Do these words bring you relief, joy and comfort?
Or do you shrug your shoulders, yawn, and reach for the remote?
I was listening recently to a sermon on Mark 2:1-12 where Jesus heals the paralytic. But before he heals him, Jesus says to the man,
'Son, your sins are forgiven.' (Mark 2:5)At this point in the sermon, the preacher described the man's thoughts; (in an anguished cry)
'but what about my LEGS, Lord?'.And then, by extension; but what about my MS, Lord? ...my daughter's tumor? ...my husband's schizophrenia? What will you do about that, Lord? These are truly cries from our hearts and it is right and good to cry out to Jesus like this.
But I want to humbly suggest that it probably wasn't how that man responded to those words.
Do you remember what Jesus disciples asked when they saw a blind man,
'Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?' (John 9:2)Or the assumption that the Galileans had suffered at Pilate's hands because they were worse sinners than others? (Luke 13:1-2)
In both instances, Jesus corrects this way of thinking. There are many reasons (or none we can fathom) that people suffer, sicken and die. And yet all of us are sinners. Just as we should not understand suffering as resulting from sin, we should not equate success (or blessing) to righteousness. However, it probably was the way most people thought at that time and in that place.
Bad things happened to you because you did something wrong or because you were a bad person. It was God's judgement. It demonstrated to all what God thought of you. This was the air the paralysed man breathed. There was no room for doubt; the evidence was there. His sin must be great because his punishment was great. So was his shame.
Nothing can be done for this man. His sin is great. This punishment is just. There is no hope. Not in this world. Not in the next.
And he lay before Jesus. Imagine his anxiety. Would Jesus, also, condemn him?
'Son, your sins are forgiven.'Can you see him? Do you see the furrows on his brow scatter and dance at the corners of his eyes? Do you see the smile wash over him like the evening tide? Do you feel his relief, his joy, his hope? Even before he has been healed.
Do you understand, now, why Jesus said those words?
And do you understand, now, why it is that Jesus heals him;
'so that you may know that the Son on Man has authority on Earth to forgive sins?' (Mark 2:10)I had always thought that the Jesus did what could be seen (the healing) to prove his authority to do that which could not be seen (the forgiving). This works, but it is not all. There is a closer connection.
In order to demonstrate that he has authority to forgive sin, Jesus deals with the consequences of sin. Sin and its consequences have been completely and utterly removed from the man's life; as far as east is from the west.
Can Jesus forgive sin?
Yes he can!