So which is easier? To heal or to forgive? A quick response might easily be “to forgive.” I mean, we hear it so much, at least in churches. But healings? Those are rare. So it might seem that forgiving is much easier. But in the following pericope we discover that such is not the case.
Matthew 9:2–8 HCSB
Just then some men brought to Him a paralytic lying on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.” At this, some of the scribes said among themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”
But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He told the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your mat, and go home.” And he got up and went home.
When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and gave glory to God who had given such authority to men.
Obviously the scribes understood what is most difficult, forgiving sins. They understood that to forgive sins is to put oneself in the place of God. They could abide his healing of people, but not forgiving. It is too much. “Who does he think he is, God?” No wonder they concluded among themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”
How often do we jump to conclusions? Are we willing to listen to the whole story, or have we made up our minds already? If something is behind our experience, do we dismiss or do we sit in judgment, pronouncing a verdict that seems right in our own eyes.
Jesus perceives what is going with them. He nails them with his piercing question: “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?” They can only see through their own lens, and filter out everything that does not match their experience or knowledge.
Which is easier? The answer is really “neither.” Jesus heals the man and uses that as the basis for establishing the forgiving of sins. God gave authority to Jesus (in the eyes of the crowds), a man, but Jesus demonstrates something even greater. God is the one who heals, and God is the one forgives sins.
In this simple interchange, Jesus gives them a foreshadowing that someone greater than a “man” is here. Ultimately only God can heal and only God can forgive sins. Jesus does both. He is both truly man, as they perceive, and he is truly God as demonstrated by his forgiving and healing. It isn’t a case of God “who had given such authority to men,” but it is God himself, standing in front of them. Eventually the glory and honor they give to God is equally given to God the Son, Jesus.
So, which is easier for you to believe? In worship, every service, we hear the pastor declare, “In the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, I announce to you the grace of God, and as a called and ordained servant of the Word I forgive you your sins.” Do you believe this? The pastor does not do so because he is really nice. He is not claiming to be God. He is commissioned by God to speak these words for God to the people.
These are precious words that God speaks to us. Let us cling them to because they are words of life, they are the words of him who can both heal diseases and forgives sins.