Grace For The Journey
There are a couple of surprises in this particular encounter with Christ. I did not really notice either of them the first couple readings of the passage. But there are at least two things that surprise me in this passage and the first is . . .
1) In this particular encounter with Christ, the one who encounters Christ says nothing. There are no words recorded of anything he says. It is just kind of unusual.
The other surprise is that this encounter – unlike any encounter so far it . . .
2) Contains a riddle. And I like riddles. I always have. Her is one … see if you can figure it out, “Who can jump higher than a mountain?” Do you know? The answer is: Anyone; mountains ca not jump. Like that? I have one more. See if you can figure out what this is: “When you have me you want to share me; When you share me I no longer exist. What am I?” How about that one? What is it? The answer is: A secret. When you have a secret you want to share it; when you share it is no longer a secret.
Jesus tells a riddle in this passage. Did you catch it? He does. The riddle Jesus asks in this encounter is, “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’” It is a riddle. I wonder whether you’ve ever really thought about that. Which is easier for a person to say, to say to someone who is paralyzed, to say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” or to say, “Arise and walk?”
Now, we are going to think about that as we study through this passage a little more carefully and try to put ourselves there and imagine what it was like on this particular day there in the city of Capernaum where this encounter took place inside of a crowded house that belonged, some say, to Peter. We do not know for certain, but there was a group gathering together like some of us do for a Bible study or a prayer gathering, gathering inside of someone’s home and Jesus is there and this encounter takes place.
If you like to parallel the passage and study it that way, then you can read the parallel accounts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke. Dome of you will have this if you have a study Bible with you. But you can read this passage in Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:17-26. Each Gospel writer tells the events of Jesus but does so stressing certain things that God wishes to stress.
For example, in both Mark and Luke’s account of this passage, they provide added detail about how it is that this paralyzed man gets into a position to be healed by Jesus. In fact, if you just look at the passage again, you will note that passage we will be looking at today, Matthew 9:1-8, omits those details. He just writes that somebody brought this guy to Jesus. Verses 1-2 say, “So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city. And His own city is Capernaum. He had gotten in a boat and left the region of Gadara because the people there told Him to leave. They rejected Him outright and so He got into a boat, crossed over the Sea of Galilee and came to His own city Capernaum. Then behold they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’”
What Matthew omits are the details included by both Mark and Luke about Jesus’ being inside the house preaching the Word and there was a big crowd there and so there are these guys, and Mark tells us there were four of them, these four guys because they could not get their paralyzed friend to Jesus, they go up on top of the roof and they remove some of the tiling from the house – wonder what the owner thought of that! – and then these guys lowered their friend down to Jesus.
And Matthew omits those details because he wants to focus more upon the actual words of Jesus. But the other Gospel accounts are fun to read alongside and helpful because they provide all the other shading to the picture we see.
Think about the extent to which this paralyzed man’s friends went to get their buddy to Jesus and it reminds us the lengths to which we should go to get people to Jesus. Willing to go get them and bring them to worship. I do not know whether you saw that movie some years ago with Kevin Costner, “Field of Dreams.” There was that classic line, “If we build it they will come.” But Christianity does not work that way. It is not, “If we build it they will come.” It is, “If we bring them they will come.”
These guys bring their friend to Jesus. And Matthew records these words of Jesus. There at the end of verse 2, “When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, ‘Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.’” Now that statement raises a couple of questions . . .
1) It seems to suggest that, at least in this case, the paralytic may be paralyzed because of some personal sin in his life. It may be that he was paralyzed as a consequence of some kind of sin and Jesus knows that and so he says, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
There are occasions where sickness is a direct consequence of sin. An alcoholic, for example, will not be surprised if he has is found to have severe liver trouble. Someone who abuses their body in other ways, maybe a chronic smoker for example, will not be surprised to learn he has lung cancer or emphysema. Or the promiscuous lifestyle of a prostitute may lead to some kind of sexual disease. I think most of us would acknowledge there are cases where there is a more obvious link between sinful behavior and the consequence of bodily harm, disease, or injury.
Not all bodily sickness is the result of direct sin. You may remember the question the disciples asked of Jesus in John 9 where they assumed the man who was born blind was born that way because of sin, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” And Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:1-2). So not all sickness is directly tied to some personal sin.
Sickness is, at the same time, the inevitable result of living in a fallen world that is fallen because of original sin, sin that has been in the world since Genesis 3. This is why even when we are healed of sickness, what will happen later? If I am healed from some kind of sickness, will I eventually get sick again? Yes, I will. Sickness is inevitable and God often uses sickness and other health challenges to accomplish His perfect will; things He does for His glory and for our good, or for a good that redounds to others through our illness, perhaps working through our illness to bring a family member or another person to faith.
