Your Sins Are Forgiven
Topic: Default Passage: Matthew 9:1–9:17
If you’ve been with us the past month or so, you know Matthew is making significant claims about the authority of Jesus. He told us back in chapter seven that Jesus taught as one who had authority, then Matthew shows us proof of that authority. In chapter eight we saw Jesus heal illnesses, proving his authority over our physical bodies. We saw Jesus calm a storm, proving his authority over the natural order. We saw Jesus cast out demons, proving his authority over the spiritual realm. Now, we are going to see that Jesus has authority over our biggest problem: sin.
Before we dive in, I want to thank Skyler who did a great job filling in for me last week.
As some of you know, Angela and I take four Sundays a year to speak at a Weekend to Remember marriage conference put on by Family Life. It’s something we care a lot about and we are truly grateful this church allows us to do them.
We have seen a lot of crazy things at these conferences. I have seen wives trick their husbands into coming. I have had a woman tell me that if I let her sing a solo, then the Holy Spirit will show up. Sadly, we often have couples show up with their divorce papers in hand. This past week we had a couple get into such a large fight that the husband had to be escorted off property. It was really sad. We prayed for them knowing we can only do so much.
But, later that day, a big, kind of rougher looking guy came up to me. He then explained that he was invited to the conference by the guy who had been escorted out. He looked at me and this big burly guy, maybe in his early 50’s, just started to cry.
I asked him what was going on and he said, “It has just hit me what a truly bad person I am.” He said, “I’m not talking about crimes I’ve committed, but just what a truly rotten person I am. I’m realizing how much I have been living for myself and how much it has hurt my wife and my relationship with God.” He said, “I feel like I’m sick and there is nothing I can do to cure it.”
Do you know what that man was really saying? He was saying that he realizes he is a sinner and has no power inside himself to deal with that sin. But, in our passage we see that Jesus does have power over our sin. So, let’s look at these stories here and answer a few questions. First, why is it that Jesus has authority to heal sin?
- Why Jesus has authority to heal sin
The short answer: because he is God. If you remember back two weeks ago, Jesus has just cast demons out of two men and into a bunch of pigs and those pigs ran off a cliff and into the sea and drowned. The people of that town were both angry and scared and they told Jesus to leave. So, he gets into his boat and goes back to ‘his city.’
And in Matthew’s account, it sounds like some people just show up to Jesus with a paralyzed man. But, we know a bit more detail from Mark and Luke. Jesus was teaching in a house and the house was so full of people that you couldn’t get in. So, some friends of this paralyzed man got on the roof of that house, opened up part of the roof, and lowered him down to Jesus. A detail Matthew doesn’t mention because it doesn’t add anything to the point of his story.
Jesus sees this man being lowered down in front of him and says, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven.” Now, right away everyone is surprised. For one, that wasn’t what the paralyzed man was asking for. I can imagine him saying, “Um..thank you Jesus, but what I really want is for my legs to work again. That’s my real problem!” This man wasn’t looking for a savior, he was looking for a magician. He wasn’t looking for spiritual healing, he was looking for physical healing.
This man is coming to Jesus to get what he thinks is his greatest need, physical healing. But, Jesus is saying that he has an even greater need, spiritual healing. Sin is our greatest ailment. It’s our greatest disease. One of the things that drew me to Christianity early on is that only Christianity seems to have a reasonable explanation about where sin came from and how it is dealt with.
Every other religion and worldview, to me, feels like Angela from The Office. Do you remember her? She was the annoying blond church going woman who was super condescending to anyone who she perceived to be morally inferior to her. She wasn’t the bar of perfection, she was the line of delineation for who she judged to be morally ok or not ok. And she herself was one giant hypocrite because she didn’t live up to her own standard. That is every other religion in a nutshell.
Jesus, though, says the bar is perfect obedience to God and all of us fail. We fail because we are sinners. And we talked two weeks ago about the fact that sin isn’t the bad decisions we make, it’s the underlying disease that causes us to make bad decisions. And sin is so pervasive that we can’t even see that we are sick and need help! This is the plight of the paralytic. He has Jesus in front of him and he asks for something that isn’t even his greatest need. Even if he is healed, he will still have sin, still die, and still have to answer to God for that.
Imagine going to a doctor for a disease that has caused you to lose all the hair on your body. The doctor looks at you and hands you a wig. How would you respond? You’d look for a new doctor! A good doctor doesn’t just address the symptoms, she addresses the underlying disease.
This paralytic is asking for the symptom to be cured, but not the disease. All the pain and suffering in the world is a result of sin in the world. All world views can be divided into two camps. Angela from The Office dealing with the symptoms, but not the disease...and Jesus. Only Jesus offers to heal our sin. And when he says this, how do the scribes and pharisees respond? They say he is blaspheming because they rightly understand that only God can forgive sins. Declaring to this group of people that he can forgive sins is paramount to declaring he is God in flesh.
