THERE ARE TWO SERMONS ON THIS PAGE
Evensong 27/9/15 - Matthew 9:1-8
Matthew 9:1-8 1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 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." 3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, "This fellow is blaspheming!" 4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Get up and walk'? 6 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." 7 And the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.
1) Faith Jesus was almost certainly in Peter's home, probably in the upper floor of two, with a flat roof above that would be used as another, roofless, floor.
This paralytic's friends had such faith in Jesus they got onto the roof and dismantled it so they could lower their friend on his bed to Jesus for healing. He was severely crippled. Cripples are often rejected with little sympathy, for example the children who are helped by Chilli Children in Uganda, The Bishop of St Albans Harvest Appeal.
The Jews' thought that disease and affliction was the direct result of someone's sin. Their own, parents, or even, grandparents. So the man didn't suffer from sickness alone but, perhaps, also guilt, and turmoil wondering what he had done to deserve this.
Jesus saw the trust of these men, just as he read the hearts of the teachers of the law who accused him of blaspheming. So, he healed him right away! Well, no, he didn't. He dealt with a bigger, longer lasting problem than the man's physical state. He dealt with his spiritual state. He said, v.2 "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven."
2) Forgiveness Jesus encourages him to have courage, calls him “”son” in an affectionate way, then tells him his sins are forgiven. Jesus met this man's greatest need. When Jesus spoke those words to the paralytic he must have been looking to the cross, knowing his words could only be effective because he would take the punishment for the man's sin upon Himself.
3) Fury The teachers of the law furious because Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sins. This was blasphemy, unless Jesus is God.
the paralytic they didn't think they needed to be forgiven. They
considered themselves to be righteous. But they were self-righteous.
resented Jesus' offering forgiveness, not only because they did not
believe He was God but also because they considered it unjust for a
person to be forgiven simply by asking for it—instead of by earning
it, as they thought they had done. The two great barriers to
salvation have always been refusal to recognize the need for it and
the belief that it can be earned or deserved.
Their hearts were so hardened they continued to antagonised by Jesus' teaching, miracles and compassion that was evidence that Jesus is God.
4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Get up and walk'? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ."
The word that best describes the fourth aspect of this event is forensic, which refers to discussion, debate, or argument. Because only Jesus' words were spoken aloud, we know the scribes' side of things only because the Lord omnisciently revealed to us what was in their thoughts. Jesus not only laid bare what they were thinking but exposed the wickedness behind the thoughts. In claiming to defend God's holiness they showed themselves to be utterly against it, because they were thinking evil of the Son of God whom they refused to acknowledge.
Jesus' first argument was in the form of a rhetorical question: "For which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, and walk'?" The scribes and Pharisees had seen irrefutable evidence of Jesus' power to heal disease. "Why, therefore," He asked in effect, "do you think it impossible for Me to forgive sins? Is one easier than the other?" Sin and disease are inseparable. He could deal with both sin and its symptoms.
His opponents said nothing, but the answer was obvious: both things are equally impossible for men and both are equally possible for God. The point was that no one but God could either heal disease with a word or could forgive sins, and Jesus can do both with the same divine ease. Even their own distorted theology should have led the scribes and Pharisees to believe in Jesus' divinity. If, as they believed, sickness and disease were the consequences of sin, then removing disease would be connected to dealing with the sin that caused it. In their thinking, all healing of disease would have to involve at least some forgiveness of sin—which by their own declaration only God can grant. They were trapped in their own theology and logic.
Jesus may have emphasized the word say. If so, His point was that saying something is always easier than doing it. It is also much easier to make a claim that cannot be verified than to make one that can be. The scribes and Pharisees had no visible way to verify the paralytic's forgiveness, but they were about to receive abundant evidence of his healing, which would force the conclusion that Jesus could and did deal with sin.
"But in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins," Jesus continued, "I will demonstrate again My power to heal disease. You cannot see the results of My forgiveness," He implied, "but you can easily see the results of My healing." So in order that they might know He could forgive sin, which they could not see, He did what they could see—by dealing with sin's symptoms.
Jesus said to the paralytic—Rise, take up your bed, and go home, that is exactly what the man did. The command to rise suggests that when Jesus spoke the healing had already taken place. No description of this act of healing is recorded, only the command to the paralytic to take advantage of it.
5) Fear 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.
“Filled with awe” expresses the feeling of a person who is in the presence of someone infinitely superior. We have similar reactions when Jesus walked on water, stilled the storm, raised the widow's son at Nain. It is used of the feelings of someone confronted with the power of God. The crowd praised God, who had given such authority to men.
We don't know what the crowd knew about Jesus, but they realised that what He did was empowered by God and that Jesus was, obviously, a man. If they did not realise that he was God and man, they at least realised that he was an extrodinary, godly man.
