“Man, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20).
Most of us can identify with Charlie Brown. We set some goal: “This time, I’m going to kick that football!” then somebody pulls the ball away at the last second, and we fall flat on our back. But there was one man in the Bible who set his sights high, and got even more than he asked for. That was because his goal was to encounter Jesus.
He was a paralyzed man so intent to see Jesus that he had his friends strap him to a bed, tear open a roof and lower him into a house where Jesus was teaching. More than likely, this man sought to be healed, but when Jesus saw him, he didn’t immediately heal him. He did something completely different: he announced that his sins were forgiven. To silence critical bystanders, Jesus went ahead and healed the man anyway. Even though he was made to walk, the forgiveness of his sins was by far the most important thing that ever happened to that man.
There are numerous obvious and practical things we can learn, but for this article, let’s focus on some things that are assumed to be true.
First, there is the assumption that sin is an actual thing. I’ve never met anyone who read the Bible and said, “This makes no sense. What is sin?” Even those who disagree with Jesus, with the Bible, who renounce Christianity, do not deny the existence of sin. They understand what is meant by the word “sin.” Who dubbed Las Vegas “Sin City?” Was it a judgmental Christian? Especially in our sensitive culture, and if sin isn’t a real thing, Las Vegas businesses should be offended by this humiliating label. On this occasion with the paralyzed man, why didn’t someone speak up and say, “What is this ‘sin’ Jesus is talking about?” Because then, and now, everyone knows exactly what sin is (1 John 3:4).
Second, there is the assumption that this man has sinned. The pronouncement of forgiveness implies guilt against God. C.S. Lewis aptly pointed out that Jesus forgave people, not in the way that we forgive one another, but for sinning against God. Can you imagine me telling you that you are forgiven for being mean to your spouse? The critics saw Jesus assuming the place of God by pronouncing this man forgiven. However, they didn’t question what Jesus implied, which was that this man was a sinner. Since that is so, it is implied that they knew what we all intrinsically know, that we all sin (Romans 3:10).
Third, there is the assumption that sin requires forgiveness. If sin exists, and we have all sinned, then sin needs to be forgiven. I fear this simple truth is often overlooked. What many people in the world believe is that the heart needs to be quieted, the conscience altered. But the Bible teaches, and this passage is no different, that man has sinned, and he needs forgiveness (Romans 3:23).
Fourth, there is the assumption that sin can be forgiven. If we know sin exists, if we know that we sin, if we know that sin requires forgiveness, then the next best thing to know is that sin is forgivable. It is better than meeting Jesus personally. It is better than witnessing a miracle. It is better than walking on water with Jesus. It is better than being healed of paralysis, or blindness, or any other such thing. It is better than the best occasion of your life you can imagine. To experience God’s forgiveness through Christ really is the ultimate experience in life.
These are not only implications drawn from this passage, but they are the implications of the Bible in general. Sin is real. We all sin. We must be forgiven. And the good news is that because of Christ, anyone can be forgiven.