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God’s Word for You

Mark 2:5-7 faith and forgiveness

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, September 25, 2021

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

The faith Jesus saw included the faith of all of them: the paralyzed man, the friends who carried him, and the other friends who had come with them. It’s especially important for us to recognize the faith of the paralyzed man, since without faith, there would be no forgiveness. But here there is forgiveness, and so there is also faith. But it isn’t just faith that he might be healed. Faith must have the right object, and the object of the paralyzed man’s faith was not a rabbi who could do amazing things, but the Son of God who was the Savior. He must have heard about the promises of the gospel of God’s grace in Christ, or he might have drawn the conclusion that others had, based on the Old Testament Scriptures, that Christ was the promised Messiah. This was what Simeon and Anna and others had done (Luke 2:26, 2:38). His faith welcomed and received the forgiveness that Jesus offered and gave him. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36). Without faith or forgiveness there is no eternal life. But where there is faith and forgiveness, there is also the resurrection to eternal life.

6 But there were some experts in the law sitting there and thinking in their hearts, 7 “Why does this fellow speak like this? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins except God alone?”

The authority to forgive sins belongs ultimately to God alone. In this matter, the Scribes or “experts in the law” were right. They understood from the Scriptures that sin is an offense against God, a rebellion against him and his divine will and law. Therefore God alone can forgive. What if someone came along and drove into your car, parked in front of your house, denting your fender, and your neighbor came out and told the driver, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it. I forgive you.” Would you be satisfied? So should God be satisfied if someone sins against him, and then an unbeliever comes along and tells the sinner, “Don’t worry about it, it’s a healthy thing to do”? No. God will condemn both the sinner and the one who told him it wasn’t a sin; he holds the watchmen accountable, and a watchman who isn’t qualified but who takes on the role isn’t exempt from the punishment of watchmen. “That wicked man will die for his sin, and I will hold you accountable for his blood” (Ezekiel 3:18).

But there are two more things to consider. First, God has called pastors to pronounce the forgiveness of sins on repentant Christians. Congregations call their pastors to do this in a public way, just as individual Christians are to forgive privately according to the Gospel: “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3). The called minister is commanded to proclaim God’s forgiveness both in public and in private. This is the message that “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:19-20).

Second, Jesus was not granting forgiveness as an ambassador of God, but as God himself. In this matter the Scribes were also correct. They should have listened to their own words. They asked, “Why does this fellow speak like this?” He had demonstrated his divine power and wisdom already, and they had been commanded by Moses and the Prophets to be watchful for the coming of the Christ. Balaam had said, “I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near” (Numbers 24:17). Moses had said, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Daniel had warned: “None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (Daniel 12:10). And Isaiah had foreseen: “Your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unstopped. Then will the lame leap like a deer, and the mute tongue shout for joy” (Isaiah 35:4-5).

So: “Who can forgive sins except God alone?” The answer to their question and to their doubt is there in the question. The answer the question expects is, “No one,” and so their hearts were invited to understand: This man is God, God alone; he is the One true God. They were witnessing God in person with their own eyes, just as Manoah and his wife had seen the Angel of the Lord. Those believers had worshiped him, saying, “We have seen God!” (Judges 13:22). Would these Scribes come to faith in the same way? Or would their hearts become hard?

“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). You have put your faith in Jesus because the gospel in word and sacrament has brought faith into your heart as a gift. You do not have to wait for the forgiveness of your sins. You have had it from the very moment you heard about it and believed it. Your faith, whether you understood its working or not, took hold of what God offers in the Gospel. There is no size or strength or age boundary with faith. Whether your faith blazes or smolders (Isaiah 42:3), whether your faith is strong or hurting (Matthew 12:20), whether your faith is life-long or brand new, faith in Christ saves because it trusts Christ. It isn’t about us or our imperfections or doubts. It’s all about him. Put your trust in him.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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