Repute (Matthew 9:12-13)

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It is not hard to visualize the scene. It is a banquet with the worst of the lot –  drunkards,  womanizers and traitors. Jesus arrives. But instead of preaching from the street against the sinfulness this group embodies, He goes in, sits down and begins eating a meal with them. The Pharisees look on, wondering how it can be that a known teacher can so willingly contaminate himself by sitting and eating with the unclean. 

Of course, the Pharisees do not know the heart condition of the guests. They call the group “sinners”, but how sinful is someone who has just been redeemed? After all, it is probable that many of them were being renewed in spirit right there on the spot. They came to Matthew’s place to rejoice with Matthew that he met Jesus, and now they are meeting Jesus too! But while the guests listen to Jesus speak of the Father’s forgiveness, the Pharisees stand off and sneer. In their eyes, Jesus is sitting among the diseased, and eating from the same table. 

Being offended, the Pharisees should’ve waited and asked Jesus privately what he was doing and why. But instead they speak to his disciples. Probably out of a heart that wants others to see Jesus as discredited as he is in their eyes. 

On His part, when Jesus finds out what they wondered, He straight to the source, “On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” 

Jesus’ comments are biting and sharp to the Pharisee’s ears. First He pokes at the gaping chasm between how the Pharisees talk and how they act. He quotes a Greek proverb about only the sick needing doctors, implying that the Pharisees (who saw themselves as healthy in their walk with God) should’ve been ministering to “the sick” if that’s really how they saw it. Then He pokes at their religious ignorance, using a phrase that religious teachers would commonly use with brand new students, “But go and learn what this means.” He couples that phrase with an ironic quote from Hosea (“I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”), a prophet who was called of God to marry a prostitute as a blunt and scandalous object lesson of how God had to deal with Israel. 

Even more to His point, the actual Scripture in Hosea is the summary point of the book, a central point in Micah 6, and an allusion to Samuel’s prophetic judgment of Saul (see 1Sam 15:22). God’s focus on mercy and obedience over ritualistic observance is something that every student of the Scripture ought to have known well. That Jesus reminds them of such a basic Scriptural point would not be unlike telling an experienced math teacher how to multiply two digit numbers. The irony is thick, and it would not be lost on the Pharisees. 

Altogether, it is a very pointed rebuke indeed. 

Jesus concludes His sharp remarks by reminding Israel’s religious leaders of God’s mission: The whole point of a chosen people is that they might represent God to the rest of the world, so that all nations would know Him! And that is a lesson we who are Christ’s disciples must not miss. To stand off and criticize Jesus (or one of His disciples) for doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing is the very height of spiritual dullness and pitiful ignorance. 

Those that oppose and disquiet gracious and good men are enemies to their own good; they cut the bough which they stand on; they labour to pull down the house that covers themselves, being blinded with malice and a diabolical spirit. Take heed of such a disposition. It comes near to the sin against the Holy Ghost to hate any man for goodness.

Richard Sibbes

APPLICATION: Intentionality

God calls us each of us to His work, not to sit in judgment of others who are doing His work. When you see a brother or sister sacrificing their reputation for the lost, how do you react

Reputation (Matthew 9:10-11)

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Jesus had been walking through Capernaum. He saw Matthew at the tax   collector’s booth and called him to follow. Matthew responded positively, and invited both his past circle of friends and his newfound friend Jesus to a meal. “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and ‘sinners’?” 

The Pharisees were the religious authorities of His day. They ‘see’ Jesus behavior. Whether that was by witness of sight that same day or by word of mouth later we are not told, but we do understand that they took note. Not only did they take note – they took offence. “The Pharisaic approach to being pure before God involved active separation from sinners.” It bothered them that a man who felt he had something to say in a synagogue (and so teach others about God) would at the same time break bread with known sinners. 

