And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings. (Matthew 9:2-8 NRSV)
The scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy- that he is speaking and acting with irreverence for God by telling the paralytic that his sins are forgiven. After all, isn’t God the only One to forgive sins? So Jesus asks the scribes, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?” He then turns to the paralyzed man and immediately heals him. Jesus reveals how he does indeed have the power and the authority of God, not only to forgive sins but even to do miraculous works!
Jesus combined two blessings for the paralyzed man. He forgave him (an intangible blessing for his spirit) and then he healed him (a tangible blessing for his body). Today let’s reframe Jesus’ question for the scribes as a thought-provoking question for us. “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?”
Many wonderful aspects of our faith come from intangible, spiritual blessings. Through Christ we do have the gift of forgiveness, along with God’s presence in and among us, the closeness of kingdom living, the promise of life eternal. We have abiding peace beyond our understanding, radiant hope that endures through every darkness, surprising joy that bubbles up from within, and unconditional love that endures through all of life. We receive the fruits of the spirit as well as many other inner gifts of the soul.
So when we hope to share the love of Jesus with someone, we may be tempted to share our experiences of these intangible blessings, including the forgiveness of sins. It IS easier to say, “In Christ, your sins are forgiven” than it would be to say, “In Christ, stand up and walk.” These intangibles ARE rich blessings, and they ARE life-changing. We appreciate these gifts and want others to experience them through Christ, too.
But these gifts of our inner relationship with Christ will not mean much to someone who has very real and tangible needs. People probably won’t care that their sins are forgiven if they are still hungry, homeless, imprisoned, persecuted, sick or oppressed. To help others know the love of Jesus, we need to reach out to them with tangible acts of Jesus’ love, first and foremost. The rest of our story of life with Jesus and ALL of his blessings will come in time.
How can we help with healing today? We can work to heal broken relationships with forgiveness and understanding. We can help heal broken hearts with listening, empathy and tender care. We can help heal or slow diseases by providing clean water, mosquito netting, and vaccines. We can speak on behalf of someone who is being treated unjustly. We can work to create laws that uphold equal rights for all. We can comfort those who are grieving. We can feed the hungry, build shelters for the homeless, provide clothing for the destitute. Opportunities to help are all around us.
As we read on in the story, we see that the people “were filled with awe… and glorified God” after Jesus healed the paralyzed man. They saw the physical, tangible gift of healing through God’s power in Jesus. As the Body of Christ, we can continue his work to help heal our relationships, community and world. Working to make the love of Christ more visible to others may help lead others to embrace the life in Christ we cherish.
Are you talking to ME?
Today Jesus is asking, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?
Who might need the tangible love of Christ shown in your actions today? How might you demonstrate the healing power of God through your actions? What would be their biggest physical need? Are you open and available to be the presence of Christ when needed? Do you trust in the power of God’s loving, healing power in your own daily living? What spiritual blessing do you most appreciate today? What physical blessing? What do you most need from Jesus at this time?
Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’?