And after getting into a boat Jesus crossed the water and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralysed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’ Then some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven”, or to say, “Stand up and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.’ And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.Matthew 9:1-8
‘Authority’ is a difficult word.
For many people it goes hand-in-hand with the more negative issues that dog human society.
People who are associated with authority are often seen as stern and solemn, uncompromising and unfeeling in their rigidity.
This negative view of authority is, of course, about the abuse of power and strength; it is about intimidation and coercion, rather than enhancement, enrichment and protection.
Today’s reading shows us how authority can be used for good.
No one can doubt that Jesus has authority.
Jesus teaches with authority, heals with authority, brings calm and order with authority, expels demons with authority.
And … today … we encounter something else. Jesus shows he has authority to do what God does … he has the authority to forgive sins, that is, to change a person’s life from the inside out.
To accept Jesus’ authority to forgive sins demands faith.
For the religious leaders, Jesus’ claim to share in God’s authority was a challenge.
Their physical and political strength would appear to win as they nailed him on a cross.
But … of course … Jesus’ divine authority would ultimately overcome all that abuse of human authority as he conquered sin and death in his glorious resurrection.
The paralysed man had faith in Jesus’ authority and he was forgiven and healed.
Do we share in that simple but sincere faith, or are we too caught up in the human take on authority?
Are we ready to lay our shortcomings and sins before Jesus and ask that we may know the unspeakable joy of his healing touch?