Daily Devotion: Which is easier?

“A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 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?’

‘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 2:1-12

The ministry of Jesus was becoming well-known and attracting large crowds that came to hear His teaching and receive healing.

“The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’ News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.” – Mark 1:27-28 

Here in Capernaum Jesus is teaching and the crowd is so large there is no way to get inside. A group of men brought a paralyzed man to be healed by Jesus, but could not get close to Him because of the crowd. They had such faith that if they could just get him to Jesus he would be healed that they decided to take drastic action. They carried the man onto the roof of the building dug a hole through it and lowered him down in front of Jesus.

Their faith in the healing power of Jesus convinced them that it was worth causing property damage to a building they did not own. They made themselves responsible for either repairing it or paying for it because they knew this paralyzed man would be healed if they could get him to Jesus.

However, what Jesus did when the man was set before him was not what they or anyone else was expecting.

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.” – Mark 2:5

He was seeking physical healing, but what he received first was spiritual healing. For those of us that have grown up with the knowledge that we can receive forgiveness from Jesus at anytime, this can almost feel like a let down. Many of us ask for and receive forgiveness from God everyday because we need it and He graciously gives it. Because ithappens so often in our lives, we can lose sight of its magnitude and beauty. The forgiveness of sins is a divine act of love and mercy that, while joyfully given, came at a high price. One sin is enough to separate us from perfectly holy God and yet the blood of Christ covers a multitude of sins, both for us and for every believer.

When Jesus told this man his sins were forgiven, the teachers of the law were beside themselves.

“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 2:6-7

They understood how remarkable it was to forgive sin. The teachers of the law were not wrong in thinking that only God could forgive sins, they were wrong in understanding who Jesus was. Other prophets throughout scripture had been used by God to perform physical healing, but none had spoken on their own authority in forgiving sins. By forgiving this man on His own authority, Jesus was also declaring His deity.

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 performs two miracles to demonstrate that He does in fact have the authority to forgive sins, which also means that He is God.

First, Jesus responds to what they are thinking as if they had said it out loud. He knew their thoughts, even though they had not yet voiced them.

Then Jesus asks them a rhetorical question, “Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? While we may not always think this way, the truth is that physical healing is far easier than the forgiveness of sins. 

Physical healing is temporary and only restores us during this life. Spiritual healing, the forgiveness of sins, is eternal, permanent, and restores us to God forever.

When Jesus forgives this man, He is forgiving him for sins that He will later pay the price for on the cross. Jesus can forgive him because He will take those sins upon Himself. In essence, He says to this man, “Your sins are forgiven. I will deal with them. I will pay for them. I will make things right.”

The teachers of the law don’t know who Jesus truly is or what He is going to do. So to prove to them that He does in fact have authority to forgive sins, He also heals the man physically. Even though physical healing is the easier thing to do, it is also able to be seen with physical eyes and can therefore demonstrate to the people there that Jesus does in fact have the authority to forgive sins. Even those whose spiritual eyes were not open to the truth could not deny that the paralyzed man was no longer paralyzed.

The man then picks up his mat and walks home. The people are amazed at this and declare that they have never seen anything like it while praising God. Many of them may not have seen miraculous physical healing until they saw Jesus, but Jesus had already performed many miracles in the area. What the people are truly amazed by is that He can forgive sins and His authority to do so was confirmed by a miracle that they could see with their eyes.

That we have direct and immediate access to perfect forgiveness of sins makes it no less amazing or spectacular. In fact, that this miracle of forgiveness is available to all freely is even more incredible. It is not reserved for certain people or those who deserve it more or anything like that. It is available to all at all times. The teachers of the law knew that the forgiveness of sins is so incredible that only God could do it, so to them it meant that Jesus must have blaspheming. Instead, the truth was God was standing before them as a man and had come to earth for the purpose being able to freely offer forgiveness.

What really happens in the gospel and through salvation is so far beyond what we can really grasp that our minds almost don’t even begin to understand it. We can say the words and believe them and be saved without coming close to really taking in the magnitude of it. How miraculous and magnificent it is surpasses the understanding conveyed in any of the words we use, it is incomprehensibly great.

When we start to gain just a little better under understanding of what it means that we are so completely forgiven and made righteousness that we can come before an absolutely perfect and holy God with boldness as His son or daughter, as a co-heir with Christ Jesus Himself; when we see the absolute impossibility from man’s perspective of this, the most magnificent miracle of all, then we will know how deep, and wide, is God’s love for us. Then we will have confidence that all of these other miracles and promises contained in scripture are eminently and easily doable for God. He’s already done the hardest and most spectacular thing, why wouldn’t He do these other “lesser” and easier things that He has promised? He’s won the war, He’ll win these small skirmishes too.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32

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