to show his power, He begins to manifest his power. However, in this case, I think there's something really significant about this miracle that can easily get overlooked, and it's the question of the implicit divine claim that Jesus is making. So you can see that when he speaks to the paralytic, he says something very powerful. He says, "My son, your sins are forgiven." Now, I don't know about you, but if I was the paralytic, my response to that would have been something, shall we say, of disappointment or confusion, right? Because this man's been paralyzed, apparently for a long time. He's suffering from paralysis. His friends are bringing him here, obviously to be healed by Jesus, and when the paralytic is brought to Jesus, Jesus's first thing that he talks about is not his physical, visible ailment, b about his invisible, spiritual ailment of sin? So Jesus says, "My son, your sins are forgiven." And I can imagine the paralytic saying, well, thank you, but that's not exactly what I came for, right? I came for physical healing.
But in those words, something powerful is revealed, namely an implicit divine claim. Because the scribes, who are basically Jewish biblical scholars, these are the people who are experts in the law, when they hear Jesus declare the man's sin to be forgiven, they recognize that he's making an implicit divine claim because they say, "It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” What they're reflecting here, and this is important, is the idea, based on Jewish scripture, that God alone has the authority to forgive human sins in a definitive way. So of course humans can forgive one another. If someone sins against you or you sin against someone else, you can forgive that person and you can ask for forgiveness, but that's not what they're talking about here. If you go back to the Old Testament, for example, in Leviticus 4, there are descriptions of what a person is to do. If they commit a sin, they are to bring sacrifices to the Temple. And it says that the priests will offer the sacrifice, over and over again it refrains, and the person's sins shall be forgiven. And what that means is they shall be forgiven by God. It's God who forgives human sin. And you'll see this elsewhere in the Old Testament, Psalm 51, David says to God, “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!” It's something that God has the unique and exclusive power to forgive human sin.
And So what Jesus does here, He doesn't tell the man, "Go to the temple, offer a sacrifice and then your sins will be forgiven by God." He bypasses that whole process and says, "My son, your sins are forgiven”, which has two important implications. Number one, that the root of this man's physical ailment is actually a spiritual ailment, sin. Number two, that Jesus is implying that he has the power, the divine power, to forgive sin, and the scribes know it, so they say in response to him, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And the Greek is actually stronger; the original Greek of this text…unfortunately, the RSV doesn't get it quite right here. A more literal translation is, "Who can forgive sins, but the one God.”Heis ho Theos
in Greek. Now the one God, that expression, is an allusion to Deuteronomy 6. Deuteronomy 6:4 is the famous text known as the Shema. Shema
means hear in Hebrew. “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord
and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” So the confession of the one God in the Shema, which Jews would have made on a daily basis, is echoed here in the teachings and the response of the scribes when they say "Who can forgive sins but the one God?" So they recognize Jesus isn't just claiming to be, you know superhuman or to be divine, he's actually claiming, implicitly through his words, to be the one God.
In other words, the God of Israel, the only one who has the power to forgive sins.
And so in response to that charge, when Jesus perceives what they're saying and what they're thinking in their hearts, He turns to them and says:
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of man…
Which is an implicit reference to himself.
…has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic—
“I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.”
And he does. All right, so pause there. What's the implication of this? This is a really crucial response on Jesus' part. When the scribes say, "Who can forgive sins but the one God," he is blaspheming, Jesus has every opportunity to say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, you misunderstood me. I'm not claiming to be the one God. I'm not claiming divine authority." He could have said, "I'm the new priest, I'm a messianic priest. I have authority to offer sacrifice like the priests in the Temple," or some other explanation. In other words, he could have walked back the divine implication that the scribes pick up on, but he doesn't do that. Instead, he challenges them and he says, "OK, which is easier? To say your sins are forgiven, or to say rise, take up your palette and walk.“ In other words, what he's saying to them is: “I could just say his sins are forgiven and you wouldn't be able to verify whether that had taken place or not. But if I say rise, take up your palette and walk, you can see whether I have the power to do that or not because of the healing, whether it takes place or not. So what I am going to do it, in order to show you that I have the power to perform the invisible miracle of forgiving his sins, I will perform he visible miracle of healing his paralysis, so you might know that the son of man does have the authority on earth to do what seems impossible. Namely, to forgive sins.”
