Jesus Forgives Sins

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Jesus Forgives Sins

Over the next few weeks we want to help you get to know Jesus better through looking at a few of the miracles that Jesus does in the middle of Matthew's gospel. The miracles Jesus did are particularly worthy of our attention because each one has been recorded and passed on to us as a kind of summary of the gospel. We're told that Jesus did many other miracles, too many to record, but these ones have been passed on as especially worthy of our attention – because they're not just displays of power, they are windows into the gospel. I trust you'll see that this morning as we see Jesus heal a paralysed man.

And let me give you a couple of sentences of context - in Matthew 8 and 9 we have a series of miracles and related teaching, all following on from the sermon on the mount in ch 5-7. And a lot of these miracles are very familiar. Today's passage, for example also appears in Mark 2 and in Luke 5. And when we look at Mark and Luke we see that Matthew has cut out some the best bits. Both Mark and Luke record that Jesus was inside a house when he met this paralytic – and the house was so full that the man's friends couldn't get him to Jesus – so they climbed up onto the roof and lowered their friend through the ceiling…

I mean that's how you introduce a story isn't it? If that was something I had seen and I was telling you about it – and let me say if I had seen this I would certainly be telling everyone about it – if I was telling this story I would certainly not be leaving out the bit about the friends digging a hole in the ceiling. I mean it's so vivid, it's so memorable, the whole thing just comes to life – imagine standing in that room when the plaster starts falling down and the roof opens up over your heads!

But Matthew just cuts it. Doesn't bother mentioning any of it.

Some people just can't tell a story can they?

But I think there's more to it than poor story telling – I think Matthew has been quite deliberate in cutting to the chase because he doesn't want these vivid details to obscure the really important point he wants us to see. This miracle isn't really about the paralysed man at all, it's really about Jesus – about who he is and why he's come. So that's where we'll spend our time this morning.

So our two points will be

1. Jesus came to deal with sin
2. Jesus came with God's own authority to deal with sin

Jesus came to deal with Sin.

"Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.""

As we've said, Matthew cuts right to the chase, no mention of the crowds there to see a show, no mention of a full house and the climb on to the roof, no mention of digging through the ceiling or passing the man down… just the really important facts – the man was paralysed, he had to be brought to Jesus by his friends. Jesus saw their faith and the said to the man take heart your sins are forgiven.

Even with just the facts we can see that it's all wrong can't we? Jesus has developed a reputation as a real miracle worker; he's healed loads of people already. He's been going around doing miracles in all the towns and villages. Everyone's talking about him; everyone wants to see him actually heal someone. And now he's come back to this own town and word's got around and these fella's have brought their paralysed friend to Jesus so Jesus can cure him. If there is ever a situation in which things don't need to be spelt out, surely this is it – surely anyone can see at just a glance precisely what this man needs.

But When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."

This sounds like the sort of thing a particularly insensitive person might say doesn't it? Your legs and arms don't work – too bad, try and look on the bright side – you've still got your sense of humour!

But that's because we don't see things as clearly as Jesus does.

Jesus saw something that the rest of us missed. He saw that being paralysed wasn't the worst problem this man had.

Think about that for a moment. He couldn't walk, he couldn't work. There was no social security, no NHS, no wheel chairs. He had no way of feeding himself, or his family. His friends presumably had to carry him everywhere he went. He was literally a burden they carted around. And Jesus looks at him and sees his pathetic and desperate situation and decides to help him out. Now you'd think that the most helpful thing he could do would be to heal the man. Well, we might think so. But Jesus didn't. He thought the bloke had bigger issues. In the face of such obvious need and suffering Jesus saw a bigger need, this bloke needed physical healing, but he needed forgiveness far more.

Can you begin to see just how shocking that is? Jesus thinks the man is better off paralysed and forgiven; than able bodied and facing God's judgement. From his perspective there's nothing worse in life than being estranged from God, facing God's anger over sin.

But the thing is, by nature we're all estranged from God. We, on the one hand, reject God and live without him, setting own rules; and he, on the other hand, will hold us accountable and bring down punishment, no less than condemnation to hell. Our relationship is shot to pieces.

By his response to the paralysed man Jesus shows that we all have a need that is greater than health and comfort. More than the deaf need to hear, the blind need to see or the paralysed need to walk, a sinner needs to be forgiven: we need to be forgiven for our sins. Each one of us is in a desperate state before God – we need forgiveness.

Sin is in here for all of us… Gerry Bridges talks of 'respectable sins' – things we're OK with in church – pride, greed, envy, anger, complaining and grumbling, gossip, dissatisfaction, insubordination to authority….

Jesus reminds us here that Sin is serious, it's deadly serious. It receives God's condemnation, his wrath – his settled, unrelenting opposition – comes on us because of sin… for us who are Christian and know the truth of forgiveness need to hear this – we can settle into comfortable patterns of unchallenged sin, because our world won't challenge us, and we don't want to challenge each other, because we don't want to invite a closer look… but Jesus won't let us settle, he calls us to put sin to death. So the question is do you take sin as seriously as Jesus does? Do you see sin as the greatest problem confronting the world? Do you see sin as the greatest problem you have to deal with? Do you take sin seriously?

See we need to understand how serious sin is if we're to understand just how good Jesus is, sin is the greatest problem in history, ever… and there is no remedy, until Jesus steps into our world. So point two:

Jesus has God's own authority

Have a look back at verse 2:

"When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven." At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?"

This seems like classic behaviour from the teachers of the law, always so pedantic. But they seem to have been the first to see where Jesus is going with this. While most of the crowd would have been sitting there thinking 'why does this fellow talk like that? The man needs healing not forgiveness!' The teachers of the law were worried about something completely different. They seem to get that sin is a bigger issue even than paralysis. To give them their due they did go to great lengths to study God's law once they show some insight. They can conceive of the paralysed man as a sinner in need of forgiveness.

What they had a problem with was the idea that Jesus could go around dishing it out.

You can see how this would be a problem for them: If sin is an offence against God and God is angry with us, then God is the only one who can forgive us. I mean, If I came over and swiped your wallet right now I don't think you'd be happy if Tom was to say 'it's all right, I've forgiven him' – you'd want your wallet back, you'd want justice; if I've done wrong to you it's up to you to forgive and it's the same with God.

Ever seen a road rage incident?

So how could Jesus show that he has the power to forgive sins? Look at verse 5 –

"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, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men."

Do you see what he's doing here?

Both forgiving sins and healing a paralysed man are things that only God can do. But forgiving sins is something unseen – you could say you've done it but no one would really know. Saying that you can heal a man, well that's a different matter, that's obvious, if you say to a man whose paralysed 'get up' it's going to become clear pretty quickly if you've got the power to do it or not. So healing the man is a visible proof of the power to act with God's authority.

But again, there's a bit more going on here than meets the eye;
because sin and sickness are closely related. In the garden, before Adam and Eve sinned, there was no sickness. In heaven, when things are set right there will be no sickness either. It's only now – in the days when death reigns over all because all sin – now that there is sickness, because sickness is an aspect of death's reign on earth.

Jesus claim to heal sins is not just a claim to do what only God can do, it's also an implicit claim that Jesus is going to deal with sin and death and all its consequences. That's why in Isaiah chapter 35 when it speaks of the days when God will deal with sin it goes on to talk about healing – the blind will see, the deaf will hear and the mute will shout for joy… and there in the middle of those great healings – the lame will leap like a deer.

Look back at verse 5:

"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, take your mat and go home." And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men."

It truly is an impressive miracle. Modern science is still trying to come up with a cure for paralysis – and even in the rare cases where they are able to repair the nerves it takes months of physiotherapy and retraining to restore the muscles and learn how to walk again. But Jesus needs none of that. The man goes from paralysed and unable to sit up on his mat to walking and carrying it the very next instant. Only God has that kind of power.

But as impressive as the miracle is, we need to remember that it's not the main point. Jesus heals the man to show that he has the authority from God to forgive sins. This is no small thing. In fact, for Jesus this is the main game. This is what his coming to earth was all about. He came to restore relationship with God by bringing forgiveness for sins.

When Jesus healed the paralytic it was an instant, complete healing. It's the same when Jesus forgives sins. He brings release from all of our guilt, not just from guilty feelings, but from the objective, actual guilt for the things we have done. And that forgiveness can break long standing cycles – the cycle of doing something we're ashamed of, and feeling guilty and ashamed and in our shame doing it again and again.

Jesus' offer of forgiveness is now available to each and every one of us. If we come to him he doesn't tell us to go away and clean up our act before he'll forgive us; he forgives freely, willingly. And this free gift of forgiveness opens the way for us to enter into a new relationship with God. It removes the barrier of our rebellion and God's anger in one sweep and creates a new situation of peace, we become friends with God. That relationship is at the heart of the Christian faith, it changes everything. It's the reason why Jesus came to earth, and it's the reason this church exists. And it's available to everyone who comes to God through Jesus and asks for forgiveness. I hope that in time everyone hear this morning will experience the joy of forgiveness from sins and a new relationship with God.

Well, this morning we've looked at one of many remarkable events in the life of Jesus. We've seen the way that he confounded expectations and saw things that others totally missed. We've been confronted with a need that we may not even have been aware of – the need for forgiveness of our sins; and we've been presented with a solution, for Jesus has the authority to forgive us all our sins.

I don't know what you think of all that:

Perhaps it's a bit more than you bargained for when you came through the doors this morning. I hope you won't walk away. Give us a change to convince you – come back tonight or next week to learn more. Or take away a copy of Matthew's gospel and read it this week and find out what was so special about Jesus.

Or, perhaps you've been struck by what's been said and you realise that you're a sinner and that you need forgiveness from God. I hope you'll speak to someone about that this morning – it's as easy as asking God for the forgiveness that comes through Jesus.

Or, perhaps you're convinced that you're beyond forgiveness, that whatever you've done is just too big and too bad to be forgiven. Well that's nonsense. Just as there was no illness or disability too serious for Jesus to heal, so there is no sin so great as to put you beyond forgiveness. Jesus healed the paralytic; Jesus forgave those who crucified him. He is more ready to forgive than you are to say sorry – so trust him at his word and ask for forgiveness.

Or, perhaps you're already a Christian. Do you need a reminder that Jesus delights to forgive sins? If you've been weighed down with guilt remember that Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, so keep coming to him time after time, and ask for forgiveness.

Whatever your response it's clear that Jesus thought that we are in desperate need for forgiveness of sins, and that he is able to offer it to us.

Let's pray.

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