FRIEND, YOUR SINS ARE FORGIVEN
Key Verse 5:20
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
First, "Through the roof" (16-19). Look at verse 17. As of this time, the news about Jesus spread throughout Israel. He was very popular, and all the religious institutions were paying attention to him. Finally, they wanted to check him out. So, one day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were the most well-known and respected spiritual leaders in Israel. In our terms, they were theologians, seminary professors and famous pastors. They were not only from every village of Galilee, but also from Judea and Jerusalem - national level spiritual leaders, not just a few of them, but so many of them. When people saw many of them sitting in the house, they were wondering, "What’s going on here?" It was not an easy environment for anyone to preach when these Bible scholars were sitting there, folding their arms, to see if they could find any fault with his message. But the expression, "the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick," indicates that Jesus was not overwhelmed by them. Rather, his spirit was overwhelming and he was teaching freely. At that time, God's power was working through him that, as people heard his message, many people experienced healing. This is what we have experienced as we taught college students the word of God with all our heart and strength - by hearing God's words, people come to experience healing of their disease.
Look at verses 18 and 19. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house. Think about these men carrying their friend on a mat! They heard about Jesus - his healing; they came to believe that Jesus had a healing power. At that time, they were concerned about their friend. So, they teamed up together and carried him on the mat to the place where Jesus was. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Having such a concern for those who are in need is the beginning of shepherding. With this concern, the direction is to bring them to Jesus, because only he can really help them; only he is the Savior. This is what we all struggle to do - bring our sheep to Jesus! Even if we may enjoy good fellowship with our sheep, unless we bring them to Jesus, there is no salvation, no healing, no new life.
How was it when they came to where Jesus was? The house was so crowded with people that there was no way to get him in. It seemed that they had to give up and wait for the next Bible conference. What did they do? Did they just give up? No! They did not believe in tomorrow or the next time. They were determined that they would bring their friend to Jesus that day by any means. When they had this heart's complete determination, they kept looking for a way. Was there a way? No. Yet, they still kept looking for it, trying to figure out any possible way, because they could not give up. When they were determined this way, when they kept looking for a way, they found a way! The roof was not occupied, and they saw the possibility of bringing their friend to Jesus through the roof! Who could even think of such an idea? No one! There was actually no way! But when they were determined to bring their friend to Jesus by any means, when they could not give up no matter what, they found such a way that was not occupied by anyone, and thereby, had been preserved for them alone. It was a divine way. They decisively went up onto the roof. Then, what did they do?
What they did was really horrible! When they got up on the roof they began to dig an opening in someone’s roof big enough to lower the paralytic down through. Yes, the hole was even bigger than this podium. But they did not care because they were really determined to see Jesus. So, they found rocks on the ground and struck the roof, ruining the fancy roof tiles. And they didn’t stop there; they smashed the roof open causing debris to fall from the roof. So what happened to Jesus’ Bible study? While they were listening Jesus’ sweet but powerful message, suddenly, they heard some noise from the roof, and the house was shaking. They were surprised, and Jesus stopped his message and everybody looked up at the roof. Then, suddenly, a hole was made on the roof, and a ray of bright light shone through the dust in the house. The hole became bigger and bigger, and suddenly from the roof, something was lowered little by little, very carefully; it was a mat, and behold! On the mat was lying a paralyzed man! He was placed right in front of Jesus! Everyone was shocked, and silent. They did not believe what they were seeing. Jesus also was silent. He looked up at the hole on the roof, and down at the man in front of him. He saw some people on the roof, the friends of this paralyzed man. They interrupted what Jesus was doing. It was a great disturbance and Jesus’ Bible study was destroyed completely. Everybody was surprised.
When they had their heart's complete determination to bring their friend to Jesus by any means, they could find a way even when there was no way. Then, because of their heart's determination, they were so wholehearted in bringing their friend to Jesus that nothing could slow them down whether good manner or bad manner, good etiquette or bad etiquette or how others would think of them. They had their heart's one single desire, that was, to bring their friend to Jesus; at that time, they were passionate, powerful and unstoppable; they had such an overwhelming spirit that even nothing could bother them or slow them down. Thanks to their overwhelming spirit, they were finally able to set their case before Jesus first, over all others.
