The Power to Forgive
The Authority of Jesus
“So that you many know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
The religious leaders were shocked and enraged. After his brief respite from the crowds, Jesus again returns to his adopted hometown of Capernaum. When news of his arrival spread, people gathered to hear his teaching. One group of people who heard of Jesus’ presence was a group of men with a paralyzed friend. In this story, we discover three important lessons. First, we find out that some accidents or illnesses directly result from sin. While we do not know the exact cause of his accident, Christ reveals that it was connected to the sinful actions of the individual. While illness and accidents often result from a broken world in which disease and injury stem from the fall of Adam and Eve rather than the judgment upon an individual for their sin. But in this case, it directly resulted from the individual's sin. Sometimes, the consequences of our sins can lead to tragedy, sickness, and injury. This was one such case. While we do not know what that sin was, Jesus makes it clear that this individual was not only physically paralyzed but also spiritually broken. Merely healing his injury was not enough; he needed spiritual healing.
Knowing that Christ had the power to heal, the friends were confident that Jesus could help. In every other case, when someone was ill, the individual requested healing. In this situation, the individual was powerless and perhaps even doubtful. Perhaps he thought that his sin was so grievous it was beyond forgiveness. Maybe he had lost hope in ever being able to walk again. Whatever his thinking, his faith was weak. But his friends’ faith was strong. They saw in Jesus what others did not, the power to bring restoration to one broken and without hope. This brings us to the second important lesson. Our faith (or lack of faith) can impact others. The Passage states that Jesus saw their faith. They saw in Jesus what many did not, the power to bring complete restoration to one who is broken in more ways than just physical. Their faith stands in contrast to the lack of faith of the disciples. In 8:26, the disciples demonstrated little faith, but these friends showed great faith.
When Jesus saw their faith, Jesus did what no one could do; he not only healed the man of his physical paralysis, but he healed the man of his spiritual paralysis as well. He said the words that brought home and transformation to the person, “Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven.” At these words, the religious leaders were incensed. By proclaiming that this man’s sins were forgiven merely by his statement, he claimed to be God. The Jewish leaders recognized that only God could forgive sins without any accompanying action. Jesus did not say, “Be healed and go and offer a sacrifice for your sins.” He said, “Your sins are forgiven.” In this statement, Jesus was making it clear that he had the authority to forgive sins, which belonged to God alone.
Consequently, the religious leaders accused him of blaspheming, claiming to be God. This brings us to the third lesson. In this action, Jesus is making it clear that he is God, for he possesses the authority that only God has, the power to forgive sin.
Here is where we discover our hope. Jesus can bring hope in the worst situation when our sin has brought about our destruction. He can give hope and forgiveness when we believe our sins are beyond forgiveness and our lives are beyond hope. Because Jesus is God, he can do what no one else can and even what we cannot do for ourselves; he can forgive our sins and restore us to spiritual wholeness. When we lose hope that our sin is beyond repair, Jesus brings hope.