Mark 04: The greatest gift

Mark 2:1-12

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”


Merry Christmas. Let me start with a question. What is the best gift you received this Christmas? For some of you, maybe it is a new laptop, a new iPad, or a new phone. For some, it might be a new pair of shoes, a new handbag, a new car, or a new house. Or for others, it might be a new relationship. I heard the Christmas season is the perfect season to ask someone out. Even if he or she is not that into you, the chance of them saying yes is higher due to the fact that they don’t want to be alone during this festive season. Singles, too late now. Give it a try next year. Or maybe for others, it is that gift, that suit that you buy for yourself as a present because you know no one else is going to buy it for you. But here is what I know about the best gift we have received. The best gift is always related to our perceived need. If we need a new laptop, receiving a new Nespresso machine is great, but it is not the best gift. The best gift would be a new laptop. And today, we are talking about the greatest gift. What is the greatest gift we can ever receive? Well, it depends. It depends on what we think is our greatest need. If we think that our greatest need in life is for us to be happy, then the greatest gift would be whatever can make us happiest. If we think our greatest need is for us to be successful, then the greatest gift would be whatever can guarantee our success. The greatest gift is always related to the greatest need. Are you with me? But when it comes to our needs, the gospel is counterintuitive. The gospel tells us that we have a need that we don’t even know we have. And that need is our greatest need. And until that need is met, all other gifts are useless. And the good news of Christmas is that Jesus has come to give us the greatest gift.

Tonight, we are continuing our series on the book of Mark. The book of Mark is written to make sure that we always have access to know who the real Jesus is. Because Jesus who is a projection of our desire is useless. That Jesus cannot meet our greatest need. And in Mark chapter 1, we learned that Jesus is a king. But he is a king unlike any other king in this world. His kingdom is unlike any other kingdom in this world. Jesus is a king with authority over diseases and demons. And wherever he goes, he heals the sicks and casts out demons. People are amazed at Jesus. And so far in the story, everyone is happy with Jesus. Whenever Jesus speaks and acts, everyone praises God. But in Mark chapter 2, it starts to change. Starting this chapter, Mark shows us what happens when Jesus goes public. Jesus confronts the customs and traditions of his day. And for the first time, some people begin to feel uncomfortable with Jesus. Some are shocked, and some are furious with Jesus. Tonight’s passage reveals the main priority of Jesus. And Jesus’ priority is often different from our priorities. We tend to focus more on what we need here and now. But Jesus is far more interested in our greatest need. Jesus always prioritizes the eternal over the temporary.


I separated this sermon into three parts: The faith; The need; The authority.


The faith


Mark 2:1-4 – And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay.

At the end of Mark chapter 1, Jesus left Capernaum to go to many different towns to preach the gospel. And now after some days, Jesus returns home to Capernaum. By home, it is likely referring to Peter’s house because that is where Jesus was staying earlier. And the news that Jesus is back in town travels super-fast, and the crowd quickly gathered. Jesus is extremely popular to the point that the house is extremely packed. There is no room whatsoever for people to walk in and out of the house. Jesus is a celebrity. But not everyone is there for the right reasons. Some are simply there because they want to be healed. Some are there to check out the hype. What is interesting about the book of Mark is that Mark never associates the crowd with the believers. Mark never describes the crowd turning to Jesus in repentance and faith. It teaches us an important lesson. Proximity to Jesus is not the same as faith in Jesus. It is very possible to be drawn to Jesus, to be amazed at Jesus, to admire Jesus, and never put faith in Jesus. So, what did Jesus do with the crowd? Jesus preaches the gospel to them. This is Jesus’ main priority. For sure, many are gathered there because they want something from Jesus. They have needs that they want Jesus to meet. But Jesus always prioritizes preaching the gospel to them. And if Jesus’ priority is to preach the gospel to the crowd, then the church’s priority must also preach the gospel whenever we gather.

And while Jesus is preaching the gospel, four men show up with a paralyzed man on a mat. These four men want to get their paralytic friend to Jesus. Now, we do not know what happened to the paralytic. Was he born this way? Was it a tragic event? Was it because of sin? We are not told. But the four men know that if only they can get their friend to Jesus, then Jesus would heal him. But there is no way they can get to Jesus through the front door. The house is extremely packed, and no one will let them in. Imagine the conversation between these four men. The first man says, “I have an idea. Why don’t we climb up on the roof?” The second responds, “What good would that do? Jesus is inside the house, not outside. Deee.” The first replies, “Yeah, I know. I am not dumb. But we can take the roof off.” The third comments, “You can’t just remove other people’s roofs. Peter will be mad at us.” The first says, “I think it’s worth a try. We can apologize and fix the roof later.” And the fourth finally says, “I guess that’s the only option we have. We must get our friend to Jesus. Do or die. Let’s do it.” So, they climb up on the roof, tear down the roof, and let down their friend from the roof. And Mark writes that when Jesus sees what these four men do, Jesus sees faith.


