One of our dear friends served as a foreign missionary for several years. On one occasion, as we sat around our living room talking, I remember her sharing about felt needs and actual needs. There was a particular community they were working with and trying to share the Gospel with, yet despite many efforts, they were having little success. This community, as I recall, did not have a playground for their children. One of the things the community wanted was a new playground. After a lot of prayer and consideration, our friends decided to build a playground. With the playground complete, conversations about Jesus and God’s Word, the Bible opened up. Theodore Roosevelt once said, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." This saying proved to be the case in their situation. However, it is also true that often what we think may be our greatest need or our felt need is not what we need the most.
The Gospel of Mark moves quickly from one event to the next in the life of Jesus. Mark does not seem to spend a lot of time developing the background story but quickly moves to his points of declaring Jesus as God’s Messiah, establishing the Deity of Jesus and Jesus as the Son of Man. In Mark 1, we move quickly from the baptism of Jesus to His temptation in the wilderness, His Galilean ministry, and the calling of His first disciples. We see Jesus teaching, preaching, and healing many people. Entering Capernaum, many are beginning to follow and crowd around Him. In Mark 2:1-12, Mark shares the account of Jesus healing a paralytic man.
Mark 2:1-5 (NKJV)
"And again He entered Capernaum after some days, and 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. 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 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.”
When Jesus had returned to Capernaum from His short Galilean ministry, word of Jesus was spreading rapidly to the point where crowds were pressing Him from all directions. People were eager to see and hear Jesus. Four men bring their friend hoping to get him to Jesus so that Jesus might heal him. With the large crowds, they were unable to bring him to Jesus. Determined, they went to the roof and uncovered the roof so they could lower their friend down in front of Jesus. Jesus, seeing their faith, uttered the words that sent shock waves through the house and around the neighboring villages. “Son your sins are forgiven you.” (ref. Mk. 2:5). These words sent out shock waves and with these words, we begin to see the first signs of opposition to Jesus’ kingdom message.
"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?”
Here are the first signs of opposition to Jesus and His ministry. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” this was the question. Some considered Jesus to be speaking blasphemies. Their understanding was true, but their application of who Jesus is was wrong. It is God alone who can forgive sins; this is true. If Jesus were just a man, He would have been speaking falsely. The application and what Mark is inviting us to understand is that Jesus is not just another man. He is God with us. Through the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus’ teaching, His ministry, and miracles, some refused to see Him as the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies concerning God’s Messiah. The opposition begins here and will continue to grow through Mark’s Gospel. An opposition that will eventually lead to Jesus being nailed on a Roman cross.
"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.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
Jesus demonstrates His ability and authority to forgive sins. He says to the man, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” He does this so that people may know the Son of Man has the authority and power to forgive sins. The man, carried by his four friends, now stands up and walks out from the crowds of his strength. Mark has already been weaving the good news of the kingdom through his Gospel. Jesus has the power and authority to forgive sins. God’s kingdom has arrived, and the Son of Man is here to declare the good news.
This authoritative title for Jesus, the Son of Man, hyperlinks us back to Daniel.
“I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed."
Notice the profound message proclaimed. The Son of Man is coming and is given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people should come to Him. His kingdom will not pass away and shall not be destroyed. Jesus, the Son of Man who has the power to forgive sins, has come with authority as He establishes God’s reign, His kingdom.
Some have pointed out, I believe correctly, that in this story, we can find our story. In this story, the good news of Jesus, the Gospel, is summarized. We may not all be in a position where we are unable to walk as this man was. However, we all need to come before Jesus. What was this man’s greatest need? His greatest need was the first need Jesus identified, “Son your sins are forgiven you.” His greatest need was the forgiveness of his sins. Without the forgiveness of his sins, he would have been a man that could walk. Yes, a miracle for which he would have been grateful. However, with the forgiveness of his sins, he did not just walk out from the crowd, he walked out with a new life, a life that comes from being in the presence of Jesus.
We all need to come before Jesus. We all need the forgiveness of our sins. The Bible teaches us that we all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (ref. Rom. 3:23). We all need to be in the presence of Jesus, and this is not just a one time need. We need to continually be in the presence of Jesus so we can receive the ongoing blessing of His forgiveness. This man, who was carried to the presence of Jesus, found more than the ability to walk, he found new life. When we come before Jesus, when we are in the presence of Jesus, we, too, are given new life.
The apostle Paul teaches us that in coming to Jesus, we die to our sin, and we are raised to walk in newness of life (ref. Rom. 6:1-11). This is our greatest need to have our sins forgiven and be in the presence of Jesus.
The good news of Jesus has come. His kingdom is here. Jesus has come to heal and restore. His dominion is an everlasting dominion. There are many things we may consider to be our greatest need. Looking at this text reminds us of our greatest need. Our greatest need is the forgiveness of our sins and to be in the presence of the Lord.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.