Despite their frequent efforts, the Pharisees and scribes were never able to corner Jesus. Consistently throughout the Gospels we witness their repeated attempts to undermine or misconstrue the authority of Jesus, and today’s passage is certainly no exception. From the outset, we see that when Jesus heals the paralytic, there are accusations of Jesus blaspheming. Jesus responds by asking, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk?’” (v. 5). This is worthy of our reflection.
First of all, Jesus is clearly highlighting his power to forgive sins by placing it alongside His ability to heal physically. Recognizing this, we are able to see how the miracles Jesus performs in the rest of this chapter are in fact a reflection of his spiritual authority. When Jesus heals the suffering woman or the blind men by their faith, we can remember that it is through faith that we are saved spiritually. Ephesians 2:8 tells us that it is “by grace you have been saved through faith.” If we are ever in a season where we struggle with doubting Jesus’ ability to forgive us, these physical healings can serve as reinforcements and reminders of His abundant power.
Furthermore, my understanding is that when Jesus asks which is easier to say, He is implying that it is a much greater thing to forgive sins than it is to heal a physical ailment—even paralysis! In other words, there is a tremendous cost to the forgiveness of sins. There was a monumental sacrifice that was required and Jesus knew it. Jesus was that sacrifice.
So knowing fully what it meant to say the man’s sins were forgiven—knowing what the cost was—Jesus still tells the paralytic to take heart and move forward in forgiveness. It is imperative that we do not forget this real weight of forgiveness in our lives. When is the last time that we truly forgave someone when it was costly to do so? Have we fallen into complacency with lukewarm forgiveness—perhaps fallen into the trap of boasting forgiveness on our lips but not in our hearts? Have we settled for harboring bitterness somewhere in our hearts? If you find that you are not answering these questions the way you would hope, let me encourage you to reflect (as I have needed to do so many times) upon the great and tremendous cost of our own forgiveness.
Perhaps it is through our extension of genuine forgiveness that we may take part as laborers in God’s abundant harvest. May we pray earnestly for more laborers.
By: Logan West