Listen: Matthew 9: 1-2: Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.2 Some men brought to him a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.”
In Jesus’ day, it was a common belief that if you were handicapped, it was because you must have committed a sin. Or perhaps your parents did. Your handicap was a punishment for the sin you committed. That is not true, and God made that perfectly clear in the book of Job. The three friends kept telling Job that all his troubles stemmed from the fact that he must have sinned against God. But they were wrong. Even suggesting such a thing is a hideous burden on someone who is already suffering.
Yet, even if no one suggests such a thing, our own sinful nature is quick to come to that same conclusion. If we are suffering, God must be punishing us for something we did wrong. But if that were true, then when things are going good, God must be rewarding us for doing good. Both are wrong. Suffering comes because Adam and Eve sinned and ruined God’s perfect creation. And the Bible says that God makes it rain on the evil and the good.
But no matter, because the paralyzed man must have believed he had done something wrong to deserve such a life. And Jesus cuts through all the red tape and gets to the heart of the matter. “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” So if your sinful nature ever entertains the thought that God is angry with you and punishing you, remember Jesus’ words. “Your sins are forgiven.”
Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for helping me again to put human pain and suffering in perspective. In fact, when I suffer in this life, let my suffering be a reminder that my sins ARE forgiven and not a suggestion by Satan that they are not. I cannot wait until you come again and take away all our handicaps and all of our suffering. Until that day, I will live by faith. Amen.
Listen: Matthew 9:3-8: 3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” 4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 Then the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to man.
What is easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven?,” or “Get up and walk?” It is easier to say the first because if you tell a man to get up and walk, then you better see a man walking, or you would prove yourself to be a fake. Jesus really proved that he was the Son of God in two ways in these verses. The miracle proved it. And the fact that he knew what they were thinking in their hearts also proved that he was the all powerful and all knowing Son of God.
“Your sins are forgiven,” Jesus said. How do we know that Jesus has the authority to forgive our sins? This miracle gives us Jesus’ credentials. There was a miracle far greater than giving a lame man the chance to walk to prove that Jesus forgives sins. He rose from the dead on the third day. This was the greatest miracle that ever happened. And if you believe that Jesus rose from the dead, then you must believe everything else about Jesus, including that he died to make up for the sins of the whole world.
“Your sins are forgiven.” Believe it because Jesus proved it to be so.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, when Satan accuses my heart and doubts rise within me, then bring me back to the empty tomb and show me again the proof that my sins are forgiven. Set my heart free from my sin so that in my life I can serve you in godliness and righteousness all my days. I ask this in your name. Amen.
Listen: Matthew 9:9-13: 9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. 10 While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and sinners came and ate with him and his disciples. 11 When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus was not afraid to get his hands dirty, so to speak. A tax collector who had a toll booth on a major highway had a rich post, because he collected money from every traveler every day. I’m not sure what surprises me more in this story, the fact that Jesus invited Matthew to be his disciples, or that Matthew abandoned his rich post to follow Jesus. You see grace in the heart of the giver, and you see the effect of grace in the heart of the recipient. And look what happened! Matthew threw a party so that he could introduce Jesus to all of his low-life friends! It doesn’t surprise us that the Pharisees were disgusted with Jesus’ actions. They wouldn’t be caught dead in a tax collector’s house.
I wonder if our churches today reflect more the heart of Jesus or the heart of the Pharisees? I saw a video once that depicted the church as a clean hospital that turned away a homeless man because they didn’t want his germs to infect their clean hospital. Crazy, right? But we have to ask ourselves the question. “If a homeless man came to our church, would we welcome him with open arms?”
Mission work will always be messy. If we have the heart of Jesus, absolutely every person we meet should be someone we want to share the gospel with. Every person we meet should be someone we would invite to join our church. And who knows? They may bring some of their friends with them! I hope that the church will always be a place where sinners feel welcome!
Prayer: Lord Jesus, give me your heart for the lost. Let me never look at a single soul and think that that person is not someone for whom you died, someone with whom I wouldn’t share heaven with. I pray that our church would always be a place where sinners feel welcome! Amen.