“Son, your sins are forgiven.” Mark 2:5 (NIV)
Perhaps my favourite story to hear in Sunday School as a small boy was the one where Jesus was in a house preaching to an extremely large crowd. The house was full to overflowing. This made it impossible for a lame man’s friends to carry him to the feet of Jesus. However, the friends were not to be stopped by a crowd. They lifted their friend up onto the roof of the house. Then they calculated about where they were on the roof that would be directly above Jesus.
Now comes the part that I really liked. They ripped open the roof and made a hole large enough to lower their friend directly at the feet of the Healer. Jesus was impressed with their faith and ingenuity. As a little child that was as far as the story interested me. The unconventional actions of the friends was a surprise and novel thing. You just don’t go around ripping up roofs and lowering people on a stretcher. I thought the whole idea was awesome. Kids love action and this story really had it!
However as you continue on in the story with mature eyes you come to see that while Jesus was impressed with the friends’ faith in Him and His ability to heal the man, Jesus did not immediately address the physical problem of the lame man. Instead He went on about sin and forgiveness. Specifically He told the man He forgave him his sins. Now what does that have to do with the physical problem? We know from John 9:3 that Jesus teaches us not to believe that sickness in a person and personal sins of the individual are necessarily connected. In other words Jesus taught that sickness cannot be seen as the punishment for sin. The one who suffers may use their illness for God’s glory.
Jesus’ words drew a swift reaction by the rabbis present. They thought to themselves that only God can forgive sins. Jesus, of course, knew their thoughts just as He knows yours and did not correct their theology because they were accurate in their assessment. Only God can forgive sins. In the Old Testament in Jeremiah 31:34, it says, ‘For I (Jehovah) will forgive their wickedness, and their sin will I remember no more’. So Jesus was making a very bold claim right at the beginning of His ministry that lasted perhaps 3 ½ years.
But why did Jesus not heal him first? He seems irrelevant and blasphemous to the rabbis attending His ministry. They might have dismissed Jesus as just another of the Galilean teachers who were a little off the mark, or so the teachers from the south around Jerusalem thought. Northern Jews were all thought of as inferior and not to be imitated by Jews in Judea, the southern part of the Holy Land.
However, Jesus rubs the point about forgiving sin in as He throws out the challenge, “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take you mat and walk’”? In other words Jesus was saying that both forgiving sins and instantaneously healing the man were both impossible with mere humans. The poor man could not be healed by the doctors of his day so the healing would obviously need a power only God possessed. So, in order to prove that Jesus could do the invisible thing of forgiving the man’s sins He told the paralytic to get up and walk. The man did get up and walk and so Jesus proved He could forgive as well as heal. Jesus was seeking to get people to acknowledge His identity as God in human form.
So forgiving the man first demonstrated the needed order in the lives of those who suffer. First you need to deal with your sin before God. Put your suffering on hold for a time and see your most important need is to be right with God. Jesus clearly has the authority to deliver you from the guilt of your sin. All of us have sinned and privately, at least, we acknowledge we are at best imperfect people. We must get this issue resolved before we think of getting out of our sorrowful situation in life.
Are you willing to come to your Creator humbly and ask forgiveness for your sins? Will you believe that Jesus is the only Saviour who died and rose again for sinners? Will you seek to address the issues of your life in the order of importance that Jesus taught in this miracle?
Once you have come to Jesus and confessed your great need of Him you may then pray for the issue to be resolved. It is very appropriate as a child of God to come to Him and ask for mercy (God addressing us as miserable). Call on Him to see your desperate situation and have compassion on you. You may also ask for grace (God addressing us as needy) if the problem remains. Sometimes, like the lame man in our story in Mark 2, Jesus will heal you. Other times like the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:7 we may be given grace to endure the physical difficulty rather than have it removed.
Whether we receive a resolution of the difficulty or power from God to integrate it into our lives, God’s promise is to be with us all the way through life. Our great hope as Christians after all, is not to resolve all our problems but to get glory to God by humble submission to whatever His will is for us.
Are you going to trust this God who has all authority and power? Do you believe He does everything well regardless of what is happening to you right now? Do you believe that what is most relevant is your relationship to God and not to the world and the people in it? Will you trust Him when you do not understand Him? Are you able to say with the wretched man Job in all his undeserved misery, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.” Job 13:15 (NIV) You choose which path you will tread. Choose and choose today.