Of course, Jesus undoubtedly knew that having a meal with sinners will be seen as a provocative move on His part. He knows that some will say that He is debasing Himself by breaking bread with the ungodly, and is therefore unfit to be followed. Others will disastrously conclude that His presence among sinners condones sinful behavior. There are many conclusions to jump to if you do not understand His mission. 

Yet Jesus doesn’t seek to head off any wrong conclusions by onlookers or questions by recognized religious leaders. He does not pause to first inform those who see what he’s about to do or give a lecture on what His mission is and how best to go about it. He simply goes in and eats at the celebration with Matthew and friends, and leaves the Pharisees and onlookers to their own thoughts. 

Jesus knows that saving the lost isn’t pretty work – getting close to sinners always seems like a moral comprise to those who pride themselves on their own self-righteousness. But it is a work the truly righteous know is worthy of the cost of one’s reputation. Eternal souls are worth so much more than a passing thought of affirmation in the minds of the proud, and light shines all the brighter in the dark.

The challenge for the believer is to imitate Jesus. To not to shirk away from having a beer with the guys or an opportunity to sit down and eat with a Muslim neighbour. Rather, to have the spiritual maturity to be intentional in every situation about letting others see Christ in you – wherever you are, whenever you can. To be more confident in our  identity before God than we are in our identity before others. We must place a priority on shining the light of Christ into the darkness others are trapped in, and at the same time not let that darkness push its way deeper into ourselves and darken our own souls. 

Make no mistake – this is the front line of the spiritual war. Not only the war for others, but the war to keep you from maturing as a disciple. Sacrificing one’s reputation so that others can know Him is but the first round of rifle fire in that war. 

Amen.

Love would have its object worthy of itself. It will sacrifice reputation for God, with whom our reputation is safe, by condescending to the low for his benefit.

Henry D.M.S. Jones

APPLICATION: Intentionality

To save the lost, we must go to where the lost are. We must go to where the Gospel is not preached. We must go to where the light shines not so brightly. For that is where the lost are. 

Intentional (Matthew 9:10)

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Jesus has just called the tax collector, Matthew. Matthew has responded by   getting up out of the tax collection booth and following Him. The very next sentence is, “While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew’s house, many tax collectors and “sinners” came and ate with him and his disciples.” 

This sentence is not just there to impart a fact. It tells us how Matthew began his new walk of faith. He begins by inviting not only Jesus, but all his friends to his home. He wants those in his circle of influence to know this Jesus who has so radically altered his life. That might seem like a small thing, but it is a very important thing. So important it is of Scriptural note. 

Matthew is a person of influence. He had many relationships with those who shared his unsaved culture. Many are tax collectors, despised by the rest of society. Others are known to be people that the majority of society would not want to be associated with. Matthew is the bridge whereby these individuals gain access to The Way. 

Moreover, Matthew knew that following Jesus would mean his life and the life of his friends would soon be on divergent tracks. He may even lose touch with many of them – not because he wanted to necessarily, but because the path of the disciple and the path of the unsaved are far more intersecting than parallel. Matthew knew that Jesus was an itinerant minister. A tax collector has a booth. Matthew knew his days of being imminently accessible to his friends on a daily basis were coming to a close. If he was ever to be a witness to them, he had to capitalize on the opportunity he had in this moment.

Discipleship (following Jesus) is much more than just sitting under some of Jesus’ teaching. It is doing life together with Him. It means eating with Him, listening to Him, talking to Him, and following His direction throughout our lives. It also means being an intentional witness for Him. Many today balk at such notions, because it is an unfortunate reality that some churches have professionalized the evangelistic effort to the point where ‘regular’ disciples feel unqualified. But being a witness for and of Christ is not a role reserved for clergy or the heavily trained. Being a witness is for all of us. 

In fact, it is perhaps the most basic part of being a disciple. One can know that Romans 10:9-10, (“That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”) teaches us that the irreducible minimum of a saving faith is a confessed faith. That can be as simple as a testimony to other believers at our baptism, but ideally it also includes a declaration of our belonging to Jesus in front of others. Sometimes to a whole group of our unbelieving friends. 

