Mark 2:1-17 – Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

-One of my favorite TV shows has a character who is obsessed with being the healthiest human being possible. He has a quote where he says “Scientists believe that the first human being who will live 150 years has already been born. I believe that I am that human being.” 

-I don’t know anyone that doesn’t want to be healthy. But what does that look like? How would we pursue it? And how do we ensure that we’re healthy holistically?  

-I listened to a fascinating podcast this weekend that was talking about the unbelievable technological changes that have taken place over the past century. If my great grandparents were able to see our world today they would assume we must be the most grateful people in the world! We can access the world’s info at our fingertips, yet there are more suicides in our country today than ever before. It’s not enough to just have physical health, there’s some deeper angst that people have that can only be healed by coming to Jesus. That’s exactly what we’ll see in today’s text!


  1. Jesus Brings Physical Healing (1-12)

-Remember last week we saw the healing of the leper, and Jesus exchanging places with him so that Jesus had to go out into the desolate places instead of traveling openly among the people. After a bit, he snuck back into town to come home, and pretty soon the whole town knew about it. 

-Most likely the same place we saw last week, Peter’s house that Jesus stayed at while he was in Capernaum. 

-As soon as the word started to travel, people came running to see what Jesus was going to do this time. Last week Mark described it as the whole town coming to be healed, this week it sounds like the whole town has tried to force their way into Peter’s home. 

-If you’ve ever participated in Black Friday shopping (before they went fully online), or attended a concert, you know what this feels like. Everyone is crammed in together, no room to move, feel like you’re being slowly suffocated, but it’s worth it to get access to the thing you’ve most been wanting, and Jesus is the best show these people have ever seen! 

-If that feels flippant to you (and it should!) that is the way the people are treating Jesus here. Everyone wants something from Jesus, the question is what? They’d all seen the demon possessed man healed, they’d seen the leper suddenly have clear skin, what do you think Jesus is going to do next? Yet what does Jesus do, once again?

-“He was preaching the word to them.” Instead of immediately giving in to their wants, He has a specific aim and focus to his life and ministry. Healing (at least physically) isn’t his primary aim, it only serves to enforce his teachings. In the midst of the teaching, there’s a desperate group of friends who want to get to Jesus. 

-However, as had been stated by Mark up to this point, just as when Jesus was born, there was no room for them in the inn. 

-The crowd serves a specific purpose throughout Mark’s Gospel, they’re often in the way of people getting to Jesus, they often are neutral in their response to Jesus, and there’s also a unique interplay between the crowd and the home. In the Greek, those 2 words are very similar to each other: ochlos vs. oikos. In this passage the ochlos has invaded the oikos. The crowd doesn’t get the inside look at Jesus’ ministry, those in the home do.

-So these 4 friends of the paralytic decide they need to be a part of the inside group. They knew this was their chance! Their lame friend could finally get up and walk and run and play with them! They knew Jesus was both able and willing if only they could get to him.

-If only they had tried what the leper would have had to say last week shouting UNCLEAN then watch the people part in front of them (Or what you should NEVER do in a crowded room, yell FIRE!)

-Instead of pushing or force their way through, they take a slightly less conventional approach: Upstairs!

-Houses in the first century, 2nd level was like a deck for us today. Didn’t have A/C, so they’d sleep under the stars. Many times, covered with mud, which in the summer would grow grass! These men are performing an excavation to get to Jesus!

-Think of what it would have been like to have been in the house. You’re listening to Jesus when suddenly you hear the grunting and digging taking place in the ceiling.  You’d clean out your ears to make sure you weren’t hearing things, when a piece of dirt falls to the floor. Now you KNOW you’re not crazy. Everyone’s eyes are looking up at that spot as a hole appears, that hole gets bigger and bigger and you see 4 faces peering down into the hole, then you hear more grunting and heaving as a paralyzed man is lowered down in front of Jesus. There’s NO WAY Farmers Insurance had seen a claim like this before! And you KNOW they won’t cover it!

-But this act of desperation amazingly works! The friends got their paralyzed friend to the feet of Jesus, the rest is in his hands! All it would take is a word and their friend would walk! But instead:

-Son (child) your sins are forgiven. How do you think the man responded to this? Or his friends? All that work, outsmarting the crows, and he forgives his sins? Thanks, but we were hoping for something else.

-Then Mark shifts the focus from the paralytic and his friends to some specific people in the crowd: the scribes. Remember them from last week? The people who couldn’t teach like Jesus! Luke’s account of this story tells us that Pharisees were with them.

-The scribes and the Pharisees would have been threatened by Jesus’ growing fame. They’re used to being consulted on every issue, they’re supposed to be the experts of the law and how to be obedient to the law, but people are chasing after this new teacher. But this doesn’t change Jesus’ approach to his ministry. Jesus would have seen the scribes and the Pharisees in the crowd, he would have known they were there to ensure everything was as it was supposed to be. And how do you think they would respond?

