Jesus responds, “Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Does that strike you as a bit strange? Are all sick people sinners?
Let’s start with the big picture. God did not create the world in bondage to sickness, disease, and death. Those things are the results of humankind’s rebellion against God’s reign and rule. Or in other words, we all become sick because of sinfulness.
Okay so then Jesus was just addressing sinfulness in general terms when he spoke to the paralyzed man? Well yes, but not ‘just’. Mark has lots of accounts of Jesus healing. Only with this man does Jesus explicitly extend forgiveness. Jesus knows the hearts of people (see Mark 2:8). I believe he knew this man had a personal sin that was at the root of his affliction. Jesus cares for the whole person, spirit and body, so Jesus offers forgiveness before he heals the man.
Wait! Please don’t think that this means that every time someone is sick there is a personal sin that is at the root. Some people in Jesus’ day thought that way and Jesus corrected them (see John 9). Personal sin (e.g., bitterness, unforgiveness) may manifest itself in sickness, but sickness on its own does not necessarily mean there is a unconfessed personal sin.
There are three key takeaways I want to leave with you.
First, it is the ministry of the Holy Spirit to convict people of sin, not ours. Those who are sick in our midst need our prayers, our compassion, and our encouragement. They don’t need us suggesting they are sick because of unconfessed sin.
Second, when you are sick, especially if it is a chronic situation ask God to gently but clearly show you if there is personal sin involved. If sin is revealed by God, humbly confess it. God will always forgive (First John 1:9).
Third, ask yourself if you are ready to seek God’s special grace of healing? Just like with the paralyzed man, there are times when God is pleased to demonstrate his glory by miraculously healing an individual. Humbling seeking divine healing will only lead to good things. It would be presumptuous to say there will always be a miracle of restored health, but there will always be sufficient grace to help us in our time of need (Heb 4:16).