Monday, October 7, 2013
Had Given This Authority to Men
And getting into a boat he crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:1-8 (ESV)
When the crowds saw it they were afraid, and they glorified God who had given such authority to men. Had given such authority to men, what kind of authority? The authority to forgive sins. To who? To pastors? To priests? To morally superior people? To kings? To reprobate? Yes, to all of these but more importantly, to men. The crowds glorified God because he had given men the authority to forgive sins, and at the same time it terrified them.
It terrified them, they were afraid. It’s an awesome power, and it is strange and dangerous. The words I forgive you are dangerous. Forgiveness is dangerous. And it takes it out of you. But with you there is forgiveness that you may be feared, the Psalmist writes. (Psalm 130:4) That you may be feared. I think about that a lot. It’s just so strange. Why should someone fear someone because they forgive? We are taught to think of forgiveness as a good thing. A forgiving spirit is a virtue in Scripture. But then, do we forgive?
It isn’t our first inclination. That is for sure. And neither is it our first inclination to accept forgiveness. Who are you to forgive? That is our first thought. We are no better than the scribes and Pharisees here who take offense to Jesus forgiving. They accused him of blasphemy, of playing God, usurping the authority of God, of making himself equal with the God that is feared because with him there is forgiveness. We take offense at someone forgiving because we think they are making themselves out to be better than us for forgiving us. Or that somehow if we allow them to forgive us we are indebted to them. By accepting their forgiveness we are bowing to their authority. Who is man to forgive sins? Who has this power? How can it be possible for one sinner to forgive another?
It isn’t. It isn’t possible for one sinner to forgive another sinner. It isn’t even possible for them to forgive trespasses against them, let alone forgive sins done to someone else. It isn’t possible because neither one of them is in a position from which forgiveness is possible. God alone can forgive sins, because God alone is holy. This is why he is feared. If we are dead in our trespasses, dead in our sins and nothing can be done about it, we have no reason to fear those who can hold a grudge, no reason to fear those who can look on us with disdain and judgment, because they show thereby they are as helpless as we ourselves are. But with God there is forgiveness and he is therefore feared. He can forgive. He holds the power to forgive. So then he is feared. He isn’t helpless, he can do something about it, he can make us to walk.
He can make us to walk. The lame man certainly did not expect to hear Jesus forgive his sins. Most of us today would not blame being lame on being sinful. Jesus means this as an illustration of just how corrupting sin is. Sin is so evil God needs to reveal our sin to us. We can’t even see it on our own. Sin isn’t a mere matter of what we do or don’t do. It isn’t a mere matter of the bad things we know we do. It is a condition that threatens every aspect of our life. It is a condition that even effects the good things we do that even those things we do in accord with the Ten Commandments are evil in God’s sight apart from the forgiveness of his son on the cross. And it effects our health. It manifests itself in cancer, in the flu, in bad eyesight, in bad backs and wheel chairs. And it isn’t so that you have done something that then manifests itself in this. But that it is the underlying condition, the disease behind the symptoms. This is how Jesus treats it. The lame man expected Jesus to heal him. To heal the symptoms. As far as the man could tell his problem was he couldn’t walk. And Jesus forgives his sins. I could see the man thinking, I haven’t been able to walk, what sins could I have possibly committed that need forgiving? Perhaps, that would be my thought. But Jesus doesn’t treat the symptoms he treats the disease. In forgiving sins the man finds healing for his ailment. In forgiving sins he heals us from death itself. Here, forgiveness manifests itself in that this man can get up and walk. Jesus forgives and he makes us to walk.
Jesus forgives and he makes us to walk. This is where everything changes for us sinners. Jesus forgives and so we now walk in the newness of life having been buried with him into his death. So just as he rose from the dead, we now walk in the newness of life. And so it is God has given such authority, such power to men. Now sinners can forgive sinners, because the sinners themselves have been forgiven. Now we too are holy. Now we too are made right with God. How can sinners forgive the sins of others? Simple, by sharing with others the forgiveness that God has given them. He has wiped your slate clean that you can now wipe their slate clean. How is it God has given men the authority to forgive sins? He has done so as simply as this, by looking at you and saying, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.”