To that point, intersecting moments of time with groups of unsaved people must be seen for what they are meant to be from God’s perspective. They are more than just opportunities to socialize. They are divine appointments. Occasions when we can bring something of the blessing of God to others. Occasions that often give us an opportunity to identify with Jesus to that others can see Jesus in us and through our relationship with Him. This is the nature of our calling. Discipleship is radical. It is the insanity of daily life in obedient relationship with God.

I have ample opportunity to talk about my faith—if I don’t let deficient spiritual self-esteem hinder me

Calvin Ratz

APPLICATION: Intentionality

A.W. Tozer prayed, “Lord, give us boldness to share this vital message with anyone with whom we come in contact who may be facing a Christless eternity.” Let us pray likewise!

Prepared (Matthew 9:9)

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Jesus first called Simon and Andrew, and shortly after James and John.   Simon, Andrew, James and John were all fishermen, but Jesus did not only call fishermen. He called another disciple who had followed him across the lake (8:22), and now, after healing the paralytic, Jesus sees another, “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.”

Certainly anyone else coming across Matthew in his booth would be hard pressed to even consider extending the offer of discipleship to such an individual. Why would they leave their post for that? “Tax collectors were usually wealthy men, for there was ample scope for profit in their business, so Matthew was probably making a great material sacrifice when he walked out of that office. And the action was final. They would surely never take him back again if he later decided he wanted to return. The fishermen might go back to their fishing, but the tax collector would not be able to return to the levying of customs duties. Anyway, his lucrative post would soon be filled. And if he tried to get another job, who would want to employ a former tax collector? Matthew’s response indicated a thoroughgoing trust in Jesus.” 

One might wonder why Matthew would extend such a level of trust to a man he had not met previously, especially when the immediate cost of discipleship was so high. Yet we can never write off someone as ‘unreachable’. Only God knows the background, the current situation and the true condition of the soul.

The other Gospel writers call Matthew, “Levi”, indicating that Matthew probably had a Jewish background. As a Jewish tax collector, Matthew would’ve been a despised individual. He was a traitor to his own people, colluding with the ‘enemy’ to collect taxes for the occupying forces. No doubt his was a lonely job. It is likely that the benefits of a lucrative income could not make up for the internal guilt and societal shame he felt. So when Jesus offers him a new identity as a follower, Matthew takes it. 

The fact that no reasonable person would accept such a sudden call tells us that while Christ’s call appears to the reader to be sudden and startling, the call on Matthew’s life did not start with Jesus’ spoken words. Matthew began hearing God’s call when he realized a growing discontentment in his heart. Perhaps that was years and years before he saw Jesus coming toward him on the road. Yet just as with Jesus’ calls to Simon and Andrew, James and John, we see only the result of the verbal ask. 

We cannot know who God has been preparing. Jesus called the first four disciples while they were fishing, another who walked to find Him and now this man sitting in a booth. What people are doing when God calls them, their background when God calls them or what is happening in their heart prior to their response is all hidden from our sight. What we see is only the result – a sudden change in behavior, driven by the awareness that God is speaking to them through the words of another. 

This is part of the beauty of walking with God. For He brings us into contact with those that He has been preparing. With those He has been speaking to. Not all rush to accept the Good News – some are brought across our path only to hear a witness. For them, the occasion will ultimately be brought up as evidence of their rebellion. But in either case, they are there by God’s providential plan and His Spirit’s working. This we can know.

The providence of God is like a Hebrew word – it can only be read backwards.

John Flavel

APPLICATION: Intentionality

For the obedient Christ-follower, the question is not, “Where shall we find those God would have us witness to?” God is putting us in front of people He has already prepared. The question is, “What would God have me to say?”