But again, even if I am healed from some kind of sickness, I will eventually get sick again. I will eventually get sick again and eventually I will die, and every so-called faith healer needs to remember that, too! Even if we are healed from our sickness, we are going to get sick again and eventually die. There’s your encouraging message this morning! The pastor Terry said we are all going to get sick and die! Well, it is true, right? So . . . what is going on here?
One thing that is going on is that, when Jesus says to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven you,” Jesus is teaching that . . .
While paralysis is a problem,
The man’s need for forgiveness
Is the greater, more
And of the two problems –
Paralysis and unforgiveness –
Unforgiveness is the greater problem.
2) The other question raised here is admittedly not as obvious at first reading. But if I were to tell the story this way, it might be more obvious: There is this paralyzed man and they brought him to Jesus and Jesus goes over to the guy and says to him, “Your sins are forgiven,” but there’s no word that the guy ever said anything first like, “I repent.”
Does that strike you? I mean there is this principle that runs throughout the Scriptures that no one can be forgiven until he or she confesses and repents. And there is no record of this guy saying anything like, “I confess I’m a sinner and I repent, I turn from my sins.” So . . . What is the deal? I think the key to this is what we discover as we continue reading. A bit later we will see that Jesus knows what these scribes are saying within themselves. He knows their thoughts. You see that in verse 4, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts.” It is a reminder to us that Jesus is omniscient and so He is all-knowing. He even knows our thoughts. Jesus knows the heart cry of this man.
There are of course other details we do not know about this paralyzed man. Maybe he was the one who insisted on his friends’ bringing him to Jesus. Like he initiated it: “I don’t care if you have to tear the roof off! Just get me to Jesus!” Jesus knew the cry of his heart: “I believe. I trust you.” The Bible says in Romans 10:9-10, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him front the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” Jesus knows the cry of this paralyzed man’s heart. He believed . . . He trusted . . . He turned to Christ. Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven you.”
Verse 3 states, “And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This Man blasphemes!’” And the other Gospel writers tell us why they said that, in case we needed help. They add the words, “Who can forgive sins, but God alone?!” The scribes, the religious teachers, are like, “Jesus is dishonoring God by taking upon Himself the authority to forgive sins. He ca no do that! Only God can forgive sins!” That is the point, isn’t it?! Jesus forgives sin because He is God.
The tension here, may not be as clear at first. Let’s imagine two people, Jim and John. Jim hits John on the face and John says, “I forgive you.” That is how it works, right? But imagine this scenario. Jim hits John on the face. Bob walks up and he says to Jim, “Jim, I forgive you for what you just did to John.” Jim and John both would be like, “Who are you to forgive this sin?!” So you see? This act of Jesus is one of those places in the New Testament where it is really clear that Jesus is God in the flesh. Who can forgive sins but God alone? Some of you have been told that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God. Well, read the Bible carefully and you will find quite the opposite is true!
Verse 4 says, “But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts?’” Wow and here again is an illustration of the deity of Jesus Christ. He even knows the thoughts of the scribes. Jesus asks the religious teachers, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Now if I am one of the religious teachers, one of the scribes, I would be like, “Whoa!” That would make a believer out of me! I’d be like, “How did He know what I was thinking?!”
Then Jesus poses the riddle, verse 5, “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk?’” Which do you think is easier to say? It is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” because there would be no way for anyone to see whether that had actually happened. It is an inside job, right? You could say it. No one would know. No one could verify whether a person’s sins had been forgiven. But, on the other hand, if you are going to say, “Hey, paralyzed man: get up. Arise, take up your bed and go home,” If you’re going to say that, you’d better be sure you can deliver!
Jesus shows that He is able to do what
Is unseen by doing what is seen.
He shows that He can change the inside
Of a person by changing the outside of a person.
Christ proves that He has the power
To forgive sin by healing the man of his paralysis.
That is why He answers the riddle this way, in verses 6 and 7, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” – then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house. And he arose and departed to his house.” Now everyone can see. This Jesus is more than just a man. He is God in the flesh. That the paralyzed man got up – unparalyzed – is evidence, visible evidence of the authority of Jesus to forgive sin. Power to forgive sins.
Even the self-designation of Jesus in verse 6, the way He refers to Himself as, “the Son of Man,” is a reference to deity. It is Jesus’ favorite way of referring to Himself, the Son of Man. The Gospels record Jesus’ referring to Himself as “Son of Man” over 80 times in the Gospels. That title comes from the Old Testament book of Daniel, chapter 7, especially verses 13 and 14.
Verse 8 declares, “Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.” It is like the crowd has now become paralyzed! Then the story ends.
What do we take home from this passage. I think at least three main reminders . . .