Don’t miss it. This is the first time the word faith is used in the book of Mark. And Mark describes faith not simply as intellectual knowledge about Jesus but as active trust in Jesus. This is what faith is. We know nothing about what these men believe about Jesus except their actions. Their actions show their faith. There are six characteristics of faith that we can see from these men. First, their faith is confident. Look at what these men do. They truly believe that Jesus could and would heal their friend. If they don’t believe that, they would not go to such trouble in getting their friend to Jesus. They truly believe that if only they can get their friend in front of Jesus, then Jesus would do something amazing. Second, their faith is persistent. They don’t give up easily. When they can’t enter the house because of the crowd, they don’t say, “Well, we tried. Too bad there are too many people. Maybe it’s just not meant to be. Tough luck mate.” No. They do whatever it takes to get their friend to Jesus. Their friend has a need that only Jesus can meet, and they would not stop until they take him to Jesus. Third, their faith is creative. They would not let any obstacle stand in their way. They would not let the crowd, nor the roof gets in their way. So, they think outside the box and decide to climb up on the roof and remove the roof. I am sure when other people look at what they do, they would say, “Why didn’t I think of that?”

Fourth, their faith is compassionate. They love their friend. A paralytic is not able to do anything. A paralytic is at the mercy of the people around him. He cannot move. He is helpless. But his friends love him enough to go to such extend. Fifth, their faith is sacrificial. I am sure there are many judging eyes and words directed at their action. Imagine what Peter would have thought as these men remove the roof. “That’s my roof. Those dudes better fix it later. Or I’ll cut their ears with my sword.” Right? Peter’s mother-in-law would probably have fever again when she witnesses her roof being removed and Jesus would have to heal her again. But these men ignore all protests and judgements. They will have to fix the roof later. There is a price to be paid. But they think it is worth it. Sixth, their faith is contagious. David Platt makes an interesting observation. We do not know much about the paralytic but try to imagine if you are that man. You hear words being spread about Jesus and his ability to heal diseases. And everyone is saying that Jesus is at Peter’s house, and they rush to get there. But you are stuck. You can’t move. There is nothing you can do. Until four friends say, “We are going to take you to Jesus because we believe Jesus can heal you.” How would you feel? You would be encouraged by their faith. You start to have hope. “Yes, maybe Jesus can heal me. Maybe he will.” Then as you lie on that mat outside the house, the crowd won’t let you in. You feel discouraged. But then you look at your friends and they are talking about getting up on the roof, removing the roof, and letting you down through it. You think that it is a crazy idea, but your friends are crazy enough to do it. Your faith is encouraged. And then they take you to the roof, strap ropes to your mat, and their faces are filled with expectations that something amazing is about to happen. Looking at their faces glimmering with expectations, your heart is filled with hopeful anticipation. So, they lower you from the roof, and your mat finally hits the floor. You are finally in the presence of Jesus, with your friends’ faces in the background. By this time, your heart is filled with faith. These four men’s faith is contagious, and it affected Jesus and the paralyzed man.


Here is my point. These men believe in Jesus and will do whatever it takes to bring their friend to Jesus. This is a powerful example for us. If we believe that Jesus is the only one who can meet people’s greatest needs, then we should do whatever it takes to bring people around us to Jesus. It might be our family members, our friends, our neighbours, our co-workers etc. What they need is to encounter Jesus and we should do whatever we can to make it happen. It won’t be easy. There will be many challenges and obstacles in sharing the gospel with them. But our faith should be confident, persistent, creative, compassionate, sacrificial, and contagious, believing that God can save them, and he will save them. We should never ever give up on anyone’s salvation. Keep sowing the gospel seeds. Persevere in sharing the gospel. And see how God responds to our faith. Look at what happens next. It is beautiful and confusing at the same time.


