Epiphany 7
Series B
Mark 2:7
February 20, 2000
If Only God Can Forgive

Of all the types of people that Jesus encountered, there was but one class that Jesus never got along with…the clergy! The scribes, however, in this instance were right: Only GOD can forgive sins. When a minister pronounces absolution, we know he is not forgiving us but he is speaking on behalf of God. The pastor must say “In the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ your sins are forgiven”.  God is forgiving us, “through the pastor’s words”.  When we admit that only God can forgive, we must face up to certain implications of that fact.  This morning, let’s consider what it means that only God can forgive.

If only God can forgive…

1.      If only God can forgive…All sins are committed against God. Are we are so quick to want to be first in line when it comes to naming the list of grievances of those offenses and persons who have sinned against us?  This miracle should make us take notice that as Jesus alone has the power to forgive it most certainly stands to reason that we have sinned against Him. The psalmist David points this out when he says “Against Thee, Thee only, I have sinned, and done what is evil in Thy sight, so that Thou art justified when Thou dost speak, and blameless when Thou dost judge. “ (Psalm 51:4)   To become reconciled to our neighbor we first must become reconciled before God for our offense is primarily directed at Him. When we sin against a neighbor we first and foremost sin against our neighbor.

2.      If only God can forgive…When we forgive, the Spirit of God in us does it. Often we are called upon to forgive the wrong of someone who has sinned against us.  How easy is it for us to forgive? It is impossible for us to forgive.  It is against our nature.  As lost creatures we are not only capable of living perfect lives it is against our basic nature to do what only God can do.  Therefore, if we are to forgive from the heart, as we must, it will take God working in us to forgive.  May we continue to pray that petition that the Lord has taught us which says “And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. When we are called upon to forgive ask the Savior to forgive through you.

3.      If only God can forgive…Jesus is the Son of God with the authority of God to forgive and heal. Jesus performs a miracle to demonstrate His authority to forgive. In the minds of the scribes, it was easy to forgive but impossible to make a paralytic walk. If Jesus has the authority to heal, He has the authority to forgive because the power and authority have but one source – God. This claim to be Son of Man with divine authority to forgive was blasphemy to the scribes which was the final reason for the cross.

The religious leaders sit in the scoffer’s seat and question Jesus right to forgive.  They did not speak their questions but they asked them in their minds. Jesus knew this and exposed their thoughts to answer their questions. Certainly the scribes were right in holding that only God can forgive.  If Jesus forgives, could He not be God’s Son? Questioning with malice results in no good, but honest and opening questioning leads to truth.

Not all appreciate the forgiveness of sins. Satan directs their attention to other things. People are too concerned with the body.  Many doubt God’s love for them. Sickness suggests that God is angry. On the other hand, some are able to suffer pain cheerfully, committing themselves completely into the hands of the Lord. Still they need comfort and encouragement to continue doing what the Spirit enables them to do.

May we be like these compassionate friends who brought their friend to find in Jesus the health and the strength that only He could give.

Conclusion:  Upon seeing this paralyzed man get up and walk the people exclaimed “We have never seen anything like this!”  May this be our reaction in witnessing the healing power of the Savior in our lives as well.  He is the one who is able to save and redeem us.  He is the one who forgives. He is the one who extends to us His mercies new each day.

+ Soli Deo Gloria+