Summary: A sermon about Jesus' authority.
By: Ken Sauer, Pastor of East Ridge United Methodist Church, Chattanooga, TN www.eastridgeumc.org
Authority has gotten bad press in much of the world.
In many of our minds it goes together with nasty ideas like “oppression” and “human rights abuses.”
What comes to your mind when you think of “the authorities?”
Judges, looking stern and solemn, and ready to send you to prison?
Faceless civil servants and bureaucrats making laws and regulations which seem designed to make life difficult?
In some countries, “the authorities” can mean people who knock on your door at 5 o’clock in the morning, take you away with no good reason, beat you up and maybe kill you.
It can mean people who pass oppressive laws that force people to leave their families for half the year if they want to find any work.
In many peoples’ minds, “the authorities” are people who seem to be able to run things the way they want but are answerable to nobody!
They are people who can do what they want, and they have an army to back them up.
Authority means power, which means force, which means violence.
No wonder so many people are suspicious of the very word “authority” itself!
Yet here it is in the Gospels: Jesus has authority!
You can’t miss it.
Jesus has authority in His teaching.
Authority over diseases.
Authority over storms and the weather, and authority over demons.
Jesus has authority to do what only God does: to put away sins, to change a person’s life from the inside out, to free us from whatever is gripping us so tightly that we can’t move.
What is this authority?
Is it anything like the authorities we know in our world?
Jesus’ authority is a totally different kind of authority altogether, is it not?
It’s a different kind of power!
It doesn’t work by having an army at its back, and thugs to break down your door at five in the morning!
Jesus’ authority has nothing to do with violence, and everything to do with the power of freedom and love!!!
Everyone could use some of that!
And that is what is being offered by Christ every minute of every day, to you and to me and to everyone else!!!
And it is the most powerful authority on earth and below the earth!!!
And that’s why the people of Jesus’ day who had just a little bit of authority in their world were upset and intimidated by Jesus.
They didn’t want to lose their power.
They didn’t want people following Jesus rather than them.
So they tried to stifle Jesus’ power, Jesus’ authority!
They tried to stamp it out!
Even though people were being saved and set free by it.
At the heart of our Gospel Lesson for this evening is Jesus’ ability to forgive sins.
The word for “forgive” here literally means “send away,” such as, sending away all of a person’s sins off into the far beyond where they are forgotten forever!
That is what Jesus does for you and for me when we come to Him.
And that is what Jesus does for the paralytic man lying on a mat.
“Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
Now, that seems a bit odd, does it not?
I mean, the man has been brought to Jesus by his friends.
He can’t move.
He’s lying on a mat.
He needs to be healed so that he can get up and walk, and work and run and play.
Why is it that the first thing Jesus says to him is that his sins are forgiven?
It’s quite odd, is it not?
But it appears that this is exactly what the man needed to hear!
Have you ever been so burdened by sin that you could hardly function?
Has sin ever had such a hold on you that you couldn’t move on your own?
Has sin ever controlled your actions or caused you not to be able to do what you know you should be doing?
Sin is the great enemy of humankind.
It is the most deadly disease.
It ruins our lives and the lives of others.
It starts wars.
There is no love in sin.
It claims the lives of its victims, and most of all it separates us from God!
Sin erases hope, and sin can leave us paralyzed with a heavy guilt…
…leaving us in the utter darkness of despair!
In hell, if you will.
And that is what was wrong with this man on the mat.
His paralysis was the kind where psychological forces had reduced his body to immoveability.
The man had done something—perhaps many things—of which he was deeply ashamed.
They left him with a self-loathing and self-hatred which caused him to give up hope.