“5And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7“Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mk. 2:5-7.
From Jesus’ healing of the paralytic, we learn that Jesus is deity. He did what only God could do. Jesus said to the man, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Mk 2:5.
Now to the question asked by the scribes, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”, the Bible says men forgive the sins of others. Men can forgive sins? Yes, and so we pray like this, “Forgive us as we forgive others”. So what is going on here and why would this be blasphemy to those hearing?
The answer is clear that there is forgiving on the human level and their is forgiving on the God level. Jesus was doing the latter. If the man had personally harmed Jesus, then there would be nothing cataclysmic about Jesus saying something like, “I forgive you.” Instead, Jesus was talking about a full pardon from heaven that made the man as sinless.
Man forgiving versus Jesus’ forgiving. In forgiving, we imitate God. When Jesus forgave sins, He proved He was deity. We we forgive we prove we are acting like God. There’s a difference. Man is made in God’s image. We love like God. We create like God. We judge like God. We act like God because it’s natural for us to imitate our Creator, 1 Cor. 11:1. The forgiveness that men give is like God’s forgiveness but it is limited. To illustrate, it’s like a creation of man say in technology or medicine. It’s genius and useful. But for all of the creativity, it isn’t ever going to rise to the level of creating that God creates. We are like God. We love as our Father in heaven loves. The love we have is of the same kind of material, but it never quite reaches the magnitude or purity of God’s love because we are human and He’s God. Spiritual man is always attempting to imitate God and this is good. So it’s not strange that when it comes to relationships, we also do like God is mending them by giving pardons to those who sin against us. We are just imitating our God. The pardon we give is limited as all of our imitations of God are. Our pardon to a fellow man isn’t on the same level as the pardon Jesus gave. His was absolute. Just as His creating in the beginning (Col. 1:16-17) was the kind of creating on the macro, absolute and perfect sense, so is His forgiveness to the man and the scribes knew the difference.
Forgiveness is given on condition. And the forgiveness was on the basis of faith as it says, Jesus “seeing their faith said…” Forgiveness isn’t given to those who lack faith. The paralytic needed help being moved but he was not unconscious. It says Jesus saw “their faith” and He “said to the paralytic”, “Your sins are forgiven”. Any interpretation that suggest that man was forgiven without Him personally having faith is contrary to everything in Scripture. “Without faith it is impossible to please God”, Hebrews says. And “this is the the victory that overcomes the world, even our faith.” The construction of the text makes it clear that the paralytic had faith just as he had sin. Why do people still say God forgives men without any conditions when we see that faith is a condition? Whey should we think giving forgiveness requires no conditions when see that Paul says that belief and confession are necessary for salvation? Jesus died that all men might be saved; but Jesus saves only those who believe and obey the Gospel, Mk. 16:14-16.
When Jesus forgave the man of his sins, Jesus was giving the man a gift from heaven. When we forgive others, we are giving a pardon on the micro earthly level. Man’s forgiveness is of the same kind of material as God’s forgiveness, but it doesn’t have the ability to make men right with God. Men must come to God and have that taken care of. We can forgive people who show signs of remorse but doing so doesn’t mean that God has forgiven this person. Sinners need to make amends with men and they need to make amends with the Father in heaven. Men make amends with men because they trespassed against them. And men make amends with God because they all have all trespassed against Him. Jesus, with all of the authority of God on earth, gave the gift of salvation to the paralytic who came to Him in faith.