Authority to Act (Matthew 9:8)

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Aware that there was a crowd watching, Jesus had told the paralytic, “Take  heart, son;  your sins are forgiven.” Jesus then heals him to demonstrate His authority to forgive sin. Matthew notes the crowd’s reaction, “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” 

It is one thing to tell someone that God forgives them, it is quite another to speak on behalf of God in telling someone that God forgives them. Of course, Jesus can do that because Jesus is God the Son. Knowing the Father as He did, Jesus knew that the Father does not turn away the repentant. Those who seek God wholeheartedly are never turned away. The words of the prophet were to be always true, “If you seek him, he will be found by you.” So it was quite natural for Him to forgive the man who had interrupted his teaching by being lowered down before Him on a mat through a hole in the roof. He saw their faith, He knew the man’s sin and He had authority to forgive sins, and He acted accordingly. 

Then as now, few are those who know God well enough to speak and act with God’s authority by God’s prompting. In fact, to this point in the Scriptural record, we see only a small number of individuals who do that – prophets and others specifically anointed by the Spirit of God. Yet from Jesus’ time forward, knowing God well enough to hear His prompting and then speak and act with God’s authority was not supposed to remain the exclusive domain of the prophets.

All of Israel was supposed to know God and follow His leading, so that all nations could know the Lord. God wanted His people to do His work, and Jesus demonstrates what it means to work with God’s authority.

Thankfully, Jesus gives this very same authority to all who know Him and serve Him faithfully, and so boldly commissioned us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go….” The effect of that commission is that we are to minister not with our own authority, but with Christ’s authority. An authority that not only forgives sin, but releases the Father’s power to work in the lives of others. 

Those who act accordingly know that whenever we lead someone to a fresh relationship with God, they are forgiven and spiritually made well. Occasionally they are even physically restored, so that others who look on and hear might know that God is real, that Christ is Lord and that He is still working with power in our world. This is the work of God. This is supposed to be the normative work of all of God’s people, whenever we encounter someone who is seeking God with all their heart.

And the effect of the work of God always has this result. People become free of the world and focus on Him. Even onlookers do what they were created to do: “When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” People praise God, being full with wonder and awe at His majesty!

The question the average Christian then must ask is not, “Could I participate in such things?” or even “Are there any who want this?” for the fields are white unto harvest. The question to be asked is, “Will I dare to act according to the authority Christ gives me to do His work?”

Some one has said that “to ask in Christ’s name is to ask with Christ’s authority for what He would ask”. We are not likely to arrive at a better definition than that.

James Hastings

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Read the last question of today’s devotion again. Will you? 

A Revelation (Matthew 9:5-7)

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Addressing the teachers of the law after He forgave the paralytic, Jesus said, “Which is   easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home. And the man got up and went home.”

All that Jesus said and did, He did so that we might know the Father through Him. The Father both has grace to forgive sin and the authority to forgive sins. The Father has both the power to heal and the authority to heal. So Jesus says and acts. As He testifies, “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it,” and, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” 

So all that Jesus did – and that includes every miracle, sign and wonder – was done so that we might know the Father. That we might know His character, His grace, His forgiveness, His welcome back to His household – and that not as mere slaves, but as His beloved children. This applies too with the healing of the paralytic. Jesus’ own testimony is that it was not done primarily for the paralytic himself – although that clearly is also His grace. It was done so that the people there – the teachers of the law, the spectators, the future readers of the Gospel accounts AND also the paralytic – might know that the Lord has authority to forgive sins on earth as well as in heaven.  

That would’ve been a revelation to all who heard it. They all understood that God was forgiving. Not only from their Scriptures, but because of people daily went to the temple to make sacrifices for forgiveness. In fact, God’s forgiveness was wound up in Jewish life through the festivals and Day of Atonement. Yet all of that forgiveness was promissory. It was a ‘hoped for’ and ‘trusting Him for’ forgiveness. It was not fully realized forgiveness. How could it? Their sacrifices for sins did not wash sins away, but merely covered over them in faith that one day they would be washed away. Consequently, when Jesus tells the paralytic that his sins are forgiven, and then immediately goes on to ‘prove’ His authority with a miracle (testifying of God’s approval for both Him and the paralytic), a wave of revelation would’ve washed over the people watching/listening.

