When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
- Mark 2:5-7
Today’s passage is riddles with little theological conundrums.
Two that jump out to us are the phrase “When Jesus saw their faith” and the timing of Jesus’ offer of forgiveness.
Jesus looked at the faith of the friends and, in response to that, spoke a word of forgiveness to the paralyzed man. Jesus welcomes each and every one of us to have a personal relationship with him. But what role does our community, our church, our friendships play in the formation of that relations? We stand on the edge of a great mystery in today’s text: the faith of a community prompts God to forgive a particular individual.
How can this be?
The next puzzle has to do with the timing of Jesus’ offer of forgiveness. Mark’s Gospel will go on to tell us how Jesus must lay down his life and rise again from the dead in order to heal and liberate us from our sins. His death and resurrection make forgiveness possible, according to the Christian story. But in today’s passage, Jesus just speaks and forgiveness takes place. No death. No resurrection.
How can this be?
We mention these theological conundrums not to answer them but to give you a sense of what the “teachers of the law” and the broader crowd might have experienced when they heard Jesus say: “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
Some would have been frustrated by what they would have perceived to be the wrongness of Jesus’ teaching. Others would have been confused (“What does he mean by that?”). Still others would have rolled their eyes as the theological war drums started to bang.
What do you do when you bump into things Jesus says or does that you don’t approve of, don’t understand, or don’t enjoy? What do you think a healthy engagement from the crowd would have looked like? How can you engage in healthy ways with theological conundrums?