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Hello My name is Abraham Kaier. I’m an artist and lecturer. You will find out more about me through this message, but one thing is very clear, though I’m a sinner, Jesus has forgiven my sins.

YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN

Mark 2:1-17
Key verse 2:5

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

In this passage, Jesus meets two men, one who is paralysed, the other a tax collector. On the face of it, these men couldn’t be more different. One spent each day imprisoned by his body unable to move, the other was apparently very capable and driven by making money. Yet when we look at them more closely, we find they both suffered from a deep inner problem of sin. They had no hope, one lay on his mat the other sat at his booth, unable to change. Yet Jesus had hope for them. With a few simple words Jesus forgave their sins and completely transformed their lives. I pray that through this message we may meet Jesus who has the authority to forgive all our sins.

Part 1 “Get up, take your mat and walk.” (1-12)

Look at verses 1,2. Jesus had been staying in lonely places outside Capernaum to avoid the crowd. Now, a few days later he returned to his home in Capernaum but still people found out. Everybody wanted to see and listen to Jesus. They filled up his house until there was no room even outside the door. For they had not known anyone to preach with such power and authority. Jesus preached the word to them because, more than physical healing or improving their material situation people most needed the life of God, they needed to repent and believe the good news.

Look at verse 3,4. “Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.” We can imagine the scene, at least four men came carrying this paralysed man on the mat. Paralysis is usually incurable; it means that even though one might be mentally alert there is no control over the body. We can only think of the frustration he, must have felt. As a boy he couldn’t join the other kids playing football or tennis. For long hours each day he was just left to think and watch the world go by; his spirit gradually becoming more dependant and demanding on others.

Yet it seems the man had friends who really wanted to help. But what could they do, it seemed impossible? One of them had heard about Jesus who had miraculous power to heal people. “Let’s take him to Jesus, If only we get him to Jesus he will be healed, let’s go!” Yet as they got to Jesus’ house they were met with an obstacle. The people crowding around Jesus would not let them pass. Maybe they started by politely asking, but that didn’t work, Perhaps they resorted to rugby tactics to drive their way through but that didn’t work either. It was exhausting enough carrying the man, but to try and fight their way through was impossible. Still they tried to find a way.

They circled the crowd and managed to get up on the roof. In those days roofs were constructed with wooden planks with brush wood and mud laid over the top. It would have been relatively easy to make a hole large enough to lower the man down but it must have caused a great disturbance. Can you imagine trying to give a message with large amounts of wood and clay falling from the roof? It began with some dull thudding. As people looked up they probably got dust in their eyes and begun to cough. People must have been indignant by the brazen rudeness of these men. They had jumped the queue, they had interrupted Jesus and they had caused criminal damage. They had no manners, they were insensitive and clumsy; they did not know how to behave, but they had spirit and they loved their friend. Once the dust had cleared and the noise died down people must have watched to see what Jesus would do next.

Look verse 5. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” The people probably expected him to rebuke the men for their disruption and vandalism. Like children in a classroom they wanted justice from the teacher. Yet Jesus didn’t rebuke them, he saw their faith. “Their faith” included the faith of the paralysed man himself. What was their faith? First, they had faith that Jesus had the power to heal. No one else could heal the man but they believed Jesus could. Second they had faith in Jesus’ love, that if they brought him, Jesus wouldn’t turn him away but would accept him. Their faith in Jesus meant they didn’t give up, but tried by any means to get him to Jesus. This meant they were creative and took initiative. They could not go through the crowd, they could not get around them, and so they went over them. They thought spatially! I’m an artist but these men are better than me, I need to learn from them, their so imaginative. Their faith in Jesus also meant they co-worked well together. Getting the man’s dead weight onto a roof is no easy task. They couldn’t do on their own or if they all had different ideas. But when they denied themselves and worked together in one spirit they could each play their part like well trained commandoes. Let’s learn from these men and what ever obstacle or situation we face, let’s challenge by faith in Jesus.

Look at verse 5 again. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” People tend to look at visible, physical problems rather than seeing spiritually. Looking at this man, they could see his paralysis and might feel sympathy and pity for him. They would say his paralysis was his most serious problem and if healed, the man would be happy. After all, being healed would transform his life. But Jesus said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Jesus accepted this man as his son and forgave his sins. He wanted the man to understand he loved him as he was but also he needed his sins forgiven.

We can think why? Sin means a broken relationship between God and man. It is an invisible problem and so people tend not to think it’s so serious. Yet sin paralyses a man’s heart and distorts and corrupts his soul. It cripples his character and makes him a slave to the devil. Sin robs him of spiritual fruit and life’s meaning. Ultimately it leads to eternal condemnation in hell. Therefore, far more serious and debilitating than physical paralysis, is the paralysis that comes from sin. These days, people worry about the world financial crisis. They blame it on poor regulation but in reality it’s the fruit of sin and men’s greed. Sin is at the root of all human suffering. One could think because this man was paralysed he would not have much opportunity to sin but when we understand sin is not so much what we do but a matter of the heart we can see this man equally needed Jesus’ forgiveness. He, like any man, would be vulnerable to lust, pride, and ingratitude to God. He could be racked by bitterness and fatalism about his condition and become dependant and demanding on others.

It’s important here to understand how sin paralyses a person spiritually. People tend to think of sin as “the bad things I do.” However, sin also means “the things I should do, but neglect to do.” For instance, it’s no good being respectable or moral if I deny my neighbour Jesus’ love or fail to give them the gospel. Am I sinless, if I enjoy Jesus’ grace and truth while thousands of students suffer each day in spiritual ignorance and darkness? In that sense laziness, complacency, fear, and pride can all be examples of spiritual paralysis. The point Jesus was making to this paralysed man was that his physical condition wasn’t the problem, rather it was the sin in his heart, which prevented him from living for the glory of God. Yet when he was forgiven by Jesus he could enjoy peace, joy and a new purpose in God. There are many examples of people who are physically disabled living fruitful, victorious lives for the glory of God. One was Amy Carmichael. After an injury she became bed bound for the last 20 years of her life. She could have become frustrated that her active mission life had come to an end. Instead she realised God wanted her to pray more. These last years became her most fruitful as she lived and prayed wholly for the glory of God.

There was one group of people who were not so happy with Jesus. Look at verses 6,7. The Pharisees’ last question was very correct. Who can forgive sin? Only God can forgive sin because sin is against God alone, therefore no man can forgive sin. Yet, where the teachers of the law were wrong was to think that Jesus was just a ‘fellow’ talking. Look at verse 8,9 “Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, get up take up your mat and walk?” Jesus presented the issue clearly. Until then no one had made a paralysed man walk with his words. It seemed impossible, yet even that was easier than forgiving sin. Even Peter, later healed a cripple with his words but could not forgive sins (Acts 3). Words are easy to say, anybody could say, “Your sins are forgiven”–what matters is the authority behind them.

Look at verse 10, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…” Jesus here declared his authority to forgive sins. Throughout history man has tried to solve his sin problem by himself whether by different kinds of sacrifice or undergoing severe trials. People have tried to solve their sin through strict law or self-discipline and fasting. People try to solve their sense of sin by doing good works and charity or living a noble life– but without God’s authority such things are meaningless. John Newton was a man who had sent many slaves into captivity; he had the blood of hundreds on his hands. How could he be forgiven? He couldn’t forgive himself; no amount of good work would cancel out his sin. We find the answer in the hymn he wrote, “Amazing Grace.” …Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found…. He found forgiveness from the authority of Jesus. Jesus could claim such authority because he is the Son of God. He alone was the sinless lamb sent by God who later would go to the cross and shed his blood for the sin of the world. He was the one God chose, the only one God accepts, who has the authority to forgive sins.

Jesus wanted the man and the Pharisees and the people to know he had this authority. Therefore in verse 11and 12 he proved his authority was genuine by performing a miracle that could be done only with God’s approval and power. “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praise God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” By healing the man Jesus demonstrated that he is the Son of God sent by God to forgive our sins. Everyone has sinned, but there is no sin that Jesus cannot forgive. All we have to do is simply bring our sin to him, trusting in his authority. This is not a theory. When we come to Jesus with our sin we can personally experience and know his forgiveness in our hearts.

Before meeting Jesus I was very much paralysed by sin. Outwardly I seemed fine, yet the temptation of lust, the influence of friends and my desire to party and smoke drugs left me powerless and unable to change. I could not get out of bed in the mornings, I could not concentrate or study, and I felt there wasn’t purpose or reason to do so. I was controlled by a combination of laziness fear and guilt, knowing I should be living differently but unable to move. It was only when I met Jesus, and personally heard his words, “Son, your sins are forgiven” could I find both the problem and the answer in Jesus. I realised my sin was against God and I needed to repent. When I asked Jesus to forgive me I found I was reborn and released from my paralysis. It was Jesus who gave me his power and the peace to live differently, to live a renewed and dynamic life for the glory of God. Since serving students of the past ten years I have seen that my experience isn’t unique. Students in London are naturally very capable, yet many are paralysed by depression, guilt, fear and a deep fatalism about their lives. Young minds that should be thinking about the meaning of life and seeking God’s will and vision, instead lie on their mats unable to get up. One guy I know, was a very intelligent and sincere man, but he was paralysed by depression and a deep sense of meaninglessness. He was very dark and gloomy and powerless. Yet when he brought his sins to Jesus, he began to change. I pray we may hear Jesus’ words personally “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Part 2. “Follow Me” (13-17)

