The Most Important Question: the Paralysis of the Crowd

BIG IDEA: When the fear of disconnection leads to shame and hiding, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging, by looking to the cross and stepping out of the crowd into a space of vulnerability, forgiveness, and healing.

SERIES: The Most Important Question Ever Asked – A Study in the Gospel According to Mark: John Mark, a traveling companion of the Apostle Peter, wrote this gospel. We trust his writing because of that tie to Peter, an Apostle of Christ. He writes this gospel by taking down Peter’s account of Christ. It’s written likely because the Apostles were aging and their stories needed to be told for the coming generations. These are essentially the memoirs of Peter written to a group of Christians in Rome, and it’s written with a sense of urgency. Jesus came to accomplish a mission and to do so with a remarkable sense of urgency. Throughout the entirety of the gospel, there is the most important question ever asked: Who do you say Jesus is? Fist gospel written.

SCRIPTURE: Mark 2:1-12
1
And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 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. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 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. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 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? 9 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!”

KEY CONSIDERATIONS

  • “The Crowd”: Mark often references the crowds that follow Jesus. There are two different words that he uses to talk about these groups of people.
  • Brene Brown on “Shame”: those who live a wholehearted life are those who have found a way to avoid shame or the fear of disconnection.
    • The Myth of the Crowd: I want to be in the place where everyone else is; I want to be part of it.
      • The problem: Even when you’re surrounded by crowds of people, you aren’t often connected to them in any meaningful way.
    • Fear of Shame/Disconnection: I don’t want people to truly know me because then they might not want to be associated with me so I will remain disconnected from them. But to actually be connected, you have to be vulnerable, but if I’m vulnerable, that might lead to shame and the fear of disconnection. So we continue on this loop.
      • To break the cycle, believe yourself worthy of being loved and being a part of something real, belonging. This is made easier by believing that your brokenness, your sin, actually makes Jesus more beautiful.
    • There for the Show: The crowds of people following Jesus around were there for the show, not to repent of their sins despite the fact that that’s what Jesus kept asking of them.
      • This still happens: we’re guilty of that mentality even, sometimes, in our church attendance. We’re afraid of the vulnerability and potential shame of our sin, so we stay on the outskirts and just come for the show.
    • Two Groups: the friends of the paralytic and those who stay in the crowd – the crowd versus the individuals.
    • “Your sins are forgiven”: No one was expecting these to be Jesus’ first words to the paralytic. Though yes, sickness and ailment was attributed often to sin, this doesn’t appear to be the reason Jesus starts here in this case. These words were a shock to his audience, and they stirred up controversy. It was blasphemous for a human being to claim forgiveness of sins, and that’s exactly what Jesus does here; he claims the authority to actually forgive sins.
      • First of Five Controversies This is the first of five controversies of Jesus that we will see in Mark. He’s trying to redefine what it means that he is the Messiah.
        • Redefine “Messiah”: Through these controversies, Jesus is redefining the historic definition of “Messiah.” The Jewish people had associate “Messiah” with someone who would be a political revolutionary who would overthrow the government that had oppressed them. But that was incorrect; it wasn’t enough.
      • Kingdom Goals: Jesus came for so much more than his people anticipated. His goals involve deep cleansing of personal and corporate sin.
        • Hot Take: Everyone is a sinner. You are a sinner, a mess. That’s normal, but that’s still a problem. You’re at odds with your Creator. Whether or not you admit to it or feel it, the truth is that you’re a sinner.
      • Bringing it back: Jesus forgives the paralytic’s sins. Jesus implies with his forgiveness that the paralytic is, in fact, a sinner. And the paralytic accepts that fact, silently. The scribes, however, begin to question Jesus in their hearts. They silently deflect what they’ve heard.
        • If you’re silently deflecting, Jesus is silently engaging with you: He came for you, for the scribes, for all of us, drawing us out of silent deflection and into faith in him.
      • Twofold Faith: Faith in your sinfulness, knowing that it exists despite the fact that you cannot see your stained nature, the vandalism on God’s good creation. And faith in the power of Jesus to forgive your sins, washing away the stains, cleaning up the vandalism. This is God’s desire for your life.
      • Divine Forgiveness vs. Personal Forgiveness: If a president were to forgive the enactor of great violence in the presence of the world. We hear that, and know that though it’s a good act, but it doesn’t change anything. That’s not true forgiveness. Only God can give a divine, true forgiveness.
      • Which is harder? Jesus asks if it’s easier to say “your sins are forgiven” or to say “get up and walk.” Essentially, those are the same. Either way, you’re speaking words. But verifiable difficulty leads to the answer that saying “get up and walk” is the harder thing because we would know right away whether or not it worked. It’s verifiable. Anyone can say, “your sins are forgiven,” but no one can verify it. Sure, actually forgiving sins is harder to do, but the other is verifiably harder. By saying “get up and walk,” Jesus proves that his words have power thus proving that he does indeed have the power to forgive sin.
      • We are the same as the scribes: What will it take for us to believe that Jesus can and will forgive our sins?
      • The problem of sin has been taken care of, but our lack of faith still needs healing.

 Our Response

  • Do you silently accept or do you silently deflect the fact that you’re a sinner?
  • Be vulnerable: Have faith that Jesus loves you unconditionally and deeply and know that you are worthy of his death and his love because he says that you are, and his words have power. Only then can you admit your status as a sinner and seek forgiveness.
  • Ask yourself…
    • What will it take for you to believe that Jesus can forgive sins?
    • Is Jesus asking you to step out of the crowd and engage with him one on one?
    • Are you willing to be vulnerable enough to be like the paralytic’s friends and bring your friends to Jesus, to tear down whatever barriers might be keeping them from him?

Want to study this topic more?
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