Which Is Easier?
18 And, behold, men brought in a bed a man which was taken with a palsy: and they sought means to bring him in, and to lay him before him.
19 And when they could not find by what way they might bring him in because of the multitude, they went upon the housetop, and let him down through the tiling with his couch into the midst before Jesus.
20 And when he saw their faith, he said unto him, Man, thy sins are forgiven thee.
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?
23 Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?
24 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins, (he said unto the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy couch, and go into thine house.
25 And immediately he rose up before them, and took up that whereon he lay, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
Jesus asked which was easier, to tell someone his sins are forgiven, that the sins are no more, that you have permission to give them no more mind (isn't all that implicit when something is forgiven?), or is easier it to tell them to rise up off their sickbed and they DO, even though moments before they had been immobile and misshapen? Which is easier, from the depths of truth and love to speak unconditional forgiveness to a person for anything they've ever done or been, or to miraculously heal them?
Logic would tell us that healing someone's body by a word or prayer would be a physical impossibility and it would have to be a miracle, something outside the norm of human reality. So that, we would think, would be the harder thing. We don't by and large know how to do miracles. But the first thing, forgiving sins, is even more intangible than doing miracles, and something so rare that few of us have a framework for what it really is.
Jesus could have put the question differently. Would it be different if he had asked, "Which is harder, to forgive sins or heal bodies by command?"
To prove his point, he did the easier thing -- he healed the man's body.
For a moment consider what is the forgiveness of sins. It is the total clearing away of the cobwebs of the past and present and an absolute fresh start in the immediate moment, an infusion into us of God in His grace which floods us with divine approval and divine pleasure in us as His sons.
It isn't something legal, like something I have on a piece of paper stating: "Your sins are forgiven." It is instead the inner initial -- and ongoing -- experience with God. In Him we find nothing but blessing, nothing but approval -- even if we have done badly. We may be upbraided for this and for that, but even the upbraiding and trouble for a night turns to joy in the morning, and always does.
The forgiveness of sins is the state of man in the Psalms: "Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile."
The Pharisees were right about one thing: only God can forgive sins.
But what was happening in their midst that they were completely missing was that God WAS forgiving sins -- in the person of Jesus.
When Jesus told that man his sins were forgiven, he was declaring something more than an idea or a philosophy.
I don't believe Jesus did anything that wasn't absolutely honest. So when Jesus told that man his sins were forgiven, it wasn't just some theological proclamation, some heavenly concept. He was sharing with the man his own inner reality, his own inner truth. In Jesus' spirit, he lived in forgiveness and grace. The reason Jesus could pronounce to the man his sins were forgiven is because they were forgiven in him. He spoke TRUTH to the man because it was REAL in Him! Jesus did not see the man's sin. Instead he saw the cry of his heart.
I don't know any other mission we have in life but to forgive one another and thus to reconcile the world unto God. That is what the Cross did and we are people who are called to live the Cross. The whole human race is called to participate.
Here's the bottom line deal. There is no doubt Christ is the Vine and we are the branches. We are Him in the world, whether we like it or not. It's a big responsibility!
But like Paul, we ourselves have discovered and proved true that, "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think any thing as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God." (2 Cor 3:5) If you stop right there and consider -- selah -- "OUR SUFFICIENCY IS OF GOD," then that's a pretty big sufficiency, wouldn't you say?!!??
But now that we see the answer to that foundation question, where our sufficiency comes from, no need to consider that anymore, and now that we know the sufficiency, then BEING the forgiveness of sins and BEING the reconciliation between God and man, won't be that big a deal. God is those things! Therefore we are the containers of and manifestors of the Living God Who is in us, and He IS the forgiveness in us, and IS reconciliation in us, every hour of every day. (Give NO PLACE to the devil -- Eph 4:27)
But it does cost everything. More than we have. But in a miracle we're given back what we give (ourselves), and the impossible is given out of the invisible, and we are the ones who now forgive sins.
2 Cor 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
That means that Jesus is now in you and me pronouncing forgiveness of sins -- which is not so much the audible words but perhaps more so the heart of forgiveness and the heart no condemnation whatsoever, and then this forgiveness and no condemnation is extended universally, "raining on the just and unjust alike."
Jesus said anybody can love the people who love them. But Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount said we are to "love our enemies." He wasn't kidding. It ain't divine love if it ain't loving its enemies. Anybody can love their friends, family, children. Only God can love His enemies. In deed and in truth.
And because that is the Love that is now in us, by grace through faith, the Father says to you and to me, "Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased."