Red Letters

John 3:16  “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?” Mark 2:1-12 ESV).

Unwittingly, Jesus’ opponents challenged Jesus on the wrong subject:  forgiveness of sins.  The healing of the paralytic in Mark 2:1-12 embraces so many amazing elements that we often overlook the main thing.  The crowded house where Jesus was teaching, the devotion of the friends, their innovative way of getting their friend an audience with the Greatest Friend (a hole in the roof), and the fact that a lifelong paralytic picked up his bed and walked away from the encounter—all these things sometimes overshadow Jesus’ actual words.

How many times had this man, his family, and his friends prayed for healing? How many doctors or healers had he been taken to on the chance that he could live a normal life?  We don’t know much else about him except for the fact that his friends took such extraordinary action implies that he had some worthy attributes.  Perhaps he was from a wealthy, influential family.  Perhaps he was one of those people who was easy to love.

However, when Jesus addressed them he spoke in terms of their faith.  He told the paralytic his sins were forgiven!  They brought him to Jesus for physical healing, and Jesus zeroed in on his spiritual condition. Here we see Jesus’ priority, as well as his wisdom.  He knew his enemies would challenge that, and they took the bait.  How dare Jesus pronounce forgiveness of sin?  Who did he think he was, God?  Exactly!

Jesus answered the murmurings of his enemies and the doubts and fears of his followers—even  followers today.  “Which is harder, to forgive sins or to heal?”  His action proved that he was aware of the suffering, and he wants us to know that he is aware of our requests and our cries for help.  He does care, as he cared for the paralytic.

But always the bigger and most important miracle is salvation.  When he says “no” or “wait” to a request, it may be that we need to move our focus to the bigger issue—salvation.  Can we handle that?  Or are we earthbound, as the scribes and Pharisees were?  It is a hard question.  Physical suffering and real life problems are burdensome.  But let’s keep our eyes on the main thing.

If we live in the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that all this will be gone some day.  It will be nothing but a blip in time.  We live in the sure hope of God’s faithfulness because Jesus does have the power to forgive sins.  What a wonderful hope we have of spending eternity with the best friend a friend anyone could ever have.


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