When Jesus began to teach and interact with the Jewish people, he did not avoid doing things which would have been viewed as controversial. When you read throughout the gospels, you get the impression that he often said or did things that he knew would provoke a reaction among the Jewish religious leaders.
Why would he do this? Why would Jesus, who advocated living peaceful lives, intentionally stir up controversy? Of course, we need to remember that not only did Jesus say that he came to bring peace (see John 14:27 and John 16:33) his coming would also bring strife (Matthew 10:34-38).
The real problem was that the Jewish leaders had long ago ceased following God and his word. Yes, they taught God’s word and they taught it accurately, but they did not live it themselves (see Matthew 23:1-12). Over the years they had added so much to what God had given that it had become a burden that no one could bear. Jesus came to point the way back to God. By going against the grain of the Jewish religious leaders, controversy was inevitable. We find many of these incidents in the early part of his public work.
Jesus was teaching one day in Capernaum in the house where he lived – and people flocked to hear him! The house was so crowded that no one could even get near the door. There was a man who was paralyzed and his friends wanted to get him to Jesus – his reputation as someone who could heal was already widely known. As they couldn’t get near Jesus, their solution was to go up on the flat roof of the house, tear a hole in it, and let the man down in front of Jesus.
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mark 2:5-7 NIV).
Jesus could have just healed the man and moved on. Instead, he first forgave the man’s sins. This immediately drew a reaction from the Jewish teachers: How can he do this? Only God can forgive sins! Notice Jesus’ reply to their thoughts.
“Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’” (Mark 2:8-12).
Jesus wanted to show that he was God. He had already shown he was from God by the miraculous things he was doing. Now he showed them that he also had the authority to forgive sins, something that they understood was reserved for God alone. They could not deny that the man was healed, showing that Jesus had God’s power. This same power could forgive sins.
This is why Jesus came: to provide a way we can be forgiven. As we read of these incidents we, too, should be amazed at this carpenter from Galilee. We should be amazed that he was willing to take on the religious establishment of his day to point the way back to God. But, like those who saw him, we should praise God that we have forgiveness through him.
Readings for next week:
2 October – 2 Corinthians 10
3 October – 2 Corinthians 11
4 October – 2 Corinthians 12-13
5 October – Mark 1
6 October – Mark 2