John Peter Lange wrote, “The power of forgiving sins is a strictly Divine privilege, as the Jews rightly supposed, and could be claimed by Christ only on the ground of His Divine nature.” 

And this is the rub. Jesus is not just healing someone. He is not just forgiving someone. He is not just demonstrating the power of God to forgive someone. He is demonstrating His divine nature – or at the very least, demonstrating His profound connection with the divine nature of God.

The spectators to the miracle of the paralytic are immediately made aware that Jesus is not merely a prophet. He is far beyond that office. The crowd around Jesus becomes aware that there is a reality about forgiveness they had never before realized. They don’t have to wait till God’s Kingdom is fully manifested to walk in complete forgiveness. They can do that right now, because God is right there among them! For those wanting forgiveness, waiting for forgiveness and hoping for forgiveness, this is a truth that changes everything. It frees people. They no longer live in fear of God’s wrath, but will from that point live in love and appreciation of Him. 

Those who welcome the revelation of God’s presence are immediately filled with joy and gladness. For those who reject the reality of God’s presence however, this is obviously a very problematic event – one that requires a summary judgment. 

Grasping the God’s presence breaking into our world always has this result, because there is no longer any middle ground in your theology when God is present. Either we recognize that He is there and repentance and joy are the order of the day, or we reject that He is there, and anger and judgment flood our minds. 

The earthly life of Jesus less as a humiliation than a revelation of Divine glory, the beams of which shine forth clearly in His wondrous works.

H.R. Mackintosh

APPLICATION: Worship

Worship Christ for who He has revealed Himself. God in the flesh, our Messiah! 

The Greater Matter (Matthew 9:5)

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Looking at the paralytic He just forgave, Jesus asked the teachers of the law a question,   “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?”  How would you answer that question? Is it really easier to forgive someone who has deeply offended you, or is it easier to grant that the lame walk again? 

God is our creator. Genesis teaches us that He spoke, and it was. Such is His power. For God to exercise His power to the point of making the lame walk is not unlike an exceedingly wealthy man exercising wealth and spending two cents. But the richest man in the world – or God Most High Himself – still feels the hurt of the damage done to a relationship that really matters to them. This is the rub. God loves us with an everlasting love. But we have deeply offended Him. Not only because we have failed at consistently honoring Him as our King, but because we do not love Him back for all the good He has done for us and is doing for us. 

Think of that. What degree of hurt is it to love a child of yours, and see them grow up only to largely ignore you as their parent. What measure of insult is it when your children rejoice in your gifts, but shun your presence? When they treasure those things you give them that you know last only a season but despise the relationship you seek to have with them?

This is the degree to which we have hurt our Father. Knowing that, we can appreciate that it is a much, much greater thing for Him to forgive than to heal.   

Praise His Name, God is so unlike us. He does not stop loving us, even when we have so poorly treated Him. He does not abandon us, nor does He does not wait to do the hard thing till the last minute – as we are so prone to do. He forgives the moment we ask Him to. He does not tell us to wait while He wrestles through the emotion of needing to forgive (as we do). He does not make the bar higher by asking us to do something to prove we are worthy of forgiveness (as we sometimes want to do). He does not use the occasion to drive home a point or humiliate us (as fallen flesh would ask to do). No – He just forgives immediately. He has spent eternity thinking about it, wrestling through the emotion of what it means for the King of glory to forgive creation made of dust who were willfully disobedient. He forgives anyway. He takes all the offence we have shown at Him upon Himself, He willingly bears the disgrace of our treason. He sheds His own blood on the cross for us so that the unbreakable covenant He made with us might be broken by death – and that we the guilty would not die, but rather live. 

