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Mark’s first-century biography – page 5

And when he (Jesus c, AD 27, Galilee) 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.
Jesus returns to the house of Simon and Peter in Capernaum. Last time he was there (page 4 in this series) the whole village had come to that house one Sabbath evening for healing. Jesus, after prayer, had resolved to teach in all the other villages. In one of those, he had cleansed a man of leprosy – and told him to seek cleansing from sin inside by going to the priest in accordance with the Mosaic law. The man seemingly had failed to do that and instead boasted of his healing.

Back in Capernaum he is still preaching. It’s not possible to get anywhere near him. Too many people. Among the many people in the house are some seated “scribes”. The Greek word Mark used was “grammateus” - “writers”. These were educated religious experts in the Mosaic law. The needy paralytic couldn’t get in. But, totally without strength as he was (and therefore totally useless to everybody), he had four who loved him.  

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?” 

The scribes were very able observers and analysts. Words meant a lot to them and these words could only be interpreted in one of two ways. Either this man is swearing against God by pretending to be God - or he is God. Forgiveness of sins indeed! 

‘I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.’ (The LORD’s words to Isaiah the Jerusalem prophet c. BC 710)
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’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.”

The two possible statements of Jesus are equally easy “to say.” Jesus could readily say either. The scribes had rightly focused on Jesus’ ability to forgive sins – not on the ease (or otherwise) of saying the words: “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 

Clearly, if Jesus said only: “Son, your sins are forgiven”, whether that was really so or not would not be able to be verified. But if he said, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’, all would then be able to see whether he did have this authority - or not - because whatever happened next would reveal.

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!”

Jesus words were effective. Amazingly so.

He went out again beside the sea, and all the crowd was coming to him, and he was teaching them. And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 

Levi was, in the sight of all around, a real, true “sinner”. His name was Jewish but he collected taxes from his fellow Jews, having purchased the right to do so from Rome, the occupying Empire. He was therefore a traitor. Everyone knew that he collected more from his fellow-Jews than he had paid to Rome. That was the system. 

‘I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.’ (BC 970 confession of King David of Israel.)
Can Levi’s sins be forgiven? Jesus doesn’t enter into such a scribe-like discussion. Instead he instructs Levi to come with him on his journey – on the way which he, Jesus is taking.

Levi did follow Jesus – and invited his friends to meet him at his house that evening…. In Capernaum. 

Sinner Syvret

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