The Authority To Forgive Sin
February 19, 2006
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
1. Jesus went back to Capernaum again. So, when [the people] got wind of it, a crowd gathered together. No explanation is given about the house in which the people assembled, but perhaps it might have been the house of Simon and Andrew that we find in chapter one. Last time it was written in the text that "The towns people gathered at the door," (1:33), and also this week, "As the crowd gathered together, it got so that there was no space all the way up to the door."
2. The events that took place there are recorded here in this text. Content-wise, it is the tale of a healing miracle. There are at least two things that we ought to take note of here. The first is the extreme actions of the people who had brought a sick man to Jesus but had damaged someone else's home [in doing so]. This story is not seen elsewhere. The other is the declaration of "Your sins are forgiven" made to the sick man they had brought. Of course, when Jesus spoke on the forgiveness of sin, that wasn't the first time [it was ever done], if I may say so, prior to Jesus, John the Baptizer had "proclaimed the baptism of repentance in order to obtain forgiveness of sin." But, here is the first time that the declaration of the forgiveness of sin as words from Jesus is recorded. As a debate around this declaration [of his] arises, this anecdote in his life got a little longer. The debate between Jesus and the scribes of the law is written in sandwiched form right into [the center of] the miracle story.
3. Having said that, today I would like for us to think together about what these two points mean for us. As for the order of things, [I've] decided to go ahead and look first at "the declaration of the forgiveness of sin."
Your Sins Are Forgiven
4. Jesus said to the paralyzed man brought to him, "Son, your sins are forgiven." What Jesus is saying here to this man is not "The time will come when you will be forgiven at the last day." [He said to him] that "Right here and now in this place, your sins are forgiven." Therefore, there are also [some] manuscripts that put this word in the past tense form as "Your sins have been forgiven." In short, Jesus declared to the paralytic a total pardon of sin.
5. But, for anyone reading this passage, this declaration of pardon, "Your sins are forgiven," may seem to be an abrupt statement completely ignoring the context. I say that because it was the sick person who had been brought to Christ. He was a paralytic. Because it says that he was brought while placed lying down in a bed roll, he couldn't move at all. What this man who could not move and the folks who had brought him were seeking above all else must have been for his illness to be healed. The reason they had brought the paralytic was probably because they had heard what had happened in Capernaum a few days before. Then, too, Jesus "healed crowds of people afflicted with various diseases," (1:34).
6. But, Christ didn't heal him here right away. It is not clear whether or not Jesus originally even intended to heal him after the declaration of the forgiveness of sin, because, as we see afterwards, the healing of this man wasn't just for him alone.
7. People suppose that when you're sick you need more than anything else to be healed of the sickness. That seems proper. When we've got troubles, we ask for the troubles to dissolve. We hope for our needs to be met. We seek for our suffering and sadness to be taken away. We suppose that this stuff is usually more important than anything else. Therefore, a multitude of sick persons have come to Christ to be healed and the Lord has certainly healed them. That's what the stories in the gospels tell us.
8. But, this gospel is making it clear, as [we] come to this place in the text, what it really was that Christ was trying to say and give by risking his life. Put in other words, [the gospel] is making clear what it is that human beings truly need for salvation. It says that a person needs to be forgiven by God first. Humans need forgiveness. Forgiveness of sin needs to be declared. In that manner, it is necessary to be restored into a righteous relationship and interaction or fellowship with God. Thus, in the story to follow, the Lord speaks on the reason he himself had come as follows. "The reason I came was not to invite the righteous, but to invite sinners," (verse seventeen).
9. But [then], the words of Jesus lead to this story because for the scribes of the law who happened to be there [his] words were only blasphemy unto God. They murmured in their hearts, "Why is this man saying such a thing as this? He blasphemes God. Who, besides God alone, could forgive sin?," (verse seven). The thoughts of the scribes of the law were basically not wrong. To begin with, forgiveness of sin first has meaning by being connected to authority. It is precisely because [one] has the authority to define sin and the authority to convict of sin that one can begin to deliver a pardon for sin as well. And ultimately it is God alone who can define sin and righteously judge humankind. Therefore, one would also expect that it was only God who has the authority to ultimately deliver a pardon for sin. For that reason then, in the eyes of the scribes of the law it looked like blasphemy unto God since Jesus' declaration of forgiveness of sin in and of itself was an equating of himself to God.
10. Of course, Jesus himself knew all along how his statement would be accepted. For that reason then, the Lord went on to say, "Which is easier, to say to the paralyzed man, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say [to him] 'Get up, carry your bed roll and walk?' Know the son of man has the authority to pardon sin on this earth," (verses nine and ten). Jesus also took up the issue of authority. The scribes of the law were murmuring, they were taking issue with "the authority to forgive sin." The Lord was persistent in his claim that he himself does have "the authority to forgive sin" on this earth.
11. The part where it says "Know [the son of man] has the authority to pardon sin" are the words "So that you will come to know that [the son of man] has the authority to pardon sin ..." The sentence was cut off from the start; [it is an incomplete sentence]. Instead of continuing the verb fully to "so that you will come to know that" the Lord abruptly turned again to the paralyzed man and commanded: "I am talking to you. Get up, carry your bed roll and go back home," (verse eleven). Whereupon, the healing miracle took place right there. He got up and went back home.
