Several days later Jesus came back to Capernaum. The report went out that he was home. 2 Many people had gathered. There was no room left, even in front of the door. Jesus was speaking God’s word to them.3 Four men came to him carrying a paralyzed man. 4 Since they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof over the place where Jesus was. Then they lowered the cot on which the paralyzed man was lying.5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Some experts in Moses’ Teachings were sitting there. They thought, 7 “Why does he talk this way? He’s dishonoring God. Who besides God can forgive sins?”8 At once, Jesus knew inwardly what they were thinking. He asked them, “Why do you have these thoughts?
9 Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’? 10 I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, 11 “I’m telling you to get up, pick up your cot, and go home!”
12 The man got up, immediately picked up his cot, and walked away while everyone watched. Everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” – Mark 2:1-12
Have you ever said more than you know? Done less than you said you’d do? Made a claim you could never substantiate? Put yourself forward only to learn that your talk outran your walk? All hat no cattle. All bark no bite. All bluster no muster.
That’s not Jesus. The religious experts of Jesus’ day had run into many all talk no action folks time and again. They thought Jesus was no different. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt in this case, saying that they thought he was dangerous in his teaching and claims of power, authority, and identity. He wasn’t who he said he was, and posed a danger to the people they genuinely cared for. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt on that matter.
That being the case, what would their reaction be to Jesus’ words and deeds on this occasion? If they believed he was a charlatan and imposter they would surely oppose him strongly. They would concoct all manner of excuses to discredit Jesus. They would accuse him of blasphemy. They would take council on how to rid the world of this man’s influence. And so they did.
But what did Jesus do? Jesus taught the people. He allowed interruption. He saw the men’s faith. He forgave the man’s sin. He healed the man, allowing him to walk away with his no-longer-needed cot.
And he asked a question: “Is it easier to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your cot, and walk’?” It’s safer and easier to say that someone’s sins are forgiven if all you’re going to do is say it. But Jesus is hat and cattle, talk and walk, promise and performance.
For Jesus to say, “Your sins are forgiven” holds far-reaching consequences for him. It will mean his suffering and death. It will mean that the religious leaders will align themselves with the Roman authorities to have Jesus convicted and executed. It will cost him his life. But he is willing to say it because he is who he says he is: the Son of Man who came to seek and to save the lost.
Not only does he speak on this occasion, he also shows his authority over sickness and disease. He commands the man to get up, take up his cot, and go home. And the man does just that. Jesus speaks and acts. In both cases he brings grace and mercy to people.
When I think of this account, I can imagine myself in any number of characters in the story. Except Jesus. He is singularly unique. He is like no other. Even so I am very much like Jesus. Just as he endured temptation, saw people and responded to their needs in mercy, prayed to his heavenly Father, and lived and died, I am doing and will do all those things also. Not perfectly like he did. But as one who has been brought to Jesus, heard his words and been eternally changed by his loving grace.
Jesus saved and redeemed you and me, and he’s still at work in people’s hearts today. Thanks be to God!