Have you ever read the remarkable story in Mark chapter two, where a crowd of people listening to Jesus speaking in a house were surprised by the interruption of a paralyzed man being lowered through the roof to his feet. As the makeshift stretcher slowly descended, all eyes would have been on the man, then on Jesus, then back on the man. What will Jesus do? Every person present would surely have hoped to see a miracle right in front of them.
But Jesus doesn’t heal him, at least not straight away. All he does is tell the young man that his sins are forgiven.
The teachers of the law, who have likely travelled from Jerusalem to be there are immediately critical: ‘This is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ (2:7). Why would Jesus do this? He seems to be deliberately walking into conflict.
The Gospels, of course, are full of accounts of Jesus’ actions and sayings that intentionally point to his true identity – Emmanuel, God with us. So, Jesus, just to make clear to his audience that he does in fact have divine authority to pronounce forgiveness over the man, confirms it by also healing him. No wonder people in the crowd said, “we have never seen anything like this” (2: 12)
But I think there is another reason why Jesus forgave the man’s sins. Matthew’s version of the story has Jesus saying, “take heart son, your sins are forgiven” (Matt 9:2). Somehow Jesus felt he needed to speak to the man with deep compassion – as if he knew the man was weighed down with guilt. Perhaps the young man even believed that he deserved his physical condition because of something he had done. The text doesn’t give answers to these speculations, but I suggest that there are hints in Jesus’ words that what the man desperately needed was a clean conscience. And only God can give that.
When Jesus heals it is always a miracle, but perhaps his forgiveness is a miracle too. The once-paralyzed man walked away free from his physical suffering but also free from his guilt. I’m surprised we don’t see him skipping to a tune on his way out – maybe the dancing happened with his family later!
1 John 1: 9 tells us that if we confess our sins to Him, then He, being just and faithful will forgive us our sins. We all know what it feels like to carry a burden of guilt. We can try and hide it, suppress it, even try to justify the actions that caused it, but we can’t set ourselves free from it. Only forgiveness from the one who has the authority to forgive will work.
Is Jesus challenging you to repent of something? Have you been carrying a weight that you can’t shake off? Perhaps He wants to give you a miracle today – the miracle of forgiveness.