Recently I’ve been reading some old Sherlock Holmes mysteries. I don’t go there often, but I do find it fun to read a good mystery. One of the most enjoyable moments in a novel like these is when the criminal makes that fatal mistake that gives him or her away to the keen eye of the sleuth.
I for some reason thought of a detective novel when reading through Mark 2. There, Jesus performed a wonderful miracle. But, before he did so, Jesus allowed the watching religious leaders to completely put their foot in it as the old saying goes. They speak an objection that will ultimately do more to help prove the case of the deity of Jesus.
Mark 2:6-7 – 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
You see, when Jesus saw the paralytic on the mat, his and his friends’ faith, he pronounced a glorious blessing. He told the poor man that his sins were forgiven. This, of course, caused an outrage among the scribes. They wondered just who Jesus thinks he is. Only God can forgive sins.
Unfortunately for the hapless scribes, that very question sets them up for failure. Like the crook who says something before a detective that only the guilty party could possibly know, the scribes give Jesus the ammunition necessary to close the case.
Mark 2:8-12 – 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
If Jesus were not seated in the house, teaching the mass of people crowding into the small room, I would almost expect him to pace the room just like Sherlock Holmes as he unravels the mystery. How, indeed, can Jesus declare to forgive this man’s sins? It is a given that only God has that authority. Thus, for Jesus to forgive is for him to declare himself divine.
Then Jesus asks the scribes a significant question. Which is easier to say? Is it easier to declare sins forgiven or to heal a paralyzed man? The scribes would have to understand that the statement of forgiveness is easier to make. After all, there is no proof that such a declaration is indeed true. However, a command to get up and carry your bed home, a declaration of immediate healing, is immediately subject to inspection. Thus, the scribes have to admit that the healing is the more difficult thing to do.
Then Jesus closes the case. If he can heal this man, which the scribes understand to be a supernatural action available only to one with the power of God, he must also be proving his right to forgive. If Jesus can do the harder thing, he must actually be giving proof to the claim that he is God in the flesh.
Then Jesus turns to the paralytic, commands him to get up, take his mat, and walk home. And all in the house see that Jesus has healed the man. Jesus has done what no human being has the power to do. Jesus has shown the power of God in himself. Jesus has, by the more difficult act, proved that he is the one who has the right to forgive. And, Jesus, by the very words of the scribes, has just given proof that he is the God who has that right to forgive. Jesus is God. It’s elementary, my dear scribes, elementary!