Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts?
Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God.
If there were ever an all-encompassing, brief description of what it means to be an Instigator, this selection recorded by Luke would be it.
Religious hypocrites use their arrogant skepticism to think down on Jesus (and all of us).
Jesus is God, so he knows all our thoughts (bad news for the wicked heart).
It is obviously easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ vs having a paraplegic stand up, let alone walk, under their own power. Jesus offers an obvious choice.
One thing we have to realize is that the religious folks in this event are not concerned for the man’s health or well-being in any way. They are religious, after all, they care about rules, public appearances and judging (as though God honors that; He does not). So naturally, they ignore the good work and service being done and ask a question only a troll could ask, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Saying you could forgive sins back then would earn you a death penalty (and for Jesus, it ultimately did). It was the same as claiming to be God because only God can forgive sins and by saying you can, you’re also saying you are God. Get it? Good.
[By the way, side note, for all you general religion studies people out there, this claim to be God is the one key factor that separates Jesus of Nazareth from all others in the arena of faith/religion. Please hear me clearly: NO ONE else in the history of any sort of faith or established religion has claimed to be God. Jesus did, and we all must make a decision about what we’re going to do about that. Feel free to email me any honest, inquiring questions/concerns you may have and I’ll be glad to have a reasonable, chill conversation. I will not argue about these things or entertain anyone with an antagonistic attitude… especially if you consider yourself a Christian.]
Here’s the attitude part: Remember, the leaders have not said a word yet – Jesus says, “…I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (that’s the set up).
And to demonstrate that he has the power of God within him to forgive sins, he actually does the “humanly” impossible thing in front of all their eyes (there were a bunch of people gathered). He has the paralyzed man stand up and walk, leaving the leaders speechless and the crowd utterly amazed, praising God for this event.
Think about this practically, there is no way to prove one’s sins are forgiven the way you can see with your eyes someone instantly healed of paralysis. The act of delivering healing offers the proof itself that “okay, this guy is for real because no human can do that”. And if he can do that, of course I’ll trust him to forgive my sins.
And because Jesus did the “harder” physical thing of miraculously healing this man, people believed and the religious leaders were shut up.
Jesus performed spiritual and mental jujitsu on the religious authorities regularly during his time on earth. This particular occurrence is my personal favorite because it is so clever. It’s also strong, brave, loving, dangerous, snarky, and pure. It’s God in a nutshell. And I really love that the Instigator nature of Jesus is on full display.
This breakdown is one you probably won’t hear in too many churches, especially the more formal or religious they are. But I assure you, it is purely God. It is who Jesus is.
You are made in God’s image. Jesus was involved in your creation, literally, in forming you in your mother’s belly.
I hope this short breakdown encourages you to let yourself be who God made you to be and stop shrinking back because someone in authoritative positions try to place you under their religious thumb.
This is not about being a rogue mercenary delivering street justice in God’s name while throwing a middle finger at “the man”. This is about standing strong with intelligence and wise judgment (discernment) for what is needed in a given situation.
Jesus demonstrates for us a perfect example of a good heart and a fiery attitude. He cared about the people who gathered to be ministered to by him and obviously the man he healed. He was not about to let the people continue being deceived and manipulated by the religious ones.
His fiery attitude was on full display in the way he spoke to and handled the authorities. Make no mistake, for the times these were, today we would say Jesus was “playing with fire”. The religious leaders ruled back then. And they did not play gently, especially when they were challenged.
Jesus led the way for us and he did it by example wherever he went, in everything he did and whomever he talked to.
Heart & Attitude are two of the premier defining characteristics of an Instigator. Stop apologizing for the tremendous gifts/tools God has given you. Your gifts are holy; never let anyone convince you otherwise. And never back down from doing the right thing, the right way, especially when it comes to helping or standing up for others. This is God’s will.