What does Mark 2:8 mean?This verse opens up a major theological debate: While Jesus is on earth as a man, does He have direct access to His power as God or does He rely on the Holy Spirit to give Him what He needs in the moment? When Jesus senses the thoughts of the scribes "in His spirit," is it through His own power or through the Holy Spirit?
This conundrum is referred to as "kenosis." When Jesus takes human form and comes to earth, He never loses His God-hood, but He does willingly set aside His glory and independent authority (Philippians 2:7). John 4:6 states that Jesus gets tired and Matthew 24:36 indicates Jesus' knowledge of divine things is limited, so He does have some self-imposed limitations.
Jesus has the clear insightfulness of a mind unclouded by sin, selfish gain, defensiveness, or pride. He also had been a great student (Luke 2:52). This clarity helps Him understand the motives of those around Him. But whether He knows the thoughts of the scribes through His own abilities or through the Holy Spirit, the Bible doesn't say.
Either way, it's likely Jesus knows the answer to the question He asks. God sometimes asks questions not because He needs information but because He wants people to admit the obvious answer. In Genesis 3:9, He asks Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" In Genesis 4:9, He asks Cain, "Where is Abel your brother?" It's a way of directing the conversation and inviting the person into a dialogue that gives them the chance to reconsider their choices.
Jesus asks this question after He has declared the sins of a lame man to be forgiven. He knows that the instinct of the local religious leaders is to assume this is inappropriate. This opportunity for the scribes to reconsider is a grace because in Matthew 9:4, Jesus identifies the scribes' thoughts as "evil." Jesus not only knows their thoughts, but also the motivation for those thoughts. Matthew chapters 5 and 6 show that sin comes from our hearts, not just our actions.