“Jesus said, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ and some of the scribes who had heard his words, and were questioning in their hearts, asked ‘Why does this man speak in this way? It is blasphemy. Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ ” (Mark 2:5-7)
God’s prophet, Jeremiah, had prophesied that the time was coming when the Lord would establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and of Judah. This would not be like the old covenant God had made with the Hebrew people when He led them out of Egypt, taking them from bondage to freedom, delivering to them His law written on tablets of stone. It would be a new covenant, written on the tablet of their hearts by the finger of God. Then, according to Jeremiah’s messianic prophecy, speaking for the Lord, His people would know Him, “…from the least of them to the greatest…for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
This prophecy was fulfilled with the coming of Christ into the world, to suffer death upon the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins, as the one sufficient sacrifice for the sin of the whole world, as the spotless Lamb of God, the final Passover Lamb. When Jesus was meeting with His disciples for the last time in Jerusalem to observe the Passover on the eve of His atoning death, He took the bread and broke it, saying to them, “This is my body broken for you.” Then, when He had taken the cup, He told them, “This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, poured out for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.” There is a sense in which that act was an acted-out parable, for Jesus was presenting Himself as the Passover Lamb, whose blood would be a covering for the sins of the whole world, not just for the Jews. Just as Jeremiah had foretold, no other sin offering would ever be necessary, for God would not only forgive their sins but would “remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:34; Luke 22:7-20)
Time and time again, throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus had told penitent sinners, “Your sins are forgiven.” Those words from the lips of any other human being would sound utterly absurd—but not from the lips of Jesus, for we stand on the other side of the cross. However, for the religious leaders of His own day, assuming the role of God and claiming to have the authority and power to forgive sins, was not only the ultimate absurdity, but the greatest of all blasphemies. But, as the Apostle John says in his gospel, Jesus is the One who speaks the truth, not only speaking for God, but speaking as God, having all power and authority (John 8:31-32). Jesus Himself never apologized for assuming the roles of God, but always claimed His words were not just His words, but the words of His Father. He also maintained that His words would never pass away, for they were without end.
Furthermore, Jesus acted out His claims, manifesting His power and authority through His mighty acts, ultimately going to the cross, laying down His life, praying for those who had been in charge of the detail of hammer and nails: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34) Then, in His agony on the cross, He was still thinking of others and forgiving others, saying to a penitent thief crucified with him, “Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) God was writing with His finger on the tablet of the thief’s heart—”FORGIVEN”—and we can be sure he knew his sins had been forgiven and he had been given a new destiny.
Do you have the same assurance? Have you accepted the claims of Jesus for yourself? Have you turned to Him like that thief on one of the crosses next to Jesus, asking, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” ? (Luke 23:42) Or are you like the other criminal on the third cross, who joined other scoffers, saying to Jesus, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us.”? (vs. 39) We are told that the people standing by, watching and listening, had “…scoffed at Jesus, saying, ‘He saved others, let him save himself if he is the Messiah, the Christ.” (vs. 35) Of course, Jesus could have saved Himself, but if He had used His power to save Himself, He could not become the Savior of the world!
Which side are you on? You must decide for yourself what you are going to believe about Jesus. It was C.S. Lewis who clarified the issue for all of us—and his challenging words call for a verdict:
“I am trying to prevent anyone from saying the really silly thing that people often say about Jesus, ‘I’m ready to accept Him as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say! A man who was merely a man, and said the sort of things Jesus said, wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’s either be a lunatic on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg, or he’s be the devil of hell!
You must make your own choice. Either Jesus was, and is, the Christ, the Son of the living God, or else He is a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up as for a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.
But don’t come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great moral teacher. He hasn’t left that open to us!”