THE GREATEST GIFT MOST DON’T EVEN KNOW THEY NEED
Did you see the protestor sign on the news recently? – I Demand Forgiveness and I Want It NOW!!!!
Neither did I.
That’s because all the clamoring demands have nothing to do with the root cause of our problems – plain old sin.
So what does a paralyzed man need? You would think it would be healing. Yes, but Jesus doesn’t go for halfway measures; He doesn’t just fix him up for a while. He goes all the way. He says, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.”
Here is why that’s a better gift – – – Sermon for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity, October 18, 2020, Pastor Edward Bryant. Faith & Our Savior Lutheran Churches, Medford & Grants Pass, Oregon.
Matthew 9:1–8 (CSB)
9 So he got into a boat, crossed over, and came to his own town. 2 Just then some men brought to him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.”
3 At this, some of the scribes said to themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”
4 Perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? 5 For 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 told the paralytic, “Get up, take your stretcher, and go home.” 7 So he got up and went home. 8 When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and gave glory to God, who had given such authority to men.
Dear fellow redeemed: There are lots of demands being made these days. Questions to politicians, demands from demonstrators (and rioters). I don’t think there is a news program without someone waving a sign at the camera.
All of these hopes, these demands, some trivial, some not, have been in the news. We want this, we want that, we demand this, we demand that. But I have yet to hear of anyone walking around, carrying a poster saying, “I want the forgiveness of sins.”
It was the same in Jesus’ day. It was actually shocking for His first words to this man to be, “Have courage, Son, your sins are forgiven.” You see, forgiveness of sins is
THE GREATEST GIFT YOU DON’T KNOW YOU NEED
- Sin Is Our Problem in This World
- Forgiveness Is the Solution
- It is Freely Given
- Sin Is Our Problem in This World
Listen, THE problem in this world is sin. I’m not just being a mossy old moralist. Scripture teaches it.
First, sin is the problem directly. I think of the hard times in which I have comforted people.
People crushed by gossipy, self-righteous, disapproving busy-bodies.
The agony of alienation when a spouse is unfaithful.
The betrayal and enslavement of pornography.
The physical and emotional scars of anger.
The lives wrecked through drunkenness or drug use.
Parents watching their kids ruining their futures by laziness in school.
Children broken by their parent’s breaking their marriage vows.
The way people blame others for their own wrongdoing. Blame and then hate.
Every commandment broken hurts someone, including ourselves. Sin has direct consequences.
But second, sin is the problem indirectly. Much trouble in life isn’t a consequence of some sin of ours, but because of our sinfulness. Why is there death in the world, sickness, age, suffering, famine, infirmity, hunger, and the like? Because of sin generally. Jesus says in Luke 13 that whenever we see tragedy or injury, we should repent of our own sins.
And there is also judgment at times, as Paul says, “And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a corrupt mind so that they do what is not right. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, senseless, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.” (Romans 1:28–32, CSB) Do you think our age will escape the judgment of God for our killing of the unborn, the perversion of marriage, or the blasphemy against the true and living God?
And death is in the world because of sin. “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12, CSB)
2. Forgiveness Is the Solution
So, if sin is the problem, then the solution is our salvation from sin. That means that Christ, is not just our salvation from this moral abstraction, sin, but from all of the trouble that is in our lives, as Paul writes, “If by the one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:17, CSB)
This is why Jesus did not come working “signs in the heavens” as the Jews demanded, but He began the unravelling of sorrow that sin brought into the world, the unravelling that will be complete in the resurrection. Only the One who conquers sin, the devil, and evil itself, only the One who can “undo our guilt” so to speak, can undo the curse of sin in the world.
Here Jesus looks upon the paralyzed man. Maybe he had suffered a stroke, maybe a spinal injury, maybe he was born with problems. It doesn’t matter. Mark and Luke tell us that he was lowered to Jesus down through the roof, but Matthew wants us to focus on the essentials. What the man most needed was forgiveness, for with forgiveness comes righteousness, and with righteousness comes salvation, and with salvation comes the resurrection unto eternal life.
This is what we need, for as Jesus said, “Do not be amazed at this, because a time is coming when all who are in the graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done good things, to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked things, to the resurrection of condemnation.” (John 5:28–29, CSB) In giving this man forgiveness and righteousness, Jesus was giving him eventual salvation from this world and all its troubles.
3. It is Freely Given
And He has given it to you as well. You have to wait because He is allowing this sin-cursed world to stand so that the sinners in it may yet be saved. You and I can only enjoy the perfection of the righteous in the resurrection. But in giving you the gift of forgiveness, the cure of all your troubles is promised by Christ’s words, and received by faith.
Matthew does an intriguing little thing in our text, as the Holy Spirit inspired him. He knows that we have problems believing these things. It is easy for us to focus on what is wrong in our lives rather than on the joy that is promised and is coming to us in the resurrection.
Here Mathew contrasts the faith of the paralytic and his friends with the unbelief of the scribes. These friends bring the paralytic and Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.”
The Scribes thought He was blaspheming God, by pretending to do what only God can do. [Seeing] their [evil] thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?
Seeing that they had faith in Him – saving faith in Him as the Messiah – Jesus gave the man what we all most need. Actually, He said, “Your sins are being forgiven.” The Greek tense tells us that this wasn’t a transaction, but an ongoing thing because of their faith.
But the Jews did not believe in Him as the Messiah.
Because forgiveness, life, and salvation our ours by faith, unbelief is the rejection of this gift. So for the Jews and for us in out struggles and doubts, Jesus didn’t create a sign in the sky, make lightning strike or the moon turn to blood (that’s coming). He did in this instance what He will do for all of us in the resurrection. He gave the man the gift of perfect and complete healing.
In doing so He doesn’t ask “What is harder to DO,” but “What is harder to SAY.” The gift of forgiveness comes by faith, so He could say what He wants and who will know if it is true. But the gift of healing is testable, visible, indisputable. So He went put it this way:, 5 For 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 told the paralytic, “Get up, take your stretcher, and go home.” 7 So he got up and went home. 8 When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and gave glory to God, who had given such authority to men.
Do you know now what becomes yours with the words, “I forgive you all your sins?” The forgiveness of sins, for sure, because those are the words, not of man, but of God, for Christ declared, “…, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”” (John 20:21–23, CSB)
But that is not all, for you receive also life and salvation, because just as death came by Adam and his sin, life and salvation come by Christ and His righteousness. So understand that whenever you hear the gospel promises, or consider your baptism, or partake of Holy Communion, you receive not only forgiveness and righteousness, but the life, health, strength, and eternal joy that is in store for the righteous, the justified, the saints.
So, take courage, dear one, your sins are forgiven, therefore also the resurrection unto eternal life.
AMEN: This is most certainly true.