And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? But 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, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
c. Jesus exercises His authority to forgive (v. 5)
Mark tells us that “when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.'” Can you imagine this scene? The paralytic is lowered down into this room full of pulled. A hush comes over this crowd as Jesus stands before the man. Then, when everyone expects Jesus to physically heal this man, Jesus declares that his sins are forgiven. This was an amazing declaration for several reasons. First, it reveals that this man’s spiritual need was more important
to Jesus than his physical needs. As much as this paralytic need to be healed from the physical malady causing his paralysis, he needed forgiveness even more. In fact, forgiveness is the greatest need for all mankind not just this man.
Second, this declaration was amazing because in it Jesus is asserting Divine authority to forgive sins. He is not simply stating the fact that this man’s sins were forgiven; Jesus is actually forgiving this man’s sins. As we will see in the following verses, this is exactly how the scribes in the crowd understood Jesus’ statement, and Jesus did not correct them. In other words, Jesus was not only declaring this man’s sins to be forgiven, he was also declaring himself to be God.
Remember, only God has the authority to forgive sins. It is against God that we have sinned, and for that sin we must be judged. We must face the consequences for our rebellion against God. But here Jesus is providing this man with forgiveness. He is releasing him from the eternal consequences of his sin and granting him a pardon. This would have been outrageous to the scribes in the crowd, especially since Jesus granted this man forgiveness based on faith rather than works. The scribes were more than just a little skeptical of Jesus’ assertion that He has the divine authority to forgive sins.
II. Jesus Authenticates His Authority to Forgive Sins (vv. 6-12)
a. Jesus’ authority is questioned (vv. 6-7)
Upon hearing Jesus declaration to this paralytic the scribes immediately questioned Jesus. Mark tells us that “the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like this? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'” The first thing that stands out in this verse about the scribes is that they were sitting! In a room so full of people that there was no more standing room, these men were sitting down. They had taken the places of honor. They were scribes of the law and religious authorities. They felt as if they deserved those seats above anyone else. Jesus would later warn of men like this in Mark 12:38-40 saying:
Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.
These men viewed themselves as the religious authority for the Jews (even above Scripture; cf. 7:1-13), and as such they were there to keep an eye on Jesus. There were concerned about His growing popularity, and they were
looking to find some fault with Him. Therefore, when Jesus declared to have the divine authority to forgive sins their hearts probably began to race. At a time when they should have been rejoicing over a sinner whose sins have been forgiven they immediately began to question Jesus’ statement in their hearts. They understood the implications of what Jesus had just said. He not only declared the paralytics sins to be forgiven, but He also declared that He had the same authority as God to forgive those sins. This was a major problem in their minds. Only God could forgive sins, and for anyone other than God to claim that authority it would be blasphemy.
At this point the scribes were probably starting to get excited. They had come to find fault with Jesus, and in their minds they probably thought that they had found it. Blasphemy was a capital offense that was punishable by death (Lv 24:10-16). In fact, this is the very charge that Jesus would ultimately be condemned of and put to death for (14:64). I can almost imagine the grins on the faces of these individuals as they thought that they had Jesus trapped. They did say a word to one another, and maybe no one else even noticed. But none of this escaped Jesus.