Sermon on the Gospel of Mark for the Second Sunday of Lent (Mark 2:1-12)

Jesus is the Doer of Good, who is Full of Love and Philanthropy; and the Envy which the Scribes and Pharisees Entertained against Him.

No one has ever been hated so much in the world as Jesus Christ. And no one has ever been loved so much as Jesus Christ. Thus it appears that Jesus is an object both of love and of hatred. He has been hated and is hated by those who are engaged in doing things that are wicked, villainous, and vile, and who hate the light of truth. And He has been loved and is loved by those who are friendly to the light of truth, and who hate the darkness of flattery. An egoistic and vainglorious selfishness has hated and continues to hate Jesus and His followers and emulators. But a guileless and sincere love and God-loving humility has loved and continues to love Jesus and His emulators.

Accordingly, the laity, being free of selfish vainglory, rejoiced at the presence of Jesus, while, on the other hand, the selfish and vainglorious Pharisees were grieved and distressed thereat. And who were these latter persons? They were the rulers of the Synagogue, the rabbis of Israel, the interpreters of the law and of the prophets; they were the ones who day and night used to address prayerful wishes and wishful prayers to Jehovah with a view to securing the salvation of Israel, on the supposition that they could see what was right and that they had possession of the keys to the kingdom of God and that they had the right to open and to shut the gates thereof. Their hands were reverently kissed by the members of the laity – that is to say, by the populace – and so were even the borders of their garments; it was to them that the laity confessed and rendered thanks, while they, on their part, prayed to God in behalf of the laity and offered up sacrifices, all with a view to atoning for the sins of the laity. Deeming themselves holy, they declared relentless war upon Jesus Christ out of envy. They found Him to be a heretic, they said, and they characterized Him as a schismatic. They called Him an insulter of their holiness, a blasphemer of God, and a Samaritan; and they traduced Him as being possessed of demons and as being a deceiver and false prophet. After defaming Him more than had been defamed any other man, they incited a most murderous crusade against Him. After dis­honoring Him more than any other man had ever been dishonored; after nailing Him down upon the cross of infamy between robbers and criminals, they even killed Him!

The same tactics as were followed also by the successors of the crusaders against the Lord were followed and still continue to be followed even today by the crusaders against His genuine disciples, which comprises all those who impartially preach truth and love, without sparing anyone, or flattering the ones in power – that is to say, the “high and mighty,” as they are frequently called-and without even bendino a knee to or cringing in the presence of those who are functioning as rulers and breaking the laws which they are supposed to uphold and enforce. But this treatment which was afforded to Jesus by the Pharisees was altogether the opposite of that shown Him by the ingenuous laity, who even took keen pleasure in listening to His words, and were filled thereby with joy. The oppositeness of these treatments is to be plainly seen from the following words of the Gospel:

“And again he entered Capernaum after the lapse of some days: and it was noised about that he was in the house. And straightway many persons gathered themselves together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not even so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. And they came unto him, bringing one borne by four who was a paralytic. And when they could not reach him because of the mob, they uncovered the rnof where he was: and when they had broken through it, they let down the bed whereon the paralytic was lying.” – Mark 2:1-4

Jesus re-entered Capernaum, and it was rumored about the city that he was staying at a house. The multitude immediately congregated at the place in question, and gathered themselves together about the house, and even the house itself was filled with people so that no one could even enter it. Jesus was preaching to the people the divine word, because this was His work, and for that very purpose it was that He had been sent on His mission into the world. Accordingly, wherever He found Himself He used to preach for the enlightenment of His listeners. But it was not only those who were thirsty to listen to His words and to be taught His doctrine that were eager to hear His voice, but also those who were ill and suffering and who needed to be healed and to be cured of their ailment or infirmity. For Jesus not only enlightened souls by means of His illuminating words, but He was also ac­customed to cure illnesses and to bestow bodily benefactions upon those suf­fering in their bodies. So it happened that they came to Him bringing a paralytic who was being carried by four men. And because they were un­able to get near Jesus on account of the multitude which had gathered about the house and thronged the door thereto, they took the roof off the house and let the bed down upon which the paralytic was lying so as to convey him directly into the presence of Jesus where He was teaching.

What wonderful faith! They defied everything in order to be able to bring the ailing man into the presence of Jesus, being convinced that He could cure him if He so wished! What great and how many obstacles were those which they had to overcome in undertaking to accomplish this task! They dared even to unroof a stranger’s house in order to bring the paralytic into the presence of Jesus. Yet they managed somehow or other to overcome all those obstacles because they had faith in the power of Jesus. True in­deed! In order for anyone to come into close proximity to Jesus – that is to say, in order to approach the person of Jesus Himself – there are many ob­stacles in the way that have to be overcome first before success can be attained. But if a man really believes, he will be able to overcome all these obstacles. Faith becomes a source of omnipotence for him. He that believes can defeat the opposing powers of the world. “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, namely, our faith,” says the Theologian (1 John 5:4). And then he goes on to ask, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:5).

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the paralytic, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reason­ing in their hearts,Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?” – Mark 2:5-7

Jesus saw the faith in the heart as the motive Power actuating those who were carrying the paralytic with his consent. That, in fact, is precisely why He said to the paralytic, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” That paralytic had become such as a consequence of his own sins. He had abused his bodily powers, and in consequence of such abuse he had become paralyzed. Per­haps as a young man he had dissipated and wasted and exhausted his Powers in licentious living and in debauchery. After becoming ill and disabled, he doubtless became conscious of the mistake he had made, and, accordingly, repented that he bad reaped death as the fruit of his dissipation. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

After becoming paralyzed, whether as a result of venereal abuses or be­cause of excessive drinking or gluttony or other acts of intemperance and debauchery, when confined to his bed he found time to reason about his plight; and he judged that he was suffering justly, in that he deserved to be punished for his folly; and so he groaned and shed tears of penitence, and wished that his sins might be forgiven him and that he be spared from los­ing his soul after already having had his body paralyzed! O you young men who abuse your bodily powers unthinkingly, lose no time in forestalling the danger that threatens to ruin you: you can do so by timely repentance and by abstention from the pernicious evils that attend all vices. Believe, and draw nigh to Jesus. Then will the sources of intemperance within you dry up and become sterile, so that, ere long, the furnace of destructive passions burning within you will be utterly extinguished! O young men, have sense, and take care to avoid the danger: save yourselves – save yourselves, soul and body! Behold, where a man wound up in the process of dissipation, by not taking care to be temperate!

But, while in a condition such as this, he was fain to condemn himself; and, in doing so, he gazed up towards God. His mind had not become so en­feebled as to be entirely decrepit: it had not become perverted altogether as a result of his bodily paralysis! Hence it is to be inferred that he still clung to the hope of salvation! The evil had not yet reached the point of derang­ing his mind. This explains how he happened to be repentant of the sins he had committed, and, upon hearing about the power possessed by Jesus, came to believe that he would be cured if he were brought to Him. He believed, and on that account he was told, “Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.”

But the Pharisees who were present as bystanders and were seeking to find an excuse for criticizing Jesus, because they hated Him and had an evil or wicked heart, took it upon themselves to judge these words of the Lord’s to be blasphemies. ‘Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies?” said they to themselves. “who can forgive sins but God only?” They did not dare, how­ever, to utter this wicked thought of theirs aloud. But Jesus could intuitively discern it in their heart; accordingly, He exposed it, and reproached them for thinking it, lest it remain hidden and find a way later to traduce and misrepresent His divine work to those who happened to be ignorant of its nature.

