When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, “Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” —he said to the paralytic— “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.” And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this! Mark 2:1-12
Who is this Jesus anyway? He’s got the healing touch. But what is he? A prophet or a witch doctor? Or something else entirely? Jesus continues to unravel the mystery. He cures the paralytic with the words: Your sins are forgiven. And the scribes are stunned: Who can forgive sins but God alone? That is Christ’s point precisely. Up ‘til now he has addressed physical pathology in his curing. But this time he has carefully chosen his words: So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.
The remark is not amplified or explained. That will come later. For now it is a straight out, in your face, assertion of divine prerogatives. Who but God has the power to forgive sins? Mosaic Law is quite clear on the point. Neither Moses nor Elijah, nor any of the prophets or patriarchs dared claim to forgive sin. Every observant Jew knew that power resided with God alone. And yet, here is this vagabond carpenter, calmly, comfortingly saying words that belong to God alone.
In the words of C.S. Lewis, Jesus offers us three choices. He is either a liar, a lunatic or the Son of God. Lewis posed these choices in response to folks who would pigeon hole Jesus as a great moral teacher, but deny his divinity. We are only just beginning the second chapter of Mark and Jesus is already asserting that divinity. The human Jesus is already in touch with his divine nature and comfortable enough to put it on display. For now, the disciples, the crowds, the skeptics and we are left to draw our own conclusions.
But Lewis rules out one conclusion entirely. Jesus was not just a nice guy telling us to say our prayers and try to get along with each other. That version of no-calorie- Christianity-lite is not an option. Lewis cautions us: “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God or else a madman or something worse. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Mark’s gospel abounds in miracles. But none greater than this: God became like us, to teach us how to become like him. Jesus took on the burden of our every sin. He conquered death. And he teaches us how to live. He is with us now—a prayer away. Let us lay our burdens on the Lord. Christ never could, never would and never will fail us. He is the Son of God.