When He had come back to Capernaum several days afterward, it was heard that He was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room, not even near the door; and He was speaking the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to Him a paralytic, carried by four men. 4 Being unable to get to Him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above Him; and when they had dug an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic was lying. 5 And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 But some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Get up, and pick up your pallet and walk’? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic, 11 “I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.” 12 And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this.” Mark 2:1-12 (NASB)
My awesome wife Betty and I were discussing this passage, which is one of our favorites, after we read it and then heard it preached in a sermon the same day. Betty gets the credit (and of course the Holy Spirit!) for seeing this little gem!
When Jesus asks “which is harder”, to them and to us, it is harder to say “pick up your pallet and walk.” Anyone can say “your sins are forgiven”, and who knows what happens when we say so? But to say “pick your pallet and walk”, either they actually do walk, or you are very distinctly a liar. Since we are all ignorant and all fools, and we do not know what forgiveness is, we assume it is easier. We assume you have some kind of unforgiveness against someone, and you just stop having it. He asks them which is harder, because he knows that if He does this miracle, no one will then question Him about His authority to forgive, because the miracle seems the harder trick. We can tell this is true even with this religious crowd, because once He did the miracle, everyone marveled and no one challenged His authority to declare forgiveness. The crowd believed that healing is harder.
However, from Jesus’ point of view, it is the opposite. It is easy to say “walk”, and He did these miracles daily with little cost to Himself besides a bit too much publicity. However, when He asks, “which is harder”, He knew the cost of the man’s forgiveness. He knew that in order to declare forgiveness for this man, the cost would be His own blood. Forgiveness for Jesus is much harder than healing him. What a powerful thing for the One who would die for the man to ask, “which is harder”, to these scoffing fools. They had no idea the cost. Yet Jesus catered to their weakness and performed this healing for their benefit, so they could believe in His authority to forgive.
What a savior! What thrilling authority and unfailing perfection of heart! What genius and sacrifice and power! Praise Him!