Mark 2:5b Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
It has been my experience when people discuss forgiveness that they generally speak about the personal forgiveness of someone who has wronged them. This type of forgiveness is often more beneficial to the offended than it is to the offender. In fact, the offender may experience no change in life whatsoever because there has been no penalty or effect caused by their offense. This type of forgiveness is important, but it is not the type of forgiveness recorded here, and it is important to see the difference. This person had committed no personal offense against the man Jesus Christ. As far as we know, until this moment, they had never met.
This man's offense was a legal offense against God. This type of offense or crime has three basic parts:
- A crime had been committed. In this case it was a breach of God's covenant with Israel.
- The person had been justly tried, found guilty, and convicted. The jurisdiction for this judgment is located in the founding documents of the Covenant, specifically Leviticus 26.
- The sentence required by justice was executed. This man was under sentence from God's government based on a breach of covenant.
In a case of this sort the forgiver must have the legal authority to forgive.
We must be clear about our offenses against God: they are legal and personal. We tend to think of forgiveness only in a personal way because we, generally, don't have the standing to legally forgive anyone. But Jesus does have that legal power. In this case the man was guilty of breaking God’s covenant with Israel, and was being punished for his sin. But he was forgiven… this means he was immediately released from his legal and moral guilt with its consequences. This is the kind of forgiveness we receive freely through the Gospel. But Gospel forgiveness is comprehensive since it includes all our sin, and every aspect of our guilt. And... it is everlasting.