These words, spoken by Jesus, were startling to the people of his time. “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” (Luke 5:21) they murmured amongst themselves. And what about us today? Do we at times express the same incredulity to the Christly message that brings us freedom from sin?
We all want to accept that our past sins can be forgiven. We may, even now, be yearning to be free of the consequences of some old mistakes that seem to have a lingering impact on our lives. But how? Is there really a way we can truly feel forgiven?
One clue may be found a couple of chapters later when Luke relates the story of a woman (often referred to as Mary Magdalene) who came to Jesus when he was dining in the house of a well-to-do Pharisee named Simon (see Luke 7:36–50). In the eyes of Simon the woman was a hopeless sinner, and Hebrew law had been interpreted as barring contact between such people and polite society. The Bible says that she “brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at [Jesus’] feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.”