The Greatest Miracle of All
Forgiveness of sin – the miracle of all miracles.
And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” And immediately Jesus, aware in His spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven’; or to say, ‘Arise, and take up your pallet and walk?’ 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, take up your pallet and go home.”
– Mark 2:5–11
But of all the things that Jesus did, the thing that seemed to anger them the most was when He told people their sins were forgiven. For only God has the authority to forgive sin.
By claiming to do what only God could do, Jesus was in fact claiming to be God, an act that, according to Hebrew law, was punishable by death.
– The HOPE, Chapter 9
Observe & Consider
When it comes to the subject of miracles, the documentation of the miracles of Jesus is in a class by itself. There are, however, others in history who have (or have been said to have) performed miracles. This not only includes other characters in the Bible, but also the founders of other religions.
But there is one miracle that no other person in the Bible and no other founder of a major world religion can claim: the forgiveness of sin. Jesus actually told people their sins were forgiven (Matthew 9:2, Mark 2:5, Luke 5:20, Luke 7:47). The basis for the forgiveness that He offered is what Jesus would ultimately accomplish by His death and miraculous resurrection.
Most of the Hebrew religious leaders were infuriated that Jesus would say “Your sins are forgiven” for only God can forgive sin. By claiming that He had the authority to forgive sin, Jesus was in fact claiming to be God. He knew it – and so did they. And because these religious leaders didn’t believe that Jesus was God, they considered His words as blasphemy: speaking evil of or against God, or making the claim to be God.1 Blasphemy was an offense punishable by death in the Old Testament (Leviticus 24:16).
As we saw in Lesson 47, Jesus performed miracles to prove He was God (Mark 2:10). But Jesus forgave sins because He was God. Consider how this great miracle is different from any other. The forgiveness of sins is the miracle that:
- Meets the greatest need – Because sin and separation from God is man’s greatest problem, restoration and reconciliation to God is man’s greatest need.
- Has the greatest impact – Physical healing is temporary. Forgiveness of sins results in eternal life. It is the miracle that lasts forever!
- Fulfills the greatest purpose – Jesus said He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). The fulfillment of this purpose accomplishes God’s highest good and brings Him the greatest glory.
- Required the greatest price – It required the death of God’s Son.
- Available to the greatest number of people – “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).
Ask & Reflect
- Why do you think that the religious leaders of His day had such a problem with Jesus? Do you think it was only because, in their minds, He committed the sin of blasphemy or do you think there was something more?
- Do you think that people in Jesus’ day were more impressed with observable miracles than with the miracle of forgiveness? What about today? Why?
Decide & Do
God’s forgiveness of sin through His Son Jesus is a miracle in which every person may share, both by receiving it, and telling others about it. If you’ve never received God’s forgiveness of sin, if you don’t know for certain that your sins are forgiven, then go immediately to the Knowing God section at the end of this study and honestly consider what you read there. God is knowable – and He wants to be known!
If there is no doubt in your mind that you have received God’s forgiveness, you know what true freedom feels like. Never forget there are people all around you who have never experienced that. Every person in the world needs God’s forgiveness ...whether they know it or not.
In a sense, we are all like starving beggars in need of the bread of forgiveness. If you have received God’s forgiveness, then you have found and tasted this bread. Shouldn’t you tell others where they can find it too? Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).
For Further Study
- Oswald Chambers, The Forgiveness of God. (© My Utmost for His Highest Daily Devotional, RBC Ministries, 2006). (http://utmost.org/classic/the-forgiveness-of-god-classic/). Retrieved November 1, 2006.
- John F. MacArthur, The Freedom and Power of Forgiveness. (© John F. MacArthur, Crossway Boos, A Division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois, 1998). From an excerpt on p. 18: “... then, are the basic truths underlying the Christian doctrine of forgiveness: God is the one who must accomplish forgiveness of sins; it is not possible for the sinner to earn his ...” Also includes contributions from Charles H. Spurgeon, and Alexander MacLaren. (http://www.amazon.com/Freedom–Power–Forgiveness–John–MacArthur/dp/0891079793/sr=1–33/qid=1162420339/ref=sr_1_33/102–6866998–7379368?ie=UTF8&s=books).
1Merrill Unger, R.K. Harrison, Howard Vos, Cyril Barber. Blasphemy [A Definition]. (Unger’s New Bible Dictionary, 2006). “BLASPHEMY (Gk. ... Sometimes, perhaps, “blasphemy” has been retained by translators when the general meaning “evil–speaking” or “slander” might have been better (Psalm 74:18; Col. 3:8). ... There are two general forms of blasphemy: (1) Attributing some evil to God, or denying Him some good that we should attribute to Him (Leviticus 24:11; Romans 2:24). ... (2) Giving the attributes of God to a creature–which form of blasphemy the Jews charged Jesus with (Matthew 26:65; Luke 5:21; John 10:36).”