What frightens you?
Spiders? Loneliness? Getting sick? Losing your job? Losing the ability to walk?
Every morning many of us drape our legs over the edge of our beds, plant feet squarely on the floor, and stumble into a brand new day. We may mutter at the alarm, squint painfully at the sun, and shudder at that first cold blast from the shower. But we are on our feet. Balanced. Strong.
Can you imagine losing the ability to walk?
One man in Jesus’ day couldn’t walk. Paralyzed. He knew that Jesus had the power to make him walk. But he couldn’t get to Jesus because he couldn’t walk.
What do you do? You have your four friends put you on a mat and carry you to Jesus.
Jesus is in a house, the crowd was so packed that the lame man’s friends can’t get through.
What do you do? You have your four friends carry you to the roof. The front door is blocked? Let’s make a door through the ceiling. No kidding. The four friends start pulling off roof tiles.
Jesus is in the house. Noise on the roof. Suddenly, a man dropping from the ceiling.
All so he could walk.
Yet Jesus’ first words to this man? “Be courageous. Your sins are forgiven.”
Excuse me? I don’t think he came to have his sins forgiven. He wants to walk!
Do we sometimes feel that physical difficulty or physical loss is the real issue in our lives? Are we afraid of loneliness, getting sick, or losing our job? When we think of God, do we work so hard to get his attention, sure that to be healed of our difficulty will make all well?
Jesus knew that if he gave the paralyzed man only the ability to walk, he still hadn’t really helped him. Jesus knew that paralyzed men and walking men all die anyway. Jesus wanted this paralyzed man to be ready for death.
People die because people disobey God’s rules. God commands us to be patient, helpful, joyful, and content. He commands us to love our enemies and do good to those who hurt us. He commands us to rejoice in suffering. Bizarre? It makes us angry, doesn’t it! “God, you have no right to expect all that.” How our sinful side hates God. This is why we die. Death is punishment for hating God, for sinning. But death is just the beginning. Punishment lasts forever in hell.
A man came to Jesus looking to walk. Jesus knew that bad legs were the least of his problems.
What could Jesus have said to the lame man? “You jerk. You disobey me every day, and now you want something out of me? To hell you will go.” Jesus had every right.
He has every right to speak the same to me.
Yet what does Jesus say? Amazing! “Be courageous. Your sins are forgiven.”
Your sins are forgiven too. Your sins were sent away onto the shoulders of Jesus. He suffered God’s punishment for your sin, and that punishment was death. Because Jesus has died on the cross in your place and suffered hell for you, you have been declared innocent in God’s sight.
That’s too good to be true! Some who heard Jesus say it the first time felt the same. So to show the crowd that he had the authority to forgive sins, Jesus made the lame man walk. Unable to walk. That wasn’t the lame man’s real problem.
What wonder, that Jesus shows us our real problem, and then in mercy takes that problem away.