(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
It is a fascinating incident that took place in Capernaum, early in the ministry of the Lord Jesus. The townsfolk heard that Jesus had arrived and was staying probably at Simon Peter’s house. So many came to see the miracle worker and to hear Him teach – so many that we are told in Mark 2:2, “…that there was no longer any room to receive them, not even near the door….” Four men heard that Jesus was in town, and they figured He was the only one who could help a paralyzed friend. So they brought the sick man, still lying on his bed, so the Lord could touch and heal him. But, because of the crowd, they couldn’t get in, they couldn’t get near enough to Jesus to get His attention! Not to be thwarted, they climbed the outside stairway to the flat roof of the house, hauling the sick man in his bed up with them! There, they removed enough of the roof tiles to lower the man and his bed down right in front of Jesus! “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’ ” (Mark 2:5). This infuriated the scribes and Pharisees in attendance who silently reasoned, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7). But the Lord, who knew what they were thinking, and He…
...said to them, “Why do you reason about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.” Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went out in the presence of them all, so that all were amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mark 2:8-12).
Which is easier? Let’s look at it from five perspectives:
- From the scribes’ and Pharisees’ point of view: Mark 2:6 only mentions the scribes being present. Luke 5:17 adds the Pharisees were also in attendance. These Jewish leaders both raised the silent question, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus then demonstrated by the physical healing of the paralytic His authority to forgive sins. So in the minds of the Jewish leaders, it is easier to say than to do – even if the saying of it results in the charge of blasphemy! They were right in their thinking, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Only God has such authority, for any sin is ultimately an affront to God! King David is a case in point:
✡ He sinned against Bathsheba by luring her into adultery. ✡ He sinned against her husband Uriah by adultery with his wife, by scheming to get him to drunkenly cover David’s sinful action, and by having him murdered seemingly by an act of war. ✡ He sinned against the people of Israel for, as their king and leader, he was supposed to set a godly example before them. ✡ But, when up to a year later Nathan the prophet forced David to face his sin, the king penned his intense psalm of confession, Psalm 51. In verse 4 he wrote, “Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight....”
Only God can forgive sins! And anyone who is not God and who has the audacity to act as God, as Jesus did when He forgave the man his sins, was guilty of blasphemy and must be stoned to death! So it is written in Leviticus 24:16: “…whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death; and all the congregation shall certainly stone him….”
But even though the Lord demonstrated His authority to forgive sins by totally healing the paralyzed man (and there were many other authoritative demonstrations over the next three years), the Jewish leaders would not accept the proof that Jesus was God come in the flesh! So set in their legalistic ways, “…they…crucified the Lord of glory…”! (I Corinthians 2:8).
- From the paralytic’s point of view: We never learn the man’s name, but if it were not for his four concerned friends, he never would have been able to get to Jesus and be healed. We don’t know if he could even speak in his paralyzed state. But he could think! And if I were him I would think, “What did He just say? ‘Son, your sins are forgiven you.’ Hey, Jesus! Focus on the main issue here! I need to be healed! It is easy to say, ‘…your sins are forgiven…’, but….”
I have a friend who opened her heart to the Lord one night. She cried out to Him that she had messed up her life, and needed Him to help her. She wrote me an email: “Chip, what happened to me? I feel so light and free! What’s going on? ” I wrote back to her and told her that she had just gotten saved! Jesus was now in her heart and life, and she was forgiven!
I imagine the same thing must have happened to the paralytic after he experienced ‘the touch of the Master’! Whether or not his malady was a direct result of his sins, we do know that all sickness and death entered the human race after our first parents sinned! (See Genesis 2:17; Romans 5:12). So if he at first thought it was easier for the Lord to say, “Son, your sins are forgiven you…”, he may well have learned that it was far more costly for his sins to be forgiven – the cost of the death of God’s only Son!
- From the four friends’ point of view: I would think these four, so concerned about their bedridden friend, would be disappointed to hear, “Son, your sins are forgiven you…”, which was much easier to say than to perform the necessary miracle! They may even have thought their friend worthy of Jesus’ healing power. It was probably a surprise to them that the Lord focused first on the man’s sin. But I doubt they were buying into the scribes’ and Pharisees’ blasphemy charge, because they obviously had a favorable opinion of this miracle-working Rabbi. So confusion, I think, filled their minds for a moment..…until they soon heard Jesus’ words:
“But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” — He said to the paralytic, “I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go your way to your house.”
- From the crowd’s point of view: There were three points of view among those who filled the house where Jesus was…
✡ ...those who were favorable toward Him, who had perhaps personally heard this Rabbi teach as no other (See Mark 1:22), and had seen, or even been receptive of some of the miracles the Lord had performed. Of course, those of favorable opinion included His chosen disciples! ✡ ...those who opposed Him, as increasingly did the scribes and Pharisees. ✡ ...those who were curious, hoping to see a miracle or hear some astounding teaching, as others had reported who had been in His presence. But they had formed no solid opinion of this One as yet.
At this time, early in Jesus’ ministry, I think the crowd generally would agree that it was “…easier…to say…‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ …[than] to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’….”
- From Jesus’ point of view: Jesus knew from the beginning why He came into the world:
✞ Mark 10:45 – “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” ✞ Luke 19:10 – “...for the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost.” ✞ John 10:10 – “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
So to forgive our sins (including the sins of the paralyzed man), Jesus, “…who knew no sin…[was] made sin for us, that we might be become the righteousness of God in Him.” (II Corinthians 5:21).
✞ He died a torturous death that we might have eternal
✞ He paid the cost completely of our disobedience toward
✞ He rose again conquering for us death, hell, and Satan
So which was easier from Jesus point of view? “…to say…‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk’?”