Friends, in our Gospel today, Jesus says matter-of-factly, before healing the paralytic, “Child, your sins are forgiven.” Shocked, the Pharisees respond, “He is blaspheming. Who but God alone can forgive sins?”

They were quite right, of course, which is the whole point. If you had hurt me, I could with some legitimacy offer you my personal forgiveness of your offense. But if someone else had harmed you, I could scarcely offer that person my forgiveness for his sin. The only way that such a statement could be anything but blasphemous would be if I were the one who is offended in every sin. And this is what the Pharisees correctly intuit.

G.K. Chesterton said that even those who reject the doctrine of the Incarnation (like the Pharisees) are different for having heard it. The claim that God became one of us changes the imagination, compelling a reassessment of both God and the world. This odd assertion is made, implicitly or explicitly, on practically every page of the New Testament.

Therefore, when Jesus forgives the paralytic’s sin, the Pharisees respond that only God can forgive sins, thereby, despite themselves, professing faith in the Good News.

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