“When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?” – Luke 5:20 (ESV)
Jesus was looking right at the scribes and Pharisees as He asked this, knowing their unexpressed thoughts. They didn’t reply. Just a few minutes before, four devoted and determined friends had lowered a lame man through the roof of the home Jesus was teaching in. They tried to carry him through the door but many people had gathered to hear Jesus that day and separated these men from the only One they knew who could restore life to this lame man’s limbs. So they took their friend up to the flat rooftop, made a hole, and carefully lowered him to the feet of Jesus. All eyes were focused on Christ. Would He heal this man?
Jesus Forgives Sins
Luke 5:20 states that Jesus saw the faith of the five men and said to the invalid, “Your sins are forgiven you.” The friends must have wondered if Jesus didn’t understand their friend was lame. In the society of Jesus’s day, this man was probably reduced to begging. In addition, it was often believed that a lame, deaf or blind person was under God’s judgment for some sin of their own, or of a parent (see John 9:1-7).
But, of course, Jesus understands the many needs we have. Some of our needs are very visible such as a physical infirmity and some are deeply spiritual, like the need for forgiveness. Jesus knows that physical healing will help this man only in this life, while the forgiveness that He gave would last for eternity!
Only God Can Forgive Sins
In Luke 5:21, we see the reaction of the Pharisees and scribes. They correctly conclude that only God can forgive this man’s sins, but then make the terrible mistake of accusing Jesus of blasphemy. Jesus, reading their thoughts, asks the question, “which is easier to say, ‘your sins are forgiven’ or say, ‘rise up and walk’?”
If you were standing in their sandals, how would you answer? We would probably choose “your sins are forgiven” since it’s impossible for anyone to give a person the ability to walk just through what we say. But, as the Pharisees knew, we also cannot forgive a person’s sins, since those sins aren’t done against us, but against God Almighty. In Luke 5:24-26, Jesus demonstrates His authority to forgive sins by healing this man through His word alone.
Was Forgiveness Easy for Jesus?
In contrast, from Jesus’ viewpoint, which is easier for Him to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘rise up and walk’? What did it take for Jesus to provide complete and lasting forgiveness, not only for this man, but also for all who came to believe upon Him? It took His death on the cross. Complete forgiveness required that the Son of God would take our place and suffer a cruel death so that the Father’s wrath and justice would be satisfied for our sin.
As we approach this time of the Lord’s Passion and Resurrection, we invite you to join us in spending time meditating on what it truly cost our Lord to be able to say some of the most wonderful words ever given to man… “Your sins are forgiven”.