astute reader will note that today’s section of Scripture is mirrored in Mark
and Luke; from them we derive the additional detail that this man was lowered
into the building through the roof.)
into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea
and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed.
Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take
courage, son; your sins are forgiven." And some of the scribes said
to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes."
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are
you thinking evil in your hearts? "Which is
easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'? "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has
authority on earth to forgive sins"--then He *said to the
paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go
home." And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who
had given such authority to men.
(Mat 9:1-8 NASB)
shall examine the players in this drama – the paralytic and his friends, the
Pharisees, and Christ Himself.
from the paralytic
is a sad thing, but many Christians have the misimpression that faith is some
sort of commodity, to be prayed for. It’s somewhat like “credit” in that
sense. Your monthly statement for your credit card will tell you how much
credit you have left. You can use that credit to purchase whatever you desire,
so it is convertible to any number of things. Some people have faith like
that. Like Mr. Micawber, they have faith; they’re sure that “something will
turn up.” They have faith – in faith.
is not the faith found in the Scriptures. As we can see here, faith is
accompanied by action.
This is not a magic formula for faith. It is the logical result. You can no
more separate faith from action than you could turn off gravity on this planet.
important than that, faith is not an abstraction – it is “pointed” at Jesus
Himself. It is the confidence that makes you know that Jesus will do as
He said. It is faith in a Person.
is not clear from the text whether or not “their faith” refers to the friends
who undid the roof, or also to the paralytic. But I think it means both;
otherwise the man would have at least objected. So often the power of Jesus is
self-limited to the faith of those He would have believe.
gives this paralytic three commands:
up.” Show me your faith by your obedience! Anyone can have a theoretical
opinion on what might or should happen; but true faith means that you rely
on Jesus. When He says “get up,” – Get Up!
up your bed.” There is a highly practical side to faith in Jesus. Most
of us will never be called to great things; but we will soon find many
good things to do.
home.” Do not stay within the mountain top experience; rather, return to
the valley of sin below – and spread the Good News.
you decide you need to go into the business of producing miracles, don’t go
around forgiving people – it offends folks. Healing meets with favor from
practically everyone; but forgiving someone can rip the bandages off old
wounds. It is, in human beings, a greater thing to forgive than to heal.
you see, belongs to the physical universe. When you die, you leave it behind.
Forgiveness belongs to the spiritual, As a result, forgiveness is eternal, and
things eternal belong to God. Which thus brings us to the objections of the
from the Pharisees
start with a definition: just what is “blasphemy?” Fifty years ago the
definition was clear. Incomplete, but clear: it meant using God’s name in
anger in an improper way. And “improper” was the right adjective, so people
saw it as defying convention. In the rush to prove ourselves rebels without a
cause, and in the great desire to make men and women interchangeable parts we
have decided that it is no longer improper, but “realistic.”
consider a few other examples of blasphemy:
start with the teacher or Christian who tells someone “God really wants
you to do…” If this is something explicitly revealed by God to you, then
it would be sinful not to share it. If it’s just your own opinion, to
attach God’s name to it is blasphemy.
goes further than that. Often enough the advice isn’t personal; it’s a
blanket command. When the preacher tells you that God has revealed to him
that we should all move to South America…
is precisely the second of those points that the Pharisees are debating. Those
of you who are old enough will remember the original version of Miracle on 34th Street. In it, an old man is to be locked up in a mental ward because
he believes he is Santa Claus. The hero of the piece concocts the only logical
defense: the man really is Santa Claus.
if you go around claiming the powers of God, then you are or are not a fraud
depending on whether or not you can make good the claim of being God.
it important? Yes. The Pharisees understand quite clearly that anyone
claiming to forgive sin is claiming to be God (this was before the confessional
in the Catholic church). God is always the one offended by sin; you sin
against Him when you sin against His children. He’s also the one with clean
hands. Since He is offended, He can forgive. Since He is innocent, His
forgiveness carries with it the forgiveness of others. After all, He’s the one
with power to do something about it – eternally.
are you thinking evil…”
not sure the Pharisees got this point – as it is yet another proof that Jesus
of Nazareth is the Christ. They should have known what David told Solomon:
for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a
whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands
every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if
you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.
(1Ch 28:9 NASB)
for those who hold their thoughts to be their own, is more than a little
spooky. This Jesus fellow reads minds! What a proof of his divinity this is!
That’s why I don’t think they got it.
religious leaders face a choice: they can accept Christ for Who He claims to
be; or they can stick with Moses. The former is unknown territory; they’re experts
on the latter. In the former they are nobody; in the latter, big fish. It’s
perfectly understandable – if you reject who Christ is. Christ meets this
reaction frequently. He simply states Who He Is – and leaves the choice to the
their opposition helped spread the kingdom. Had He been the product of the
Pharisees, He would have been seen as one more legal barrier. Instead, He is
the door through which one passes the barrier and enters heaven.
may safely be assumed that Jesus noticed the roof being torn apart for this
man. See, then, how gently Jesus treats this man and his friends.
is no objection to the hole in the roof. Likely enough some of the
material fell on Jesus, but He did not complain. He did not direct them
to return after the lesson. He welcomed the man.
priests are aggravated; likely enough the man was sufficiently a sinner
that he expected their condescension. But see how Jesus greets the man!
“My son,” a welcome word to a man used to the abuse of being a beggar.
courage.” It is a moment in which the man on the mat is not certain. Is
this all just so much foolishness? Or is He the Son of Man? Fear is
inside him; Christ calms that fear.
is with this as a greeting that Christ forgives this man’s sin.
oneness with God
is not hidden; here is yet another place where Jesus of Nazareth claimed to be
God. He plainly claims the power to forgive sin. We need to examine that.
us suppose that you’ve had enough of this lesson and decide to punch me in the
nose to end it right here. I then acquire the privilege of forgiving you.
Why? Because you punched me, not someone else. It’s the person who has been
sinned against that has the privilege (and for the Christian, the duty) of
why does God have the right to forgive as well? Think about it: when you sin,
you usually offend someone – but every sin is against God. So for every sin
you have committed, He has the power to forgive. But it’s more than that. God
is willing to forgive – if you are. If you won’t forgive the other fellow, God
won’t forgive you. So it is that a terrible, wicked sinner may come to be
forgiven by God, but not by Christians. Guess whose opinion counts for all
to make it all clear, Jesus demonstrates the power to forgive sins. The
argument is simple: Only God can cause miracles. God would not give such
power to a fraud.
Therefore, anyone who has this power has been given it by God – or He is God.
please that Christ forgives the man before healing him. Jesus doesn’t
want anyone to miss the point.
the man got up, rolled up the mat and took it home with him. Did he somehow
“feel” the healing? Or, was this a test of the man’s faith? Perhaps. But
whatever else it was, it was a test of his obedience.
He tells us to forgive. It is a command; do we treat it as such, or is it
merely a “good idea?” There is power in the man’s simple obedience; faith is
increased and his body healed. Do we continue in that power? Obedience to his
commands; the faith that saves – living in the power of the Resurrection;
that’s our question. Do we forgive others as He forgives us?