Your Sins Are Forgiven.


Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there said to themselves, “What? This is blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins!” Jesus knew what they were discussing among themselves, so he said to them, “Why do you think this is blasphemy? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’? I will prove that I, the Son of Man, have the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, take your mat, and go on home, because you are healed!” — Mark 2: 5 – 11

I often rethink my position on a passage, especially after I walk away from it for some time. I admit, the way I interpret sometimes hinges on what’s going on beneath. Is this taking liberties with the holy text? Probably so — but, liberty is an appropriate word too when you discuss Scripture. It breathes freedom to those who are in captivity. Frees the mind from worry. Breaks the material world’s chains to guide you into the realm beyond. I’m less interested in being a good theology student than I am of being a discoverer.

All that said, I entertained the idea that Jesus’ words of forgiveness to the man paralyzed should be taken at face value. The understanding was this man likely lead a sinful lifestyle, a pattern of decisions that lead to physical unhealth or perhaps an accident. Now, I’m thinking otherwise.

This is not to say the forgiveness in itself was disingenuous. Jesus meant that. You’re really forgiven, I mean it. He wasn’t psyching the man out. This man was a sinner as am I. His whole life he had been. He would be the next day. But Jesus draws attention primarily to the man’s sin rather than his physical condition.

The picture that is playing in my head this morning as I read is Jesus looking up from the man on the mat into the faces of the religious teachers nearby, or maybe just one, and starting a conversation with them. Was this using the paralyzed man for a selfish purpose? First, I don’t think the man would have cared. He was about to be told he could walk home. Second, to see it as selfish suggests Jesus was engaging these teachers in some sort of semantic battle.

We can’t continue seeing Jesus’ approach to the Pharisees as combative. And these religious folk as bad guys. In reality Jesus loved them as much as this man. And his passion for them lead him to do what was necessary to gain their attention.

What? How could you forgive this man for his sins? Who do you think you are? Maybe that was exactly what Jesus wanted them to think — who do you think you are? It’s a conversation starter. Jesus started a conversation with his own followers that way once. He asked them, “Who are people saying I am? What’s the rumor?” To lead these religious leaders to a point where they brought up the same discussion was huge. Jesus must have been smiling beneath his words.

The most pitiful soul is the one so bound by their comfortable view of the world that despite events begging them to believe otherwise they just can’t. They have made themselves incapable of thinking otherwise. It’s a fear thing. This is how they make sense of things. Once the walls have been built, why shake the foundation?

Playing with them, Jesus asks, “Which is easier to say? Your sins are forgiven, or get up? He’s asking them to thinking on a material level for a moment. Which is more realistic in human terms? If I were just a man, which one sounds more believable?

Then, he told the man to get up and walk. And he did.

The sad thing is yes the crowd was amazed at the miracle, but we still don’t see religious hearts turned toward him. I do feel sorry for them, but I must be careful not to judge them too quickly. I’m alot like them. Bound by my own limited view of the world and afraid to look beyond my walls.

Jesus, please start a discussion with me today.

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