Authority to Forgive Sin
After Jesus healed the leper, we read in Luke 5:15, 16,
15 But the news about Him was spreading even farther, and great multitudes were gathering to hear Him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16 But He Himself would often slip away to the wilderness and pray.
Those who do miracles invariably find that their time is under constant demand, due to the urgency of the requests. Luke, however, inserts a statement here to show that Jesus knew how to balance the demands of ministry with time alone spent in prayer.
17 And it came about one day that He was teaching; and there were some Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting there, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.
This seems to have occurred on a specific day, not just “one day.” John Lightfoot says that the Hebrew phrase on which this is based means “on a certain day” or “on a certain time.” In other words, it implies a holy day, or feast day, making the following miracle a sign of greater things to come when that feast day is fulfilled historically.
The power inherent in all of the feast days had already been appropriated by Jesus, who used that power to extend the Kingdom of God in His ministry. But the historic fulfillment of those feast days had not yet occurred. There is also much overlap in the power of the feast days.
Healing the leper, for example, was based largely on the power of Passover, as we have seen already. Hence, when Isaiah speaks of the Messiah’s death in Isaiah 53, he shows the power of Passover to heal, saying, “by His scourging we are healed.” Both the wave-sheaf offering and the feast of Trumpets speak prophetically of the resurrection of the dead—the first of Christ’s resurrection, the second of our own as it applies to the rest of the body.
A leper’s healing, then, can be attributed to the power of a combination of all of these feasts. The leper was not only healed, but also restored to life, because leprosy was a type of mortality, or death. Healing leprosy, then, is about achieving immortality.
So also is it with the next miracle of healing. Hence, it becomes difficult to pinpoint the “certain day” on which this miracle took place. Luke 5:17 says literally, “the mighty power of the Lord was on him to cure” (Emphatic Diaglott). The Greek word for “physician,” as it was used in Luke 4:23, is from iatros. This word is derived from the root word iaomai, which means “to cure or heal.” A physician, then, is a healer.
Yet as we will see, this particular miracle brings Pentecost into the forefront, supported by the power of Passover and Trumpets.
The Paralytic Man Healed
Luke 5:18-20 says,
18 And behold, some men were carrying on a bed a man who was paralyzed; and they were trying to bring him in, and to set him down in front of Him. 19 And not finding any way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down through the tiles with his stretcher, right in the center, in front of Jesus. 20 And seeing their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.”
We learn here that Jesus was teaching in a packed house (not the synagogue), probably in Capernaum. People from Judea, Jerusalem, and every town in Galilee were there. Many of them had been sent to represent their home towns to investigate the rumors that they had heard about Jesus. The paralytic man may have been carried for some distance when he arrived on a stretcher. He was late for the meeting, and because of the crowd, there seemed to be no way to obtain an audience with Jesus.
It was probably the paralytic man’s idea to come down through the roof, since it was his faith that Jesus recognized in verse 20. He also had the most to lose by remaining outside of the house.
Insofar as this was an example of healing in general, as well as the forgiveness of sin, it expresses the power of Passover. In that the man was raised up to stand on his feet (Luke 5:24), it suggests the power of the wave-sheaf offering and more specifically of the feast of Trumpets. Yet in the fact that He was lowered through the roof, it suggests the power of Pentecost.
If we may assume that this incident took place at a house in Capernaum, the name of the town itself suggests Pentecost and Tabernacles. These are feasts that prophecy of the power of the Holy Spirit, the lesser and greater measures given to accomplish the first and second works of Christ. Capernaum is a compound Hebrew word. Kaphar means “atonement, covering, shelter” and can be applied to a town, a place of shelter. Nacham means “comfort, consolation” with all of its Hebrew implications in the prophecies of the Holy Spirit and His work.
Capernaum, then, is the covering, shelter, or hamlet of Nacham, the Home of the Holy Spirit. There was a reason, then, why Jesus moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, far beyond the fact that He was accepted there. And when the paralytic man was brought down through the roof, or “covering,” into the shelter of the house, he came through (was inspired by) the Holy Spirit.
Verse 17 says, “the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.” In Acts 1:8 Jesus says, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.” In other words, that same power by which Jesus healed people was also to come upon the disciples, first through Pentecost and later in a greater measure through Tabernacles.
This seems to suggest a sequence in the stories that Luke tells in Luke 5. Jesus calls disciples, promising to teach them how to catch men (as fish). Then the first miracle in healing the leper teaches them of the healing power of Passover. The second miracle builds upon this while also laying the foundations for an understanding of Pentecost. As we will see later, this sequence will continue.
