One of the most well-known stories about Jesus, and also one of the most important—though not always for the reasons most commonly thought. Jesus is teaching. And “the power of the Lord was with him to heal.” What does this mean? We will discover in a moment when Jesus notices the “faith” of those who brought the paralytic to him to be healed. God’s power, his grace, is received through faith. When we trust God, repent of our sins and put our trust in him, his Word, and his gracious power, then the power of the Lord is poured into the empty hands of our weak faith. If we wish to have the power of the Lord present with us, then would we today come to Jesus in “faith”—like the friends of the paralyzed man?
They are persistent. There was no way in because of the crowds. But, as faith will, they find another way. If a young man is in love with a young woman, he will be persistent in finding a way to meet her and converse with her. He will not be immediately put off if he cannot find her at the lunch table one afternoon. He will try later in the day too. Similarly, if we believe in Jesus, we will not be put off by the first hurdle but will find another way to serve him and bring people to hear the gospel. Someone is asked to come to church. They say no. If we have faith in Jesus to save them, we keep on praying and seek other ways to invite the person to find out more about Jesus, another opportunity for them to come to church. Faint hearted never won fair lady, and faint faith never won advance of God’s kingdom. Take your courage in both hands, and risk on God’s promises and his Word. (Faith is trusting God’s promises; presumption is doing what you want, where there is no promise in God’s Word, and presuming that God will come to your beck and call.)
But yet more amazing is Jesus’ response. They have come so that their friend would walk. But he says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Of course, the scribes and Pharisees start to mutter—who is this to forgive sins? Now note when someone sins against us, we can (and should) forgive them. But when someone sins against someone else, we do not have the right to forgive them. That would be a very strange thing to do indeed. If someone hits a passerby on the street, what would that passerby think if you went up to the person who hit him and said, “I forgive you”? The Pharisees understood what Jesus was claiming. He was claiming to be God. For all sin is ultimately against God. As David prayed, “Against you only have I sinned.”
And then Jesus heals the man—to prove that he has the power to forgive sins. Note our obsession with physical well-being is not Jesus’ obsession. The miracle of the man walking is a far lesser miracle than the miracle of the man being forgiven. The physical healing is only an illustration of the spiritual healing. Temporary relief from temporary suffering is a good thing; but eternal relief from eternal suffering is a far greater miracle. And Jesus prioritizes what we should prioritize: forgiveness of sins.
The man goes home glorifying God. When God saves you, when he does a new work in your life, would you respond by giving God glory and honor. Don’t say, “It was wonderful, those friends who brought me” (or don’t only say that). Give the ultimate honor where the ultimate glory is due: in God and God alone.
And amazement seized them all. They realize that they are in the presence of a theophany at least, and perhaps some are beginning to realize that they are in the presence of God Incarnate himself. We have seen extraordinary things today.
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