Your Sins Are Forgiven
In Matthew 9 (one of our scripture readings for today), Jesus is in the middle of a tussle with the Jewish religious leaders. He is in the middle of doing some things that bothered the buttoned-down, letter-of-the-law (even if it’s the one we wrote) rabbis and Pharisees. He had just exorcised some demons… while visiting a Gentile land… and he sent the demons into pigs. That's gotta break a few laws someplace, right? In the next verses, Jesus will call a tax collector of all people as one of his apostles. So just about everything Jesus does at this point is rubbing the rabbis the wrong way.
But it is Jesus' healing of a paralytic that pegs their “you gotta be kidding” meter. He had just done several miracles, so his power to heal one paralyzed should not have been a shock. What was a shock was the language that Jesus used, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” If you stop right there, you might get the impression that Jesus is baling the man for his paralysis; he had sinned in some way and was being punished with paralysis (don’t walk with God and you won’t walk at all). But what follows makes it clear that Jesus’ words here are for the benefit of the Pharisees who are spoiling for a fight. They respond, “This fellow is blaspheming!” (v. 3). To claim the power to forgive sin is to claim the power of God Himself.
4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man. (Matt. 9:4-8, NIV2011)
So is it easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven” or “Get up and walk?” The point is that only God has the power to both forgive sins and to heal. The fact that Jesus really did have the power to heal was demonstrated dramatically when the man got up and toted his mat back home, But Jesus power over this disease also dramatically demonstrated that He also has the power to forgive sin. Anyone can say, “Your sins are forgiven” but Jesus demonstrates his power to forgive with this mighty act of healing.
Each Sunday we proclaim both Christ’s power to give and his power to heal in the Lord’s Supper. When participate in this memorial, we both bow before God's authority over all things spiritual and physical. In the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, God proves His authority over spiritual death ("Your sins are forgiven") and His authority over physical death ("Get up and walk"). Our God is a God who forgives and who heals. He tells each of us “your sins are forgiven” so now we can then “get up and walk” as we live and serve Him daily.