Power to Forgive!

To the scribes of Jesus’ day, His powerful displays of healing and casting out demons were most frustrating. These made it difficult to convince people that Jesus was an imposter, a charlatan, who was simply attempting to drum up a following for personal aggrandizement.

More offensive than that, though, was Jesus’ declaration of someone’s sins being forgiven. Though angering them greatly, the declaration of someone’s sins as forgiven could easily be dismissed by the unbelieving religious leaders with a simple charge of “Blasphemy!”

One such incident is recorded in Matthew 9:1-8. To Jesus is brought a paralytic man incapable of even rising out of his bed. Jesus had dealt with dozens of people in such unpleasant circumstances, and typically, He simply healed them of their infirmity.

This time, however, instead of immediately healing the paralytic, Jesus declares, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” To the observing scribes, this was blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins, they reasoned, so if Jesus was claiming the authority to forgive a man’s sins, He—a mere mortal, in the scribes’ eyes—was claiming to be God!

In response to their outrage, Jesus asks an interesting question, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

So what was Jesus saying? What was His point?

He was simply asking these skeptical critics, through which of the two statements can an observer more easily verify or denounce Jesus’ authority. The answer is the second. It is easier to say the first statement, “Your sins are forgiven,” because an outside observer can’t know whether or not they have been. It’s more difficult to say “Rise and walk,” because everyone will know immediately whether or not Jesus has the power to follow through on His command.

Jesus then, turning to the paralytic, commanded, “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home,” which he proceeded to do. In doing this, Jesus was demonstrating that, just as He had the authority to follow through on the more difficult statement, He had authority to follow through on the easier one, too—He does have the authority to forgive sins. He is, therefore, God.

The observing crowd got the message: “they were afraid, and glorified God, who had given such authority [or jurisdiction] unto men.”

If your sins have been forgiven by the grace of God through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, then again today, marvel and glorify Him!

Hymn for Today:  A Debtor to Mercy

A debtor to mercy alone
Of covenant mercy I sing
I come with Your righteousness on
My humble offering to bring
The judgments of Your holy law
With me can have nothing to do
My Savior’s obedience and blood
Hide all my transgressions
From view

The work which Your goodness began
The arm of Your strength will complete
Your promise is yes and amen
And never was forfeited yet
The future or things that are now
No power below or above
Can make You Your purpose forego
Or sever my soul from Your love

My name from the palms of Your hands
Eternity will not erase
Impressed on Your heart it remains
In marks of indelible grace
Yes I, to the end will endure
Until I bow down at Your throne
Forever and always secure
Forever and always secure
Forever and always secure
A debtor to mercy alone

Original words by Augustus M. Toplady; alt. words by Bob Kauflin


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