Holy Home Improvement: Why Forgiveness is More Extreme Than You Think
One of my favorite shows growing up was Home Improvement. Do you guys remember Home Improvement? Tim Allen was Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. Do you guys remember that? He hosted Tool Time with Al Borland. He had his neighbor Wilson; you never saw the bottom of his face. It was always over the fence. Plus that show was extra cool for us because it was set in Detroit. Tim would always be wearing Lions shirts or Tigers. There is that one episode where he went to the Thanksgiving game at the Silver Dome and he caused a power outage or something. It was cool. There was one episode that I remember where Jill, Tim’s wife, wants the upstairs bathroom redone. She wants a bedroom suite addition done with a hot tub or something. Tim is going to redo the upstairs bathroom for Jill. But in Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor classic fashion, he doesn't measure the doorway before the orders the tub to make sure the tub can fit through the doorway. He just eyeballs it because he is the tool man so he knows whether it is going to fit or not. Well as you can guess, the tub does not fit through the door. What they have to do is put a hole in the roof of their house so they get can get a crane and lift the tub in through the roof of the house for this redone bathroom. When something is important, we’ll go to extremes to get to it.
One time I broke into my own house. It was actually my parents’ house and I lived there at the time. I had been out with a friend, this friend had dropped me off at home and he drove away. It was at that point that I realized that no one was home and I did not have any keys to the house. So what I did is, my parent’s have a camper trailer that they have on the side of the house and that’s the side of the house that my bedroom was, on the second floor, they have a colonial. I somehow used the trailer and the fence and the wall to shimmy myself up to the roof of the house where my plan was to see if I could get my bedroom window open and then go in through my bedroom window on the second floor. I get up there somehow and the window is close and I’m trying to push it and move it over to see if I could get it open and as I am doing so, the window shatters into 1,000 pieces all over the floor of my bedroom, my bed. I was not hurt at all, but suffice to say, I was grounded for a period of time. But when something’s important, we’ll go to extremes to get to it.
On May 21, 2011, it was one of those days where some crazy preacher said was going to be the end of the world, the rapture, or something. Everyone, there was a small group of Christians who were freaking out. I don’t know if you remember that, May 21st, 2011. It was another one of those times. We we’re living in Fordsville, KY. I was the pastor of Fordsville Baptist Church and we were living in the parsonage. We thought we would celebrate the end of the world day, so this guy said, by watching one of those Left Behind movies. You remember those with Kirk Cameron? So we’re watching this movie, we had a couple people from church over celebrating the end of the world, as we are watching the movie, we start ti hear this loud noise. Its like, “Whew whew.” It is getting closer, and it is getting louder, and almost like it was descending upon us. The trees were moving, it was getting louder, and it was getting windier. I though to myself, “holy cow, that guy was right! Jesus is coming! It is the end of the world” In reality, the truth is even stranger than Hollywood eschatology. There was a helicopter descending upon the parking of Fordsville Baptist Church, and our parsonage is right next to the parking lot. Two guys get out of the helicopter, come knock on my door. We are perplexed at this point. We open the door and we talk to these guys and they ask us, very sweetly and very kindly, “Hey do you mind if we park our helicopter here in the church parking while we go and eat at the Fordsville diner?” When something’s important, you will go to extremes to get to it.
Each one of us here in the room has different ambitions in our lives. Regardless of what point in life you are at right now, whether you are a student in middle school or you are a retiree, there are still things you want to do. There are goals, there are ambitions, and there are things to get done. We each have goals that we are working towards. There are things, in our lives, that we believe that we need more than anything. If we could just have this one thing –fill in the blank for your own heart, money, relationship, education, power – whatever it is, whatever is that thing that you think, “If I have this I will be happy.” Then we’d never complain again, right. Then we would be set, there would be no need to complain. We’ll even go to extremes to get these things if we have to, because they’re important. When something is important, you will go to extremes to get to it. Mark chapter 2, that we just read, is a peculiar pericope. It’s a story of a man who wanted something so bad, that he would go to extremes to get to it.
