The Authority To Forgive Sin
1. The Lord Jesus departed Capernaum and several days later visited the town again. So, when a great number of people heard that, they came together. The people overflowed the house in which Jesus was staying so that not even a crack was available all the way to the doorway. The Lord addressed a message to them. They heard him eagerly.
2. Whereupon, all of a sudden, a great sound came from over top the Lord Jesus and the people and dirt came tumbling down. Everyone looked up at the same time. Was that a big hole broken open in the ceiling!? And something was being lowered right before the eyes of the people as they stood in blank surprise. It was a person. A man with the palsy lying in a bed roll was being lowered with the bed included. There were four men lowering the bed by suspension. One way or another they wanted to bring the paralyzed man to the Lord Jesus.
3. But still, it was a dumb thing to do showing no common sense. However, the Bible says, "Jesus saw the faith of those men." The Lord did not criticize them, he looked at the faith in their actions. Of course, he is not readily approving by this actions that lack common sense. It doesn't mean any old method can be used to accomplish some purpose. But, I suppose depending on the time and circumstance, with faith we could do something like rip through someone else's roof to get to the Lord Jesus. This could be saying that we can't get to the Lord Jesus at all because we are too intent on being sensible or we are so interested in the opinions and expectations of others.
4. The Lord saw their faith and said, "Son, your sins are forgiven," (verse five). Then, he commanded the man with the palsy, "I say to you, get up, carry your bed roll, and go back home," (verse eleven). Whereupon, he was healed and got up. But, this narrative is not just telling us about a healing of palsy. There is a debate between the Lord Jesus and the scribes of the law recorded in sandwiched form right between this healing event. [The debate] was over the words "your sins are forgiven" that Jesus said. Since this has been placed at the center it means that the exchange between them becomes the key to understanding this entire story. Today, as we read along in this narrative, we want to pay heed to two points in particular in regards to the words of the Lord.
A Declaration Of The Forgiveness Of Sin
5. The first point we should focus on is when the Lord said to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." This didn't mean "after a few days you will be forgiven," but "here and now your sins are forgiven." It is a declaration of the forgiveness of sin. Many of the sick were brought to the Lord Jesus and as it is recorded in chapter one, the Lord healed them. So, what the man with the palsy and the four men were looking for must have been, first above all else, healing from this disease. And the Lord did heal the palsied man. But, this story is especially telling us of the words of the Lord Jesus when he declared forgiveness of sin to the man who came as he did seeking for his healing.
6. This means that the Lord Jesus never thought of dividing the sicknesses and various sufferings of humanity from the problem of the sin of humanity. But, it was not, as many of the Jews of that day had held, an ideology of simple cause and effect and retribution, [i.e. you are sick because you sinned and it is a punishment for your sins]. The Lord rejected that kind of thinking. Once, the disciples pointed out a man blind from birth and asked the Lord, "Who sinned that this man is blind since birth? Was it he himself? Or, his parents?," (John 9:2).
7. I'm sure this concept is familiar to us. But, the Lord answered the question like this, "It's not because he himself or his parents sinned. It is so that the work of God would be revealed in him," (John 9:3). Thus, the Lord did not simply tie in a person's sufferings in with the bad deeds of the individual or his or her parentage and ancestors. But, regardless of that, the Lord has first of all spoken here to this afflicted man concerning forgiveness of sin. In doing that, it showed that it was the forgiveness of sin that this man needed first and foremost above all.
8. In order to understand how this truth concerns us, I would like us to open the Bible to another passage. Please look at The Epistle To The Roman Disciples in chapter five and verse twelve.
"In this way, as by one person sin entered into the world and by sin death came in, so death has extended to all persons; for, all persons have sinned," (Romans 5:12).
9. What we should notice here is the phrase "by sin death came in." These words are Paul's. But, Paul wasn't the first to think it up. It is Adam that he means by the previous "one person," which means, what is written here has been taught from the beginning of the Bible. "By sin death came in." Death is something that "came in." In other words, [the Bible] says that death was not an original companion or friend to humans, but it is an enemy that intruded in externally as a result of when humankind sinned and separated from God the source of life. And the scriptures teach that this is not true for just some of humankind, but death has reached all persons since everyone has sinned. Truly then, none of us will escape death.
10. But, this enemy of death we have does not show itself first at the final moments of one's life. Anybody understands that if they have cared for a loved one of theirs at the time of their death. While they are still alive, the controlling power of death already shows itself present in an authoritative way. Indeed, if more is said, it's not just at the closing hours of sickness. The controlling power of death, that destructive power, has showed itself everywhere and anywhere through our individual lives and through the history of humankind. Sickness is but one shape it comes in. In addition, the rule of death's power has appeared in the wretched reality of humanity which is filled with all kinds of hardships and poverty, hatred and animosity.
11. Therefore, the account of the healing of the sickness of the kind we have recorded here in this text surely seems to be a very unique event, and though it might seem to have nothing particularly to do with a person who is not sick, that is not really so. The reason is because the sickness and pain he had carried on him or even the different and various problems of our own are all but a manifestation of the truth that "By sin death came in."