The need


Mark 2:5 – 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

“Wait. Hold on a second. Jesus, are you the only one who did not get the memo? Can’t you see what is happening? I think you are missing the point here. Well, first, let me say that it is very nice of you to forgive this man of his sins. It’s cute. There are a few problems with your claim but let’s save it for the latter part of the sermon. But I think it is obvious that what this man need is not forgiveness of sins. James, can you see what this man needs? What about you John? Everyone can see it but you. What this man needs is not forgiveness of sins but for him to be able to move and walk again. His friends went through that extreme length, not for the forgiveness of sins but healing.” Like, imagine you have a toothache, and you go to a dentist to get it fixed. And your dentist says, “Ah I can see the problem. You need a root canal treatment. So here is the fix. Your sins are forgiven. Goodbye.” Wait. What? This does not make any sense. It is confusing. What is happening here?

Let me tell you what is happening. Everyone in the room thinks that this man greatest need is for him to be able to walk again. But Jesus says to this man, “You think you know the greatest need in your life. You think you know the main problem of your life. But you don’t. Yes, I can see that you are suffering. I can see that you are hurting. And I am going to do something about it soon. But you need to realise that your main problem in life is not that you are a paralytic. Your main problem in life is that you are a sinner. What you need most is not healing but forgiveness of sins.” This is extremely radical. In other words, Jesus looks beyond the paralytic’s immediate need to his greatest need. Jesus wants to give this man the greatest gift that he does not even know he needs. Because it does not matter how bad physical paralysis is, it cannot be compared to spiritual paralysis. This man probably thought, “If only I can walk again, then my life will be right. I will never be unhappy again. I will be a better person.” And Jesus tells him that he is mistaken. Jesus says, “If I only heal you, you might be extremely happy. But give it three months and you will be sad again. You will be broken again. Because the root of your problem is not your disease but your sin.”

And Jesus is saying the same to all of us. Jesus is saying to us that if we come to him simply for him to meet our physical needs, we are not going deep enough. If we look to him simply to answer our immediate needs, we are only looking at the surface. The problem is that oftentimes, we do not know what our greatest need is. We focus our attention on our immediate needs, but Jesus focuses his attention on our greatest need. We often come to Jesus and say, “Jesus, if only you give me that job. If only you bless me at work. If only you bless me financially. If only you get me to that school. If only you change my parents. If only you give me the perfect spouse. If only you give me children. If only, if only, if only…”

And Jesus says, “If I give you what you ask, it will not solve your problem. If I give you that healing, you will get sick again. If I give you that financial breakthrough, what’s next? You will not be happy. You will use that money to entertain yourself for a bit, but you will soon realise that you are even more empty than before. Because your greatest problem is not lack of money. Your greatest problem is that you build your identity on something else besides me. And until you have me, you will not solve your problem. That is why the best thing I can do for you is not for me to give you what you think you need but for me to change your heart. I need to change what your heart most desires because that is the root of all problems. And it begins with me forgiving you of your sins. Your greatest need in life is to be forgiven of your sins so that you can have a relationship with me.” Can you see what happened? I love the way Warren Wiersbe puts it. “Forgiveness is the greatest miracle Jesus ever performs. It meets the greatest need; it costs the greatest price; and it brings the greatest blessings and the most lasting result.”


Now, I want to draw your attention to the heart of Jesus. I want you to feel the gentleness of his heart. The paralytic man has faith in Jesus as a healer, not a saviour. He comes to Jesus for physical healing, not forgiveness of sin. He asks Jesus to meet his immediate need, not his greatest need. But when he comes to Jesus, Jesus gives him what he truly needs. Here is what we must get. When we come to Jesus, Jesus will not give us what we think we need but he will give us what we truly need. And he gives it to us not because we deserve it but because of his grace alone. Jesus is so gracious that when we come to him in faith with our needs, even though our faith is imperfect and filled with flaws, what Jesus does is he responds to our weak faith and grants forgiveness. He is so eager to express his love and forgiveness to us that he does not wait until we have it all right. Jesus’ grace pursues and invades our hearts through the smallest opening. Jesus does not need us to say the right word first before he does something for us.

There is a scene in the new Spiderman movie that describes it well. Before you throw stones at me, my brother Nate says that if the scene is included in the trailer, it is not a spoiler. If you still want to throw stones, aim toward the back of the room, not the pulpit. So, Dr Strange asks Spiderman and his friends to do something for him. And MJ replies, “I know a couple of magic words myself starting with the word please.” This is what we do when our sibling asks us to do something right? But we don’t see that in Jesus. Jesus does not need us to say the magic word. But rather, Jesus is like the father in the prodigal son parable. The son betrays his father, takes his inheritance, and walks away from the family. But when the son realizes his mistake and comes home, his father does not wait for the son to get to him. When the father sees his son from afar, he runs to him, hugs him, and kisses him before his son says a single word. The father doesn’t love his son because he repents. The son can repent because his father loves him. The only reason we can repent and receive forgiveness of sins is because Jesus is pursuing us with his grace and love. This is the heart of Jesus. Listen. I do not know why you are at church today. You might come with a wrong motive. But Jesus is not turned off by it. But rather, he is pursuing you aggressively with his grace. The reason you are here is because he is chasing you. And he won’t let you go until you can see your greatest need and receive the greatest gift that only he can give. Let’s continue with the story.


