Chapter 1

Who Does He Think He Is?

When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (mark 2:1–7; emphasis added)

Jesus’s mission had two primary aspects. He declared one of those aspects when He said, “The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (luke 19:10). His was a rescue mission to the lost and dying human race.

The second part of Jesus’s mission appears in Hebrews, when the writer said that Christ is “the exact representation of His [God the Father’s] nature” (hebrews 1:3). In Jesus the Son we see the heart of God the Father.

Did Jesus accomplish that mission? When John the Baptist saw Jesus at the start of His ministry, He said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (john 1:29). John the Baptist was letting the world know who Jesus was.

Three years later, in an upstairs room the night before He was crucified, Jesus’s disciple Philip asked Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (john 14:8). The Lord told Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” (v. 9).

“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (JOHN 14:8). The Lord told Philip, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father…” (v. 9)

The public ministry of Jesus was framed at its beginning and its conclusion by this mission—to make God the Father known to His creation.

So Jesus came to this earth, in part, to reveal the heart of the Father to us. How does that affect what we see in Mark 2? How did Jesus explain the Father to us by the things He said and did?

When we observe a person who seems to be full of self-importance, it’s not uncommon to hear someone challenge them by saying, “Who do you think you are?” or, perhaps, “What gives you the right to do that?” Our assumption is that the individual in question seems to have an inflated view of themselves and that this wrong view needs correcting.

This presumption of an inaccurate self-view is at the heart of the first of the “why” questions we encounter in Mark 2. As they watched and listened to what transpired, the religious leaders of the day indignantly wondered just who Jesus thought He was. Consider the scene:

Jesus was preaching and teaching in a jam-packed home in Capernaum when suddenly the roof opened up over the heads of the crowd. Blue sky appeared where the ceiling had recently been, and a pallet carrying a paralyzed man descended into the house. Jesus responded to the faith of these men who had taken extreme measures to get their friend to Him by saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (v. 5).

Imagine that you are one of the man’s four friends. You have literally done the heavy lifting, dismantling the roof of someone else’s private residence. You have presented your friend to Jesus, obviously expecting the Lord to heal him. The words, “Your sins are forgiven,” are not likely what you expected—or wanted—to hear.

But, the ramifications of Jesus’s words go much further than the friends’ understandable disappointment. This statement prompts the scribes (experts in religious law, often called lawyers in the Gospels) to ask a huge question that gets to the point of Jesus’s identity:

“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (v. 7).

Clearly they feel Jesus is unqualified to do what He has just done—offer forgiveness for sin. These religious teachers studied the Scriptures diligently, and they strongly believed that only God can fully forgive and absolve sins. Essentially, their question is, “Who does He think He is?” If the Teacher is claiming the authority to do what only God can do, He must be guilty of blasphemy because they are convinced that He can’t be God. The claim to be God was a capital crime that brought death by stoning. Who does He think He is, indeed!

Jesus responded to their question by doing something visible to validate His ability to do something invisible.

No mere human should be able to forgive sins, but neither should a mere human be able to heal a paralyzed man with a spoken word. Jesus points out this fact by stressing the obvious. The claim to absolve sins is something that can’t be empirically proven or validated. It is much easier to “say” that the man’s sins are forgiven. It is vastly more difficult to say “get up and walk” with the expectation that a paralyzed man will suddenly and miraculously be healed. Either it will happen or it won’t. Either Jesus has the authority He claims, or He doesn’t.

So Jesus demonstrates His authority to do the one (forgive) by doing the other (heal). The Teacher invites the paralyzed man to get up and walk—and he does! This visible evidence is proof of the invisible claim that Jesus, like His Father, forgives sins.

Jesus came forgiving us in order to reveal the heart of a Father who forgives fully and freely—and Jesus tangibly exhibited that forgiving heart by giving Himself on the cross. For all of us, this is good news. Who among us has never struggled under the weight of our failings, wrongs, and sins?

Guilt and shame are such powerful realities in our world that real forgiveness can seem impossible. In the face of that tremendous obstacle, we find a God who desires to forgive us—to break the chains of our guilt and to set us free from the shame and slavery of our failings.

The rescue that Jesus provided through His death and resurrection makes this forgiveness possible, and the forgiveness He offered this paralyzed man was in anticipation of the ultimate rescuing work Jesus had come to accomplish on the cross.

Who Does He Think He Is?

  • In the context of their beliefs and convictions, why was the response of the scribes to Jesus’s claims understandable? Why was it dangerous?
  • What is the difference between one of us forgiving someone of wrongdoing and Jesus offering absolution of sins to someone?
  • How would you have responded if you had taken a friend to Jesus for healing, but instead heard Jesus give forgiveness?
  • Why was the contrast of the visible versus the invisible critical to Jesus’s actions with the paralytic?