When Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answered them, “Why do you question in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the man who was paralyzed—“I say to you, rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
Luke 5:22–24, ESV
Early in entering the ministry, I remember hearing from some people how they struggled with the general confession and forgiveness offered within the liturgy of the service, particularly at the point where pastors give the absolution. The struggle was similar to that of the Pharisees, “Only God can forgive sins.” They don’t understand the great freedom that God has given to us, which allows us to be freed of sin and the power of hearing that forgiveness spoken. The response, “I don’t need to confess to a person; I can go directly to God,” may sound like a free response, but it more often shows a bound spirit. Forgiveness is something that many struggle with because it is easier to believe that we must do something to earn it. Confession is so powerful, and it isn’t always verbal. The paralytic being let down through the roof by his friends before Jesus showed the confession in action. Our confession can be the tears that fall from our eyes as we kneel and pray. The power of the words “You are forgiven!” is transformative. It is meant to set us free and let us walk away from the suffering that has plagued us. It is the greatest gift of God. When we confess in the general confession, it is the same act, and the words of the pastor that is offering absolution are meant to be heard as Jesus’ words to the ears of the hearer. It is a setting free that brings with it new life and freedom.
Let us pray. I thank you, my heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, your dear Son, that you have kept me this night from all harm and danger, and I ask you to protect me this day also from sin and every evil, that in all I do today, I may please you. For into your hands, I commend myself, my body and soul, and all that is mine. Let your holy angel watch over me, that the wicked foe have no power over me. Amen.