Mark 2 tells the story of Jesus preaching at his home to a packed out house when some people came carrying a crippled man to be healed. You know the story well. The men were unable to get the man in the room so they have to lower him through the roof. When Jesus saw him he said, “My son, your sins are forgiven” and this resulted in the sharp criticism by the scribes that “only God can forgive sins”.
Like you I have heard this passage preached on numerous occasions with all of the usual points drawn out appropriately (as Jesus goes on to heal the man, thus proving his authority to both heal and forgiven, et cetera).
But in reading Simply Jesus, N.T. Wright does what he does best by drawing out something significant and often overlooked from an all too familiar passage.
“We shouldn’t skip the stages in that implicit argument (that only God forgives sins). How does God normally forgive sins within Israel? Why, through the Temple and the sacrifices that take place there. Jesus seems to be claiming that God is doing, up close and personal through him, something that you’d normally expect to happen at the Temple. And the Temple – the successor to the tabernacle in the desert – was, as we saw, the place where heaven and earth met. It was the place where God lived. Or, more precisely, the place on earth where God’s presence intersected with human, this-worldly reality”. (p.80)