For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, that who ever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life
Let us pray:
Hide me behind your cross, Lord Jesus. Articulate the Father’s heart through my voice and let the Holy Spirit breathe new life to us, opening our ears to hear the message of God. Amen
Imagine you are paralyzed in a day when medicine can barely treat most illnesses, where people commonly die from infections that we heal as a matter of course today. You can’t move some muscles, but you may still be in pain. You may have muscle spasms that contort and torture you. You may have had a fishing accident or eaten some bad fish or any number of things that could cause paralysis even today. Then you hear about a guy who was healed from leprosy. You might have a full-time helper, so you send him out to get your old friends, because you have to go see if this healer can help you.
Your friends show up. Maybe they take turns carrying you on their backs for the journey, maybe they lay you across the back of a donkey. Even if you only live a few miles from Capernaum, this is a difficult journey, and it is likely the furthest you have been from home in all the time you have been disabled. Your friends are probably getting more and more hopeful for you the closer they get – the buzz is all around, everyone is getting excited – this Jesus guy has been casting out demons, preaching, and stuff, and there is a certain air of expectation.
Then, you all arrive at the home where Jesus is teaching. There is such a crowd you can only really see the roof line amid a mass of humanity. Your friends try to push through to the door, but that’s not happening. They try to get you close to a window, ditto. Finally, one says “Hey, I bet we can get through from above” and they start executing a plan to get you to the healer.
Meanwhile, in the house, Jesus is teaching. He might have been grinning on the inside, knowing that you and your friends are about to interrupt. He keeps going, even while your friends are mere feet above him, digging through the roof. The roof couldn’t have been very high up, so imagine, too that Jesus is getting dust in his hair, the others around him are being disturbed by the commotion, and then finally, you are presented, your friends having successfully been persistent enough.
And Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.” Wait. Just. A. Minute. You went through all that, and your most obvious desire here is to be able to walk, and Jesus says something so completely unexpected…so off target from what you think SHOULD happen. Although, you are probably not even close to as offended as the teachers of the law. They know that throughout history ONLY GOD can forgive sins. In fact, to assign yourself an attribute only God has is to do the most egregious thing you can – blaspheme. This is scandalous! God is God, and this filthy Galilean (with dust in his hair) cannot possibly mean what he says here.
This miracle sets up everything that follows. This is what Jesus came to do – demonstrate his authority over sin. In fact, without this component, he is just a great teacher or cool prophet. What truly sets him apart is the fact that he is God and he is human, both fully. Since he is God – he has authority over sin. Since he is man – he is completely relatable to us.
Knowing that the teachers of the law (and probably you) are offended, Jesus turns his attention back to you. He looks you full in the face, and demonstrates that his authority over sin is equal to his authority over the natural and supernatural world. He tells you to get up, and just like that you are completely healed. Do you forget that Jesus forgave your sins, first? Maybe, but I doubt it, because that is a compelling part of the story. You may have been surprised and a little disturbed by that turn of events, but you knew deep in your heart that the first response was the only one that mattered. Ok, you can stop being the paralyzed/forgiven/un-paralyzed man now. This last part is for us right now.
We all sin. We cannot do otherwise since the fall. It is the gap between where we need to be (perfect before a holy God) and where we wind up (desperate, shameful, broken people who are deserving of punishment). Jesus came to earth to close the gap. To bring us back into relationship with God. He demonstrates in this miracle his authority to do so, and through his perfect life and ultimate sacrifice, he does what must be done. The crucifixion, the resurrection, and Jesus’ life are less impactful if we don’t recognize that Jesus had the authority over sin. We don’t have to live broken, desperate, shameful lives. Jesus can forgive our sins. You ARE the paralytic. When you come to Jesus, he looks you full in the face, right where you are, and he says your sins are forgiven you. That is a healing that changes everything.
As we have been doing every week in this series, I will remind you of what it looks like to say that the love of God is found in every page of Scripture. Follow along on your sheets and whenever I point at you say whatever is bolded on your page:
What does it mean to say God loves?
God loved us enough to create us, to form us from the dust.
God loved us enough to let us fail, to let us choose our own way over God’s – to let us chain ourselves to sin and defeat and heartbreak and sorrow and death.
God loved us enough to provide a rescue, a way back: through wanderers, murderers, adulterers, defaulters, promise-breakers, foreigners, strangers, and lovers.
God loved us enough to show us mothers, judges, kings, and prophets who loved and spoke for God and kept reminding us of the promise of redemption
God loved us enough to show us how evil and wrong continually mess things up and how obedience to God fosters holiness and bestows blessing
God loved us enough to send us Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, to preach and live peace, grace, hope, joy, and love.
God loved us enough to see Jesus rejected, to see him die, to see him buried.
God loved us enough to raise Jesus from the dead and send the Holy Spirit to remind us of all we have in him and empower us to live like Jesus.
God loves us enough to want us to live like Jesus – an abundant life infused with all the fruit of the Spirit, redeemed, free, loved.
God loves us enough to still let us choose our own destiny.
God loves us enough to promise the hope of forever, of resurrection from the dead, and final judgement.
God loved us enough, God loves us enough, God will always love us enough.
For God so loved the world…
God loves you.
God wants you to know it. God wants you to live in it.
God wants you to be able to love others because you know you are loved.
God’s love is expressed to us every week, most tangibly, as we gather at this table: The Son who died and yet lives, gave everything so we could know the depth of God’s love.
So, Come. Drink the wine. Eat the bread. Know you ARE loved.
God loves you. Go, love the world with him.