Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?

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One day Jesus was teaching and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.

When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up 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 paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” Luke 5:17-26

I wonder what went through this paralyzed man’s mind as his friends picked him up on his bed and started carrying him to where Jesus was teaching. Had he already started dreaming of what it would be like to stand, walk and run? Years of being imprisoned in his own bed, always being looked down upon (literally and figuratively), always at the mercy of his friends and others who were willing to help him.

What’s in your heart?

As they were approaching the packed house, they saw that there was no room to enter but this was not going to stop them. This is where his faithful friends rose to the occasion and made an epic entry. Their paralyzed friend needed to get close to Jesus and they would do almost anything to make it happen. So, instead of waiting outside for the crowds to dwindle and perhaps risk missing the chance of their friend receiving healing, they climbed on top of the house and started lowering their friend with ropes through an opening in the roof. This was a gutsy, risky and compassionate move! They did not care for what people, nor the owner of the house, or the skeptical religious leaders thought of their action.

This drastic action didn’t just catch Jesus’ attention, but He also saw their faith through their works and what was in their hearts. In the same manner, He knew what was in the hearts of the Pharisees (vs.22). The paralyzed man and his friends received more than what they came for. The Pharisees became more indignant than they were before they entered the house. Others in the crowd became more in awe of God’s goodness and power (vs. 26). You might ask: how did the paralyzed man receive more than he was expecting and why did the Pharisees become so furious? It wasn’t the healing miracle that was controversial, but “when Jesus saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven.’ (vs. 20)

Are My Friends Really My Friends?

I wonder if you have friends that would carry you to Jesus when you are at your lowest? Do you have people in your life that help remind you of Christ’s forgiveness and His love for you? Or are there people in your life that do the opposite of what these faithful friends did and instead carry you away from Jesus? If so, better to stay down in the dirt crying out to Jesus to come to your rescue rather than allowing bad company to ruin your good morals and destroy your faith.

The church is a community of faith where you and I can find (and be) faithful friends willing to help us to draw close to Jesus, especially when we are physically, mentally or spiritually down and wrecked. The scripture is in fact very clear on how we are to care for and treat one another:

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:2

And Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility consider others more important than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:3-4

Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and cover over a multitude of sins. James 5:20

No One but God

Thus far in the story we have focused on the faith, courage and compassion of the paralyzed man’s friends as well as the importance of having good people around us willing to give their time and effort – even risk their reputations for our wellbeing. However, the astonishing, jaw-dropping part of this story is not the Mission Impossible scene of lowering their friend to Jesus. What shook everyone to the core and filled them with wonder and praise was the fact that Jesus claimed that He had the authority to forgive the man’s sins and then healed him on the spot with His words. Who can do this? No one but God! Jesus did not just speak mere words, as His words are Spirit and life. All of creation exists because of Him, as all things have been created through Him and for Him (John 6:63; Col. 1:16). Through his healing miracles He proved His authority as the God of creation.

Jesus showed through this tangible healing that He was the Messiah, God in the flesh, and that He had the authority and power to forgive anyone of their sins. By forgiving people’s sins out loud Jesus clearly claimed divinity as God alone can forgive sins.

Which is Easier?

Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up 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 paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (vss. 23-24)

Anyone could say that someone’s sins are forgiven; that is easy (humanly speaking) and there is no way to confirm whether it’s true or not. But healing a paralyzed man with words, that’s not only more difficult, it is impossible (humanly speaking). The healing was visible and easily confirmed by all who witnessed the miracle. However, let us not forget that Jesus didn’t just say, “Your sins are forgiven.” He picked up His cross and went to Calvary to make our redemption a reality. He was then raised from the dead, walking out of the grave confirming that all of His promises are eternally dependable and good. With Jesus, His tomb is the only thing that is empty. His words are never empty. They always come with power and authority. Therefore, on one hand it was easier to say to the paralyzed man that his sins are forgiven, but at the same time it was a far more remarkable undertaking than healing his body. Jesus healed many, even raised the dead, but the only way to secure our forgiveness was for Himself to experience God forsakenness and to die on a cross (Matt. 27:46).

Jesus still heals people today, so we pray in His name to restore broken and sick bodies, but not everyone will receive such miraculous healings in this lifetime – though we certainly will in the next. Even though this healing was powerful and absolutely life- changing for the paralyzed man, what truly and utterly changed his life was receiving forgiveness of his sins. Because of the cross of Christ, Satan is robbed of his accusations against us. We have been adopted into Christ’s family through faith in the Son of God. We are made perfect in God’s eyes in union with his Son, who bore our sins, shame and guilt upon the cross.

Christ can give more than new limbs or physical abilities: He gives us a new heart, a new hope, and a new future. He surely does not spare us anything for our ultimate good. Jesus forgives us of our sins as we place our faith in Him: not because of anything we have done, but all because of God’s grace. Salvation is a gift and it is unmerited. Christ’s body was broken and His blood shed as a sacrifice for sinners, so that we could be reconciled to God by faith. Indeed this is good news and it should fill us all with awe and praise