“And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the paralytic, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the para­lytic,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way to thy house. And immediately he arose, took up his bed, and went away before them all: insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We have never seen it in this fashion.” – Mark 2:5-7

The remission, or forgiving, of sins is something spiritual, mysterious, in­visible, and, in fact, a phenomenon which takes place in the soul and which is therefore an internal occurrence. Hence it could be disputed by the wicked Pharisees as not having occurred at all. When they heard the words, they judged within themselves and said to themselves that they were blasphemies: for they thought, or reasoned, to themselves, “Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” Of course, they were not reasoning falsely in saying that God only can forgive sins; for God is man’s lawgiver and judge and Savior and ruler. Nevertheless, the fact is that they entertained this thought out of envy and malignity which they felt in regard to Jesus. They spoke the truth for the purpose of hurting Him – that is to say, with malice aforethought – and not for the pur­pose of benefiting Him. They were making use of the truth as a means whereby to sate their malignant passion.

But, on the other hand, it is to be noted that Jesus is God become incar­nate in man; consequently He could – that is to say, He had the power and the right to – forgive sins, as being the Son of God and having become incar­nate in man. Moreover, He had the power and the right to bestow the right of forgiving sins upon other men of His choice; as, in fact, He actually did bestow it upon His Apostles and upon His Church, by saying: ‘Whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven” (Matt. 18:18). And also by saying: “Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained” (John 20:23).

So it is plain that Jesus as the Son of God had the power and the right to remit sins; but the Pharisees disputed His divinity – that is to say, they denied, or refused to admit, the fact that He was God, or even the Son of God – and so they deemed it blasphemy on His part for Him to be claiming that He was the Son of God. They deemed Him to be an usurper of the di­vine name. But this judgment of theirs was not based upon facts, for these confirmed the divinity of Jesus; on the contrary, it sprang from the envy in their hearts, which tended to sully whatever was fine or good, so as to dim its luster in the eyes of others; accordingly, they exercised their evil influence with a view to slandering and finding fault with it, and condemned it as evil or wicked. From envy of this kind, cherished by one who misjudges others, rescue us, O Lord, for there is no vice more enormous than this one! It is this vice which produced Pharisaism!

But He that had the power to forgive sins had still more the power to cure any ailing bodies. In order, therefore, that the envious sentiment of the Pharisees be brought to shame, and their malignity be exposed before the eyes of the naive populace, and in order that it might be demonstrated and proved beyond a doubt that the paralytic’s sins were really forgiven, and that He was really the Son of God, the Lord replied to the Pharisees by ask­ing them this tactical question: “I ask you,” said He, “which is easier for me to do in this particular case? To say to the paralytic, ‘Thy sins be for­given thee,’ or to say, ‘Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk’?” They kept silent. “So,” continued He, “in order that ye may know that as the Son of God I have power on earth to forgive sins, I will prove this to you by curing the body of this paralytic; for just as I can cure a man who is ill, so can I forgive and pardon a sinner.” Then, turning to the paralytic, He told him: “I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way to thy house.”

Accordingly, the paralytic immediately arose, and, taking up his bed, went away before the eyes of all the onlookers, who were indeed amazed al what occurred, and glorified God, and said that they had never seen such a thing done before. So, on the one hand, the Pharisees were put to shame and disgraced, and left planning sinister schemes of compassing evil designs, because they were filled with envy, and were unable to believe in the di­vinity of Jesus. They ascribed His beneficent works to the power of Satan. The naive populace, on the other hand, who had cherished no envy in their heart, were glad, and glorified God at the end of the event for all that had been done, and they believed that He who had done it was indeed an Apostle of God – that is to say, one sent by God to perform God’s will – with authority to forgive sins and with power to cure diseases. Thus with telling effect the philanthropic beneficence of Jesus Christ exposed and disgraced the envious and malignant rancor of the scribes and the Pharisees, and proved that Jesus really was the Son of God and full of love, whereas, on the contrary, the Pharisees were children of the Devil, full of envy and of viciousness and wickedness .

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