The story of four men lowering a paralyzed man through the roof of a house in Capernaum is well known to most of us (Mark 2:1-12). But something Pastor Rob said this past Sunday about Jesus’ ability to read minds has me looking at this story from a different perspective, that of the “teachers of the law” (also known as scribes). These men were sitting among the crowd in the house when the paralytic was lowered into the room. Jesus surveyed the situation and said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5-6), bringing an immediate “debate” to the hearts of the scribes. “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
As we read this passage today, it may be easy for us to say with utter certainty that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins! Didn’t he prove it by way of the cross and his resurrection? But in the context of the story, all the scribes had ever known was The Law. Not grace, not Resurrection Sunday, just The Law. The sin of blasphemy was rooted in the seventh of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God…” (Exodus 20:7). What else could the scribes think when Jesus offered forgiveness to the paralytic? He was equating himself with God!
The “internal struggle” regarding Jesus’ identity and authority continues today, doesn’t it? He’s a great prophet and teacher, many will agree. But the Son of God, who has power to forgive sin? Many are more apt to counter with relativism (the idea that all values or judgments are relative) by saying: What sin? What is sin for you may not be sin for me.
Then, as now, Jesus looks at the heart. He knew the warring factions within the minds and hearts of the scribes; he knows the doubts and debates we have – with ourselves and with others. But that day in Capernaum in the house that most likely belonged to Peter – now with a gaping man-size hole in its roof – Jesus set the record straight for all in attendance. “Get up, take your mat and walk,” he said. And the man did.