In today’s gospel Jesus when a paralytic’s friend bring him to Jesus, the first response is: “‘Child, your sins are forgiven. Now some of the scribes were sitting there asking themselves, ‘Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?‘” (Mark 2:5-7). They understood exactly Jesus’ claim. They didn’t accept that Jesus could forgive sins, but they completely understood what Jesus was saying. The Pharisees had been taken to the crossroads with three choices. Jesus was either liar, lunatic or Lord. They were not leaning towards option #3.Here in the first week of Ordinary Time the gospel accounts for daily Mass always focus on the beginning of the public ministry of Jesus. In a way, the Christmas season are accounts of others testifying about Jesus and his identity, culminating in the witness of John the Baptist. But now the accounts are Jesus giving witness to his identity as Lord and Savior in the healing and restoring of people, the demonstrations of power over nature, casting out demons, and his power over death. Today’s story is a great example of that.
I love Jesus’ response. First, he knows what they are thinking in their hearts. Next, he says:
“Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, pick up your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth”— he said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.’ He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone. They were all astounded and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this.‘” (Mark 2:7-10)
A lunatic or liar could not have done that. The Lord could have. I am always optimistic that the Pharisees were “astounded and glorified God” and became those choosing option #3.
I always find it interesting that today many people will will use the testimony of Scripture to hold Jesus in great esteem as a preeminent moral teacher and yet not accept him as Lord. Use Scripture selectively, that is. But in the witness of the whole of Scripture, If he is not Lord, then he is liar or lunatic. I don’t think that is a great foundation for being a moral teacher.
Either trust the testimony of Scripture and the witness of changed lives throughout the millennia, or perhaps seek out another moral teacher who doesn’t make such outrageous claims. The power and authority to forgive sins? Really? …. actually, yes, really. But then I took option #3.