Thursday 07 January 2016

Bible Book:

“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (vv. 5-7)

Psalm: Psalm 4


The Son of Man (verse 10) is a phrase used in all four Gospelsby Jesus of himself. Only once (John12:34) is it used by anyone else and then it is the crowd whoare asking who this Son of Man is. Scholars have long debated whatJesus meant by adopting this term. Was it merely a way of saying'I, a mortal', as it is when God addresses Ezekiel as 'ben adam'(Ezekiel 2:1)? Was he identifying himself withthe one who comes at the end of time and who, after suffering, willgovern the new order with the saints of the Most High (Daniel7:13)? Was it a straightforward claim to be God's Messiah?


The appearance of this phrase, "Son of Man" in this story aboutforgiveness of sins makes the questions sharper. Is Jesus claimingthat any person has the authority to forgive sins (verse 10)? IsJesus thereby declaring himself to be God's Messiah - for who canforgive sins except God alone (verse 7)? Is Jesus claiming that,not everyone, but those with a vocation to be the saints of theMost High (like himself) have the power to forgive?

The weight of evidence is that Jesus was using this phrase torefer to himself as 'I' - but not as a Messianic claim - for whilsthe goes to strenuous efforts to prevent people and demons fromproclaiming him the Messiah (eg Mark1:34; 8:30), Jesus is quite happy to this term ofhimself. However, it seems unlikely that Jesus' contemporaryhearers could have heard the phrase, "Son of Man", without hearingin it the rich associations from Daniel 7 - a vision which waswidely known at the time. In using such an enigmatic phrase,however, it seems that Jesus was not so much claiming a title, asevoking resonances of prophetic calling, of the mission of God'sobedient people, of the possibility of suffering for the faithful,of final vindication, and that he was identifying himself withinthat tradition. At the same time, Jesus was adding a furtherresonance by his actions: that the mission of God's obedient peoplewill from now on involve the work of setting people free from theirsins.

To Ponder

  • The Church has long debated who has the power to forgive sinsor to declare God's forgiveness of sins. Who do you think has theauthority to do this?
  • What experience do you have of receiving forgiveness? What werethe effects on you?
  • How might Christians be better at helping each other to hearthe good news that our sins are forgiven?
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