12. As we see here, the healing of the paralytic wasn't just for the person who used to be ill. It was for the people who were there, "so that [they] will come to know that the son of man has the authority to forgive sin on this earth." It could also be said here that the meaning in the healing work that Christ did was given clear expression.
13. In Jesus' preaching activity and in the preaching activity of the church in later times, it was not strange at all for miraculous healings of illnesses to be done. Nor in modern times is it extraordinary. Miraculous healings of illnesses do occur. But, some are healed and some are not. The final illness in one's life will not be healed. Those who think that the healing of disease is salvation will not be saved [from disease] at the end.
14. To begin with, if healing were salvation itself, the Lord would have given his undivided attention to it. But, it wasn't that way. Miracles of healing are hardly found in the second half of the gospel record. After his entrance into the capitol city Jerusalem, they completely disappear. Therefore, we must find more than that a person's pain was taken away in [any of] the miracles of healing that Christ did. [We'll find them to be] a sign given unto us. It is a sign that points to the authority of Christ. This authority is to be defined as the authority to declare forgiveness of sin to people in this world on this earth upon which we stand.
15. This narrative also appears in The Gospel According To Matthew. Actually, going by Matthew's Gospel, another sentence is added. Jesus said, "Son, cheer up. Your sins are forgiven," (Matthew 9:2). If we go by The Good News Bible* we were using before, it has "Courage, my son. Your sins are forgiven," (Matthew 9:2). I'm sure you've heard that phrase. We've had a number of baptismal ceremonies during this year, and it's a phrase from Jesus that I quote during a baptism.
16. The phrase translated "cheer up, courage" is translated as "peace" in other passages. Rather than being a word of encouragement it has more of a nuance of "You're all right now; you're out of danger now!" It wasn't that this man was cured and can now move, so "you're all right now" because at this point in time he had not been cured yet. He's still on the bed roll. But, the Lord said to him like that, "You are already okay now." Why? Because he was given forgiveness of sin. Because he was already in fellowship with God. Because salvation already is right there, where there is forgiveness of sin.
Seeing The Faith Of The Others
17. Next, let's look at the other point. It's the part about the four men who had carried the paralytic [and when] they tore up the roof of the house of another person and they lowered the bed roll with the sick man lying down on it. Why is such a preposterous act even recorded in the Bible?
18. Perhaps the first reason is that it was a very impressive and unforgettable thing that happened. To happen upon a spectacle of a hole opening up in one's roof and lowering a human being down from it is not one of the things [that happens] during every life time. But, if that were the only reason, it could have been omitted. As a matter of fact, in The Gospel Of Matthew the part about this extreme behavior was eliminated.
19. The reason this extreme behavior was written in this gospel account by design is not because it was just impressive. The next statement clearly expresses why. "Jesus saw the faith of the other men," (verse five). At this point in time what the paralytic was looking for and what the four men who carried him were looking for might have just been for the disease to be cured. But, the figure of these men was such that it clearly expressed the core nature of this thing called "faith." To get to the point, "we want to come to Jesus! We want to bring [this man] to Jesus! Even if we have to break apart this house!" -- He says that this is faith.
20. Of course, he is not saying that "a preposterous act" is equal to "a faith based act." We mustn't give easy approval to acts where the end justifies the means, especially when done by hook or crook. But, the fact of the matter is had they cared about the expectations of the others, the development of the story would be totally different, and the whole life of this paralytic would have been totally different. Going a step even further, they couldn't have even gone to this house had the paralytic said to them, "Don't trouble yourselves so much for me. Don't go through all that bother."
21. I don't want to sound wrong but, I don't mind saying I'm causing a bit of an inconvenience for somebody. I don't mind saying I'm a burden to others or saying I'm causing extra work. When it's to get closer to Jesus. Because getting closer to Jesus is that important. Because there is something greater than the healing of an illness with Jesus. Because he has a message there with him that human beings must hear by all means. I've mentioned it already. It is the message of the forgiveness of sin. Because he is the very one who has the authority to forgive sin.
22. When [I] go to places where churches from different areas gather at conventions, at the meal times different topics come up for discussion. "Are there a lot of young people in the churches by you? We've got but a few young folks." "Everybody's ending up in the big cities when they leave high school." I've heard voices like that. Churches out in the regions certainly may seem like they're dead and have a lot of elderly. In churches in city districts there are a lot more young folks in comparison. They are also more lively and healthy. That's something we ought to rejoice over.
23. But, to tell the truth, whether there are a lot of young people or a few of them, whether it's lively or not, that's not the main thing, those are not lynch pins. Nor is it determined by whether the church is alive or sparkling with life. What matters is how many people are thinking like this: "I want to go to Jesus come what may." "I want to bring someone to Jesus no matter how." Even if I'm a bit of trouble and I become a bother to others, I want to go to worship. I want to hear God's word. I want to receive communion. If I can't go, even if I have the pastor or any of you come to me, I want to receive communion. And I would make someone else's request come true even if I had to pay a bit of a sacrifice for him or her. It matters how many people there are thinking like that. Is the church then really living that way or not? Its [greatness] will be determined by that. When Mark wrote this gospel, the church for him was a place where this paralytic man was, it was a place where these four man who had carried him was.
*Translator's Note: This is not the same version as The Good News For Modern Man Bible, alias Today's English Version or The Good News Bible. This name for a Japanese version of the Bible should probably not even be translated, but transliterated to The Kohgoyaku Bible