So he turns to him, he says “rise, take up your pallet and go home” and he rose.
And as Mark loves to say, “immediately”.
That is his favorite word.
He “took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” There are some interpreters who will argue that Jesus isn't making a divine claim here in Mark 2. I actually cover this in more detail in my book. I have a section on this episode in my book, The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ
. So there are some skeptics who say no, no, no, Jesus isn't trying to make a divine claim, he's just making a priestly claim. He's just doing what the priests in the Temple would do. You go in and you offer a sacrifice, and then the priest acts as a kind of mediator through whom you receive the forgiveness of sins. But as I show in the book, The Case for Jesus
, that doesn't make sense on two key counts.
Number one, the scribes do not say, "Who can forgive sin, but priests alone." If they had said that, then that would be a reasonable interpretation of the text. But they don't say that. They say he's blaspheming, "Who can forgive sins but the one God?” Secondly, and this is equally important, how do the people react? The people have been to the Temple before. The people have seen priests offer sacrifices of atonement in the Temple and had their sins forgiven. If they've ever been to the Temple, they've witnessed it. But what they've never seen is a man tell another man, "Your sins are forgiven," and then heal him in order to prove that he has the power to do it.
So this episode at the beginning of Mark's Gospel is absolutely crucial because in it, Jesus isn't just beginning to reveal his messianic identity or his identity as a savior, He’s beginning to reveal his divine identity by doing something that only the one God of Israel has the authority to do, namely, to forgive human sin, and by performing a miracle that no mere mortal has the power to do, namely, to give a paralyzed man the ability to take up his palette, walk, and go home.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
Okay, the context in 2 Corinthians 1 is that some people in the church of Corinth appear to have been accusing Paul of vacillating on whether he was going to visit them or not. So some people are upset because they thought he was going to come to them. Others said no, he's not going to come to them. So some people have been saying that he was both saying yes and no. As we say, he was speaking out of both sides of his mouth or he was being two-faced with them. And so part of the context here is Paul just defending himself.
He is saying “listen, when we were among you, Silva’nus and Timothy and I”—that’s the triad of preachers — “our word to you wasn't yes and no; it was always yes.” And that accusation leads him to give this beautiful affirmation:
all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ].
It's a powerful summary statement. I'm really thankful that these people were complaining about Paul so that he would be led to such a profound statement in the wake of such a kind of mundane accusation. Because what he's effectively saying there is that all of the promises of God in the Old Testament. Think here of, for example, the trim-fold promise to Abraham of a dynasty, descendants, of the land, that he would enter the promised land, that all of the nations of the world would be blessed through his descendants.
Those three promises, as well as all the other promises God makes to his people in the Old Testament, and there are many, they all find the answer yes in the person of Jesus. Jesus’ passion, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven is the answer to every promise that God made in the Old Testament and every prayer of God's people throughout the Old Covenant. So that although they might be accusing Paul of vacillating or saying yes and no, of saying one thing and doing another, the same accusation cannot be made of God. God is a God who keeps his promises, even when it appears that his promises have failed, even when it appears that his promises have not come to fruition, even when it appears that the prayers of his people have been ignored for centuries as they sat in exile and and as they were suffering under the oppression of the Greeks or the Romans or the Persians, whoever it might be at any given point. All those prayers, all those promises, they all find the answer, yes, in Christ. And that is why Paul says:
we utter the Amen through [Christ], to the glory of God.
Now this is a very interesting statement, “we utter the Amen”...
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