-BLASPHEMY! Who do you think you are??

-I like to think they were in their “holy huddle” off in the corner whispering to each other, making sure everyone say their judging and disapproving glances

-And Jesus calls the out in front of everyone. No hiding from him!  Even their thoughts are exposed to the one who knows everything! Literally nothing is hidden from the sight of God. Just thinking something is enough for Jesus to address it.

-(9) Here is one of the places I wish Mark was a little more clear, which is easier? I’ve read scholars arguing for both sides of this. We all know it’s easier to SAY “your sins are forgiven” because there’s no empirical evidence to back that up. But it’s WAY easier to tell someone to get up and walk than it is to actually forgive someone’s sins. I think that Jesus’ point here is to remind the “experts” that he’s able and willing to do both. Last week we read the story of the healing of a leper, this week we’re reading that the healings are the easy part, the forgiveness is the hard part.

-In both of these instances, it’s a whole lot easier to talk the talk than it is to walk the walk (literally in this case)

-Priests, unable to actually heal a leper so they stay as far away from them as they can, and what does Jesus do? He brings him near.

-Priests, unable to forgive sins, they even say that only God can do it, so what does Jesus do? Forgives the man’s sins!

-Priests, unable to heal a paralytic, so what will Jesus do now?

-If you think about this, isn’t this the same message we’re bombarded with every day? Here’s how to live your best life now, this will make you happy, just think positively and everything will be ok!

-All of those are empty promises! They have all the will but NONE of the ability. As many cars as Oprah wants to give away, at some point even that car that was once brand new will break down.

-The only person alive who is able to back up everything he says with perfect action is Jesus.

-Do you remember the primary difference between Jesus’ teaching and the teaching of the scribes? Authority. Jesus picks up that idea again in this healing to show exactly what is taking place in His ministry. Regardless of what Jesus says, unless something changes he can’t be trusted, right? If this man is healed, then it means his sins have been forgiven, AND that Jesus’ has completely authority. 

-Jesus then turns his attention back to the paralytic and utters a brief command: rise, grab your bed, and go home. 

-How long did it take for the man to be healed? IMMEDIATELY! I don’t think it’s Mark’s overuse here, I think it’s pointing out the reality of what has happened. There’s no waiting, no questioning, no uncertainty, as soon as Jesus speaks it happens. And everyone saw it!

-You can kind of think of this as a Wild West shootout. On 1 side you have Jesus who’s claiming He can forgive sins, on the other side you have the scribes/Pharisees who are there to keep an eye on everything, and who emerges victorious? Jesus. Which is easier for Jesus? Yes. The man who created the universe has the authority to forgive sins AND to heal a paralytic. 

-Think of how the people responded in this story: amazement and glorifying God. 

-When God works, the proper response is to worship and glorify Him. Micah and I had the privilege of attending the EFCA Theology Conference this past week, speaking with someone with a PhD in NT who said all the mental knowledge of God MUST drive him to worship and glorification, what God has designed feels like it must be fake, it’s way too good to be true. Sins forgiven, lepers cleansed, paralytics walking and leaping and praising God!

-One of my professors from seminary calls miracles “living parables” pointing to a greater reality than just the miracle, what’s the bigger reality here? Who’s really paralyzed? 

-Those who should have seen it, who should have been preparing the way for the Messiah, who should have fallen at his feet and worshipped him, the priests and experts in the law, were the ones who were paralyzed. Their “faith” had crippled them.

  • Jesus Brings Spiritual Healing (13-17)

-Just as the healing took place for the paralytic, Jesus isn’t done bringing healing into people’s lives, and potentially trying to escape the crowds again (or to give Peter’s wife a break from the crowd!), He goes out to the sea. But who follows him (again!) and what continues? Teaching. 

-In his journey, he stumbles across Levi/Matthew who happened to be a tax collector. Tax collectors were despised by the Jewish people, I struggled trying to communicate how terribly they were viewed because tax collectors bowed the knee to Rome (political betrayal), grew wealthy off God’s chosen people (financial betrayal), and were excommunicated from the synagogue (religious betrayal). Additionally, the disgrace towards this person was also heaped on the man’s family. 

-Benedict Arnold can’t hold a candle to a tax collector! No upstanding Jew would pursue this vocation! They had to abandon everything they had been trained to hold dear. 

-When it says tax booth, don’t think of it like a CPA firm, think of it more like one of those terrible toll booths in IL. As people would pass by him, he would get to determine their taxes, and the way tax collectors would get paid anything was by adding to the required taxes. Since Jesus is in Capernaum again, Peter, Andrew, James and John all would have known Levi. And how does Jesus treat him? The same way the faithful Jews were treated, calls him to follow him. This might be the only instance where Mark missed one of his immediately!

