YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN!
by Chris Benjamin
Read Mark 2:1-12
Jesus has a curious response to the mans condition: He doesnt spend much time diagnosing the illness.
- Perhaps the need of this man is obvious as he lowered on his mattress with his withered limbs tucked in closely. It should be obvious, but that makes Jesus response all the more curious. He forgives the mans sins.
Forgiveness of sins? Did the man even want to be healed? Or did he want to be saved? Why does Jesus offer forgiveness of sins right off the start? Usually we offer benevolence or healing then proceed to deal with others sin problems.
But, the Scribes have a point dont though? Isnt it Gods prerogative to forgive sins? We do not want to be too presumptuous. If we start handing out forgiveness like candy, no one will want to be holy. Lets not talk forgiveness to the point that we forget responsibility. Maybe its best we leave forgiveness to God - and so that means we will just have to hope for the best in the judgment, right?
- Whats being said here about sin? Its crippling. Condemnation paralyzes and numbs. Unable to walk righteously. Unable to speak to others truthfully and lovingly. Unable to move, to worship, to serve.
"Wait!" says Jesus to the scribes, "Why all this discussion? Why are you thinking these things? Why do you doubt my authority to forgive?"
There are two different views of forgiveness in conflict: We see it in the way the scribes question Jesus bold proclamation of forgiveness. We know it in the way Jesus bold proclamation of forgiveness is too often doubted by our own condemning hearts.
I John 3:19-20.
- The way our condemning hearts view forgiveness: Gods work of forgiveness is much more active and transforming than simply passing a sentence. We cannot equate Gods forgiveness with the pardon given by presidents and governors. Presidents issue pardons upon leaving office and they are usually the stuff of scandals. Why? Perhaps it is because we sense that nothing has changed. The label has changed, but the contents are the same and they are spoiled. Yet, Gods forgiveness works much deeper than that. It has to! "Our forgiveness is not some judicial fiction, but a reality being worked out in our lives by the Holy Spirit."
- Jesus and the Apostles view: a transforming reality within and without, sanctification! Assurance of Gods grace and the power to change our hearts. [John "So that you may know!"] - Gods forgiveness is good news for us when we feel the burden of condemnation and guilt because it allows us to be defined by Gods righteousness and not our guilt. We may even accept the fact that God forgives us, but we remain so guilt-ridden that we are spiritually paralyzed.
- Even if we do not assume that death is the only outcome, our guilt may condemn us to a spiritual paralysis. Rather than risk the possibility of doing anything wrong we do nothing. As long as Jesus forgives us, we should just sit down, shut up and be still. We quietly accept the forgiveness and keep our head bowed low. However, Jesus did not become sin so that we might become mediocre. We are Gods workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works (Ephesians 2:10). We were not created to stay out of the way and be unobtrusive.
- Jesus: "Which is easier to say?" Either way the result is the same a soul with the ability to walk! And Jesus wants us to walk spiritually. This man who may have never walked in his life Jesus instructs him not only to walk home, but to carry his bed with him too. Jesus did not forgive us so we would stay out of the way. [2 Corinthians 5:21 "God made him who had no sin to become sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."] Christ became sin why? So that we might become righteousness! Gods forgiveness is not just a change in verdict it contains the power to actually enable us to live differently! And that can be just as astounding as a paralyzed man walking!
We may think that without Gods forgiveness we will die, but the fact is that without Gods transforming forgiveness we will never truly live!
- We may choose to respond to Gods forgiveness like the scribes with doubt and hesitation. We are our own worse scribes. Our hearts condemn us. And then we may, if it gets really bad, condemn others. So we need to hear and see an amazing authority. We need to confront a reality that is much greater than even our own hearts
- This greater reality is God. In the face of this greater reality, there can be no flippant forgiveness. We confront this reality through the cross of Jesus. Baptism and the Lords Supper participate in the crucifixion and resurrection - When we are baptized, when we share the common meal with Jesus we see how Christ becomes sin so that we might become righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21). Gods forgiveness creates a new reality. The word sometimes used to describe it is sanctification. God forgives in such a way that sinners might become holy and righteous.
- We may choose to respond to Gods forgiveness like the paralyzed man and his friends who brought him to Jesus with faith and trust. Trusting in Gods transforming forgiveness is not oppressive, but liberating. In fact, we can only experience true freedom as we rely on the spirit of God.
- In 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, Paul describes the ongoing work of salvation as moment to moment God is transforming us into his likeness. We are never set free just to do anything we want! Removing sin is meant to heal, to empower, to free to convert! Crippled with sin, we are empowered to walk in righteousness ...
So who has the authority? Our condemning hearts? Our guilt? Our scribal tendency to doubt and deliberate while we lie paralyzed on our mattress? Or does the Lord have the final authority? Jesus is greater than our condemning hearts. His view of whats real and right and greater than the wisest scribe or the most cynical, self-hating critic. How ridiculous then that some of us would still allow our own heart to rule over the word of God ...
- Some of us cannot worship because we doubt the authority and grace of God.
- Some of us have wounds that will not heal because we continue to pick at the scab.
- Some of us listen to "the inner-scribe" that keeps condemning us and has fooled us into thinking that it is God!
Once the scribes stopped dissecting the authority of Christ, the people praised God. We can too if we will let go and trust in his power to save. We are paralyzed so long as the focus is on us. But that changes when we focus on Jesus authority to heal and forgive. Hes greater than our condemning heart.
- And we ought also to glorify God when we see his amazing grace. When the sick are made well, they want to return to life. Likewise the forgiven need to return to life.
- Can you imagine if the paralytic had allowed his friends to carry him home after he was forgiven and healed? "No thanks Lord, I dont doubt your power and authority to forgive, but Im just not sure about myself. You see, Im no good at the walking thing and to walk and carry my mattress, well, thats a lot too soon. I probably need a few months in transitionary care to make sure this is for real. Thanks for the forgiveness and healing, but I had better go at this slow."
- But Jesus gives a command without any doubt he said "Your sins are forgiven!" And without any qualification he said, "Get up! Take up your bed and walk home!"
- Christ forgives us so that we may walk in righteousness. If Christ has forgiven you then why would you let yourself be carried home on your mattress?
West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 8 February 2004