Mark tells us, we just read in verse 1, that Jesus returned home to Capernaum, after travelling around preaching and healing people. That is what is going on if you were to go back and read Mark 1. Jesus was baptized, tempted, and he begins his ministry. He is preaching, he is healing, he is doing these things. It turns out that word got out on Jesus. Jesus is famous now. Jesus shows up and there is a large crowd waiting there for him. The scene opens with Jesus preaching to a massive crowd at the house. The crowd has filled the house so much so that they are pouring out of the door and standing in the street. I personally have never had this problem myself. I don’t think that if I posted on Facebook, “Hey attention everyone, I’m going to be preaching a sermon tonight at 7pm, at my house, all are welcome!” I don’t think there would be a crowd pouring out onto Alger Blvd. But I don’t think it would be out the door. But not so with Jesus, Jesus gets home and people are waiting for him. There is this massive crowd in the house, out the door, onto the street. Picture this scene, in this little Middle Eastern town. This was different though. Word had gotten out on Jesus. He was doing miraculous things. Jesus was like a celebrity now, locally in this community.
A side note here – you notice if you read the Gospel of Mark, you’ll realize that Mark usually does not paint crowds in a very positive light. So whenever you are reading Mark and he talking about a crowd, it is usually not a good thing. The crow is usually isn’t doing the right thing. In the gospel of Mark Jesus is telling parables to the crowds, but then he gives the insights to the individuals. Often times the crowd is blocking someone’s way to Jesus. That is true here in Mark 2, isn’t it? And that is certainly the case in this narrative because Mark tells us that there is a paralyzed man hidden in the crowd.
This paralytic has heard of the miraculous things that Jesus has done and he wants to come and see if Jesus can heal him. He wants to see Jesus so bad to be healed that he’s convinced 4 friends to carry him on a bed to get to Jesus, but the crowd is blocking him. This doesn’t deter the man though. Why? Because when something’s important, we’ll go to extremes to get to it. And this man wants to walk, this man wants to walk more than anything in the world. If he could walk again, then he’d be happy. If he could just stand up and take a few steps, he would never complain about anything in the world again. He wants this more than anything. This is important, and when something is important we will go to extremes to get to it.
So he can’t get to Jesus through the crowd. His friends take him up on the roof and began digging a hole in the roof. They create an opening through this roof, an opening that is so big that they can actually fit the bed through the roof. Now let’s pause for a minute, because for many of us who have grown up in Sunday School, Junior Church, Awana, whatever kid’s program you were involved with, we’re a little too familiar with the bible sometimes. The bible is supposed to sound shocking to us, but because we’ve grown up in church and it is all we have ever known, praise the Lord, but it doesn’t shock us the way it is supposed to. We’re used to it. It is familiar. We are used to seeing the flannel graph of the guy on the bed coming through the roof. We are familiar with that in your Awana verse book. But think about, for a minute, what’s actually going on in this story. Jesus is in the living room, just got home and there is this massive crowd waiting for him, so he starts preaching the word and all of a sudden the roof starts to cave in and this dude on a stretcher is lowered down to Jesus’ feet. This is crazy. This is extreme.
Then something even stranger happens. Mark tells us that when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven (v. 5).” I think if I were the guy in the hospital bed, I would’ve thought, “Well, thanks Jesus, but that’s not why I am here. I have a more important need. I want to walk.” Thank God, Jesus knows better than we do. This man may have thought that his most pressing need was physical, but Jesus knew that it was spiritual. This man’s problem wasn’t his spine, it was his sin.
Even here in the 2nd chapter, Mark is peeling back the curtain to reveal the reason for which Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, the reason why Jesus lived as the only faithful Israelite. Jesus has come to forgive sinners. Jesus has come to die in our place. Jesus has come to resurrect on the 3rd day. This was that man’s greatest need. This is my greatest need. This is our greatest need, church. You’re sitting here this morning and there’s something, I don’t know what it is because it is different for each of us, but there is something in your life that you think you need in order to be happy. That you think you need in order to be fulfilled. That you think you need, and then everything will be all right. There’s something that you’re telling yourself this morning that if you had it, then you would be happily ever after. Maybe it’s a certain number in the retirement account, maybe it’s a baby, or a wedding, maybe it’s a promotion, or a graduation, a new car or a vacation. Whatever you think is the most important thing in the world, whatever your paralysis is this morning; Jesus stands here to correct us. What we do is, we treat these often times good things, as ultimate things. We treat them as saviors; we believe that they can make us happy. We believe that they can sustain us on the way a savior can. They cant. The moment you get that thing that you think you need more than anything in the world, your mind moves to the next thing that is the most important thing. The next thing that you need more than anything in the world that would make you happy, that thing that will give you meaning. They are useless saviors. They can’t save you. They can’t sustain you, only Jesus can. Jesus is the only savior who delivers. Jesus is the only savior who loves you when you fall and forgives you when you sin.