The authority


Mark 5:6-7 – Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Now the scene changes. The focus of the story changes from the paralytic to the scribes. And this marks the beginning of Jesus’ confrontation with the religious authority. Who are the scribes? The scribes are the experts of the law of Moses. They are highly respected by society. By now, they have heard of this miracle worker by the name of Jesus. They have heard of how Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons. And they also have heard of how people compared Jesus’ teaching with theirs. So, some of them decided to come to the house to observe and investigate this new uprising star. And they are extremely shocked when they hear Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.” They immediately say in their hearts, “Wait a minute. Did I hear him right? Did he just forgive someone else’s sins? He can’t do that. No one can do that. Not even the promised Messiah. Only God has the right to forgive sin. Who does he think he is to speak like that? He is blaspheming. And the punishment for blasphemy is death. He must die.” And the scribes are not wrong to think like that. The Old Testament is clear that the forgiveness of sins is the exclusive right of God. Because God is the most offended party in every sin. For example, David writes in Psalm 51:4 – Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment. David writes this as a response to God’s rebuke of his sins. What happened was that David slept with another man’s wife, murder her husband, and covered it up. So, in this case, David sinned against many people. But David writes that his sin is first and foremost not toward other people but toward God. Because in committing those sins, he breaks the commandments of God. Every act of sin is an act of treason against God. And only God has the right to forgive sin. So, for Jesus to forgive sins is for him to say that he is the one being sinned against. Because we have no right to forgive things that do not involve us.

Let’s say that you and your spouse had a big fight on your way to church. And your spouse said some of the meanest, rudest words that anyone has ever said to you. And you are extremely angry and furious. You are hurt. You don’t want to come to church but you have to. You and your spouse are scheduled for ministry. And you think to yourself that your spouse is such a hypocrite to be able to minister after all the terrible things they said to you in the car. But of course, when you get to church and the usher greets you and says, “How are you?” You reply, “I am blessed and highly favoured.” But deep inside, you can’t wait for the church to be over so you can tear your spouse to pieces. And then after church, I walk up to you and your spouse and say to your spouse, “I know you guys had a big fight on the way to church. I know what you said to your spouse. I just want you to know I have forgiven you. You don’t have to worry about it anymore.” What would you do to me? You probably would want to tear me to pieces as well. You would say to me, “Who do you think you are? You might be my pastor, but this has nothing to do with you. I am the one who is sinned against. You can’t forgive something that wasn’t done to you.” Can you see what happened?

This is why the scribes are furious. They understand the significance of what Jesus has just said. In forgiving sin, Jesus is claiming to be God. We must get this. Because every now and then, there are some professors or experts who say that Jesus never really claimed to be God. They say that it was a myth that Jesus’ disciples invented to get people to worship Jesus. Jesus himself never thought of himself as God. But they are wrong. The scribes get it right. Only God can forgive sin. And in forgiving sins, Jesus is claiming to be God. But the scribes also get it very wrong. They think that it is a blasphemy for Jesus to forgive sins. And the punishment for blasphemy is death. It is certainly a blasphemy for a mere man to forgive sins. But what they do not know is that Jesus is not a mere man. Jesus is God who took on flesh. So, we only have two choices regarding Jesus. Either Jesus is God, or he is a blasphemer. There is no middle ground. The scribes understand this. Let’s look at what happens next.


Mark 5:8-11 – And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”

Imagine the surprise on the scribes’ faces as Jesus confronts the questions on their heart. This is another hint of Jesus’ divinity. Jesus knows what is in the hearts of the scribes without being told. And then Jesus asks them a very profound question. He asks, “Which is easier? To say to the paralytic man that his sin is forgiven, or to say to him to get up and walk?” I think from our perspective, it is clear that it is far easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” than to say to a paralytic, “Get up and walk.” Why? Because if I say, “Your sins are forgiven,” you can’t really tell if it happened. But if there is a paralytic in the church and I say, “Get up and walk,” and nothing happened, it would be, “cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo.” You would be able to tell easily whether I have the power that I am claiming to have. So, Jesus’ logic goes like this. We know that only God can forgive sins. And we also know that only God can make a paralytic walk. So, if Jesus can say to the paralytic, “Get up and walk,” and it happens, then it is safe to say that Jesus can also say, “Your sins are forgiven,” and it happens. If Jesus has the authority of God to do what we can see with our eyes, we can trust that Jesus also has the authority of God to do what we cannot see with our eyes. Do you follow his logic? And to show that he indeed has the authority on earth to forgive sins, Jesus says to the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”


