January 17, 2016
Gift giving can be challenging. It’s often hard to know what to give someone. According to one national retail foundation, nearly 70 billion dollars’ worth of Christmas purchases are returned. In 2013 the Daily Mail reported that 42% of women returned holiday gifts from their husbands. Seventeen percent of recipients planned to donate an unwanted present, 13% planned to regift one, and 10% would simply throw the bad gift away.
This morning I want to begin a series of messages entitled, Grace Gifts from Jesus to You. What does Jesus offer us? What is the value in knowing and following Jesus? Today we will look at a gift that Jesus offers us. In Lk.5:17-26 we see that Jesus came to offer forgiveness of sins.
I. CONSIDER THE STUBBORN REALITY OF PERSONAL SIN. Lk.5:17-19
The thrust of this passage is to show very clearly that Jesus, God in the flesh, has authority to forgive sins. And since that is the thrust of the passage, the physical malady of this man serves as a metaphor for the tragic reality of sin in our lives.
In fact, it is our understanding that when sin entered into the world through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, it wasn’t just a spiritual failure of thought. It involved bodily actions. Nor were the consequences of sin just spiritual. They were also physical. Sin brought destruction and death into the entire created order. Just consider what Jesus says in Lk.4:18-19. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Jesus came to reverse the spiritual and physical consequences of sin.
Paul tells us in Rm.8:21-22 that through Jesus Christ, “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.” This man’s paralysis was probably not because he committed some sin, but is an example of the general consequences of living in a fallen, sinful world.
While in college, I and another student received room and board by taking care of a man who was quadriplegic. He was paralyzed from his neck down. He could control his arms, but not his hands. He was attorney and had learned to write. He worked for Kemper Insurance. Basically, we had to do everything for him. We had to lift him out of the wheelchair into the bathtub or the bed. We had to bathe and dress him and assist him in the bathroom. It was quite challenging and difficult. Without help, he was helpless. Paralysis serves as a helpful description of sin.
Our understanding of what sin is comes largely from the Old Testament. The Old Testament description of sin carries into the New Testament. In the Old Testament, quite a few different Hebrew words are used to describe sin. The most frequent word for sin, occurring almost 600 times, means to “miss the mark.” You are not on target. The word denotes being at fault, failure to reach the goal, failure to perform a duty, failure to meet the demands of a law. This word is used in the case of lying, stealing, failure to keep one’s word, even cursing God. A second word refers to a breach of a law or a relationship. When this word is used it has the idea of rebellion against God that results in a broken relationship with God. A third word carries the idea of being crooked or bent as opposed to being straight and true. A ruler is straight. The branch is crooked. Other words refer to that which is evil and that which brings guilt before God.
In the Bible, sin is always first and foremost an offense against the goodness of God seen in his good commands, his gracious provision, and love. Is.59:2 says, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.”
What is more, in the Bible sin is described as a blemish that cries out for cleansing. Lev.16:30 says, “For on this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the LORD from all your sins.” Sin is described as a burden. For example in Ps.32:5 it says, “I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the LORD," and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” The word, “forgave” means to carry, to lift. When God forgives sin he takes the burden from us. Sin brings the burden of guilt and shame. It weighs a person down. Sin is also described as swerving from the path. In Ex.32:8 we read, “They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, 'These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” Many scriptures could be sighted.
When we come to the New Testament we are reminded by Paul that we have all sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. We have turned to follow our own way. We have lived in accordance with our passions and desires. We have disobeyed God in order to please ourselves regardless of what God has said.
When God told Adam and Eve to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he said that in the day you eat of it you will surely die. Throughout the whole of scripture it is clear that sin brings death. Sin brings the wrath of God. “The wages of sin is death,” Paul tells us. So destructive is sin that Jesus uses hyperbole when he says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away…And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”
All of this presumes the truth that since God is God, since God is our Creator we are accountable to him. We will answer to him for all that we have done. It’s not that God is mean; God is love. But what can a loving God do when those he has created reject him through disobedience and unbelief? When we live a life of sin we show our rejection of God. So serious is the sinful condition of our hearts that Paul says we are slaves to sin. Like the paralytic who was helpless, so we are helpless in our sin.
Is there some sinful action or thought that you just cannot seem to let go of, it has a grip on you? Is there some sinful act or thought that you feel is so sinful and immoral that you can’t get free of the guilt and shame that you feel? And we have not even mentioned the way sin destroys our lives and our relationships. Our stubborn pride, our selfish desires, our immoral minds and actions paralyze us and keep us from knowing God.
II. RECEIVE JESUS’ GIFT OF FORGIVENESS. Lk.5:20
This is such an interesting story. Here is a man paralyzed from birth. He is fortunate enough to have four friends who are committed to doing all they can to see this man healed. They were so committed that they made an opening in the roof of the house that Jesus was in and lowed the man on his bed in front of Jesus. They clearly believed Jesus could and would heal their friend. And it is interesting to see that Jesus acknowledged the faith of these four friends. He did not acknowledge the faith of the paralyzed man.
