In Matthew 9, we find the story of a paralytic, brought to Jesus by his friends to be healed. Seeing the man and the faith of his friends, Jesus said to him, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven."
Some of the church officials responded with disapproval. "This man is blaspheming!"
Knowing their hearts, Jesus confronted their evil unbelief. Then, in a miraculous display of power, He told the paralytic, "Rise, pick up your bed and go home." The paralytic rose and went home. The onlookers? They were afraid.
A couple of things struck me about this story as I read through it again this week. First, the scribes were outraged because Jesus, by presuming to forgive the paralytic's sins, was putting Himself in the position of God. They understood - rightly - that only God has the power and the authority to forgive sin. They understood - rightly - that Jesus was claiming to be God. What they did not understand, was that Jesus was indeed God.
I am challenged by these wrong-thinking men - not because they were wrong, but because they were passionate about what they believed, and they were distressed when confronted with what they (wrongly) understood to be blasphemy. Do I ever encounter blasphemy? Yes, I do. How do I respond to it? Usually, with something more like complacency than passion. Awkward silence. Or mumbled, inarticulate protest. Perhaps internal disquiet, an upset stomach. "This person is obviously confused," I might think, or, "He doesn't rightly understand Scripture." But to confront someone so boldly...wouldn't that be bad manners? I am challenged by these men because I do know who Jesus is, and I should be all-the-more zealous to boldly proclaim His kingship, authority, and glory.
Another thought - Jesus's first words to the paralytic were, "Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven." What if Jesus had just stopped there? Truly, forgiveness of this man's sins was the greater miracle, the more life-altering work...greater even than having his legs made whole and healthy. Would that have been enough to satisfy him? Is that enough to satisfy me? Christ has forgiven my sins, brought me into relationship with Himself and with the Father, has given me the Holy Spirit, has given me a new life and a new family and a new purpose...That is indescribably, eternally huge. But do I encounter Christ, and then turn away discontent because in addition to all that He has given me, I want physical health, financial prosperity, recognition, or some other thing that He has not seen fit to grant me at this time? Was Christ Himself enough for the paralytic? Is Christ enough for me?
When confronting the scribes, Jesus asks them, "For which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?" The scribes knew the right answer. Earthly physicians could conceivably say, "Rise up and walk" - but only God could say, "Your sins are forgiven." Then, to confirm His claim to be God, Jesus told the paralytic, "Rise..." - and he did. The people responded with fear...not because Jesus could miraculously heal a lame man, but because, by doing so, He had demonstrated His authority to do the greater miracle of forgiving sin. Or of not forgiving sin, for those such as the rebellious scribes who continued to deny His deity. Scary thought. A physician may heal my body, make me worse, or kill me - but Jesus, He can sentence me to an eternity in hell. Very scary stuff.
Which brings to mind the story a few verses back (Matthew 8) of Jesus calming the storm. You know the story - Jesus and His disciples were in a boat, out at sea. Jesus was sleeping. A great storm blew up, threatening to swamp the boat. The disciples feared the waves and the water, feared for their lives. "Save us, Lord. We are perishing!" Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves, and the sea became immediately calm. Suddenly, the disciples were struck with a new and greater fear. More than they feared the wind and the waves, they feared this Man. "What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?"
I love Jesus, and I am beloved by Him. I find great comfort in knowing Him as my Savior, Lord, Bridegroom, and Brother. Sometimes, though, I forget how truly terrible He is. I forget the fear, the awe, the reverence that is due Him.
Lastly, I was struck (again!) by the compassion of Jesus. Yes, Jesus began by telling the man, "Your sins are forgiven" - but, No, He didn't stop there. "Your sins are forgiven" was followed very quickly by "Rise up and walk." Forgiveness, then the meeting of felt needs and a commission. And that's just what happens in my own story, and yours - Jesus forgives us, meets us in our most broken places, and then commands us to "walk." To live a life of obedience, joy, and praise. Maybe not on two strong legs, as in the case of the paralytic, but in whatever place and in whatever circumstance I'm appointed. With new legs of faith and a heart full of gratitude, I am to walk a walk that glorifies God.
Today, it is good to ponder afresh the great work that Christ has done in me: "Your sins are forgiven."
Today, may I earnestly endeavor to joyfully obey His command: "Rise up and walk."
3 weeks ago