12. As a result, people need not just to get the problems that are right before their eyes resolved or to get one or two manifestations of death taken away. The rule of life extends to those who are under the rule of death. That is, a person is to be joined to God the source of life, and to join a person to God the sin that separates a person from God must be forgiven and taken away. Unless one's sins are forgiven, one turns to God, and unites with God, there is no basic salvation for that person. So, first of all the Lord said to the man, "Your sin is forgiven." Then this is a message that we need as well.
The Authority To Forgive Sin
13. Well, the second point we ought to notice is that the Lord spoke about the authority to forgive sin. The exchange between the Lord and the lawyers shows this.
14. When the Lord Jesus said, "Your sin is forgiven," the lawyers grumbled in their hearts. "Why does he say such a thing? He is blaspheming God. Who else beside God is able to forgive sin?," (verse seven). What the lawyers were saying was not wrong at all. Ultimately, God is the one who righteously judges humanity. Therefore, in a true sense, it is God alone who is able to forgive people. Therefore, for the Lord Jesus to declare forgiveness of sin it looked like in their eyes that he was making himself equal to God and openly blaspheming God.
15. Of course, the Lord knew well enough what his declaration of forgiveness of sin would cause in the hearts of the lawyers. Then the Lord said to these men, "Why do you hold such thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to a man with palsy 'Your sin is forgiven,' or to say 'Get up, carry your bed roll and walk'? I will am letting you know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sin," (verses eight through ten). Then he healed this man with the palsy. The healing of the palsied man clearly gave witness to the fact that the Lord Jesus has the authority to forgive sin. But, even though they saw this evidence, the lawyers did not accept the Lord's authority. Instead, it only gave way to animosity. Indeed, it was not only the lawyers who didn't understand what the Lord said in "the authority to forgive sin," but even the disciples must have felt the same way.
16. But, we must keep in mind the fact that the narrative of this palsy healing was left to us along with these words, "Your sin is forgiven." This has great significance because it shows that later the disciples came to understand the meaning of the words that Jesus declared. If that weren't so, then even though this miracle itself had been told and passed on to us, the declaration "Your sin is forgiven" would had to have faded from their memories as an incomprehensible message.
17. Before long the disciples came to clearly understand the meaning of "the son of man has authority to forgive sin on earth." How was that? [When they came to understand] it was by nothing but the Lord Jesus and the events of his cross and resurrection. The Lord, on a certain occasion, used the same phrase "son of man" to the disciples and said, "The son of man did not come to be served but to serve and he came to give his own life as a ransom for many," (10:45). The disciples soon came to understand. They came to know that the son of man, who has the authority to forgive sin, came to offer his own life so that people would be forgiven of sin. The Lord Jesus said "Your sin is forgiven," but, in order to truly bear the sin of humanity as a substitute and die, he went to the cross.
18. "The Lord bore the sins of all persons and died. Therefore, he is able to forgive sin! The Lord rose again from the dead and sits to the right of God and lives even now. Therefore, he is able to forgive sin!" With this conviction the disciples surely told this story. The cross and the resurrection are the very foundation for Jesus to declare the forgiveness of humanity's sins.
The Victory Of Life
19. "I say to you. Get up, carry your bed roll and go back home," (verse eleven). When the Lord gave that command, he got up, carried his bed and went out. The new life of the man with his sins forgiven had begun. It is a life style lived in a new life joined to God. He would no longer be like when he was stretched out on his bed. He would [no longer] be like he was getting suspended from the hole in the roof. He was brought to the Lord Jesus and through the words and power of the Lord Jesus he became a person to live a new life and went back home. The healing of the sickness was one of the manifestations where the rule of life visited upon the rule of death. Of course, everyone is not to experience this type of healing. Life shows itself in many ways. We will experience, but in a different way from him, our own getting up from the beds we have been laid out on, and taking up our beds and walking.
20. At any rate, the new life one lives that is caused by the Lord is a sign that points to ultimate salvation. What a person experiences on earth is but a little piece of salvation. The salvation that is brought by forgiveness of sin is by far greater and richer than the healing of a sickness. Actually, he was healed of a sickness, but, soon he had died just like everyone else. But, notwithstanding that, the event that took place on him under the Lord Jesus points to one major fact. It is that the grace of God is stronger than humanity's sins and life is stronger than death. That's right. A person meets the Lord Jesus and is made into a person who lives the new life through the words and works of the Lord Jesus and is made into a person who knows that grace is stronger than sin and life is stronger than death, and for those of us like that the time is soon coming when the complete victory of life will be made manifest upon us.
21. As for the word "get up" which is used here in this text, Mark uses it later in regard to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. "You are looking for the crucified Jesus of Nazareth, but he has risen from the dead (he got up), and he is not here," (16:6). The Lord was not in the tomb. As the Lord Jesus defeated death and rose from the dead, the time is coming when we too will get up from the dead and be resurrected to eternal life.