As shepherds, our whole struggle is to bring our sheep to Jesus. But as we try to do so, we come to have many obstacles. Due to school work, or full time job, or even both, we have hectic schedules, and our sheep have hectic schedules too - simply, not much time. Not only so, often, our sheep are so paralyzed spiritually that they just lie down without showing that much spiritual desire; or sometimes, they have really a serious sin problem. Often, we feel like there is no way for us to bring them to Jesus due to these obstacles; often, we think that we have to wait until they are ready, or until we have a better schedule. But what we really need is not a little more time; what we need is not actually good sheep - there is no good sheep; all sheep are bad, because human hearts are corrupt beyond cure – each and every person is like this. In this situation, what we really need is to pick up real spirit, real passion for God's kingdom work, and such real spirit, such real passion for God comes from our heart's complete determination to bring them to Jesus by any means. We must make our heart's complete determination that we will, by any means, even in this semester, bring our sheep to Jesus. Have this heart's complete determination, and seek the salvation of your sheep really. How? By trying to figure out a way, trying this way and that way, doing all possible things doggedly. Serve God's kingdom work with that kind of wholehearted struggle - that's how you can serve God in spirit. At that time, God will intervene into your struggle, and save souls through you. Because such people are the kind of worshipers God seeks.
Second, "Friend, your sins are forgiven" (20-26). What did Jesus do about their absolutely ridiculous act? Look at verse 20. Let’s read this verse together:
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven."
"When Jesus saw their faith…" Faith is invisible. But through their action, Jesus saw their faith in him. This is really amazing. Even though his Bible study session was ruined completely, even if the house was damaged greatly and the whole room was filled with the dust, Jesus was not upset nor saw any of those things. Instead, he saw their faith. "When Jesus saw their faith..." This means that Jesus understood what had motivated them to do such an act. He understood why they did so. The motive behind the scene was their faith in him that he could heal their poor paralyzed friend, and they could miss that chance by no means. It was their absolute trust and faith in Jesus’ power and goodness that even if his Bible study might be ruined, he would accept and heal their poor friend only if they brought him to Jesus. That complete trust in his power, that absolute trust in his goodness - this faith impressed Jesus greatly. He was glad because he found faith in him in the hearts of these friends of the paralytic. So many people were sitting in front of him hearing his message, but it did not mean that they had faith in him. Rather, he found the faith that he had been looking for in the hearts of these friends of the paralytic. When Jesus saw this, he was glad – that’s what he had been looking for. So, he simply ignored all the confusing facts and focused on them. Jesus treated them as the most important people. So he dealt with their case first. We must become men and women of faith. Having faith does not mean that you think about it or talk about it. Rather, when you have faith, your words and actions change. Your life changes because of faith you have in Jesus. Faith becomes visible in your actions.
How did he bless their faith? He said to the paralytic, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." What! At this, some of the friends of the paralytic who were standing on the roof almost fell from the roof. Why had they come to Jesus all the way overcoming all obstacles and even destroying someone's property, which they had to pay later? Of course, their friend being healed so that he could walk again. They wanted to see Jesus heal him. But Jesus said to their friend, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." It was really shocking and made many people speechless for a while. Maybe, someone wanted to say to Jesus, "No, no, Lord. You see, he is paralyzed. He needs to be healed." No one expected to hear such words from Jesus in the case of the paralytic. But strangely, the paralyzed man didn’t say anything; he didn’t say, "I want to be healed." But he was lying there, maybe, being touched by Jesus so much, maybe, shedding tears. We don’t know what kind of specific sin this man had been suffering from. But nonetheless, we can easily imagine that once he became paralyzed and lied down on the mat all the time, he remembered all his mischievous behaviors and terrible sins he had done, and his conscience was fully awakened to those things. He had never talked about that sin problem. But now, Jesus talked about it. No one, even none of his friends understood his real agony; everyone thought that he needed to be healed. But Jesus saw his inner person being bothered by the guilty conscience, and said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." Surely, when Jesus said this word to him, no one understood what’s going on, but this man knew what Jesus was talking about. He could see that Jesus knew him in the true sense. To others, Jesus’ words, "Friend, your sins are forgiven," were just a kind of theological matter, but to the paralytic, his words were very personal. Surely, Jesus spoke to him, not to others. "Friend, your sins are forgiven." This was the word of God given to him very personally. How happy he was that Jesus, a great man of God, knew him very personally and proclaimed the forgiveness of his sins! Indeed, to him, it was God who was proclaiming the forgiveness of his sins through his servant. What an amazing grace it was that God forgave his sins! Suddenly, the stain of his past sins was removed from his heart and deep thanks and joy filled it. He knew that he was really forgiven. He was confident of God’s mercy on his life. At this, he must have shed many drops of tears in thanks.
