Tuesday, November 06, 2007
My son, your sins are forgiven
I think I will get sick in no time, what with my late nights and irregular meals - what to do when I think and work best at night and yet I still have to get up at 6 in the morning to get Calvin to school on time. My current job is quite a blessing at times, and I thank God for it. I was able to get back earlier today, and for a person who does not nap, the one and a half hour nap today was one that I seriously needed.
I spent quite a bit of time today trying to get my hands on any materials that will give me some background information on how sin and forgiveness were viewed during the biblical times particularly in the Gospels. No luck.
I am working on an exegesis of Mark 2:1-12. I tend to think that I might have read v.5 anachronically. When the paralytic in expecting Jesus to heal him, hear instead Jesus saying, "My son, your sins are forgiven," how would he have felt? I would have been astonished - after the physically daunting effort of being lowered down from the ceiling by four friends whom I hope will not lose grip, into a room packed with people, I don't get healed but forgiven?
How we view sin now is certainly different from people in the biblical times. When I share the gospel with my friends and tell them they are sinners who need forgiveness, they'd go, "Who me? A sinner? I did not kill, I did not start any fires," (as the Chinese saying goes). I think even we as Christians view it differently among ourselves. By way I found an article entitled Explaining Sin in the Chinese Context by Mark Strand, if anybody is interested.
So, just how do they view sin in Jesus' time?
R.T. France has this to say in his commentary - "Mark clearly believed that Jesus dealt with the condition of the paralytic by focusing first on his sins, and that in some way the forgiveness of sin and physical healing were interrelated (vv. 9-11)." (2002, p.124) He said that it would not been so surprising to his original readers as it may be to us, as there is a link between sin and illness running through biblical text.
There is Psalm 41:4 where it is hard to tell where healing start and forgiveness begins.
As for me, I said, "O LORD, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You."
In Isaiah 38: 16-17, we see that physical healing is clearly related to forgiveness of sin.
16 "O Lord, by these things men live, And in all these is the life of my spirit; O restore me to health and let me live! 17 "Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; It is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, For You have cast all my sins behind Your back,
In Numbers 12:9-15 however, sin has caused the physical suffering.
9 So the anger of the LORD burned against them and He departed. 10 But when the cloud had withdrawn from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, as white as snow. As Aaron turned toward Miriam, behold, she was leprous. 11 Then Aaron said to Moses, "Oh, my lord, I beg you, do not account this sin to us, in which we have acted foolishly and in which we have sinned. 12 "Oh, do not let her be like one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes from his mother's womb!" 13 Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, "O God, heal her, I pray!" 14 But the LORD said to Moses, "If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again." 15 So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again.
And yet, there is Job 27:6 where Job maintains his integrity in spite of his illness and sufferings.
I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not reproach any of my days.
In the light of this, how would the paralytic man have felt? I may be wrong since I am still not very good at performing searches using BibleWorks7 but I think this is the only instance in the Synoptic Gospels that Jesus pronounce forgiveness in a healing setting. Please do tell me if I am wrong.
I am going to do a word study on sin after this. I just found out that there are 33 words for sin in the New Testament. Oh dear ...
Photo © Rodrigo Valladares
France, R. T. The Gospel of Mark. NIGTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002.