Most of the time when we talk about the Pharisees, we are in
critical mode, and well we should. The Bible pulls no punches in dealing with
this religious body. The Pharisees live
out a religious approach to life that Jesus finds abhorrent in many ways. Where
the good news Jesus proclaimed centered on faith, reliance upon Himself as
Savior, the Pharisees stressed a moral reform and practice which placed their
salvation in their own hands. This kind of legalism (obedience to the Law is
the only way to be saved) ignores the real live problem that no one can faithfully follow the Law. And so,
the Pharisees represent the ultimate boogeyman of our faith. Whereas Jesus wants
us to look to Him, the Pharisees want us to look to our own power. From a
theological perspective, then, the Pharisees stand for the antithesis of the
Gospel; instead of the free grace of Christ, we have the self-justification of
But that is not the only reason, or even the major reason,
why the Gospel writers contrast Jesus with the Pharisees. The opposition of the
religious establishment to Jesus has less to do with the means of salvation,
and so much more to do with the Person of Jesus Himself. Their rejection of
Jesus is not based primarily on their rejection of His message, but of His
claim about Himself.
As one reads through the Gospels, the opposition of the
Pharisees to Jesus grows and grows until, finally, they plot to kill
Him—eventually leading, of course, to the cross. Certainly the religious
establishment was offended by what Jesus taught, upset by His popularity,
concerned He would undercut their stable relationship with Rome; but what
ultimately drove them to call for His execution was a simple logical deduction
based on Jesus’ teaching…
A “logical necessity” is a conclusion one draws from
statements when no other alternative is possible. It is “necessary” in that a
conclusion must be true given what is stated earlier. If this, then that MUST be.
Using this straightforward way of thinking, the Pharisees, after listening to
Jesus, made a necessary conclusion about Jesus’ understanding about Himself…
and that drove them to seek His death.
In Mark 2, Jesus tells a paralyzed man that his sins are
forgiven. It is a wonderful picture of the power of the Gospel, the Kingdom of
God, to bring healing at our deepest need, our sin. As a demonstration of this
forgiveness, the paralyzed man is healed, not just of his sin, but also of his
physical condition. The story is a beautiful one where “everyone wins,” and
normally would be the cause of great rejoicing. However, the Pharisees notice
something and draw a logically necessary conclusion—that Jesus is claiming to
The Pharisees rightly realize that ultimately each and every
sin is an offense against God Himself. Certainly our sin impacts ourselves and
others, but ultimately, it is God Himself who is the aggrieved party. Only the
offended party can forgive: It makes no sense for me to forgive you for hurting
someone else. If sin is an attack against God, then only God can forgive. When
Jesus, then, tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven, Jesus is claiming
that He is in a position to forgive them, that He is the One offended by the
sin of the paralyzed man. In other words, the Pharisees draw the necessary
conclusion: Jesus thinks He is God!
That kind of blaspheme can be dealt with in only two
ways—either it is a lie and it must be stamped out (hence, their conclusion that
Jesus must die); or, it is the truth, and it must be embraced. Of course, the
Pharisees cannot accept that this guy might be God Himself, so they elect to
seek His destruction. We too are confronted every day with Jesus’ claim—He
thinks Himself to be God: shall we reject this? Or, accept Him as the One who
can (and does) forgive our sin?
Come join us in worship on Sunday as we eagerly worship our
Savior, our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.
Read Mark 2:1-12.
1. This event took place when Jesus was at home in
Capernaum. What difference might it make that this happened where Jesus was
2. The crowd here functions as a hindrance or barrier for
the paralytic and his friends. How might that parallel what you experience
every day? Worse yet, where might you (and your “crowd”) be part of the
hindrance to others?
3. Why did the friends take such effort with the paralytic?
What do you think they were hoping would happen? Were they satisfied early on
with Jesus’ forgiveness of his sin?
4. Always a challenge for me… notice that Jesus responds
with forgiveness when He sees “THEIR” faith—not the faith of the paralyzed man,
but of his friends. Intriguing, no?
5. What is “right” about the Pharisees’ theology? What do
they get correct about God, sin, forgiveness?
6. There’s that word, “immediately,” in verse 8. Why is the
immediacy of Jesus’ knowledge important to the story here? What would have been
different if He only heard about their objections, say, days later?
7. Jesus asks, “which is easier…”? Well? Which is easier? To say, you are forgiven?
Or, to heal a man?