1And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town.
2And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?5For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? 6But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he then said to the paralytic — “Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” 7And he stood up and went to his home. 8When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
Certain acts belong to God alone: to create, to redeem, to forgive. Certain acts belong to God which He can delegate: to heal, to speak, to exorcise. When people saw Jesus heal, many were reminded of the great healing prophets like Elijah. But when they heard Jesus forgive people's sins, no one could think of any prophet or priest who had that authority.
In the OT, sins were forgiven via temple sacrifices with the faith that such acts could be counted as acts of repentance in the eyes of YHWH; nevertheless, it was always YHWH who did the forgiving. The priests merely spoke out or acted out the assurance of pardon but they themselves had no authority to forgive since that prerogative, again, only belonged to God.
That is why, when the scribes heard Jesus saying to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," the scribes were upset, offended, and angry. They said to themselves, "This man is blaspheming." The sin of blaspheming covers a lot of ground: any act or word spoken that misrepresents the glory, holiness, authority, or character of God.That this man is forgiving sins -- basically acting in the place of God -- thus appeared to the scribes as an act of gross impudence and impiety. Blasphemous in short.
The great irony of course is that this charge of blasphemy was completely false. The scribes did not believe that this man was at the same time God, the Son of God.
To back up his authority to forgive sins, Jesus heals the paralytic. Both Jesus and the scribes knew that any person can say, "your sins are forgiven." You just say it. And since there was no way of checking whether sins were actually forgiven, you were left to either believe the statement or not. But with healing, you can check. You can say, as Jesus did, "Stand up, take your bed and go to your home." You can say that just as easily as "your sins are forgiven." But in this case, you can check whether the person got healed or not. Both Jesus and scribes knew this fact as well. So, Jesus demonstrates his authority to forgive sins by demonstrating his authority to heal. The paralytic got up, took his bed, and went home.
The scribes are left speechless at this point. They found themselves stuck in a dilemma: either this man is a fraud or he is not. If not, then they need to repent and face up to the true identity of Jesus. If he's a fraud (a blasphemer), then where's the proof?
Let's pray: Lord Jesus, we confess you are God, the Son of God. We confess you are the Son of Man, the Messiah. We confess that you alone have the authority to forgive sins. We confess that sin in our lives no longer has dominion. As the reformers of the past stated, although sin remains, it no longer reigns. When we do sin, help us to confess and repent. There is the assurance of forgiveness in you through your Cross and Resurrection. We confess that you heal. You have the authority to heal. And you give us the authority to heal in your name. For this, too, we thank you. In your name we pray. Amen.