Forgiveness and Healing
“When he entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and he was speaking the word to them. They came to him bringing a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and after digging through it, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” (Mark 2:1-5, CSB)
As is typical of Jesus’ miracles, the one Jesus would perform on this occasion points to a greater kind of healing. But before Jesus healed this man physically, He showed what it meant. He healed him spiritually by forgiving his sins. This led to the scribes questioning how Jesus could do this because only God can forgive sins. Jesus knew what they were thinking, so He responded:
“Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” — he told the paralytic — “I tell you: get up, take your mat, and go home.” (vv. 8-11)
In order to demonstrate Jesus’ power to forgive sins, He healed the man physically. Yet what Jesus showed here is that the physical healing was not an end in itself. The point was that there is a greater healing that only He can accomplish. His miracles demonstrate that in some way His power transcends the physical and impacts the spiritual.
We all need healing. Even if we are not healed physically of some ailment or problem, we still need the spiritual healing that only Christ can give. This is because humanity is broken due to sin, and the answer to the problem of sin, while involving what Jesus did physically (even on the cross), transcends the physical.
When Jesus healed the disabled man in John 5, He told him, “See, you are well. Do not sin anymore, so that something worse doesn’t happen to you” (v. 14). The physical healing was a wonderful blessing, but Jesus had a greater point to make. Sin breaks us in ways that will result in something far worse than a physical ailment. When Jesus asked that man, “Do you want to get well?” (v. 6), there were greater implications than whether he wanted physical healing. If we really want to get well, then we will seek His forgiveness and want to leave behind sin.
There is something else to consider. Understanding the brokenness of humanity is rooted in the recognition that there is a unifying standard by which everything else is measured. If there is no such standard, then thinking that anything or anyone is broken is arbitrary and meaningless. One might think that perhaps there is nothing broken, that things just are as they are (which is the case if we are products of mindless, purposeless, accidental, chance processes). If that is so, then let us not hear talk of immoral behaviors, injustices, harassment, abuse, moral outrage, or anything else that would indicate that something is not as it should be. If things are not as they should be, then something is amiss, which means there must be a standard that is being violated. That standard, in turn, must be ultimately significant or else it loses its gravitas and we are back to no true standard. We cannot consistently deny that there is an ultimate standard, then act as though some great standard is being violated.
We know better. We know something is not right, and if something is not right, we know there is something else to which we are accountable that is right. There is only one standard that can be ultimate, that is contingent on nothing else, and to which all can and will be accountable, and this is the One we call God.
Back in Mark 2, Jesus shows that He came in the flesh to bring healing and forgiveness. Yet in this miracle, He also demonstrated that He is indeed God. In this the scribes were correct — only God can forgive sins. Jesus did just that. He did not perform miracles just like any other miracle-worker who then pointed back to God. He did them as a demonstration that He is God in the flesh and that He has power to forgive sins because of who He is.
We are the ones in need of what Jesus offers. He proved He can forgive sins, and He consistently showed that there are worse things that can happen than physical ailments. We need to make sure we are ready to receive His grace and forgiveness. Will we, like the paralyzed man in Mark 2, demonstrate our faith by coming to Jesus?