And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Why does Jesus tell the paralytic that his sins are forgiven?
This situation in Mark is strange, to say the least. First, Jesus’ initial response to the paralytic seems random. It’s almost as if he was not aware of the paralytics more immediate problem. Second, his baffling question to the scribes has scholars scratching their heads to this day. Jesus asks, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’?”
If I were one of the scribes, I can imagine thinking that to myself. It seems that of everyone in this situation, Jesus is the only one who isn’t confused. The onlookers probably feel similar to the way we do when we first read this passage. The scribes are left to ponder a question that in 2000 plus years still hasn’t been answered. The paralytic is most likely wondering why this Jesus guy he heard about who can heal illness just looked at him and said he is forgiven. “Forgiven? Forgiven for what?”, I can imagine the paralytic thinking. Pondering that question alone can take you down an endless rabbit hole of everything you have ever done wrong. With two sentences, Jesus has completely baffled an entire crowd of people. He had a tendency to do that.
Let’s go deeper into the paralytics situation. The obvious assertion is, given that he is physically paralyzed, why is it that Jesus chose to heal him of his sins first instead of healing his paralysis? This question may never fully be answered but here is a question to consider when reading this passage:
Have you ever felt guilty?
If you have, you know that over time this leads to anxiety, depression, shame and eventually a host of other problems. After dealing with it for a period of time, it actually has the ability to completely debilitate you. No, not physically. You can still move around and get from place to place. Nothing physical is wrong with you, yet anyone who has truly dealt with this knows that it can leave you mentally crippled. It leads to solidarity, then to isolation and before you know it, your life has become completely and utterly unmanageable. You have the means to get up and walk, but spiritually, you are paralyzed.
Guilt is an outlet the enemy uses to awaken many demons inside each and every one of us. Some of the most devastating being, shame, anxiety, and fear. If you are someone who has not lived with God’s foundation, as I have, you will not be properly equipped to deal with these storms when they come. You will fall victim to it. Letting its devastating effects take root. So much so, that it will begin to completely control your life. Every decision you make is now based on anxiousness and fear rather than on the foundation in knowing that God loves you, calls you a conqueror and sacrificed His son to save you.
Why is any of this relevant?
Through my reading of this passage, I see Jesus hitting on something that He sees, that everyone else seems to miss. Of course, Jesus understands that there is a physical need at hand, he does not dismiss this. However, his declaration over the man that his sins are forgiven first cannot be overlooked. If there is one thing I have learned about Jesus, it’s that he does everything for a reason, whether we see it or not. Jesus saw something deeper. He didn’t simply look at the man’s physical condition and heal him like a miracle worker. No, Jesus did something only he can do. He looked deep into this man’s soul and found the source.
Not putting a band-aid on a broken leg.
Over and over again, even later in this very passage, we find that Jesus can see into the hearts of men. Like many of us who have been taken over by guilt, shame, fear, and anxiety, the paralytic was suffering from his own host of spiritually debilitating issues as well. He was paralyzed physically and spiritually. What does a person need who is suffering from these things? They need exactly what Jesus gave to the paralytic: Forgiveness. True forgiveness that only God can give. It’s truly a beautiful thing to see how Jesus handles this situation.
Even if the paralytic was healed physically, he would still be paralyzed by his sin. He would still make every decision in his life based on fear and guilt. In other words, the man would have still been debilitated. Jesus makes sure the man understood this principle: The only way to truly be free, to truly be healed of being paralyzed, we need first to be freed from the grasps of guilt, worry, fear, and anxiety. In other words, our sin. Jesus wasn’t going to give him a half-healing and send him off. No, He loves us far too much to do this. Jesus wanted more. Full restoration. Full healing. Complete resurrection.
I love how Jesus refuses to leave the paralytic unequipped. Jesus makes sure that when he sent this man off, he would have that foundation he previously lacked. He made sure that the void was truly filled. So that through him, he may never be a slave again. To me, this amplifies the unimaginably loving and beautiful heart of Jesus Christ our Lord.
Thank you Jesus.
We will look into the question Jesus asked the scribes soon. 🙂