How could Jesus Forgive Sin?

In the Jewish religion, forgiveness of sin was reserved for God alone. Forgiveness is always personal; someone else cannot do the forgiving for the person offended, especially if the Person offended is God. But on several occasions Jesus acted as if he was God by forgiving sinners. His jaw-dropping claim to forgive sins had never been done by any prophet in the past. It infuriated the Jewish religious leaders who witnessed Jesus forgive the sins of a man with palsy.

Mark records the instance. “The scribes who heard him said blasphemy! Who but God can forgive sins!” (Mark 2:7)

That’s just the point; no man has the right or authority to speak for God when it comes to forgiveness of sins. Lewis imagines the stunned reactions of all those who heard Jesus:

Then comes the real shock,’ wrote Lewis: ‘Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God….But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.[10]

What did Jesus mean by being “One with God?”

Those who listened to Jesus, observed his moral perfection, and saw him perform miracles, wondered if he was the long-promised Messiah. Finally his opponents surrounded him at the Temple, asking:

“How long are you going to keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

Jesus answered, “The proof is what I do in the name of my Father.” He compared his followers with sheep saying, “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish.” He then revealed to them that “the Father is greater than all,” and that his deeds were “at the Father’s direction.” Jesus’ humility must have been disarming. But then Jesus dropped a bombshell, telling them, (John 10:25-30)

“The Father and I are one.”

Some argue that Jesus only meant he was in agreement with God. But if Jesus had meant that he was merely in agreement with God, why did the Jews respond by picking up stones to kill him? Their understanding of Jesus’ claim to be one with his Father became clear in the follow-up conversation.

Jesus then asked them, “At my Father’s direction I have done many things to help the people. For which one of these good deeds are you killing me?”

They replied, “Not for any good work; but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, have made yourself God” (John 10:33).

Endnotes

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