To be forgiven changes us. Nelson Mandela spent decades imprisoned by his political enemies. Upon his release in 1994, he chose to devote his life to helping the people of South Africa forgive one another: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
For the next few days, we’ll study how Jesus teaches us to forgive. In today’s passage, Jesus offers both physical and spiritual healing. Just after Jesus arrived by boat, He was approached by several men carrying a paralyzed man lying on a mat. The effect of the physical healing was obvious—at their request, Jesus healed the paralyzed man, and the previously incapacitated man was able to walk home (v. 7). But before healing the man physically, Jesus healed him spiritually—forgiving his sins.
This act of forgiveness and spiritual healing angered the religious leaders. They did not object to a paralyzed man being healed, but they drew the line at Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness: “This fellow is blaspheming” (v. 3). To blaspheme means to show irreverence for God or to disrespect the sacred. When Jesus said He forgave the man’s sins, they thought Him presumptuous. How could He claim to do the work God alone could do?
Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Which is easer: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?” (v. 5). We might also ask, which healing is more necessary? Jesus had the power to free the man from physical pain, but He also had the authority to forgive his sin and heal him spiritually. The crowd was “filled with awe” and praised God after seeing this miraculous display of forgiveness (v. 8).
When we pray and bring our requests to God, we often focus on our physical need, such as physical illness or financial needs. While these are worthy concerns, we should also be mindful that God’s healing power extends far beyond our external needs. He is the One who can heal our hearts and forgive our sins. Praise Him today!