And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “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?”
The obvious answer to these scribes’ unspoken question is, ‘No one’. Only God can truly forgive/erase sins. We humans can forgive each other when sinned against, but we cannot forgive the sins of another when the offense did not involve us. We call people crazy who claim to do such. This, however, is exactly what Jesus claims to do. He speaks forgiveness to this man He most likely has never seen before. ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ I can only imagine how confused the man might have been in the beginning.
If only God can forgive such sins then what exactly is Jesus saying? What claim is He making? By forgiving sins and referring to Himself as ‘the Son Of Man’, a prominent Old Testament reference to the Messiah, He claims to be God. It is an audacious statement and He makes it intentionally and publicly. Truly the scribes are right, only God can forgive sins. This is exactly who Jesus claims to be!
He follows this claim with an act of lesser mercy, in my opinion, but an act that brings physical wholeness to a cripple and demonstrates His authority over disease. He instantly and fully heals the man. The physical healing draws our attention and astounds the crowd, however, the greater miracle was done through the forgiveness Jesus spoke. Crippled legs can make this life quite difficult, yet, a heart diseased by sin lasts into eternity, unless the sin is wiped away by One who has authority to do such. Jesus wipes away the man’s sin and then heals his legs demonstrating through the lesser miracle His authority to perform the greater miracle. He has ultimate authority over both body and spirit.
Let there be no mistake: Jesus Christ claimed to be God – on the level of YHWH Himself. We are given the dignity of either accepting or rejecting this claim.