Look at verses 13,14. Jesus was perhaps teaching even as he walked along. He saw this man Levi sitting at his booth. Tax collectors were regarded as official sinners, those people whose way of life, along with prostitutes, was considered so wicked that they were shunned by the rest of society. No one likes paying taxes. I’m an artist, I have to give 50% to my gallery then 30% to the government, I hate taxes. But tax was particularly unpopular in Israel because it continually reminded the people that they were now ruled by Rome. For that reason tax collectors were considered traitors. They were also known to be corrupt extortionists, who personally profited through the suffering of others. So when people saw Levi at his booth, they saw an official sinner, an outcast of society, a national traitor and a deeply selfish man.

We might ask how Levi got there. After all, when you ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, few answer, “I want to be a tax collector. I want to betray my people and end up a toxic sinner that no one wants to be with.” We don’t know his life but we can imagine. Maybe people were always talking about doing something noble or moral, but “Come on!” Levi thought. “Money is where it’s at.” Maybe others hadn’t tasted poverty like he had. He was determined never to be poor again. He studied hard to get a scholarship to LSE where he studied tax, he excelled income tax, VAT, customs and excise and the more subtle ways of squeezing as much money as possible out of people. For his PhD he even proposed new taxes. Even his fellow tax collectors thought he was extreme. But he didn’t care. He wanted money. He was certain money would guarantee his happiness, fulfilment, future security, and if it meant losing friends, well that’s ok, he could buy others. When he graduated he soon found a job in Capernaum and was able to buy a large house with a swimming pool and an HD TV the size of his wall. The trouble was it was always empty. People crossed the street to avoid talking to him. He saw their deep resentment even when they pretended to be friendly in order to get a favour from him. He knew even his wife didn’t love him but had married him for his money. His kids were ashamed of him and when he came to school they pretended he was someone else’s dad.

So there he was, sitting at his booth condemned by society and all alone. He was trapped in a life he couldn’t change. He had lost his dignity, his self-esteem, integrity, honour and his identity; things he had not valued in his youth but now he had lost them he couldn’t get them back. It was too late. People wouldn’t let him change or forget, he would always be “the tax collector.” From Levi, we can see that what a person follows, and the choices he makes early in life has a huge consequence later on; what we follow ultimately influences who we become.

Look at verse 14 again. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and he got up and followed him.” Jesus saw Levi, not like others saw him, but with the hope of God. Jesus saw an unhappy man who until now had followed the wrong thing, but he also saw his great potential. He saw inside his heart a spiritual hunger to live differently, and seek God. Everyone is born in the image of God and deep down even the most unlikely people have a spiritual desire to know God and find his vision for their lives. Levi had followed money and had lost everything, now Jesus called him, “Follow me.”

What did Jesus mean by, “Follow me”?, From now on Jesus wanted him to go where he went, to live with him each day, to learn to obey his words and imitate his love and compassion on others. Jesus had forgiven Levi but now he had to change his life time habit and overcome his selfishness. By following Jesus he could learn God’s heart for those who were sick and in deep need of God’s truth. To follow Jesus meant to follow his life until he was moulded into the very character of Christ. It meant learning to deny himself and take up his cross. It meant each day growing in a personal relationship with Jesus as his Christ and Saviour. This was an invitation to completely transform his life and find God’s hope and vision for him. “Follow me”, these two words meant he could leave his selfish life behind and be used by God to bring the world the gospel of St. Mathew.

Levi must have been so happy! He spent his money and threw a big party for everyone who was willing to come. It seemed that the only people who came were his old tax collector friends and other sinners along with Jesus and his disciples. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the “sinners” and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy that need a doctor but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” The Pharisees were blind to their sin and so could not accept they were sick. Instead they judged other people, and would not come to Jesus. Jesus cannot help us with our sin unless we are honest and humbly repent. Like a doctor he does not judge us but simply wants to heal us.

I shared with you how I met Jesus, but frankly the words “Follow me” were a bit of a challenge. Unlike Levi I was not so quick to jump up and follow Jesus. I was worried that following him would mean giving up my freedom and having no fun, I wanted to be creative and an intellectual, not live as a disciple. But when I began to follow Jesus, I realised nothing compares, that this is God’s greatest blessing. God blessed me in my work, my mission life, through 8 years of marriage; we have just had a beautiful baby girl, Sarah. I didn’t lose my freedom but found a new freedom, and a much greater vision to live for the glory of God and bear fruit for him.

Before concluding let’s read verse 5 once more. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

In conclusion, sin paralyses people, sin makes people selfish, sin leaves people without hope. However, when we come to Jesus, he forgives our sins and transforms our lives. “Son, your sins are forgiven.” We thank God for Jesus’ authority to forgive our sins.

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