Saturday, August 14, 2010

Jesus' authority to forgive

I'm preaching on Mark 2 tomorrow (apologies to liturgical purists), Jesus healing the paralysed man after he is lowered through the roof. What an engaging passage it is. I love the way in which it is so graphically visualised, dragging us in to the action, and then hits us with the enigmatic dialogue which makes us stop and think.

Verse 9 is especially challenging:
Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say,
`Get up, take your mat and walk'?

Which is it? I was taught at an early stage that it's clearly the latter, because only God can forgive sins, and so it must be harder to do that. But now, when I read this, that just doesn't seem to fit. Why does Jesus then go and heal the man? If that is the easier thing, it doesn't prove that he could do the harder thing. So is it easier to say "your sins are forgiven"?? I suppose in one way it is, because if you say "get up", and the guy stays where he is, it doesn't look great. But that doesn't seem to fit the flow of the story either.

My honest answer would be "actually I don't think either of them is anything like easy". And perhaps that is quite a good answer after all. Forgiveness and healing go together, and only the Son of Man has the authority to give them.

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