Forgiveness First, then Healing
First, we must consider the fact that Jesus did not immediately heal the paralytic man. In Luke 5:20 He said first, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Did that statement come without context? I suspect that Jesus had already been teaching about forgiveness of sin and that an opportunity suddenly presented itself to demonstrate this power. The reaction from some of the people is given in Luke 5:21,
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”
In other words, they said, “who does this man think he is?” No doubt the scribes and Pharisees were familiar with Dan. 7:20, where the “little horn” was given “a mouth uttering great boasts.” John tells us in Rev. 13:5, 6 that such great boasts were “blasphemies.” Because this little horn rose out of the iron-toothed beast of Rome, perhaps these scribes and Pharisees wondered if Jesus were the fulfillment of this prophecy in Daniel 7.
The Right of Victims to Forgive Sin
Certainly, the religious church system that arose out of the fall of the Roman Empire claimed the power to forgive sin. That in itself was not the problem, however. The problem was that the priesthood claimed the exclusive right to forgive sin, when, in fact, this right was given to all who do the work of “the Son of Man.” This was part of the Pentecostal blessing given to all believers. Jesus said in John 20:22, 23,
22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”
The right to forgive sin is given to any victim of sin. This is the law of victims rights that is clearly established in the law and the prophets. The judges do not have the right to forgive sins committed against others, but are bound to dispense justice and rights to all victims of injustice. In that sense, victims of sin have more rights than a judge.
Likewise, a priest has no right to forgive sin committed against other men, but can only establish the rights of the victim. This is why it is absolutely imperative that all victims of injustice be given the right to forgive. When a religious system claims exclusive rights to forgive sin, it infringes upon the rights of all men to forgive those who have trespassed against them.
Insofar as God is the victim of injustice through the sins of men, God alone has the right to forgive sin. In that, the scribes and Pharisees were correct in their reasoning. However, they did not understand that when the Holy Spirit indwells men, He speaks through men the words of God. It is not the men themselves who forgive sin, but they are indeed called to give voice to the words of God. Hence, they are called to forgive not on their own behalf, but to inform sinners of God’s grace.
John 2:23 also implies the right of victims to forgive or to “retain the sins of any,” by exacting restitution according to their rights as specified in the law. Yet all victims ought to consider the fact that our treatment of others will become the divine standard of measure for God’s treatment of us (Matthew 7:2). We should therefore be eager to forgive, unless such forgiveness is detrimental to the sinner. God, too, is eager to forgive our sins, but sometimes He allows us to suffer the consequences of sin—not because He is angry with us, but for our learning. As parents, we do the same with our children.
The Son of Man
Luke 5:22-24 continues,
22 But Jesus, aware of their reasonings, answered and said to them, “Why are you reasoning in your hearts? 23 Which is easier to say, “Your sins have been forgiven you,” or to say, “Rise up and walk”? 24 But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”—He said to the paralytic—“I say to you, rise, and take up your stretcher and go home.”
Many miss the real significance of this statement. The title, “Son of Man,” was first used in Psalm 8:4, where it is presented in the context of the Dominion Mandate that was given originally to Adam. Jesus Christ, as the Last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45), is the prime inheritor of this Dominion Mandate. The title again appears in Dan. 7:13, 14,
13 I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 14 And to Him was given dominion, glory, and a kingdom, that all the peoples, nations, and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed.
Here we are shown the end of the story, as Christ appears before the Ancient of Days to receive His Kingdom and the dominion over the whole earth. The Dominion Mandate makes Him the King and the Judge of the Supreme Court of Heaven. And because He took upon Himself the sin of world, making Him the Ultimate Victim, His power also includes the right to forgive sin, as portrayed on the cross (Luke 23:34).
More than this, when we understand the mystery that we are the body of Christ, we too may exercise the power of the Son of Man on the earth. In fact, ever since the Dominion Mandate was given to Adam, authority has passed down to man. One must be a son of man in order to receive that authority delegated by God Himself. This is stated in a clearer manner in John 5:26, 27,
26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself, 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man.
Christ’s “authority to execute judgment” in the earth was not based upon Him being the Son of God, but rather in the fact that He was the Son of Man. This was the requirement, and hence, He was born in Bethlehem and was of the direct lineage back to Adam of all those called to receive the Dominion Mandate.
We, His body, remain under the Head, and yet the body is called to exercise the same authority as the Head tells the Body what to do and how to do it.