Which is easier? Which is more important?
These questions came to me in my heart this morning, when praying for the needs of loved ones and my various communities. The question took me back to the story of Jesus, saying this – “which is easier, to say ‘your sins are forgiven’, or to say, ‘get up and walk’?”
I was struck by how our attitudes and expectations in today’s world are so different now than for the people in Jesus’ day. I don’t see a great many physical healings in my own day-to-day life, but I do believe that Jesus still heals. But forgiveness – do we take forgiveness of sins for granted, maybe? Or do we know we are forgiven and other things become more important to us? How important is the forgiveness of my sins to me?
How important was it/ is it to Jesus? Is that not why He came and died on the cross?
In this account, Jesus had healed many people and had driven out evil spirits and that’s why He had attracted such a crowd, so that people had come from all over, to hear Him speak and to bring the sick to Him… and hence, these 4 friends had faith to bring their paralysed friend directly to Jesus and to lower him through the roof… They expected Him to heal the paralysed man – straight up – but what they didn’t expect, was what He said instead – “Friend, your sins are forgiven”. I wonder how I would have felt, if I’d gone to all that trouble and heard Jesus say that? I wonder how they felt? That wasn’t why they’d brought him to Jesus and the religious were shocked and indignant – “Nobody but God can forgive sins,” they complained… which is why He said it – so they would “know that the Son of Man has power to forgive sins”!
Imagine yourself there in the story as you read it – become one of the friends, or one of the crowd!
Luke 5:17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.
18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus.
19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?
23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.
26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
Am I “amazed” and in “awe” of His forgiveness and do I still consider it more “remarkable” than miracles of healing?
We Christians know today that Jesus came to take away our sins, but I think that I largely take that for granted many days. I know it and am grateful, but the initial impact that forgiveness had, has worn off a bit – a bit like the “first love” feeling.
In the society that Jesus lived in the flesh, forgiveness was a cause for sacrifice, blood and ritual, but for me, it is not such a substantial much a part of my day to day or religious life, despite frequent celebration of Communion/Eucharist. Of course I am aware of my sinful nature, every day, and I ask for forgiveness at least daily, and keep “short accounts” with God – “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” (Psalm 139:23)
But the people in that place and time came to Jesus for physical healings, and for their material needs to be met, and for His teaching; and I think that more often than not, that is when I cry out to Jesus – when I or my friend is sick, when I need to see a miracle of provision for the hungry and the needy, or when I have questions and seek answers from the Word of Truth. My focus is often temporal.
“Which is easier?” You said.
I, of course, will die one day. The poor we will ‘always have with us’. Our sufferings are “light and momentary” in comparison with the joy of eternity. But I am here now and concerned with health and wealth, and the things of my humanity press on me on a daily basis; and You know this Lord, so when You lived among us in the flesh, You had compassion to ease some of these burdens. You healed, You fed and You loved and provided for those You met. And I long to see lots more of those temporal miracles in the world around me. You know what is important to me and You care about every tiny detail. Thank You.
Which is easier? To make sandwiches for the hungry in my community or to forgive my enemies; to forgive the one who abused me or my beloved? Which is easier? To feed and respect the dirty man in the doorway, or to throw him some change and pray for him? Which is easier? To come alongside and speak out for those without a voice, or to forgive the oppressor? He went on to expand this truth of forgiveness by describing the call of Levi, the tax-collector. Everybody hates tax-collectors, right? (Or maybe the corrupt politicians are today’s equivalent.) Where is the cross I am called to carry?
I am challenged by these questions and by Him who said of His murderers and mockers “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing!”
Which is easier and Which is more important? You came to earth, not primarily to feed us and cure our diseases, but to forgive us and to offer us reconciliation with our heavenly Father and offer us everlasting life. Forgiveness was not easier for You. You paid the greatest price. You gave up everything to become as nothing – despised and rejected and crucified with the weight of the sin of mankind! That was not easy. I think the reality of what you did is largely beyond my comprehension. I am truly grateful, but the words I use, or my feelings, cannot do justice to the enormity of the reality. That was the greatest miracle of all time!!!
I ask that I will always have before me what is most important for You – the eternal – that forgiveness, reconciliation and Salvation of our eternal spirit, for which You gave Your all, is the most important thing on Your compassionate, merciful heart and plan. I ask that I will have the humility to accept my cross and to forgive those who most challenge me. May I work with You intentionally to promote not only good works, but though it, your Good News, for Your Glory.