Mark Part XI - The Authority of the Son of Man (2:1-12)
Again and again we have witnessed the OT background that lies behind both Mark’s portrayal of Jesus and Jesus' own declarations about Himself. As the first portion of Mark’s Gospel endeavors to answer the question, “Who is this Man?,” the text provides us with numerous OT allusions that fill out our understanding of Jesus’ identity. This OT association continues today as Jesus invokes yet another OT image to help his disciples grasp his identity.
Throughout the OT, God identifies Himself as the forgiving God - this is who he is, it is His nature. When God revealed Himself to Moses, He declared:
“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, [yet] by no means clearing the guilty . . .” (Ex. 34:6,7a)
To forgive the sins of people, in other words, is a divine prerogative. Whenever we sin – whether horizontally or vertically – we always offend God. Consequently, we need to seek His forgiveness.
How did one do that in the OT? Well a couple different ways. First and foremost, one confessed one’s sins to the Lord. Psalm 51 is a perfect example. “Against you, you only, have I sinned, O Lord, and done what is evil in your sight.” David sins with Bathsheba and, after he is confronted, repents and seeks the face of God. But this, while primary, was not the whole story. David, in addition to heartfelt repentance and confession, was required to go before the priests and offer a sacrifice for his sins. After the sacrifice, the priest would formally declare – you are forgiven, your sins are covered. Under the law and the sacrificial system, the priests were given this authority.
In other words, through the establishment of the sacrificial system, God had provided a means of tangibly demonstrating his forgiveness to men. We see this expressed, for instance, in Leviticus 5:10: "And [the guilty party] shall offer the second [sacrifice] as a burnt offering according to the prescribed manner. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin which he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him." The priest was granted authority by God to declare the forgiveness of sins on the basis of evidence of contrition and offering of sacrifice.
As we turn to the healing of the paralytic with this understanding we are equipped to understand why the scribes are so disturbed. What’s the problem in their mind? Quite simply, Jesus wasn’t a priest. He wasn’t from the tribe of Levi. Further, Jesus wasn’t at the temple. There was no blood sacrifice here – no satisfaction. And so the scribes ask – who does this guy think he is? How dare he declare forgiveness when he is not at the temple? When there is no sacrifice going on here? Who gave him authority to do this? The law didn’t give him this authority. The law says that only the priesthood can make such declarations. This man is overthrowing the temple system. He’s establishing something new. How dare he do that?
Our Lord answers this very question in our text today.
Stuart Bryan is the pastor of Trinity Church. He and his wife, Paige, have seven children, four homegrown, two adopted from the lovely land of Guatemala, and one adopted from Ukraine. Stuart earned his B.A. in Religion from Whitworth College and his M.A. in Theological and Historical Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida.