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For Bible Study Nerds

“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”

You’d think that the crowd of people hearing Jesus speak those words to a paralyzed man would have rejoiced. In that society and time, illness such as paralysis was directly linked to specific sins committed by the afflicted person. Having his sins forgiven, then, paved the way for miraculous healing to occur. Cause for celebration, right?

Well, not so fast. In the minds of the several “teachers of the law” who were present in the crowd, Jesus’ words were theologically offensive. Not yet convinced that Christ was indeed God incarnate, they saw him as a man claiming to have authority that only the Father himself possessed—the heavenly authority to forgive sin in eternal totality, erasing both its offense and its punishment. The teachers of the law had a word for that audacious claim:

Blasphemy!

Theologian Don Campbell explains that, according to Jewish thought, “Any remark that mocks God or is contemptuous of him can be defined as blasphemy.” And, according to Old Testament law, “Anyone who blasphemes the name of the Lord is to be put to death. The entire assembly must stone them” (Leviticus 24:16). In fact, Campbell says, “The Jews, out of dread of being inadvertently guilty of blasphemy, took the position that the name of God was too sacred to pronounce.”

If Jesus had been only a man, then the accusation of blasphemy made by the teachers of the law would have been accurate. How could any mere man claim to possess God’s unique, divine authority on earth? That would be making a mockery of heaven and holding God in contempt! According to their laws, they would’ve been justified if they’d stoned Jesus to death on the spot. Yet…

Jesus was no mere man. He was God incarnate, acting out his own divine will. And he proved it, both then and now, by doing what no mere man could do. In the flash of one miraculous moment, Jesus healed the paralyzed sinner—and silenced all critics with full, observable evidence of his heavenly authority to forgive any earthly sin.

To a society that understood paralysis to be a direct result of offending God, that raw display of power would’ve been dumbfounding. No wonder Matthew reports, “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe…”

 

Works Cited:

[TTW, 35]

 

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About: Mike Nappa

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