23 Oct 2022
“Jesus entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus, seeing their faith, said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” (St. Matthew 9:1-8)
The man Jesus cures is sick of the palsy. Palsy is a general term which can refer to various types of paralysis. In the Bible it seems to be used for types of conditions having to do with motor control or lack of feeling. He is lying on his bed and has been carried to Jesus by his friends.
This gospel story is letting us in on the deeper sense of forgiveness that is going on with Jesus having come into our world. Forgiving the man’s sins may be something the cynical scribes can’t see, but they cannot fail to recognize him being healed of the palsy! He gets up and walks away as Jesus has directed him to do. Jesus is pointing out to the scribes and the other witnesses that the Son of Man has been given great power, not just to heal the sick, but to free mankind from its sins. The curing of the man with the palsy is pointing us to the passion of Christ for Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of sins.
Indeed, who can forgive sins but God? For we fallen humans this renewal means a new life, a new start. The old person is released; the new one looks toward eternal life with God in His many mansions. It is Jesus who restores mankind in righteousness, but the price is high—it requires His Passion and Death. There is thus nothing trivial about God’s forgiveness. It is not a simple, mechanical act of God. The sacrifice is great as the burden of mankind’s sin (past, present, and future) is great. Look around: see how it grows even today.
And how about our own acts of forgiveness? We often hear, “I forgive, but I can’t forget.” I think we know that this is no real forgiveness at all. The original wrong is like a bleeding wound for the two people. True forgiveness must come from the heart. Often, forgiveness requires sacrifice on our part. It may be an act of humility. It may be an act of sadness and disappointment. It must be an act of sincerity. How often does Jesus say we should forgive those who offend us? Are we able to live to the standard he has set for us?
Our acts of forgiveness are a reflection of the forgiveness we receive from God because of what the Lord completed on the Cross for us. At the moment of his dying, he prayed “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” How often we still do not realize or take into account the many troubles our actions produce.
But here in the Anglican Church Worldwide, we constantly pray for God’s forgiveness for others as well as ourselves. The Lord has asked us to keep this always before our eyes. We come to Him who sacrificed everything for us, and we come to Holy Communion so that we can know that our sins are truly forgiven.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins