Teaching a group which included Pharisees and teachers of the law, Jesus is presented with a man who was paralysed. Trying to find a way to bring him to Jesus, his friends let him down on the stretcher through the roof tiles. Then, we read this:
“When Jesus saw their faith he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” Then the experts in the law and the Pharisees began to think to themselves, “Who is this man who is uttering blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” When Jesus perceived their hostile thoughts, he said to them, “Why are you raising objections within yourselves? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand 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 paralyzed man —“I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher and go home.” Immediately he stood up before them, picked up the stretcher he had been lying on, and went home, glorifying God. Then astonishment seized them all, and they glorified God. They were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen incredible things today.””
(Luke 5.20-26, NET)
Building from yesterday’s ceremonial and physical healing (5.12-16), today Jesus again heals physically (“I tell you, stand up, take your stretcher and go home.”) and also ceremonially/spiritually (“Friend, your sins are forgiven.”).
Perhaps these two healing events happened close together chronologically and perhaps they didn’t (cf. 5.17). Perhaps Luke is actually making a point that Jesus truly does heal both ceremonially and physically. This time there are religious leaders present and the stakes are higher, so to speak, because they’re watching, evaluating, and scrutinising.
So, would a liar or lunatic pronounce sins as forgiven? The religious leaders actually asked a valid (albeit strongly worded) question when they said
“Who is this man who is uttering blasphemies?
Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Jesus perceived their hostile thoughts and then proceeded to prove that He was not lying, nor was He speaking in a way that didn’t correspond to reality, and neither was He blaspheming. By next healing the man physically, something which (outwardly) is far harder than to simply pronounce sins forgiven, Jesus proves that He does in fact have the power to do both. He proves, again, that He is not a liar, or a lunatic, but is Lord. John A. Martin wrote this:
“His subsequent healing of the man was incontrovertible proof that He did have the authority … to forgive sins and therefore should be accepted as God.
Anyone could say, Your sins are forgiven. In that sense it was easier than saying, Get up and walk, for if He did not have the power to heal, all would know it immediately.”
Jesus stands ready to offer you the same forgiveness. The first step, as Martin wrote, is to accept Him as God. Accept who He is, accept what He has done, and accept the healing He offers.