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Who Can Forgive Sins?

Mark 2:6-12
Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 'Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?' Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, 'Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk"? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' So he said to the man, 'I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.' He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!' (NIVUK)

It is astonishing that Jesus could be accused of blasphemy.  Yet in our own age, there are similar protests.  Once the Lord Jesus Christ has been reduced to the level of a prophetic teacher, He is just one of many with an equal right to His opinion, but definitely cannot be the supreme authority.  The thought that Jesus Christ was God in a human body was, and is, most offensive to religious people who are outside of Christ (John 10:33).  When Jesus forgave the paralysed man's sins it was such an obvious statement of His divinity (Mark 2:1-5).  Then He confronted the offended religious critics on their own theological doorstep and so clearly linked healing and forgiveness of sins to His divine nature - that nobody could miss the point.

Their religious logic seemed sound.  Only God can forgive sins … so this man must think He is God … that is blasphemy.  But they had not considered the possibility that Jesus was God.  Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and asked them to question their own logic.  Jesus then put another question to them, 'Is it easier to forgive sins or to instantly heal a paralysed man'?  The logical answer would be that God's forgiveness cannot be proved, but healing is impossible.  Words are easy but impossible actions are impossible except by God (Luke 18:27).

Jesus then explained why He was going to heal the man – to demonstrate to the man, his friends and the religious critics that He had the authority of God to forgive sins (1 John 1:9).  Turning to the paralysed man, Jesus commanded him to stand up, roll up his bed mat and walk home with it.  To everybody's amazement, shrivelled muscles which had no strength were empowered to walk the man home.  The miracle was undeniable. It was proof that Jesus had the power to forgive sins (Luke 6:8).  The crowds' response was right: they praised God for what He had done.

Any fair-minded enquirer today, who examines this text, must also come to the same conclusion.  Should not that process be the primary gospel activity?  And yet, many Christians today would rather pray for people, than sit down with a colleague and examine how the Bible reports the life and words of Jesus.  Of course, prayer is essential but, without understanding the facts about Jesus, it is an inadequate basis for a relationship with Him.  The definitive springboard for faith is found in the Bible.  Nowhere else is Jesus so clearly shown: His authoritative behaviour and response to intrigued, bewildered or hostile people still finds direct application.  Such people are in every workshop or boardroom today.  How will an unbeliever know who your Jesus is - let alone believe in Him (Romans 10:14)?  If the divinity and Saviourhood of Jesus is best defined in the Bible, should we not open it with seekers to help them read and understand what it says?

Heavenly Father, Thank You for giving us such clear evidence that Jesus is God as we read the Bible. Forgive me for my reluctance to speak of Christ or to invite my friends to read the Bible with me. Give me courage today to share the real Jesus as You have revealed Him in Your Word. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams