Focus on Jesus Series
Forgiveness, Sin and Sickness
by Ed Vasicek
At the time of Jesus, many Jewish rabbis (not all) and many people (not all) thought that sickness, particularly being born with a handicap, was an act of punishment from God for a specific sin. This was an old belief (see Job 4:7, 8:4, and the question of the disciples in John 9:1-2) and is held by many today, particularly those characterized by "folk religion." Whereas it is true that God is sovereign and He does not "pass the buck" of responsibility for disabilities, disability or illness is very often NOT a result of a specific sin, but is rather a result of the destructive power of sin that was unleashed when our first parents chose to rebel against God (see Romans 8:18-28). Sickness—and even death—can sometimes be a form of discipline (1 Corinthians 11:30). Our bodies are not yet redeemed (see Romans 8:23, a key verse), so we believers also groan with the rest of creation.
God does take the responsibility for allowing individuals to be handicapped, as seen in Exodus 4:11, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the Lord?"
At the same time, God frequently mentions that he will not specifically punish the sons for the sins of the fathers (Ezekiel 18). Parents may cause a handicap through their own sin or neglect (e.g., a mother who takes drugs gives birth to a child who is brain damaged), but parents who are not neglectful may also give birth to the handicapped.
The paralytic in today's sermon (Mark 2:1-12, Matthew 9:2-8, Luke 5:17-26) may have become paralyzed through an accident. The point is that, in the eyes of many people, his paralysis was a judgment for sin. If God forgave the sin, the man would be healed.
In today's texts, Jesus forgives the sin first, but the man is NOT healed. The Pharisees who had traveled from the South (Judea) into Galilee to check Jesus out were upset that Christ claimed to forgive this man's sins. Jesus did not offer to pray to God for this man's forgiveness, but pronounced forgiveness as a fact under His own authority. The Pharisees correctly believed that only God could forgive sin, and they were right. By claiming to have the authority to forgive sins, Jesus was claiming to be God.
But there is a problem. Forgiveness of sins is not something one sees. So, to prove His authority to forgive sin, Jesus tells the man to take up his stretcher and walk—and the man is healed! I am of the persuasion Jesus would have healed this man even if he were not trying to provide the Pharisees with evidence that He was the Messiah. But Jesus performed these two miracles in order of importance: forgiveness lasts for eternity and means everlasting life; healing lasts for only a time and, at death, is not relevant.
Today God cares about all our needs, but He emphasizes the spiritual over the physical: "For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." Have you come to Jesus for forgiveness? He died to provide it for you, and He lives to secure this forgiveness for you—if you will only trust Him as your Lord and Savior!
Highland Park Church
516 West Sycamore Street
Kokomo, Indiana, USA