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,
“Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”Matthew 9:2
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 you;’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’?”
So what was Jesus saying here? What was His point?
He was simply asking these skeptical critics, by 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 “Arise and walk,” because everyone will know immediately whether or not Jesus has the power to follow through on His command. Jesus then turned the paralytic and commanded, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house,” 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 statement, too—He does have the authority to forgive sins. He is, therefore, God. In other words, not only can he do the hard thing of healing a paralytic, he can do the much harder thing of forgiving sins!
The observing crowd got the message—“they marveled, and glorified God, who had given such power [that is, authority, jurisdiction] to men.”
If your sins have been forgiven by the grace of God through the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, again today, marvel and glorify Him!