Mark tells us that there were some scribes were in the room. They did not like the things that Jesus had to say. These guys were experts in the law. They were scholars of the Pentateuch. They knew Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy better than anybody in the world. They didn’t like what Jesus had to say to the man. “Why is this man saying that he can forgive sins? That is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins.” And you know what they’re right. Haddon’s vocabulary has been expanding as of late. He’s been learning new words, putting sentences together. Repeating a lot of phrases. The other day Alex and Jack are fighting. What’s new? Alex does something, who knows probably hit Jack or says something mean and Jack comes to me upset and tells on him. I say, “Okay bring him over. Alex say sorry to Jack.” He does, he doesn’t mean it. You can tell. But at this point they are so little you are just trying to teach them Jesus wants you to forgive. “Say sorry. Jack say Alex I forgive you.” And before Jack can get the words out of his mouth, Haddon says out, “Alex, I forgive you.” But Haddon actually had no right to forgive Alex, did he? It may have been cute. But he had no right. Why? Because Haddon wasn’t wrong, Jack was wronged. Haddon hadn’t been sinned against, Jack had been sinned against. Only God can forgive sins, why? Because sin is an offense against God. I can’t forgive you of your sins against God. A Roman Catholic Priest can’t forgive you of your sins against God. There is not a man alive who can forgive you of your sins against God because God is the one who was offended. Only God can forgive sins.
The scribes were correct, but they were missing something, weren’t they? The scribes knew that the proper way for this man to be forgiven of his sins were for his four friends to carry him to the temple and there at the temple the priests could administer forgiveness and he would say to the man, “YHWH has put away your sin.” Jesus doesn’t say YHWH forgives you, he says “I forgive you. Son, your sins are forgiven.” He is making the declaration, why? Because Jesus is declaring, “I do have the right to forgive your sins. I am God.” By forgiving the man of his sins Jesus not only reveals the man’s truest need, that his sins must be forgiven, but he also reveals that Jesus alone can meet that need. The only person who can bridge the gap between God and man is the God-man, Christ Jesus.
Well Jesus knows that the scribes are thinking that, they don’t have the gumption to say it out loud. They are thinking it so Jesus puts them on blast. He calls them out and says to them, “Fine. Which do you think is easier? It is easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven,’ or for me to say, ‘rise, take up your bed, and walk.’” And then Jesus commands the paralyzed man to do just that, get up and walk. And he did. He did! The man stood up and walked. Jesus calls their bluff. He says, “You think I’m just blowing smoke? You think I’m just all talk?” Jesus reveals his authority over the spiritual realm by demonstrating his authority over the physical realm. But there may be more to it than that, also.
Tim Keller notes that at 1st glance it appears that Jesus is saying this, this is what it appears. Jesus is saying, “It’s easier for me to say your sins are forgiven, because there is not proof. I can just say it and we don’t really know for sure it happened. The hard thing would be for me to say get up and walk because then I have to deliver.” That is what appears to be going on here and that certainly is true. But I think there is another element. I think there is another side to the coin, I think there is another angle from which to see it. Jesus is also saying: “You know what, it is infinitely easier for me to say to this man, get up and walk. Any magician can do that. Any wonder worker can do that. The real, the hard thing would be for me to say, I am the savior of the World. I am the Messiah that God promised. I am the serpent-crushing son of Eve who has come to die for your sins. Let me prove to you that that is true by doing this easier thing of saying get up and walk.” And he does. “Take up your mat and walk.” Jesus isn’t just a magician. He is not just a miracle worker. He is the savior of the world. He has come to offer forgiveness. His healing of this paralyzed man reveals that the Kingdom of Christ has broken into the world. Go back and read the Prophets, Isaiah, read Jeremiah. They speak of one who would heal; they speak of the lame standing up and walking. Jesus has brought that Kingdom, but you cannot enter the Kingdom without the forgiveness of sins. Here is the good news church, if take anything away from worship this morning that you need to cling to this week whatever is going on in your house and in your heart this week, cling to this: if Jesus can make a paralyzed man walk, he can forgive your sins. Just as real as a paralyzed man standing up and walking is the forgiveness of your sins when you repent and believe in Jesus.