We have more evidence. We can declare that Jesus is God and man, worship him with reverence and awe, and receive the forgiveness that only he can offer.
10.30 a.m. 28/7/02 : Matthew 9:1-8
A few years ago, rumours spread that
a certain Catholic woman was having visions of Jesus. The archbishop
decided to check her out. 'Is it true, madam, that you have visions
of Jesus?' he asked. 'Yes,' the woman replied. 'Well, the next time
you have a vision, I want you to ask Jesus to tell you the sins that
I confessed in my last confession. Please call me if anything happens.'
Ten days later the woman notified her spiritual leader of a recent apparition.
Within the hour the archbishop arrived. 'What did Jesus say?' he asked.
She took his hand and gazed deep into his eyes. 'Bishop,' she said,
'these are his exact words: I CAN'T REMEMBER. '
Think about healing of the paralytic using the letter F.
The paralytic was helped by friends who carried him all the way to Jesus. Again and again in the gospels we read of people being brought to Jesus by others for healing. We even read of the centurion who brought his slave into the presence of Jesus by telling him there was something wrong and asking for his healing power to work over a distance. The trust in the power of Jesus and the practical action of the paralytic's friends helped to save him.
Let that be an inspiration for us to trust in the power of Jesus to transform people. God may call us to physically take people to Jesus, like giving them a lift to church. I know that some members of our congregation are involved in this ministry.
Two neighbours had lived next to one another for years. They helped one another with do-it-yourself, loaned garden equipment and gave lifts to the other's family when needed. Tom had even invited Andy to visit his golf club to have a go in the practice area and to one of the social dinners they had occasionally. They were chatting over the fence one day and Tom asked Andy where he went with his family most Sundays. Andy replied that they went to church. Tom said that he was surprised that, with the length of time they had known one another, Andy had never invited him to an event at the church whilst he had been happy to attend events at Tom's golf club.
God calls us to invite people to church. Events such as Mothers' and Fathers' day, harvest, Christmas and Easter can be times when we can invite friends, family, colleagues and neighbours to a service.
Maybe we are called to bring people into the presence of Jesus by telling him about them in our prayers. We know that he can heal over a distance in this way. We experienced this years ago when we prayed for Ernie Langford to be healed when he was taken ill in Spain. I am sure many of us are bringing those we know to be ill ( mention names )into the presence of Jesus in our prayers at this time.
Sometimes it may seem a heavy load, even impossible, but a personal trust in Jesus is the best gift anyone will ever receive.
The friends would have heard about the miracles of Jesus and thought they were bringing their friend to be healed. However, they got more than they expected !
Jesus did more for this man that simply healing him of his paralysis. Jesus forgave his sins.
"To err is human, to forgive is divine." Alexander Pope 1688-1744, British Poet, Critic, Translator.
Jesus called him son, literally child. It was a term of affection. Jesus declares that his sins are forgiven. This is the momentous event in this passage, it shows us who Jesus is.
In Judaism, certain sins could be forgiven by God if the sinner was sorry for what he had done, acknowledged the deed, and was determined not to repeat it. Here Jesus forgives because of the faith of the mat-bearers and, possibly, that of the paralytic. Elsewhere he responds to the faith of the centurion, not his sick servant.
Jesus knows what the teachers of the law were thinking: the Old Testament teaches that only God can forgive sins; Jesus is not God, so he must be a blasphemer ( verse 3).
It is "easier" (v. 5) to say that sins are forgiven because no human can tell whether they are or not; there is no visible sign. People don't go around with 'forgiven' or 'sinner' written on their foreheads ! Only God knows. But only God can heal and he would not use a blasphemer as his agent in healing. Therefore, if Jesus heals, he is from God; if he does not, he blasphemes. So Jesus shows them that he does indeed have "authority ... to forgive sins" (v. 6): he heals the paralytic by word alone ( verse 6 ). So the healing verifies that Jesus is God and that he has the power to forgive sins.
The hostility of the teachers of the law doubted Jesus divine nature. Maybe there have been difficult times in our lives and we have questioned who Jesus is, or his ability to do something. Often we are too concerned with the immediate, and we can look back on these times later and see God's love and provision.
In Jesus time there was a popular belief that someone was sick or disabled or subject to a terrible accident because of a sin that they, or their parents had committed. Elsewhere Jesus teaches his disciples that this is not the case. Here there clearly is a link between the sin, which Jesus forgives, and the paralysis, which he cures.
Paul Y Cho, the Pastor of the Full Gospel Church in Korea wrote about a woman in his congregation who was crippled with arthritis. Her husband had left her and their children for another woman. This put her under financial pressure. She stated that she hated her husband because he was guilty of adultery. Paul Y Cho told her she had to forgive her husband to receive healing. She agreed to do this and to pray and fast at Prayer Mountain, a place they have set aside for prayer. The following Sunday she came to Pastor Cho after a service and introduced her husband. He had been convicted of his sin and, after deciding against committing suicide, went to church to receive forgiveness. He saw his wife there and asked her, and God for forgiveness. He became a Christian and his wife's arthritis was cured so she no longer needed her wheel chair. She had been healed inside initially and, because of this, her body was healed.