On the website, “BrainandSpinalCord.org,” concerning spinal cord injuries resulting in paralysis it says, “As we mentioned before, injuries to the spinal cord are extremely complicated, and affect highly individual cells that are so specialized they are unable to repair or regenerate. So the spinal cord can’t heal itself like the other parts of our bodies.” Obviously there was no hope for this man. It would seem that his injuries were beyond even Jesus’ ability to heal, because instead of healing the man, Jesus said something spiritual that sounded good. “Your sins are forgiven.” Is that what was going on here? Not at all.
If I went to the doctor with a pain in my leg and if during the exam the doctor determined that I had lung cancer, the pain in my leg would suddenly become insignificant. The doctor would address the more serious issue. That is what Jesus, the Great Physician was doing.
The most pressing issue in this man’s life was not his paralysis, but his sin. Just as this man was helpless to heal his own body, so he was helpless to rid himself of his own sin and guilt before God. This is also true for you and me. You may be a wonderful person, doing many good acts of kindness for others. But the consistent teaching of Scripture is that no matter how many good acts we may do, they are insufficient to remove our sin. At the heart of our sinfulness is the rejection of God. No matter how many good acts we do, if in our hearts we refuse to bow before God, our stubborn pride will not be erased by our good deeds. In fact our good deeds become just another expression of our stubborn pride, thinking that we can merit God’s approval by our own efforts while completely ignoring Christ.
Jesus forgave the man of his sins. Had this man put his faith and trust in Jesus? We don’t know. His friends are the ones commended for their faith. I am reminded of what Paul writes in Rm.5:6-8. It says, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person (though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die) but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This man did not ask Jesus to forgive his sins. He wanted to be healed of his paralysis. Jesus forgave his sins. Jn.3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that he sent his one and only son. Death is the penalty for sin and Jesus died in our place, bearing the guilt of our sins. Jesus provided for the forgiveness of our sins apart from any acts of righteousness that we have done.
Was the man disappointed? We don’t know. But we do know that he heard the word of forgiveness spoken to him. “Your sins are forgiven.” Wait, just like that! You mean all that Jesus has to say is, “Your sins are forgiven,” and they are forgiven? Well, did Jesus require anything of this man before saying, “Your sins are forgiven?” The only thing this man had to do was to receive the words Jesus spoke to him as true. This man was spiritually and physically helpless. All he could do was receive.
Men and women, in coming to earth as a man, living, dying for our sins, rising again, Jesus made it possible for our sins to be forgiven. What he said to the lame man, he says to you. Do you receive it? You say, “That sounds too easy. My sins are too great for God to just forgive like that.” But God can and does forgive because Jesus gave his life for us. Do you receive the forgiveness of your sins from Jesus? Do you? Have you opened the gift of forgiveness from Jesus?
III. WALK IN THE JOY OF FORGIVENESS. Lk.5:21-25
Obviously there were some in the crowd who did not believe Jesus could forgive this man’s sins. The scribes and the Pharisees had a pretty good theological understanding about forgiveness. Only God can forgive sins. We sin against God and God alone forgives sins. So as far as they were concerned, Jesus was speaking blasphemy. He was claiming to be in the place of God.
Jesus discerned what these men were thinking and he challenged them. “Why do you question in your hearts?” The reason they questioned in their hearts is because they had no thought that Jesus might be God in the flesh. There is only one God and it was not Jesus.
Jesus put a very obvious question before them. “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Rise up and walk’?” Obviously it is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven you.” There is no way to verify the truth of that statement. So in order to show that he did have authority to forgive sins, Jesus showed that he had authority to heal an incurable illness. He said, “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.”
Did Jesus desire to heal this man of his paralysis? He surely did. Jesus came to bring healing of all kinds. His first priority is spiritual healing from the guilt of our sins. But for Jesus, healing is very holistic. He brings complete healing. You say, “Wait a minute. There are many Christians who do not receive physical healing.” That is absolutely so, but they will. When Jesus walked this earth he came to reveal the power and goodness of the kingdom of God. Jesus the King was here in all his fullness. When he comes again, everyone who knows him will be completely healed with a new body. In Rm.8:31-32 Paul writes, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”
However, Jesus told this man to get up, take his bed and go home. Here was a changed man. He received a new life. Not only were his sins forgiven, not only was he cleansed on the inside, he was healed on the outside. He had a new body and clean heart. There was no reason for him to stay on the bed of paralysis. It says that “immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God.”
The greatest evidence that this man had been healed was that he rose, took his bed and walked home, praising God. There is no way he could have stayed in that bed. You don’t get healed from paralysis and stay in the bed.
And men and women, you don’t have your sins forgiven by Jesus and then continue to live in sin. Instead you begin to live a new life in keeping with your new heart. A heart cleansed of sin promotes a life of joy and worship and obedience to God who forgave our sins. Is that the life you are living? A life of joy, worship, and obedience to God?
If Jesus were here this morning and handed you a beautifully wrapped gift, and if when you opened the gift you found the words, “Your sins are forgiven,” would you receive this gift with joy? Or would you feel gipped? Do you understand that your deepest need is to have your life cleansed of your sin? Jesus says to you, “Your sins are forgiven you.” Amen