So what does this mean, what does this mean for us? For CCC? How can we this week move from understanding Word of God to standing under Word of God? First of all, very clearly, if you’re here and you don’t follow Christ, you must hear the gospel message this morning. Jesus has come to forgive you of your sins, to cleanse you, to save you. He lived for you, he died for you, he resurrected for you. Whatever you think you need more than anything in the world this morning, you don’t need it more than you need Jesus. You don’t need it more than you need his forgiveness. Come to Christ. Repent and believe the gospel. Jesus can forgive you; Jesus will forgive you. Don’t be like the scribes who were knit picking Jesus’ words and deeds. Be like the paralyzed man who, by faith did whatever he had to do to get to Jesus. Because when something’s important, we’ll go to extremes to get to it.
Secondly, let this morning be an occasion to train our hearts to be awed by the gospel. Did you notice when we read that Mark tells us that the crowd was amazed when they saw the man get up and walk, they were all amazed and glorified God saying, “We never saw anything like this.” They were amazed, but they didn’t say a word when Jesus forgave the man of his sins. Man, I read that and I’m guilty. I am guilty of that. I would be in awe if I saw someone who I knew was paralyzed stand up and walk. I will confess to you church, I am not always in awe of the gospel. Am I amazed when God forgives a sinner? Do I glorify God? Let us use the word this morning as an occasion train our hearts to be in awe, train your heart this morning to be flabbergasted by God’s grace. Jesus forgave our sins! That is more miraculous than a paraplegic running a marathon.
Finally, this morning let the Word convict us to be forgiving people. Jesus forgave us so we forgive others. Jesus came, 1st and foremost to forgive. We are Christians – we are literally little Christ’s. We are Evangelicals – literally gospel people. We are followers of Jesus. We are the church. We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Hear the word this morning church, there is nothing less Christian than being unforgiving. There is nothing more antichrist than an unforgiving spirit. You have been forgiven in the gospel, go and do likewise.
Did you notice in verse 1 that Mark tells us that this event happened at Jesus’ house – it was reported that he was at home. NT Wright notes, “Jesus himself was the unlucky householder who had his roof ruined that day.” Like Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor needed that bathtub, Jesus needed to forgive this man of his sin and it was worth destroying his own roof to do so. Why? When something’s important, we’ll go to extremes to get to it. Jesus came, he lived, he died, and he resurrected to forgive us of our sins. Jesus teaches us that Christian people arepeople who forgive.
Wright goes on to encourage believers to pray when we find ourselves being unforgiving people, we need to pray and ask the Lord to help us to forgive. He says this of going to the Lord in prayer, “Don't’ stay on the edge of the crowd. Dig through God’s roof and find yourself in his presence. You will get more than you bargained for. It’s not pleasant if you’re helpless on a stretcher, but you don’t have many responsibilities. Once you’ve met the living, forgiving God in Jesus, you’ll find yourself on your feet, going out into the world in God’s love.” Forgiveness is important and we should go to extremes to get to it. Jesus did. This morning, seek God’s forgiveness if you haven’t already. Seek the forgiveness of others. I don’t know what is going on in your life. Maybe you need to go find someone this morning and ask for forgiveness. Maybe you need to go find someone this morning and forgive them. Be a Christian who forgives. Even if you need to find someone after church today, go do it. It is that important. Even if you have to cut a hole in your own roof forgiveness is important. When something is important we will extremes to get to it.