Jesus claimed to be God and proved it by healing the paralytic. Jesus also claimed that he would die in our place on the cross , receiving the punishment for everything that we have ever done wrong so that we may be forgiven and free. Free from guilt and fear, free from the condemnation of God. We know that Jesus claims were true because he rose from the dead and is alive today.
In the Secret Diary of Adrian Plass he relates a conversation during a House Group meeting : 'Mrs Flushpool asked the first question. She said, 'I find it strange, Reverend - I cannot call you 'Father' because of scriptural reservations - that on your previous visit you barely mentioned the judgement of God of sin committed in the natural. Perhaps, you do not feel sinful ?'
Father John blinked. 'Oh, I'm a ratbag,' he declared with enthusiasm, 'but I do feel so very forgiven. You see, God's crazy about me, just as he's crazy about you. Salvation was His idea, you know, not ours.' He pointed to Mrs Flushpool. 'If you were to commit a foul sin with everyone in your street, and then said to God, "I really am honestly and sincerely sorry," He would say, 'Great ! Let's start all over again." Marvellous isn't it ? '
Mrs Flushpool, presumably wrestling inwardly with the image of herself committing fouls sins with everyone in the street, splashed back down into her seat, looking rather breathless.
Leonard Thynn leaned across and whispered in my ear, 'He knows a different God to the one I do. His God's nice !'
We can experience the forgiveness that Jesus offers today. Whatever bad things we have done. Whatever unforgiveness, hatred, or bad thoughts we may have hidden within us.
Let us all know and declare that we know the forgiveness of Jesus and that we want to help others to know that for themselves. One of the ways that we can do this is to be forgiving to people. The motivation for this is that we have been forgiven so much by Jesus. This is why he taught his disciples to pray, 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us'. We are not to pardon others to earn our forgiveness, but to show that we realise how much we have been forgiven. The inspiration for our forgiving is the example of Jesus.
What was most important to the paralytic ? To be healed of his physical infirmity, or to have his sins forgiven ? Which would last longer ?
We can come into God's presence, in church or in our devotions, with sin and guilt. We can come from God's presence forgiven. We may look the same externally, yet we are made whole within. We may still have physical pain, or problems in our life, but we can be whole before God.
The disability that the man suffered from may have lasted for the rest of his life if Jesus had not healed him. But the forgiveness that Jesus brings lasts for ever.
One day Jesus will return and take all his followers to be with him in heaven. There will be no more paralysis, sickness, suffering, tragic accidents, death, or mourning then because there is no sin in heaven. Believers will have prefect resurrection bodies and be able to praise and worship God forever. This gives us a certain hope to inspire and strengthen us to live for Jesus today.
A new, young sailor at sea was ordered to climb a mast to adjust a sail during a violent storm. He got halfway up, looked down, and felt dizzy and sick. An old experienced sailor on deck shouted up to him "Look up, son, look up." The young sailor looked up, regained his composure, and completed his task. He learned the importance of looking forward and not backwards...
Jesus told the man he was forgiven and to get up, take up his mat and go home. To receive the forgiveness and healing of Jesus the man had to obey him. He would never find out if he was better without taking Jesus at his word and trying to get up and walk.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945, German Lutheran Pastor and Theologian "Only he who believes is obedient and only he who is obedient believes."
It says that the onlookers were filled with awe and glorified God but I bet that the man leapt for joy as he ran home ! There was no going back for him now. He had new opportunities because of what Jesus had done for him. Not only was he free from the paralysis that had held him back, but he was liberated from the sin that had hindered him. Now he was free to enjoy the life that he was created for.
God is interested in our whole being, body and soul, if you like. Therefore, we and other churches should beware of concentrating too much on either the physical or the spiritual side of things. Some churches may focus on the healing ministry at the expense of the spiritual, others be too spiritual or theological at the expense of the practical. Similarly, some Christians may look to God to answer all their physical, relational and financial problems and neglect their spiritual life. In fact, when God does not solve all their problems, they may drift away from Him.
To conclude, I mentioned earlier Jesus is God and that he has the power to forgive sins. We know this because the man was physically healed. We know this because Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins, and he rose again to prove that this was true.
Jesus will forgive us what is past, and transform was is before us. When we know the forgiveness of Jesus this brings us incredible joy and a reason for living.
Lord Jesus I ask :
For your forgiveness.
For a mind that will never forget you.
For a determination to live for you, and for a life that will go on forever.
Son of God only you can give me these things. Amen.