At first glance, it seemed that this man needed to be healed so that his living condition might be better. But Jesus didn't think so. What he needed most urgently was not to improve his living condition, but to be forgiven of his sins - that's most urgent and most important. Often, as we come to God in prayer, we ask God to do this and that for us. Mostly, it is about improving our condition - school matter, job matter, financial matter, family matter, ... But God sees what we really need - the forgiveness of our sins so that our relationship with Him may be right. Real happiness, real joy, real satisfaction does not come from improving our condition, but from having real relationship with God. What sin do you have? In which area do you need to be forgiven of so that you can be really right with God? "Friend, your sins are forgiven!"
When Jesus said to the paralytic, "Friend, your sins are forgiven," it was really a heart moving moment, especially, to the paralytic, even though it was very shocking words to all others. But some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" These theologians were shocked at Jesus’ words, and quickly jotted down his words as an evidence, saying, "Aha! I got you." They were confident that they had found fault with his ministry. It is true that only God can forgive sin but they didn’t realize that Jesus is God in flesh who had authority to forgive sins on earth. Immediately Jesus sensed the change of their demeanor and knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts. Jesus said to them, "Why are you thinking these things?" Then, he challenged them directly. Let’s read verses 22 and 23 together:
22Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?
"Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?" In the Roman Catholic church, people go to a confession room and confess their sins to the priest there. Then, after hearing all their sins, the priest proclaims, "Your sins are forgiven." Let's say, a priest serves this duty for 100 people every day; then, every day he says 100 times, "Your sins are forgiven." But he never says to a paralyzed man, "Get up and walk!" Why? Because immediately the result will come out, showing that what he said was nothing but just words of mouth. It was easy for him to say, "Your sins are forgiven," because, whether it really worked or not, there was no evidence, and at least, it sounded good. So, why not?!!! Certainly, saying to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven" is easier than, saying to the paralytic, "Get up and walk!"
When Jesus said to the paralytic, "Your sins are forgiven," they could not see outwardly if his word worked as he had said or not, because the forgiveness of sins was not a visible matter. So, they considered it as a theological expression, not something real. But now Jesus wanted to show them that it was not just words of mouth, but it really happened as he had said. He would show the power of his words by healing the paralytic. He said to him, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." And amazingly, the paralytic did it. He slowly rose from the mat, folded it up, took it and walked out in full view of them. At this, everyone was amazed and praised God, saying, "We have seen remarkable things today!" They realized that God had given Jesus the authority to forgive sins of men, and the authority to heal anyone He wanted.
Whatever he says comes true, and whatever he says works both in the visible and invisible realms. When anyone hears his voice, "Friend, your sins are forgiven," his sins are forgiven. When any paralyzed man hears his voice, "Get up! Take your mat and go home," his paralysis is healed. When a cancer patient hears Jesus’ voice, "Friend, your cancer is healed," he is healed. How blessed are those who hear the voice of the Son of God! Whatever he says comes true. Whoever hears the voice of the Son of God will live; they cross over from death to life. Let's pray and seek to hear his voice. "Friend, your sins are forgiven!" "Get up and walk!"
One Word: Jesus says, "Friend, your sins are forgiven!"
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