In these accounts, four men carried a paralytic man ("palsy" -- KJV) to Jesus lying on a bed. Since they could not get near Jesus, they went up on the roof, removed the covering, and let the man down through the roof into Jesus' presence (Mark 2:2-4; Luke 5:18,19).
Jesus told the man to cheer up because his sins were forgiven. This is just one of several occasions during Jesus' lifetime in which He claimed the power to directly forgive sins simply by speaking. Cf. Luke 7:48,49; 23:43. No mere human being, with God's approval, before or after Jesus, ever claimed to have the power to directly speak people's sins forgiven. Not even Peter (Acts 8:22). Such power is possessed, not by men, but only by God. Yet Jesus clearly claimed it, even in the presence of these doctors of the law.
The Jewish scholars thought in their hearts that Jesus had spoken blasphemy, because only God can forgive sin (Mark 2:6,7; Luke 5:21). It is true that only God can forgive sin. Hence, it is blasphemy today when men claim that they can directly forgive the sins of people who come to them to confess sin.
But the point missed by these Jewish leaders is that Jesus DOES possess Deity. There was no blasphemy in His statement, since God can forgive sins and Jesus was God in the flesh. Note that this is proved to be the case by the fact that Jesus immediately proceeded to do a miracle to prove His claim is valid.
But Jesus knew what these men thought in their hearts, so He set about to prove them wrong. The first thing He did to prove them wrong was to read the thoughts of their hearts. This is a power no man has (1 Cor. 2:10ff). Only God has the power (I Kings 8:39), yet Jesus possessed it (John 2:24f). So He responded by asking them about the evil in their thoughts.
Jesus asked these experts in the law whether it was easier to say a man is forgiven or to tell a paralyzed man to rise and walk. Of course, Jesus refers, not to the ease of SAYING the words, but to the ability to make them come true. Had He simply healed the man, they would have been amazed but would not have recognized that He was God in the flesh.
But Jesus then proceeded to prove that He was God in the flesh: He told Him to arise, take up his bed, and go home. The man did as He was told, and the people were amazed and glorified God that such power had been given to men.
But note that Jesus had stated His reason for healing the man. It was not primarily an act of mercy on the man, though mercy for his health was no doubt involved. But more than that, He said it was so they would know He had power on earth to forgive sins. It would confirm His word and prove the truthfulness of His claims.
The point is that, whether He spoke a man's sins forgiven or healed him of paralysis, either act would require the power and authority of God. Hence, if Jesus claimed He could forgive sins and then raised the man, this ought to prove to any honest mind that His claim to forgive sins was also valid.
Hence, instead of accusing Jesus of blasphemy, these men ought to have recognized and honored Him as being from God. And when He claimed power that only God could possess and then confirmed His word by miracles, then they should have granted that He was God, instead of accusing Him of blasphemy and denying even that He was a good man. Surely if He were guilty of blasphemy, God would never immediately give Him the power to do such miracles.
(c) Copyright David E. Pratte, 12/2006
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