“Which is easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ or to say ‘rise and walk’?” (Matt 9:5) (Mark 2:9) (Luke 5:23). This question that Jesus raises in ‘The Healing of the Paralytic’ faith event remains a mystery to many biblical scholars who have written commentaries on scripture. What is clear to most is Jesus’ issue, here, with authority: “so that you will know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins…”
Having already given his attention, first, to ‘The Paralytic’, saying directly to him “your sins are forgiven’, Jesus now turns his attention to the scribes (and Pharisees in Luke) addressing them purely on the basis of their thinking. They didn’t have to say much, Jesus already knew what they were thinking and he said, “why do you question thus…” (‘think evil’ in Matthew) not just in your mind but, he said, “… in your heart!”
I am reminded of the fact that my mother had triple by-pass in 1971 and quadruple by-pass in 1991. In coming to terms with disease of the heart, it is clear to me why faith places such great demands upon the heart. To be sure, the first, ‘and greatest commandment’ as Jesus recounted, is loving the Lord with all your/my heart. Such a small organ to have the responsibility for being the ‘center of life’. It not only has to house the blood system, but also the belief system!
Jesus directs this question to the ‘faith keepers’ whose ‘minds he blew’ away and went straight for their hearts. “Why do you think evil in your heart?” Easier? I contend that both sayings presented major difficulties for the scribes.
Still trying to formulate what this Covid-19, -20 & now -21 disease has done to the very heart of faith… an entire new rhetoric evolving to substantiate the total shut down of the church! Banned to an inconceivable, yet heart reconciled place in cyberspace! Doubt, questioning the ‘power to heal’ as an equivalent of ‘evil in the heart’; to the need for ‘forgiveness of sin’. NOW? Being spoken in such far away and remote spaces in the midst of covert planetary… disease.
Jesus was so good at seeing ‘faith’ in persons who came themselves or brought loved ones to him for healing. He was equally as good at seeing the ‘doubt’ which prevent healing (on whatever level) from taking place. The ‘traditional faith’ that the scribes were committed to in transmission had no room for the dynamics of the personhood of Jesus. Saying ‘your sins are forgiven’ was never an option for them. Inconceivable!
It is no small thing that the scribes had begun to follow Jesus around participating in the significance of the phenomenon of the ‘Healing Teacher’. In all that they had seen, it was expected to hear Jesus say “rise and walk”. Easy for Jesus, yes! Extremely difficult for the scribes. Jesus had now exposed a hole in the faith of the scribes— there was no power to heal!
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