Mark 2:12 – 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” Oh my. The scribes ask the question, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And Jesus replies with an exclamation mark, “I can!” By healing the paralytic, Jesus shows his authority to do what only God can do. If God alone can forgive sin and make a paralytic walk, then Jesus must be God incarnate. Jesus gives undeniable evidence to the scribes and the crowd that he is God. The healing of the paralytic is the proof that Jesus can forgive sin. And when the crowd witness what happened before their very eyes, they are all amazed and glorify God. They say, “We have never seen anything like this.” Imagine that scene with me. The paralytic is walking, praising God. The four friends are high-five-ing, chest-bumping, and taking a selfie on the roof. The crowd are amazed. The scribes are frustrated and frowning. No one can deny that the paralytic has been healed and his sins are forgiven. They may not like it, but they cannot deny it. There is no doubt anymore. Jesus is not only a teacher with authority. He is not only a miracle worker. Jesus is God incarnate and he has all the power and authority. With the birth of Jesus, the kingdom of God has come near. Restoration of this broken world has begun. The true king has come to bring forgiveness, healing, salvation, and restoration. And there is no enemy he cannot defeat. There is no need he cannot meet. There is no pain he cannot comfort. There is no problem he cannot solve. There is no sickness he cannot heal. There is no sin he cannot forgive. The God of the universe has come to us in the person of Jesus, and he has come to give us the greatest gift. Jesus has come to meet our greatest need. Jesus has come to forgive us of our sins once and for all. This is the true meaning of Christmas. So let us be amazed and glorify God for Jesus. That’s why we cry out, “Glory to God in the highest.”


Let’s go back to the profound question that Jesus asked. This is one of the great questions of the Bible that continues to be discussed for hundreds of years. Which is easier? To say to the paralytic man that his sin is forgiven, or to say to him to get up and walk? This is such a profound question because there is more than one answer. From our perspective, it is far easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” But from Jesus’ perspective, it is infinitely harder to forgive sins than to make the paralytic walk. Think about it. Jesus can make the paralytic walk with a snap of his finger. He is the Creator of the universe. He has all the power and authority. It does not cost him anything to heal a paralytic man. But to forgive sins costs him everything. Jesus knows that the price of saying, “Your sins are forgiven,” is his death on the cross. Jesus knows that if he heals the man and forgives his sin, the religious leaders are going to kill him. It is the first step down the road to his death. Jesus could have avoided it. But he doesn’t. He heals and forgives the paralytic man knowing exactly what it will cost him. If Jesus heals the paralytic but does not forgive his sins, it is only a matter of time before he is paralysed again. The only way to make the paralytic walk and dance forever is for Jesus to have his leg nailed to the cross. The price of the forgiveness of sins is the life of the king of life. And in doing so, Jesus points out our greatest need and he answers it. Our greatest need is to be forgiven of our sins. And Jesus gives us the greatest gift. He says to us, “Your sins are forgiven.” And when we receive the greatest gift from Jesus, it changes the desire of our hearts. We no longer say, “If only I have this… If only I have that…” But we say, “I never saw anything like this,” and we glorify God.

Let me close with a great quote from C.S. Lewis. “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon, or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Jesus is either God or he is a lunatic. And if he is God, he has the authority to forgive your sins. The question you must answer is clear. Has Jesus forgiven you of your sins? If not, there is an invitation from Jesus for you to receive forgiveness of sins. This is the greatest gift anyone could ever receive. Let’s pray.


Discussion questions:


  1. Has there been times where you focus more in the perceived immediate needs rather than actual needs? Give examples.

  2. Look at the six charateristics of faith (Confident, persistent, creative, compassionate, sacrificial, contagious). Which one do you find most lacking in you and why?

  3. Do you see the forgiveness of sins as the greatest gift you could ever receive? Why or why not?

  4. There are many people today who are willing to accept Jesus as a good historical figure but not as God. Explain the problem with this thought.

  5. Which is easier? To heal a paralytic or to forgive sins? Discuss.

  6. How does this story empower us to share the gospel with other people?

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