“When the friends brought the paralytic to Jesus, the first thing Jesus said was, ‘Your sins are forgiven.’ Is there some connection between forgiveness and healing?”
I used to host an online series called, “Ask Bob.” People would submit questions about the Christian faith, and I did my best to answer them. One of the questions, shown above, had to do with the relationship between forgiveness and healing. Here’s my answer…
The story of Jesus healing the paralytic
The story of Jesus healing the paralytic who was carried by his friends is found in three of the gospels. You can read it in Matthew 9:1–8, Mark 2:1–12, and Luke 5:17–26. In all three accounts, Jesus told the man his sins were forgiven before he healed him. I’ve heard teachers say that Jesus often forgave sins as the higher priority before healing someone, but that’s difficult to prove from the Bible. There are so many times when Jesus healed someone without making any reference to their sins at all. My theory is that because this one story is in three different gospels, readers get the impression that Jesus did it this way a lot.
So the short answer to your question is that there’s no required connection between forgiveness and healing. But on this occasion, Jesus did tell the man his sins were forgiven before he healed him. Rather than being the normal course of events, it’s noteworthy because it was unusual. So let’s dig a little deeper into the circumstances of this particular day…
In the case of this man, Jesus chose to put something ahead of the man’s physical healing, and all three gospel writers thought it was important enough to mention. “Your sins are forgiven.”
We might wonder why Jesus dealt with the man’s sin first. Well, to answer that, let’s look at how people viewed sin in Jesus’ day…
Do you remember what happened when Jesus saw a man who had been blind from birth?
“His disciples asked him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’” (John 9:2)
Jesus’ closest followers — the Twelve — saw a cause-and-effect relationship at work. But in the very next verse, Jesus said that, in this case, there was no cause-and-effect relationship whatsoever.