This is not a small thing, or something to be overlooked. Still, our fallen nature looks for the spectacular over the meaningful. We want to see the lame to walk again. We count that as worth far more than hearing “You are forgiven”, even though forgiveness means life eternal, and lameness means but lameness for a blip in eternity. 

It isn’t just that the teachers of the law were wrong about accusing Jesus of blasphemy. It is that they are evil for even thinking so. It is that they are so absolutely misguided in their appreciation of what God is doing, and that they value all the wrong things about His Kingdom come. 

What then of us? Do we think the same? If so, let us repent. Praise His Name, He is yet quick to forgive!

Grace does not come cheap.

John Drane

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Let us forgive as He has forgiven us.

Offence (Matthew 9:2-4)

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Not everyone wants to hear truth, especially not those whose lives are convicted by   truth spoken in public. To them, spoken truth is a social humiliation. They hear it not as truth, but as a painful branding of themselves as less than those around them. This is something their pride cannot tolerate, and they seek to rebrand truth as lies. 

Matthew 9:2 reads, “Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” ” Still immobile on his mat, the paralytic can know that while he yet has to suffer paralysis, he is free before God. Those around him are filled with wonder at Jesus’ words, but some of the teachers of the law are immediately convicted. They had not been trying to free people from their sins. They had instead been busy instructing people how to legalistically gain God’s favor through certain observed behaviors – something that a paralytic could not do. In their eyes and from their teaching, the paralytic would’ve been bound to his sin and cursed of God to suffer. They saw the paralytic as quite unlike themselves, who they felt had and were earning God’s approval. 

That Jesus immediately forgives when the paralytic is presented to Him is both a sharp hurt to their pride, as well as a harsh rebuke to their teaching. But instead of considering the truth of Jesus’ actions, they immediately see Jesus as wrong on both counts, and that in the worst way possible, “At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” 

It never even occurs to these particular teachers of the law that perhaps He is not blaspheming. Perhaps He is who He presents Himself to be – the Son of God, sent of God to preach the Word of God and do the will of God. Perhaps they have been and are now, just plain wrong. But even that is too light a conclusion. “Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?” ”  

It is not merely wrong to hear the Words of God and think error of them. It is evil. 

Calling God’s truth a blasphemy is pure, unadulterated evil. A wrong is just a mistake. The teachers of the law are not making a simple mistake. They are labeling the truth and beauty of the forgiveness of God Most High as incompatible with the God they know. In doing so, they elevate themselves to the position of judge over God. That is not a simple mistake. That is – ironically – the worst kind of blasphemy. It is as evil as what Lucifer did when he said in his heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”  

It takes discernment to learn how to parse between good and best. But it does not take discernment to know how to parse between evil and good. The two are as different as night and day. When we come across God’s truth and take offence, we have to know that God’s truth is not the offender. We are, and our sense of offence should drive us to take a good hard look at our hearts. 

Amen. 

Even in the disclosure of sin a further purpose is evident: that having discovered their sin, people might turn to Christ for cleansing from it.

James Montgomery Boice

APPLICATION: Intentionality

What has God’s latest work produced in you? To the pure in heart, God’s truth is always and consistently peace, righteousness and joy.

Character (Matthew 9:1-2)

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In Matthew’s Gospel account, the story of the paralytic is significantly   shortened from Mark’s account. Mark told about the effort the paralytic’s friends took on. Matthew largely skips it, saying, “Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 

Where Mark is concerned with demonstrating the humanity of all involved by explaining how his friends brought him to Jesus, couldn’t get into the home Jesus was teaching in and so cut a hold in the roof and lowered the paralytic down, Matthew is far more focused of the Lordship of Jesus. The primary point of the story cannot be missed – we can do nothing but come to Him in faith, and to the glory of God, Jesus responds to our faith and forgives sin. 

