I remember a pastor once telling me, “Where there’s a work of God, there’s a work of Satan. BUT, the work of God is always greater.” It’s one of those quotes that just kinda stuck. I hear his voice in my head repeating that phrase in times of trial. Spiritual opposition is expected in the Christian faith, and Jesus was no stranger to the enemy.
But, the enemy doesn’t always look like we think he will. Sometimes he hides behind a popular TV series, a social media website, or even religious leaders dressed up with all the “right” answers. Immediately after Jesus healed the paralytic of his soul condition (sin)…
“Some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, ‘Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” Mark 2:7
The scribes were trained in all matters of the law. They knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards, yet they failed to see the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies sitting right in front of their faces! They were on the right track with their reasoning — “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
“But immediately, when Jesus perceived in His spirit that they reasoned thus within themselves, He said to them, ‘Why do you reason about these things in your hearts?…”
Jesus’ response to their questioning wasn’t rage. He didn’t flip tables or tell them to scram. He gave them another question — Why are you thinking about these things in your hearts?
The scribes didn’t even open their mouths, but Jesus responded to their thoughts, allowing just one more example of His divinity in these moments. Jesus knows exactly how to meet people where they are. The scribes prided themselves on knowledge (and were famous for asking Jesus complicated questions). Jesus answered their questions with a question.
“‘Which is easier to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise, take up your bed and walk?’” Mark 2:9
I believe there are various interpretations of this verse. Let me give my humble opinion and say that it is just that: an opinion. It’s easy for someone to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” The actual words aren’t difficult. But it can’t be proven this side of heaven. In a sense, it was easier for Jesus to say this because there was no way to prove it. Healing the paralytic, however, required proof. People would know immediately if he got up from his bed, or if Jesus’ claim to power was a sham. So after He got the scribes thinking (I picture a dramatic pause after the question He proposed), Jesus said…
“‘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…” Mark 2:8-12a
Jesus proved His power to every person present—the homeowner, the scribes, the common people, the disciples. He forgave the man’s sins and completely healed his body. Did you catch the “why?”
“That you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins.”
Jesus’ forgiveness isn’t for the few, but the many. Second Peter 3:9 says that God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance”…[even the scribes, even you, even me.] He gave them every opportunity to believe. He demonstrated to everyone present that He was the Son of Man they had waited for, and He wasn’t some far-off God. He has the power ON EARTH to forgive sins.
Instead of opening their hearts and minds to a Messiah that looked nothing like the political leader they expected, many of the scribes and Pharisees put Jesus in a box and missed out entirely. When Jesus didn’t meet their man-made guidelines, many discounted Him as a mere man. If only they had truly seen, they would have discovered a Mirror Man, One who could show them the honest condition of their hearts, which were as paralyzed as the man that came down through the roof.
To the paralytic and his family, I can’t imagine the joy that came with his newfound ability to walk. But to the crowd who realized how spiritually paralyzed they were, they were given unspeakable hope through this Man named Jesus. He was the Messiah sent to rescue them and heal them. He had all the power to wipe their record clean and raise them up for a greater purpose. And He wants to do the same with us.
How will we respond? More on that tomorrow.
Oh, and in case you missed the first two posts about the Healing of the Paralytic, you can catch them here: