Early in his ministry (in Mark 2:9), Jesus asked some scribes a vital question—perhaps the most important question of his entire ministry—pertaining to the difficult nature of forgiveness. He asked, “Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and take your mat and walk’?”
Here is the context to the question: A paralyzed man was brought to Jesus to be healed, and Jesus began by forgiving the man’s sins.
The man’s paralysis was of immense concern. The man’s paralysis was most likely both new and life-threatening. The challenges of living long as a paralyzed person are difficult enough in our modern world, with the tremendous advancements of medical care. At the time of Jesus, it would have been unlikely for a paralyzed person to have been able to survive long. No wonder the paralyzed man’s friends were willing to take the desperate steps of ripping a hole in a homeowner’s roof in order to get their friend to Jesus.
By raising the question as to whether it is more difficult to heal a person of paralysis or to forgive a person’s sins, Jesus makes it clear that forgiveness of sins is also a matter of immense concern.
The question about the difficulty of forgiving sins is raised at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry; it is not answered until the end of his life.
As Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane prior to his arrest and crucifixion, he pleaded with God, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42). Luke tells us that he prayed in such agony that “his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44). Such agony gives evidence of how difficult it was going to be for Jesus to endure what it took to forgive our sins.
Upon the cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) Such anguish gives evidence of how difficult it was for Jesus to take upon himself the full calamity of our sins.
Because Jesus was willing to take on the great difficulty of forgiving sin, he was able to say to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). And he is able to say to us, “Beloved child, your sins are forgiven.”
These two matters (forgiveness and adoption as God’s own children) are inextricably bound together. “Inextricably” is defined as having to do with two or more items being “so involved that extrication is impossible” or to being so connected that they “cannot be disentangled.”
Forgiveness and adoption are so connected that they cannot be disentangled. Indeed, ancient Roman law stipulated that adoption involved the canceling of an adoptee’s previous debts.
Because of what Jesus was willing to endure on the cross for us, we are forgiven and we are adopted as God’s beloved children.