WHERE WAS THE SACRIFICE?
"That set the religion scholars and Pharisees buzzing. ’Who does He think He is? That's blasphemous talk! God and only God can forgive sins.' Jesus knew exactly what they were thinking and said, 'Why all this gossipy whispering? Which is simpler: to say 'I forgive your sins,' or to say 'Get up and start walking?' Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorised to do either, or both...' He now spoke directly to the paraplegic: 'Get up. Take your bedroll and go home.' Without a moment's hesitation, he did it -- got up, took his blanket, and left for home, giving glory to God all the way.
"The people rubbed their eyes, incredulous -- and then also gave glory to God. Awestruck, they said, 'We've never seen anything like that!'" Luke 5:21-26 (The Message).
Aha! Now it's clear what the scribes and Pharisees were up to. They were not after Jesus because they loved His teaching or what He was doing. Far from it. They had a more sinister motive for following Him from one end to Israel to the other.
At this early stage in His ministry they had already recognised Him to be a threat to their cushy lives. Instead of applauding Him for rescuing a man from his miserable existence, they pounced on Him for "blasphemy".
Well, from their point of view, it must have been exactly that. No man had the right to declare anyone else's sin forgiven unless, of course, he was a priest and the offender had offered the appropriate sacrifice prescribed by the law. But Jesus was forgiving sin as though He were a priest -- and where was the sacrifice? They were outraged at His audacity. Wouldn't you be? But wait a minute. Jesus? Sacrifice? Makes you think!
Then He went and poured fuel on the fire by sending the man home, walking! That put the cherry on the top! He challenged them and they lost. He couldn't do that unless He had the authority and power from God to heal a man. That meant that He also had the authority to forgive sins, and that pulled the rug from under them.
The people, on the other hand, loved what Jesus was doing. They had nothing to lose and everything to gain by listening, watching and believing in Him. He was so different from their religious leaders who nit-picked about everything and added more and more petty rules to burden their lives. They were excited about what God was doing. They were not interested in theological skirmishes when they were seeing God at work in front of their very eyes.
But what about the paraplegic? It took the determined faith of his four friends to get him in front of Jesus but after that they could do no more for him. It was over to him. What would he do? Hearing Jesus say, 'I forgive your sins,' was easy. He didn't have to do a thing -- or did he? Even that took faith and prepared the way for the next step -- 'Get up and walk.'
But what did his sins have to do with his paralysis? As a Jew he was obliged to offer sacrifice for the forgiveness of his sins, but as a paraplegic it was impossible for him to do that. After years of being stuck on a sleeping mat, what a mountain of sin he must have carried on his conscience! But now he was being told that his sin was forgiven -- and what's more he felt it!
With an inner peace he had never experienced in his life, he could activate his unresponsive body in an instant in response to Jesus' instruction, and that happened too! It took his faith to step into forgiveness and healing.
The scribes and Pharisees were dumbstruck. They had nothing to say to counter His visible proof of His claim -- "Son of Man" -- and they knew what that meant! But instead of fuelling faith, it only fuelled angry hatred and made them even more determined to do him in, if they could only find a way.
What do Jesus' words and actions say to you? Do you say that He is the Son of God? It's a question you and I will have to answer -- eventually.