Summary: Jesus has the power to heal and the authority to forgive. But why did He forgive first?
"One day He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing. And some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in and to set him down in front of Him. But not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. Seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” The scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins have been forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? “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.” Immediately he got up before them, and picked up what he had been lying on, and went home glorifying God. They were all struck with astonishment and began glorifying God; and they were filled with fear, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.”"
C.H. MacKintosh wrote: “There is a great difference between a man ignorant of his sins and walking in self-complacency, and one deeply conscious of his sins, yet happy in the full forgiveness of them.”
At this point in His earthly ministry Jesus was gaining great popularity among the people. So much so that He was constantly surrounded by large numbers wanting healing or wanting to hear Him teach or just coming out of curiosity to see what the hullabaloo was about.
Hence the presence of the Pharisees and the Scribes. We’re told here that they came from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem itself. So it is reasonable to assume that on this particular occasion the crowd is largely made up of these religious leaders.
In fact it may interest you to note that if not for Matthew and Mark recording this same event and specifically mentioning the gathering of crowds of people – if we only had the Luke account, we might be led to believe this was a sort of Pastor’s conference. Luke says that Pharisees and Scribes gathered from all over Judea and Galilee and from Jerusalem, and that information alone would indicate that there was a very large gathering from the ecumenical community even apart from the residents of the region who were there. No wonder the men with the stricken friend couldn’t get close!
Now I want to point out also that these religious leaders had a duty to be there. It was their responsibility to protect their nation from heretics and false messiahs, so they needed to scrutinize the teachings and the claims of any man who came on the scene and began to draw a following. (Deut 13; 18:15-22) This was still very early in the ministry of Jesus and they were there to learn for themselves the veracity of the things they had been hearing about Him.
The problem was, by Jesus’ day they had become so encumbered in their religion with empty philosophies and traditions that they were rendered incapable of recognizing the true Messiah when He came.
Had their hearts been prepared to receive Him the very proximity of Him would have been enough to shake them out of the self-complacency MacKintosh mentioned, and cause them to see their own sin and seek forgiveness.
But as I said, this is early in the earthly ministry of Jesus, and not so early that nothing was known about His teaching and His activities; yet from even this early period these religious leaders were looking for ways to discredit Him, and it would not be long before they were looking for ways to kill Jesus as a false teacher.
BELIEVERS AND DOUBTERS
So here we have a very interesting scene set. The church did not exist yet but we do have a gathering, a very crowded gathering, to hear Jesus preach the word. That is language that Mark uses. “He was speaking the word to them”.
And it was also very much like the modern day church setting, in that the crowd consisted of some believers, and some doubters, ironically the most religious being the most vocal doubters, and people who came in faith to receive help from Jesus couldn’t get in church because the regulars were taking up all the space.