(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.Luke 5:22-24
Not only did Jesus see the heart of the paralytic man, He also saw the hearts of the pharisees. They had the right idea that no one could forgive sins but God. What they were wrong about is their assessment of Jesus. They had heard about His miracles. No doubt they had heard about rumors of Him being born of a virgin. No doubt they had heard that John the Baptist declared Jesus to be the Messiah. They had heard about and may had even seen some of His miracles. The fact was that they did not want to believe. They refused to identify Jesus as even someone sent by God, much less God in the flesh.
To challenge their wrong thinking Jesus asks a great question. “(23) Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Rise up and walk?”
What is the answer to that question? Both are equally difficult to do for mere men. We do not have the capacity to forgive sins or to command healing in sick people. Yet, that was not the question. The question was “which is easier to say?”. Clearly, it is easier to say “your sins be forgiven you” because it is unproveable whether a person’s sins really are forgiven. If I say to a handicapped person, “Get out of your wheelchair and walk”, either they do or they do not. It is instantly provable.
For this man to be healed it had to effect brain, muscle, blood flow, muscle memory, bone and probably much more physiologically. When we see people in rehab learn to walk again when the chances are severely slim, we see that as incredible. For this paralytic to be fully, instantly healed would be a miracle.
Jesus tied His authority to forgive sins to His authority to heal. There is a connection to those things. The reason that there is sickness at all is because of the presence of sin. For God to ultimately heal us he had to deal with our sin problem. “The soul that sinneth it shall die.” “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Those who die in Christ will be ultimately healed and given a glorified body because their sins have been forgiven by God. Those whose sins are not forgiven will go to the eternal death.
In this instance, Jesus is essentially making the claim that if he can do the harder thing to say, then He has the authority to do the easier thing. If He can heal the man, He can forgive sins.
Ultimately, that claim is tied to who He is. Jesus is claiming to be God. In verse 24 He calls Himself “the Son of man”. This title is not only Messianic, but also a claim to deity.
(13) I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. (14) And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.Daniel 7:13-14
The “Son of Man” in Daniel’s vision is the one to whom dominion of an everlasting, eternal kingdom is given. It is at once a reference to the person’s deity and their humanity. The only one who can fulfill that title is Jesus Christ! This is who Jesus was claiming to be. This is who Jesus is!
Jesus Christ can forgive sins because He is both God and man. He came to die and will reign forever.
It is with this authority that He looks at the paralytic and says, “So you know that I have the power on earth to forgive sins, Arise, take up your bed and walk.”
The forgiveness of sins is tied both to the authority of Jesus to forgive sins, and our response of faith to Jesus to believe. If we do not think we need forgiveness, or if we do not believe that Jesus can forgive, we will not be forgiven.
If you are going through something difficult physically today, know that ultimately those who trust in Christ as Savior will be healed. If you are enduring pain in this life, there is a reason for it. Do not waste this side of eternity. Use your life, even through your pain, to make a difference for Christ now.
Have you gone to Christ for forgiveness?
Praise God for His incredible plan and provision in Jesus!