I. Our Greatest Need Is Spiritual, Not Physical – Salvation Of Our Soul, Not Bodily Sickness.
By saying to the paralyzed man, “Your sins are forgiven you,” Jesus illustrates that of the two needs this man has, one physical and one spiritual, that the greater of the two needs is spiritual. Your greatest need is not your physical well-being; It is your spiritual well-being. Remember, even if we are healed of sickness, what will eventually happen to us again at some point? We will eventually get sick again. Our greatest need is not physical, but spiritual.
That is true for everyone of us. And it is equally true for all of our friends, our family, and the people with whom we work and hang out.
We may well be concerned for physical healing of our friends and neighbors. We should be. But their greatest need is not physical healing, but spiritual healing. We must share with them the Gospel. That is what they need most. How many people will be in heaven because of you? Because you knew that their greatest need was their spiritual need for Jesus?
II. Jesus Alone Meets Our Greatest Need – Only He Can Provide Forgiveness; No Other Religion Offers This.
No other religion offers forgiveness as Christ offers forgiveness. All the other major religions – whether Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, New Age teachings – all of them teach something like, “Look, here is what you need to do. And if you will do these things, then maybe, just maybe, through this process, or reincarnation, it will all be okay for you in the end – maybe.”
Christianity is so not that!
Christianity is not our
Working our way up to God
And working through some
Process of trying to earn His favor.
Christianity is God’s coming down
To us to do for ourselves what we
Cannot do – live a perfect life
Fulfilling all the righteous demands
Of Scripture and then dying a death
That pays the penalty of punishment
We deserve for breaking all
Those righteous demands of God.
God does this for us in the Person of Christ. He lives for us, He dies for us, and He rises from the dead for us, that we may be justified and declared righteous in His sight because of the work of His Son, Jesus Christ.
In fact, I think it is interesting that the word used by Matthew here in his account, “arise” in this passage (verse 6), is the same word used by Matthew in the last chapter of his Gospel, chapter 28, where Matthew records the resurrection of Christ. Same word. The angel says to the women at the tomb, “He is not here; for He is risen.”
The only way this man,
This paralyzed man,
The only reason
He can arise,
Is because Christ
Will “arise” for him.
The reason Jesus, the Son of Man, the very reason He can say, “Your sins are forgiven you,” and, “Arise,” is because He Himself will pay the penalty of this man’s sins on the cross. Jesus will die, be buried, and on the third day – arise!
Jesus alone meets our greatest need—our need for forgiveness. And there is a corollary to all of this, of course.
If Jesus meets our greatest need
For forgiveness – our sins against Him –
Then we are in a position to forgive others,
To forgive them for their sins against us.
The Bible says in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” You can forgive others because you have been forgiven. That is pure Bible forgiveness 101.
James Garfield was the 20th United States president. He was elected president in 1880 and just 6 months into his presidency he was shot in the back with a revolver. He never lost consciousness, but the doctors could not locate bullet. They even recruited Alexander Graham Bell to use his metal detector. As many as 12 different doctors searched for that bullet with their unsterilized fingers and equipment and Garfield died of infection to the wound. Scholars today believe Garfield would have survived if they had just left him alone.
You think about that when it comes to forgiveness. Have you ever heard the saying, “Bitterness is what happens when you drink poison hoping the other person dies?” Some of us have been hurt and we just keep probing the wound . . . The Bible tells us in Ephesians 4:32, “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”
III. Only Jesus Continues To Meet Our Greatest Need – We Must Stay In love With Jesus.
When Jesus healed this paralyzed man, Matthew tells us in verse 8 that the crowd there in the house “marveled and glorified God.” That is the right response to an encounter with Jesus. There is the joy and wonder of the working of God through Christ. It is so important to remember that every day of our Christian lives. We have to rekindle the fire of our love for Jesus each and every day. Some of you would say, “I remember how great I felt when I got saved! It was awesome!” And it was. You felt the love and forgiveness of God and your heart was full. We must remember that the Jesus who met our spiritual need back then continues to meet our spiritual need right now – each and every day. If we will do this, then we will stay in love with Jesus each and every day and we will stay away from the danger of sin and temptation. Always remember that when we choose to sin we are substituting something for the delight of Christ. Every sin is a substitute for the joy of Christ, a lack of delighting in Christ and His promises.
Someone summed it up like this: “You cannot change merely by changing your thinking, or through great acts of will, but rather by changing what you love most. Change happens not only by giving your mind new truths – though it does involve that – but also by feeding the heart and mind new beauties so you love Jesus supremely. We change when we change what we worship the most.” How do we do that? By seeing that Jesus’ own heart was crushed and broken as he died on the Cross for us (Psalm 22:14). It is as we worship a crucified Savior that our hearts are transformed.
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”