Shepherds Conference 2024 General Session 9

March 8, 9:30 a.m. 
Speaker: Nathan Busenitz
Topic: The Triumph of Divine Pardon
Passage: Mark 2:1–17


Message Summary: 

Mark 2 shows us the reality that in the gospel, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, divine pardon triumphs over our desperate condition and our deserved condemnation. The truth or the reality of our sinful depravity is overcome by the truth and reality of divine grace.

The power and necessity of forgiveness is this: where forgiveness is absent, no sinner, no matter how noble or seemingly moral, can ever earn the righteousness necessary to enter into heaven. And yet, where divine forgiveness is bestowed, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, any sinner, no matter how wretched or worthless, can be pardoned, justified, given the hope of eternal life, and welcomed into the presence of God. This is the triumph of divine pardon.

Mark 2 gives an account of two different sinners who meet the Savior and receive forgiveness. I would argue that these two accounts are placed together in every synoptic gospel because they make one compelling theological point: Our Savior is both willing and able to forgive sins. 

1. The Sinners

In verse 3, we meet the first sinner: the paralytic. He is completely unable to do anything for himself. And yet he has heard about the work of Jesus. Desperate for healing, deperate to meet the savior, this man has no way to get to Jesus unless someone else helps him. His friends do this, carrying him to the roof and lowering him down through it to where Jesus is.

 In verse 14, we meet the tax collector, a man who is despised as a criminal for extorting his people. 

The first sinner is utterly unable, and the second is deeply despised. One desperate, one detested.

2. The Savior

In verse 5, Jesus forgives the paralytic’s sins. He looks past the external to the internal. He looks at this man’s heart and offers him not only physical healing but spiritual forgiveness. 

Something similar happens in the second account in verses 13–15. Jesus reaches out and calls Levi to repent and receive forgiveness. Jesus also displays willingness to fellowship with this (now former) tax collector and all of his friends.

Both faith and repentance are highlighted in these two accounts. And yet it is Christ who takes the initiative in both accounts. He sees the paralytic’s true need, and He sees Levi in the tax booth. And He offers forgiveness to both of them and welcomes them into fellowship with Him.

3. The Skeptics

In verses 6–7, the religious leaders see Jesus’s interaction with the paralytic and conclude He must be blaspheming. Blinded by their unbelief and hard-heartedness, the scribes and Pharisees are unwilling to acknowledge the obvious—that the man standing before them, Jesus Christ, is God the Son. 

In verse 16, seeing Jesus eating with sinners, the religious leaders are incredulous. They assumed, in keeping with their legalism, that no righteous person would ever associate with such obvious sinners.

In the first account, instead of responding with faith, they question Jesus’s claims. And in the second account, instead of responding with repentance like Levi and his friends had done, they respond with judgementalism and self-righteousness. 

4. The Showdown

In verses 8–12, Jesus responds to the condemnation and skepticism of the religious leaders by proving that He is God the Son and that He has the authority to forgive sins. Jesus’s miracle proves that His claim to be able to forgive sins was a valid claim. To claim to forgive sins was something that only God could do. By healing a man in a way that only God could heal, Jesus proves that He has the authority to claim to do what only God can do.

In verse 17, Jesus speaks with an illustration from the medical world to make an important spiritual point. People who don’t think they are sick don’t seek help from a doctor. Only those who know they are sick, who recognize that they need help, ask for that help. Blinded by their own self-righteousness, the Pharisees didn’t believe that they needed help, that they needed the grace and mercy that only Jesus could offer.

5. The Significance
  • Consider the picture of our fallen condition — Like the sinners depicted in these accounts, we were unable and unworthy. Before Christ saw us and healed us, we were desperately incapacitated and deeply despicable in the sight of a holy God.
  • Consider the price of our redemption — The forgiveness offered in these two accounts is not a cheap forgiveness, but a forgiveness that was won through the ultimate price: the death of our Lord and Savior on the cross.
  • Consider the provision of our salvation — Because He is able and because He is willing, Christ offers forgiveness to all who cry out to Him for mercy, including those who are utterly unable and those who are totally despicable.

The power and necessity of forgiveness is this: without it, no sinner, no matter how noble or moral, can achieve the righteousness necessary to enter into heaven. And yet, with forgiveness, through the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, through divine pardon, any sinner, no matter how helpless or hopeless, can be pardoned, given the hope of eternal life, and welcomed into the presence of God.

That’s the triumph of divine pardon. The truth of God’s grace in Christ triumphs over the truth of what we deserve as those who are both utterly unable and desperately wicked.