Summary: Jesus knows and has taken steps to remedy our greatest need in life - forgiveness of sin.
She was wrong. You didn’t part on the best of terms. Now it has been several hours, and there’s a phone call. You’ve been thinking it through. You know what to say, so you begin, “Honey, I just want you to know, I’ve been thinking through what happened. It’s OK. I forgive you.” On the other end of the phone, there’s a stony, cold silence. Maybe she’s overwhelmed with the joy of being forgiven. Or, maybe she was calling so that you could apologize to her. That’s probably the best explanation for the sound you don’t hear on the other end of the phone.
People want to be forgiven. When they’re convinced they’ve messed up, and they feel bad for what they’ve done, people want to be forgiven. How about you? When you’re convinced you’ve messed up, don’t you want to be forgiven by the people you’ve hurt? How about when you haven’t messed up? How does it make you feel for someone to tell you he forgives you or she forgives you for what you did?
Consider it. When we talk to someone about his or her relationship with Jesus, that’s one of the difficulties we’re up against. “Take heart, friend! God will forgive you!” “Forgive me? For what? Who are you to say that I’m such a bad person?!” “Well, actually, yes, you are!” (we call that message the good news). Sounds judgmental, doesn’t it? Sounds arrogant, doesn’t it? “Hello! I don’t know you, but I’m a Christian and you’re not, and I just want you to know that God will forgive you!” It’s like taking a toddler into the bathroom and washing his face when he’s convinced the real reason you’re doing it is just to make his life miserable! “NO! I don’t want to! I don’t need to!”
What should we do? Well, Jesus dealt with this attitude all the time. All throughout Jesus’ ministry there’s this string of people who aren’t convinced that they really need to be forgiven of anything. “After all, I’m not so bad. I could name you a whole bunch of people far more guilty than me!”
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
There’s a lot of honesty on the lips of the little kid in Sunday School who had just heard a lesson on Christian behavior. The class was asked, “What do we have to do before we can expect to be forgiven of our sins?” and the little boy right away said, “First, we gotta sin!”
Luke, in his account of this story, says
Luke 5:26 (HCSB)
…everyone was astounded, and they were giving glory to God. And they were filled with awe and said, “We have seen incredible things today!”
The word here is where our word “paradox” comes from – that’s “outside the parameters of conventional wisdom” “What we’ve seen here today is just outside the box – outside the parameters of conventional wisdom.” That’s how I’d like us to leave here today – not feeling guilty, but not deceiving ourselves, having the truth in us, with God’s word in our lives, forgiven, and not making God out to be a liar.
Maybe you’ve read this story several times before. Maybe you’re going, “OK. This story. I’ve heard it a thousand times. Blah blah blah…” Stop it! This is a story about faith, healing, and forgiveness! There’s nothing common or dull about that! Look deeper, and let’s be blown away by Jesus again! Let’s get around the Lord’s table, and think of the cross again. Let’s rejoice together for what we don’t have because we have Jesus – the burden of guilt we’d be carrying otherwise.
Once again, we’re looking at a man who was changed, but his change was a heart change, not just a physical change. In fact, what we really need to learn about isn’t about being healed from paralysis, but about being forgiven! Amen? Maybe you didn’t come here this morning with the need for forgiveness on your mind. That’s OK. Neither did the people in this story…
One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."