That Jesus forgives sin, and that we can do nothing of ourselves, is the most freeing truth imaginable. It means salvation is not by works, but by faith. This Jesus specifically affirmed when asked what was the work that people should do to gain eternal life, “Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” Grasping this, Paul would later write, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” 

There is only one thing to do when you realize you have sinned. We cannot do a good thing to try to cancel out the sin we’ve done. We cannot hope that making better choices in the future will drown out the sin we’ve committed. What is done is done and there is nothing we can do about it. We can only call out to Jesus in prayer and ask Him for forgiveness! Praise God, He is faithful to forgive. As He Himself said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.”

Moreover, Jesus is faithful to forgive our sin multiple times. This the apostle John affirmed, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” It matters not if it is the first time you approach Him for forgiveness, or the ten thousandth time. Jesus’ unchanging nature, His grace and ultimately His sacrifice on the cross, are sufficient for all, all the time!

Our part – whenever we sin and as often as we sin – is simply to identify with the man on the mat. The paralytic, who cannot walk, get up or in any way help himself. Simply by encountering Christ, this man will be fully well again. It is only Jesus who forgives, and praise His Name, He forgives always! 

Being always ready to forgive doesn’t mean you’re permissive. It means you are like the Father.

Larry & Judi Keefauver

APPLICATION: Thankfulness

Thank God that He is always ready to receive us. Ready to forgive us. Ready to wash us clean. Ready to restore us to fellowship with Him and ready to put us back into His service.

Friends (Matthew 9:2)

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In Mark chapter 2 we read the story of the paralytic, “A few days later, when  Jesus again  entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.”  Matthew begins the same story, but abbreviates to get to the points he is making, “Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat.”

The man Jesus is being presented with is a paralytic. Simply put, he is paralyzed. He cannot get up, he cannot move from where he is. He is alive and thinking, but unable to help himself escape the condition he is in. The paralytic in this story was a real man, just as there are tens of thousands of paralyzed people today. But within the context of story, he is also symbolic of all of us who are laden with our sin. As Ephesians tells us, “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins.” There is no more hope for any of us to escape our sin without Jesus then there was for the paralytic to escape his immobility without Jesus. 

Praise God, the paralytic in this story does encounter Jesus – so we know there is hope for him, as there is for all of us sinners when we look to Christ! But praise God too for the four friends who carry their friend to Jesus! 

We tend to overlook them, focusing (rightly so) on the paralyzed man and Jesus. Yet he could not have made it to Jesus without those four very determined friends. In a way, the four men are symbolic of the effort needed to bring some people to Jesus. It is true that many come to Christ just on hearing of Him, or on hearing from Him – just as the apostles did. But many more will only encounter the living Christ only when people work together to bring them to Jesus. 

That is because for most to hear the Gospel, there are obstacles in the way. In this case, not only is the man paralyzed (requiring coordinated effort in transportation), a crowd blocks the way. They have to assess the situation. Apparently they find they can get close to the house, but not where the window(s) may have been. No doubt the crowd stands many deep wherever they can hear Jesus’ words. So they find some ropes, climb up to the roof, peel away the thatching and lower the man – still on his mat – right in front of Jesus. That is a lot of effort, and a lot of teamwork! 

Getting the Gospel to remote villages, into closed access nations, and across the stiff barriers of opposing worldview(s) is a great challenge. A challenge that cannot be met through the efforts of a single individual. Going to remote places takes much planning, equipment and teamwork. Pushing the Gospel into closed access nations takes satellites and radio stations and couriers willing to risk much. Getting the Gospel across worldview  barriers takes much prayer, patience and repetition. 

Modern Christ-followers are the four friends to the unsaved. Working together, the lost find themselves being spoken to by Jesus, being ministered to by Jesus, being healed by Jesus and most importantly – being saved by Jesus. We only need to be as determined to help them encounter Jesus as these four friends were. 

Amen. 

It takes great humility to work with others, but theologically it is absolutely necessary that we work to express our missiology as one.

Scott W. Sunquist

APPLICATION: Intentionality

Who are you partnering with to bring others to Christ?