“Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?” —Mark 2:9
When Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic, the scribes were outraged. “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7, ESV).
These scribes pondered what Jesus said, as every man should: “Why does this man speak like that?” The teachings of Jesus are heavenly words that have come to men on earth. We should listen closely. The words of Christ are so startling that we may miss His infinite truths with our finite minds. We should listen carefully.
These scribes even had correct theology: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Men can forgive sins and offenses wronged unto them but they cannot absolve sins against God. Popes and priests have no power to forgive in that way. No mere man does. It is impossible.
Although they pondered the sayings of Christ, and though they were educated men dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of their doctrine and theology, they came to the wrong conclusion: “He is blaspheming!” The truth the Lord conveys is sourced in eternal power. We should listen cautiously, taking care not to interpret incorrectly.
It is certainly easier for someone to say that a man’s sins against God are forgiven. Who would know it except God alone? Though Jesus says the easier statement, in order to demonstrate that He has the power and authority to forgive men’s sins He tells the paralytic, “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home” (Mark 2:11, ESV). What happened? The man sick of palsy “rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:12, ESV).
Too often we are so amazed at the miracle that corroborates the truth that we miss the greater miracle of seeing a man forgiven of his sins by the gracious God who condescended to become a man in order to save His people from their sins!
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. —Matthew 1:21