When someone does me injury, it is within my power to become angry and stay that way. Or, I can forgive him his offense against me. When I do wrong to another, the injured party has the same choices. Governments may punish or acquit, but no third party has authority to forgive - that is something that only the offended party can do. Similarly, when I or anyone else sin against God, only He has the authority and the power to punish or forgive. It would seem that the Catholic Church agrees with this:
Well, that certainly is biblical. Surely no evangelical, even classic Fundamentalists such as myself ,would find fault with this teaching. Unfortunately, Catholic soteriological doctrine doesn't leave well enough alone. It seems, according to Romish teaching, that God delegated authority to the Catholic Church, through her priests, to forgive sin.
My friend Randy Davis wrote a piece on the forgiveness of sin. He built his article on the foundation of Luke 5:17-26. Check it out.
What We All Need
By Randy Davis
It must have been one of those hot, Palestinian days, the kind of day where the heat drains the soul as well as one’s strength. Jesus was speaking in a home. You have seen pictures of those homes. They were adobe-like houses made of rusty tan mud brick. The windows were open with lattice work to provide some semblance of privacy. Most homes were made of four rooms. One would be a large living area and the others might be bed rooms or other kind of rooms, even storage rooms and stables for animals. On the outside of the house would have been a set of stairs that led to the roof. The roof would have been made of mud tiles. It would have provided a cool place in the evening for the family to send time together, to discuss things and to even read Scripture if such scrolls were available to them. The roof would have also been the place to sleep on those hot evenings in hopes of a cool breeze that made the night time manageable.
We find Jesus in such a house. We do not know where. It probably was in the region of Galilee. The house is packed with people who had come to hear Jesus. I cannot imagine the congestion of such a place. Every space to sit was gone. There was no standing room. You could not easily walk out of the house. If you were inside you were trapped until the meeting was over. Jesus was in the middle of them, probably sitting on the floor, teaching with such spellbinding power that they were more than willing to sit in that claustrophobic space.
There were three kinds of people there that day. There were ordinary people who had come to hear Jesus. The word about Jesus had spread to every village and every town from Damascus to Jerusalem. They heard several things about him. He was a teacher who taught things never before heard. Some thought he was the Messiah, though, they did not know what that meant. Others heard that Jesus was as miracle worker. While people might get excited about a preacher if he was good enough, people would come from miles around for a good show. Unfortunately that is how many saw Jesus. They came to see what he would do next. He had been known to heal the sick, to make the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, the blind to see. Sometimes he used mere words. Other times he would rub mud in their eyes or stick his finger in their ear. Some said that he had even raised people from the dead. If such a man was in your area, would you maybe go and see? Was he like the fellows we see on TV who claim they can heal the sick and raise the dead? Was he a charlatan? Was he like these guys who blow on folk and they fall down? Was he a con man? Some did not care. They came to see the show.
There was another group of people in that house that day. These were the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. They came not to be entertained but to test and to expose. They came from Galilee and Judea and even from Jerusalem. The reputation of Jesus had spread far and wide and it alarmed them. Who was this Jesus and what did he think he was doing? He taught without a license. He had not been to Rabbi school. He had not sat at their feet to learn the tricks of the trade. He had not learned to repeat their wisdom. Yet, he taught as one with authority, not even citing a single Rabbi or teacher. They came to hear his words. They came to scrutinize his every remark, his every action. They came to expose the latest heretic of the day. After all, it was their job. They were supposed to protect the people.
Luke does not tell us when this happened. We don’t know if it was early or late. We do not know what exactly Jesus was teaching. What the text does say is that “the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.” Something was about to happen.
There was a third group who was there. Some of this type might have been sitting in the crowd. But, these five were outside and could not get in. There were four who carried a fifth on a pallet. The fifth man was not able to walk. He was paralyzed. These men were a little more certain about their mission than the others. They came to Jesus because they were certain he could heal their friend. They proved this by their determination that this man should be seen by Jesus. They went up on the roof and they removed the tile and they dug into the Adobe roof until they had an opening large enough. And they lowered their friend who was lying on his pallet until he was lying at the feet of Jesus.
The dust was swirling and bits and pieces were still falling when Jesus and this man were made center stage. The text says that Jesus, seeing their faith, responded to him. In the past, when I read this passage, I assumed that “their faith” referred to the four who brought the man. But, I think I may have been wrong. He did not say “seeing the four men’s faith” It was simply, “their faith.” The four carried their friend by faith. But I think this man went by faith as well. He wanted; he needed to see Jesus.
Jesus, seeing their faith said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” What a strange thing to say. This man could not walk, he was dramatically let down through the roof to the feet of Jesus because he was paralyzed. But, Jesus forgives him of his sin. All we can assume is, Jesus knew the needs of the man better than the man himself. Whether or not he walks again was not of ultimate importance. The days to walk are limited to us all. But what was and is ultimately important is that we are right with God; that we are forgiven of our sins. I am not saying that healing the man was nothing, but Jesus looks at the big picture and what he needed most was to be forgiven.
Some in the crowd went nuts because what Jesus said was positively scandalous. This was precisely why the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law needed to come, to root out and confront such blasphemy. As they said, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”
And that is the crux of this scene. This event forces us to ask the same question, who is this man Jesus that he forgives sin? Jesus answers them by another act, a sign of who he is. Forgiveness of sin they cannot see, how can they look in the annals of heaven and see the words “forgiven” in God’s book? “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,' or to say, 'Get up and walk?’” It is just as easy to say either isn’t? “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, get up, and pick up your stretcher and go home.” It took everyone’s breath away at once. What a command! At once, the text says, he got up and took his pallet and went home glorifying God.
Jesus answered their question. He was not a charlatan, a fake, or a fraud. He was not an egomaniac or a crazy man or a demon from hell. He was and is the God who forgives sin.
Today that same Jesus comes to us through the power of the Holy Spirit, the third member of the Trinity. And we have many needs that we could wish him to heal. But what we need most of all is to be forgiven. Our sins are such burdens to us. They drag us down, and cause us to live life as in the shadows. Even if we can pretend that life is okay, we know better. Sin is the one and only barrier between God and us and between others and us. Surely we need to forgive others because we too are sinners. But, God forgives because he is the Just God and has the power to make us right in his courts. God forgives us, not because he has to or needs to, but because he loves us.
We all have many wants. But, what we all need is to be forgiven of our sins.
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