Matt 9:1 And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.
Which is easier, to forgive sins or tell a paralyzed man to walk?
Have you ever been to the store and there she is? You know the one. She is that lady with the screaming kids and shopping cart full of junk food. She is at least 100lbs overweight and obviously makes bad choices regarding nutrition. Up to the checkout line she goes, grabs a case of cigarettes and proceeds to pay with food stamps. You know the one, right? It makes me sick to my stomach to talk that way about people anymore but I’m trying to make a point. I don’t “see” people like that anymore. I really don’t. I may see evidence of this or that but it is just bad fruit. I see them (most of the time) like Jesus sees them. I see the tree. It wasn’t always like that for me. It took a revelation of God’s love. It took some serious time looking to see the love of God on the cross. It took some serious double-edged knife intrusion of Logos promises and truths of Grace to cut out that judgment cancer.
I think Jesus was telling the crowd in Matthew 9 that it is impossible for a man, a fallen Adam to forgive sins. When He says “which is easier” Jesus was making a point. Apart from the love of God, outside the nature of God, in our law-preferred good vs. evil mindset we see judgment and judgment only. When we ate from the wrong tree that is what happened. We became list followers and discerners of columns, good column or bad column. Jesus heals the man to demonstrate His authority not answer the question. So the question is a “trick” question. He could have said “which one is impossible and which one is possible?”
But Jesus has come and died and is risen. Now we have Him in us. Now as a born again believer we are a new creation. We have the laws of God, the very nature of God written on our hearts. Our God is a God who justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5). Now we know that we know what is His heart. His heart is to forgive. He died to make it so. He died to justify what was already on His heart. His heart is not to judge. His heart is to forgive. When it was impossible for us to forgive, in our fallen nature, it is now possible to forgive in our risen nature.
Now we have the Holy Spirit. We are like Christ. We have the love of God. We are becoming the love of God. We have the mind of Christ. If Jesus could do it we should be able to do it. I don’t mean authority, I mean ability. We do have authority (Matt 16:19, Matt 28:18-19). We do have the keys. We get to bind and loose. The deeper issue is the ability to forgive. Check out this passage:
John 20:22-23 (ESV) 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”
Take a close look at verse 23. Jesus had already died for everyone’s sin, every person for all time. So verse 23 isn’t a statement of authority. How could a man “unforgive” what Jesus forgave? I believe Jesus just gave them the ability and not authority to forgive sins. These disciples were just “born again.” They had just received the Holy Spirit by the very breath of Jesus. They were changed.
Can you see John 20:23 in a new light (new creation, light of the world). If you are a lawyer and trying to make the new covenant a re-packaged old covenant then you see this verse as authority or some other strange “command.” But we aren’t under law we are under Grace and like all things Grace (Jesus) He does it and we receive it so we can do it.
Why is this ability to forgive so important? Without it you can’t love like Jesus. You can’t have compassion like Jesus. You can’t give like Jesus. You sit in judgment and condemnation over others. You are hosting the very thing that fuels the enemy’s deception, shame, guilt, condemnation. You have to be free of judgment to love unconditionally. You have to be free of condemnation to have compassion like Christ. Otherwise the enemy is camped out in your wheelhouse filling you with all kinds of lies about the person in front of you. Jesus healed, and delivered and saved in love, unconditional love.
Why was the paralytic forgiven of His sins? Jesus loved him and the paralytic had a capacity to receive based on his faith, his revelation of God’s nature…a God who justifies the ungodly. Why was the prostitute forgiven (Luke 7)? She was forgiven for the same reason. Jesus forgives, it is His nature to forgive. He had no judgment in His heart for the woman. He was free of judgment because He loved unconditionally. Jesus says this:
Matthew 12:37 Expanded Bible The words you have said will be used to judge you. Some of your words will prove you right, but some of your words will prove you guilty [For by your words you will be acquitted/justified, and by your words you will be condemned].”
John 12: 46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness. 47 If anyone hears my words and does not keep them, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. 48 The one who rejects me and does not receive my words has a judge; the word that I have spoken will judge him on the last day. 49 For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak. 50 And I know that his commandment is eternal life. What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has told me.” (ESV)
Jesus brought light into the world. Those that reject the light will be apart from Him, the light. He is the source of eternal life. If we reject the light, the life, God Himself, we are already judged. We are set apart, judged of our own choosing. Sin has nothing to do with it. The enemy has used sin against us to condemn us and shame us and guilt us. This is his tool to keep us from God, to keep us from the light, to keep us from His eternal life and stay trapped in death instead. Jesus came to fix the tree not chop off the fruit. Sin is the fruit. Our relationship with Him is our tree recovery program. When we live in judgment we are living like the enemy and not like Jesus. This is why Jesus declares…
John 20:23 ”Now you have the ability to forgive sins. If you choose not too then you have no capacity to love like I love, give like I give, heal like I heal, have compassion like I have compassion.” (LLT)
Jesus says I have changed you…live like you are changed. Jesus says before you had no choice…now you get to. The question is no longer which is easier. For us as a new creation both are the same. We just love. Forgiving is our new nature. Healing and forgiving are just expressions of the love we are becoming. It just doesn’t get any better than that.