Wednesday, May 30, 2018

The One Who Forgives

"The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:21).

Luke 5:17–26 tells us a story of some men who lowered a paralytic through a roof so that Jesus could heal him. When Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” This deeply offended the Pharisees, who recognized that Jesus was claiming divine prerogatives.

As it is practiced by Roman Catholic priests, in the sacrament of penance, after the penitent has confessed his or her sin, the priest says, “Te absolvo,” which means “I absolve you.” This offends some Protestants, but in fact, there is nothing objectionable in it. The Roman Catholic Church has always maintained that this formula is simply an assurance of Christ’s pardon, and it is no different from the assurance of pardon that Protestant ministers give after the confession of sin in worship. 

Christ has given the keys of the kingdom to the church, to give assurance of His pardon to all those who confess their sin. The problem that the Protestant Reformers had with the “sacrament of penance” lay over different issues.

But, at this point in history, Christ had not yet given this privilege to His church. The Pharisees were right: Only God can forgive sins, and at this point in time, no man had the right to grant absolution. If Jesus had not been God incarnate, He would surely have been guilty of blasphemy.

Jesus confronted their question directly. He said. “That you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” and then turned and said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately the man arose and went home, praising God.

We have no reason to think that this man was paralyzed as a direct result of some personal sin, but we do know that the crippling of any human being is a result of Adam’s sin. The only reason why Jesus could heal people was because He had come primarily to deal with sin.

By removing sin, Jesus laid the foundation for the healing of humanity. Here on earth, God frequently calls His children to suffer, but we know that in the Resurrection we shall be restored to fullness of health and life. Meanwhile, Christians have a duty to bring healing, including physical healing, to the world.