INI + AMEN.
Can men forgive sins or not? Or can “only God forgive sins” (Mk 2:7)? The answers to these questions should be very easy, especially considering our Gospel text today. But just because something should be easy, doesn’t mean it is. “Should” and reality aren’t always the same thing. And sadly that’s the case with this question: can men forgive sins or not?
Now, forgiveness of sins isn’t earned by the person receiving it. For it to be forgiveness it’s gotta be free, otherwise it’s not really forgiveness at all, but rather reward. And forgiveness is always delivered in the present tense. It may have been purchased and won at some earlier point, but forgiveness is always delivered in the here and now, otherwise, again, it’s not really forgiveness.
((3. Can Jesus forgive sins?))
Can men forgive sins or not? Well, first, let’s see what we’re confronted with in our text, and answer a different question. Can Jesus forgive sins or not? Remember: if this were a healing text, Jesus would’ve just healed the paralytic. Instead Jesus is there to change the paralytic’s universe, his eternity: “Your sins are forgiven.”
Can Jesus forgive sins? Of course He can and does. He’s God! God can do that sort of thing. “With You there is forgiveness, therefore You are trusted,” as the Psalmist praises. Since Jesus is God, there’s only one forgiveness: His! His cross-won, empty-tomb-guaranteed forgiveness.
Jesus purchased forgiveness by shedding His blood and giving His body into death, and He delivers that forgiveness in the present tense. In our text, He delivers that cross-won forgiveness ahead of time by speaking the “harder” word of forgiveness to the paralytic. It’s “harder” for Jesus to say, “You’re forgiven,” because, by saying it, Jesus must then “be crucified under Pontius Pilate, suffer, die,” and be “buried.”
((2. Can “men” forgive sins?))
Can Jesus forgive sins? Yes! But now to our pressing question: can men forgive sins or not? Well, many people and many Christians say, “Absolutely not! Men can’t forgive sins. Only God can do that!” But then what in the world are the crowds glorifying God for in our text? “The crowds glorified God who’d given such authority to men.” What authority? To heal? To make Scribes angry? No! The authority to forgive sins.
The crowds were amazed at Jesus’ statement, “The Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins.” So where are sins to be forgiven, according to Jesus? Here and now—“on the earth.” And Jesus isn’t just forgiving this paralytic’s sins as God, but He’s doing it as a man. It’s why He says, “The Son of Man has authority.” The crowds get it: God’s forgiveness isn’t off somewhere to be earned. It’s delivered, “on the earth,” and the authority to do it has been “given to men.”
Jesus does give it to men, His men, His pastors. So, I can say, “By the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you.” As Jesus says in John 20: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven.” So Jesus not only shed His blood, suffered, died, and rose for all your sins, but He also delivers that forgiveness right to you, into your ears, with the absolution that’s spoken by me, your pastor. Forgiveness isn’t earned by anything except by Jesus’ death and resurrection, and forgiveness isn’t delivered right to you except by the Word and authority that Jesus gives.
So, can men forgive sins? Yes! Unless, of course, Jesus is wrong both in our Gospel today and in John 20.
((1. Can you forgive sins?))
But we’ve only partially answered our question: can men forgive sins or not? You see “men” certainly includes Jesus’ sent men—His pastors. But it’s more than that, too. Always more with Jesus’ forgiveness! So, let’s ask another question: can you forgive sins or not?
According to our text, yes! You can forgive sins and should. You can absolutely speak Jesus’ forgiveness to those around you. When someone wrongs you, don’t just say, “It’s okay.” You can and should say, “I forgive you.” Let’s practice that. Repeat after me: “I forgive you.” Again: “I forgive you.” One more time, “I forgive you.”
Yeah, but “should” and reality sadly aren’t always the same. We should forgive those around us, but often we don’t. We hold grudges. We withhold forgiveness. Maybe not openly, but certainly within our hearts we do. We should say, “I forgive you” and mean it because we’re not just giving our own personal forgiveness. We’re actually delivering Jesus’ forgiveness.
“But you don’t know what they did to me, pastor.” Did Jesus die for that sin? Does He forgive it? So, why are you withholding Jesus’ forgiveness? Jesus put you there to deliver His forgiveness to that person. Withholding forgiveness from someone doesn’t show you’ve got a problem with that person, it shows you’ve actually got a problem with Jesus who shed His blood for that person, for that sin, and who wants His forgiveness delivered to them through you. We should confess our getting in the way of Him who died for us and for all and even for “that” person.
And this is why Jesus does what He does. He died for all your sins, but thankfully He even died for your withholding forgiveness. He showers forgiveness upon you here and now through me, that you would shower it upon those around you. It’s all Jesus’ death and resurrection, all His forgiveness. For you. To you. Through you.
Can Jesus forgive sins? Yes. Can men, His men, forgive sins? Yes. Can even you forgive sins? Yes! Jesus suffered, died, and rose to purchase and win the forgiveness of sins for you, but His forgiveness must also be delivered. Forgiveness of sins is present tense—always present tense.
That’s why Jesus showed up in Capernaum for the paralytic. It’s why Jesus called and sent me to you. It’s why you are where you are in life. JESUS’ FORGIVENESS IS MEANT TO BE DELIVERED, AND IS! From Jesus, to you, through you, too.
Can men forgive sins or not? Absolutely yes! JESUS’ FORGIVENESS IS MEANT TO BE DELIVERED, AND IS! Some people won’t like it. They’ll say, “only God can forgive sins” (Mk 2:7), which is exactly what the Scribes said!
Forgiveness is here and now, your daily life sort of stuff because JESUS’ FORGIVENESS IS MEANT TO BE DELIVERED, AND IS! From Jesus, through you, but also to you. And so: “By the command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” AMEN.