Jesus’ ministry has begun.
He’s been healing, healing the masses, the lepers, the Gentiles, every untouchable he can get his hands on.
But when he meets the paralytic in this story, he pauses. He starts with something beyond the man’s physical ailment.
He starts with the man’s sins. He acknowledges them, and then he forgives them.
For those around them, this is a shocking statement. Only God had the authority to forgive sins. Who does this guy think he is? Yesterday in his sermon, Pastor Aaron unpacked some of what it means to have authority, how the world expects us to use it and how God turns that upside down. Authority is a word that’s a little uncomfortable for us sometimes. It’s not a compliment to say someone is power-hungry, or even really that they like power. We name power as one of the temptations that corrupt us (along with money and sex). We’ve all learned about the Hitlers and Stalins and Napoleons of the world, people who let authority go too far. Sometimes we get authority confused with control, and we’ve all seen people mingle authority and control until they’ve abused them both.
But suppose there was a different sort of authority, the sort of authority in which people used their authority to serve each other, to use their power for others’ gain, to free people from sin or to heal their wounds? Think about the people of power in your life. I’ll bet the people who have had the most impact on your life are not the ones who have used their power to make themselves look good, or get the most for themselves; they’re probably the ones who have used their power for your benefit.
And in this way, Jesus uses his authority to forgive this man’s sins.
"'So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.' Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 'Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!'"
Most of us are used to hearing that our sins have been forgiven in Jesus, and praise God. But the Religious Elites surrounding the paralytic...weren’t. For them, this statement was heresy beyond heresy, to imagine that this man Jesus could forgive sins. The Jewish theologians of the day taught that people were sick because of their sins, so to forgive a person’s sin meant they'd also been freed, released, to be well. Who had the power to do all that?
By making this statement, Jesus was declaring his ultimate authority over their teachings, his ultimate power to heal and to forgive because when this man gets up and walks away free of his paralysis, it demonstrated that Jesus could also free him of his sins.
And if only God had the authority to forgive sins, then who was Jesus?
Pastor Brynn Harrington
What sins do you need Jesus to forgive?
Read Psalm 51. Let this be your prayer of confession today.
Find a way to take a second (or first) shower before you go to bed tonight. Put your face in the warm water. Notice the texture and feeling of the soap that cleanses you. Listen to the sound of the water going down the drain. As the grime from the day is washed away, remember Psalm 51:7: “Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”
Pastor Aaron Engler
- Peace, Richard. Holy Conversations.