Compassion for the sick, the oppressed, and those otherwise in need is a defining feature of our Lord’s character. We see this in texts such as Exodus 2:23–25, wherein God hears the cries of the Israelites and remembers His covenant with them, purposing to save them from bondage. Another example is Deuteronomy 15, which warns us not to harden our hearts against the poor.
But the compassion of our Creator is not impotent empathy or something that addresses only the surface-level problems of illness, oppression, and poverty. Instead, God has acted to address the root cause of all ills, namely, our sin. These ills are not in every case tied directly to specific transgressions—people are not necessarily sick, poor, or enslaved to others because of their personal sin. However, all of these problems exist ultimately because our world is fallen, because our sin has brought forth God’s curse and the attendant suffering (Gen. 3:16–19). Unless this root cause is addressed, any solution to illness, oppression, and other problems is temporary at best.
Forgiveness is our most critical need. We must be reconciled to our Creator (Rom. 1:18–5:1). So, before He does anything else, Jesus forgives the sins of the paralyzed man who is lowered through the roof (Mark 2:1–5). As with the man born blind (John 9:1–3), the man’s paralysis may not be a direct result of his own sin. Still, restoring his mobility is ultimately useless if he remains estranged from his Creator. In Mark 2:1–12, the greatest evidence of Christ’s compassion is in His gracious pardoning of the paralyzed man. Without such mercy, the man will suffer the eternal death of hell.
Jesus’ proclamation of forgiveness prompts the scribes to believe He is blaspheming by putting Himself in God’s place. If our Lord were a mere man, they would of course be correct. Only God can forgive the sins committed against Him, so to pronounce forgiveness is to make an implicit claim to be equal to God (vv. 6–7). But the scribes’ charge of blasphemy was false because Christ, though fully human, is not merely human. He is God incarnate (John 1:1–18), so He possesses the divine authority to pardon transgression. He verifies this authority by healing the man (Mark 2:8–12). His declaration of forgiveness is not mere wishful thinking but is as effectual to pardon the paralyzed man as His healing word is effectual to restore the man’s ability to walk.