Fourth in a series on the incident of Mark 2:1-12. (Earlier installments are to be found on this website dated May 13, May 14, and May 19, 2015.)
“Some of the scribes were sitting here and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ 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?'” (Mark 2:6-9).
One of the most helpful courses I took in college was logic. The ability to think clearly and rationally about complex issues is a wonderful asset for anyone.
It helps me to realize our Lord Jesus Christ was nothing if not logical. Jesus clearly loved logic.
Again and again in Scripture He shows Himself the Master of logic and rational thinking as He lays the issues before His hearers in orderly fashion and asks them to think about them.
On this particular day in Capernaum, the scribes in the house saw themselves as authorities on God’s Word. That was logical, if I may be allowed to say so. Being scribes, they had devoted themselves to copying Scripture to the point that people sought them out for insight into the Word. “What does the Word say about this?” “Does the Law speak to this issue?” “Where does the Bible say that?”
Being recognized as experts by the general population, soon the scribes began to think of themselves in the same way. Big mistake. Humility, even among teachers and professors, is always the order of the day when we come to expound upon and explain God’s Word.
That’s why they were offended when Jesus pronounced that the paralytic was forgiven of his sins.
Their reasoning was simple and good, as far as it went: Sin is an offense to God; therefore only God can forgive sin.
No argument there. If you owe Jack ten dollars, you are indebted and Jack is owed. Now, suppose I were to announce that the debt is gone and you are free from the obligation. “Just forget about the ten dollars.” Jack would be asking, “Hey! Where is my money? You can’t just erase a debt someone owes me!”
The scribes were left with two choices: Either Jesus was blaspheming by putting Himself in the place of God, or Jesus was God. And since the second was clearly out of the question, they reasoned, only the first choice was open. Jesus was speaking blasphemy.
To counter this false conclusion, the Lord gave them a question and then a demonstration.
“Which is easier,” He said, “to tell this man ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or, ‘Rise, take up your bed and go home’?”
Answer: Neither is easy; they are equally hard.
Then, Jesus said, “So that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins,” He turned to the paralytic and said, ‘I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”
And he did.
The profession–the statement that Jesus had forgiven sin–was important, but was impossible for these people to accept without something to back it up. They needed proof–a demonstration–and the Lord gave them one. He healed the guy.
You and I speak of people making “professions of faith” when they become Christians and join a church. It is important to profess faith in Jesus. However, that alone is not enough. Without a suitable and corresponding demonstration of faith, onlookers are justified in concluding it was all just so much religious talk.
“I will show you my faith by my works,” says James 2:18.
The instances of our Lord using logic to counter His critics are found throughout the Gospels. Here are three, in random order…
1) Jesus is accused of casting out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons (11:15).
Our Lord responded in effect, “If I am indeed casting out demons by the ruler of the demons, then you should not complain. After all, Satan would be fighting against Satan and as you know, any house divided against itself cannot stand. So, Satan will soon be self-destructing.”
“On the other hand,” Jesus went on, “if I am casting out demons by the (little) finger of God, then surely the kingdom of God has come upon you!” (11:20).
In either case, the Lord’s critics should give thanks and rejoice that on the one hand the devil is self-destructing or on the other hand, that God has arrived and is working among His people.
2) The Sadducees reject teachings of the afterlife and think they have backed Jesus into a corner (Matthew 22:23-33).
This sect of the Jews held to the first five books of the Old Testament as their inspired Scripture. If a doctrine was to be believed, it had to have come from Moses in one of those books. And clearly, they reasoned, there is no resurrection and no “heaven” in the Pentateuch.
They proved the absurdity of that notion by posing a story to the Lord, one which they “just knew” He could not answer. A man dies and his widow is childless. Moses said a surviving brother should marry her (Deuteronomy 25:5). The woman outlives this brother also, and each of seven brothers. Now, in the resurrection, whose wife will she be?
You can see them elbowing each other and snickering. They “had” Jesus.
The Lord said, “You are mistaken in two areas. You do not know the Scriptures and you certainly do not know the power of God.”
Their very own Scriptures teach eternal life, Jesus said. “Have you not read where God calls Himself ‘the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’? Well, He is not the God of dead people but of the living.”
“When the multitudes hear this, they were astonished at HIs teaching.” (Matthew 22:33).
Even the hoi polloi know a good answer when they hear one.
3) Jesus is accused to breaking the Sabbath laws. (Matthew 12:1-8).
The Pharisees–always the keepers of orthodoxy–complained to Jesus that the disciples were “doing what is not lawful” on the Sabbath by plucking grain as they crossed a field. Deuteronomy 23:25 gave permission to travelers crossing someone’s field to pick what they can eat at the time. But the disciples were doing so on the Sabbath.
Our Lord did a masterful thing. He said, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry…?” and “Have you not read in the law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are blameless?” (The incident involving David is recorded in I Samuel 21.)
There are conditions in which the ritual law do not apply, Jesus told them. And He was exactly right.
Before leaving the subject, Jesus added something they needed to hear. “Yet I say to you, that in this place there is One greater than the temple…. For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matthew 12:8).
Unthinking people will accuse God’s people–and the Lord Jesus Himself–of being mindless robots who spout our religious doctrine and call for blind obedience in disciples. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
This is the reason, I expect, that God’s people with inquiring minds and thirsty souls have so welcomed the writings of C. S. Lewis decades ago, and more recently the writings of Lee Strobel, among others.
I keep thinking of the Lord’s questions: “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or, what will he give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
It’s just simple logic.
“Come now and let us reason together, saith the Lord….” (Isaiah 1:18).