Friday, March 26, 2010

Needed: Determined Efforts to Reach Christ

1 And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.
2 And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.
3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four.
4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.
5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.
6 But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts,
7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
8 And immediately when Jesus perceived in his spirit that they so reasoned within themselves, he said unto them, Why reason ye these things in your hearts?
9 Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk?
10 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,)
11 I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house.
12 And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion. (Mark 2:1-12)
Something I have always wondered about in this story is why Jesus focused on forgiving the man’s sins first before healing him. He must have known that the man was most interested in physical healing. According to the text, it doesn’t say that the man asked for anything; rather, it is assumed that his unusual entrance was in itself a plea to be healed.

What the text says is “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” How did Jesus see their faith? How did this lead to the bestowal of forgiveness?

I think that Jesus was thinking through what had to have happened in order for the man to get there. Both the man and his friends must have had faith in Jesus’s power to heal. If his friends hadn’t had the faith that Jesus could heal the man, they wouldn’t have tried to take the man to Jesus, and when they saw the huge crowd surrounding the house where Jesus was, they certainly wouldn’t have gone to the trouble of going up on the roof, tearing up the floor (in someone else’s house!), and letting the man down into the room where Jesus was. They were so determined that they were willing to get very creative in order to get their man to Jesus. Likewise, the man had to have faith just as strongly, otherwise he would have prevented them from doing what they did. At any point he could have said, “This isn’t going to work; take me home.” But he didn’t. He was just as determined and hopeful.

But did Jesus know the man really wanted forgiveness deep down? And how is it that Jesus gave forgiveness without the man asking him first? Usually you have to ask for forgiveness before you receive it, otherwise you don’t really appreciate it as the gift that it is.

I began to make progress when I tried to imagine what Jesus might have thought and felt about it. Certainly He had a strong desire to bring everyone to repentance and believe in Him. Jesus would see the effort of this man and his friends and wish that everyone could come to Him to repent and receive forgiveness and do it with the same kind of determination. He would think about how He could teach this idea to everyone who was watching. In light of this, perhaps He decided to make the man a living lesson by immediately telling him he was forgiven. (So perhaps forgiveness was a bonus the man received.) Jesus would hope that this would show people how intent on repenting they needed to be and how quickly they would be rewarded with forgiveness if they approached Him with the same fervor and determination shown by the man and his friends.

Of course, the Pharisees questioned that Jesus had any authority to forgive sins, so Jesus pointed out that it was just as easy to forgive sins as it was to heal. While it might look easier on the outside to forgive sins—you can’t see another person’s sins leave—since the mechanics of forgiveness depended on Jesus anyway, it was all the same to Him and one was no more miraculous than the other. With this speech, Jesus was trying to draw an important parallel for all His hearers to show them that they needed to come to Him for forgiveness as well as for physical healing. “But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house” (Matthew 9:6). Implicit in that statement is this: if Christ had the power to forgive sins, everyone needed to come to Him for forgiveness and not just for healing. He made the man and his friends an example of how tenacious we all need to be to come unto Him and He showed us that we will be rewarded for our efforts.