-How does Levi respond? He’s so excited he throws a party and invites all his friends! 

-Reclining at table is a weird phrase to our ears! Remember we can’t project our 21st century ideas onto this text. Reclining was the way people feasted together. Think of it like relaxing over a gourmet meal today. Levi was most likely very wealthy, with a large house and hung out with the other social outcasts of the day. But Mark makes a very interesting note about these people: there were many who followed him.

-At this time, meals were meant to be spent with people in a similar social standing to you. So Jews wouldn’t be caught dead joining a feast with the social outcasts. On top of that, these gatherings would have been in the courtyards of the homes, which would have been visible to those passing by, there was no hiding what was going on at your house. Couldn’t drive into your garage, close the garage door and never see your neighbors!

-The scribes (same as the ones that were called out during the story of the paralytic) caught wind of what was happening at Levi’s house and came down to see if it was true. They’d just seen him heal a paralytic (and read their minds) and they’re convinced that something isn’t adding up. So they decide to ask Jesus’ disciples a question about this: “Why does he eat with such scum?” NLT

-They had learned their lesson this time! Instead of merely thinking these thoughts, they say them out loud! Their judgment was noted, how do you think Jesus will respond?

-The first part of this is a well-known and used proverb at the time: healthy people don’t need a doctor. It’s the sick who need help! Jesus is referring to the spiritual realities that the scribes are continuing to miss, but I think this idea has continued down to today too.

-The scribes, and thus the rest of the Jews viewed sin like a contagious disease. We don’t associate with “tax collectors and sinners” because we might catch whatever it is they have. The problem with that idea is we’re all born with a sin nature that can only be dealt with through faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus came to bring complete healing, but our perception of healing is too temporary, Jesus wants eternal healing! Jesus came to be the perfect physician and provide the only antidote to the sin problem that the entire cosmos has been struggling through since Genesis 3.

-Let’s think about a necessary implication of this. Both last week and today we’ve seen people who were outcasts. The leper was physically separated from people, and the tax collectors were the socially separated from people. Does Jesus allow those man-made separations to define his ministry? No! And neither should we! 

-I’ve heard people describe the church as judgmental, and unfortunately some of that is earned. The natural tendency of any group of people is to create strict rules about those who are “in” and those who are “out.” You see this in social clubs, in politics, business, religion. But Jesus doesn’t play by those rules. Since someone much smarter than I brought it up in our NCC devotional this week I’ll piggyback off him and quote from The Chosen: “get used to different.”

-Friends, this is where the rubber meets the road: we cannot assume that everyone who walks through our doors has their life put together, or knows who Jesus is, and we need to reach out to them and welcome them in, just like Jesus did. But we can’t just stop there, we also need to go out to them and invite them to join us! You’re not going to “catch” their sin, you already have your own sin problems, work on yours and pursue holiness, and join others to come with you in pursuing Christ together.

-Trevin Wax in an article

“The problem for Christian parents isn’t in the desire to shelter children; it’s in the warped perspective that such sheltering can foster.

We begin to believe that sin and rebellion is a problem outside of our home, not inside.

We start thinking our kids are basically good and in need of moral direction, rather than recognizing that our kids are basically bad and in need of heart transformation.

We communicate to our kids that it’s “us” (good) versus “them” (bad) rather than helping them see our family’s role as one of service (“us” for “them”).

Then, when evil shows up on the inside of our home, we diminish its significance or hide it rather than bring it out in the open.

The reason we shelter our kids shouldn’t simply be that there’s evil outside, but also that there’s evil inside. The line of good and evil runs through every human heart, as Solzhenitsyn once said. No one is immune to temptation. No child is a tabula rasa. We’re born in sin and, apart from the grace of Christ, we’ll die in sin. That’s why we need a Savior who rescues us, not a shelter that protects us.”

-“The church is not a museum for saints but a hospital for sinners.” This isn’t a place for you to come show off your holiness, this is a place to be reminded how much you need Jesus’ grace to cover your sin. In salvation, no one is a worse sinner than the other, and Jesus’ death is sufficient to cover every sin any person has ever committed.

-Where are you at in this story? Are you like the tax collector who needs to be called to trust in God and turn away from your eventual destruction? Are you like the scribes who are sitting in judgment instead of sharing the good news of the gospel with even “sinners” around you? Or maybe you’re like the crowd and just here for the spectacle. Wherever you’re at, you need Jesus to bring holistic healing int your life! It may not come on this side of heaven, but it will come! Put your hope and trust in him, just like the 4 friends. 

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