And this, again, is what separates Jesus from every other explanation of how sin is dealt with. Every other religion offers a way for our sins to be overlooked. Jesus offers a way for our sins to be healed. If Jesus were saying that He is willing to overlook our sins, he would still be saying he is God...just a bad God. Imagine if the Orlando Sentinel published an article that one of our city judges is overlooking terrible crimes and allowing criminals to walk free. How would you feel? You’d be up in arms. That’s not what Jesus is doing.
Jesus isn’t overlooking, he’s atoning. He pays the penalty for our sin and creates a way for the Holy Spirit to begin to powerfully conform us into the sinless image of the Son. And Jesus could have just said he forgives this man’s sins and left it at that. But, just to prove he has this kind of authority, he says, “Now, get up and walk.” And he does.
So, Matthew is saying that Jesus has the ability to heal sin, but how is that made true of us? How do we appropriate that for ourselves? That takes us to the second question answered in this text.
- What is necessary for sin to be healed.
First, for your sin to be healed, you have to be called. Again, the paralytic was looking for physical healing. He had no idea what Jesus had planned for him. Then we see the same thing when Jesus calls Matthew. As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man calledf Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. - Matthew 9:9
Some of you might be wondering why I put three seemingly separate stories together. Well, I don’t think they are all that separate. I think there are three things that link these stories together and the first thing that links them together is sin. Jesus says the paralytic is a sinner and then Matthew tells us that he himself is also a sinner.
There is a lot inferred here when Matthew writes that ‘he was sitting at the tax booth.’ A tax collector was a hated person in Israel. A tax collector paid a portion of the taxes to Rome upfront out of his own pocket and then basically bought the right to tax the people as he saw fit to make a profit. Matthew is getting rich by paying the occupying forces and then stealing from his own people. He was a despised man.
So despised in fact, that there were actually extra-biblical jewish laws prohibiting tax collectors from entering the synagogue and laws that made it legal to lie if you were lying to a tax collector. This is the type of person Jesus is spending time with and the pharisees do not like it.
But, what I want us to see is that Matthew was not a concerned about following God. He was not concerned that he wasn’t allowed to worship. Then Jesus called him. The reason Matthew follows Jesus is because Jesus called him, the reason the paralytic’s sins are forgiven is because Jesus called him, and the reason that any of us follow Jesus is because Jesus called us.
And when Jesus calls us, two things will happen. We will repent and we will have faith. Jesus calls us from our sin and to him. This is what we call repentance and faith. These are the two separate, but inseparable acts that bring anyone into the kingdom of God. Let’s break these two things down quickly.
To follow Jesus, we have to see that we are sinners. We have to see that there is something so broken inside of us that it requires Jesus giving his life to fix. I was reading this week about a famous painting by Rembrandt called The Raising of The Cross. He painted Jesus being raised up on the cross and it’s particularly famous because Rembrandt painted himself in there raising Jesus up to be crucified. He understood that he too shared the guilt of the crucifixion and so must we if we are ever going to see our sins forgiven. That is the first step of repentance.
But that isn’t all we are called to do. We turn from our is and to Jesus. Both the paralytica and Matthew got up and walked. There was a clear command from Jesus that they responded to. Luke adds that Matthew left everything to follow Jesus. To follow anyone means that you trust where they are leading you. It doesn’t mean that you know every step along the path. In fact, often we follow someone because we don’t know the way, but we know the destination. When we follow Jesus, we know that he is going to take us down a path of self-denial (this is why he says we will have to take up our cross), but we know he is leading us to the destination of a new heaven, a new earth, and a new glorified body where we will get to spend eternity with him forever healed of sin in our hearts, body, minds, and world. Jesus is offering us a whole new foundation in the Holy Spirit and a whole new destination for our lives.
It’s not uncommon for me to meet someone who feels like they are too far gone...like they have been building on the wrong foundation for so long that they see no way out of it. If this is you, I want you to hear this. When Angela and I lived in Pisa, we had this super small apartment, but out of the window, you could see the world’s most recognizable landmark: The Leaning Tower of Pisa. The reason it’s leaning is because it was built on a bad foundation. Back in 1143 when then started the tower, it was clear that it was leaning even before it was halfway completed so they started to adjust for the leaning and it actually curves. When they finished the tower was leaning by .2 degrees. 800 years later, in the 20th century, the tower was still standing but now leaning over 5 degrees. The top was more than 15 feet south of the bottom. They tried all kinds of things to straighten it up, but not only did these efforts not work, they made matters worse. We were able to come up with computer models that predicted that the tower would fall when it hit 5.4 degrees. By 1990, the tower had hit 5.5 degrees. Every computer model said it should have fallen over, but for some reason it was still standing. And in the mid 1990’s engineers figured out how to go in underneath the tower and give it a new foundation. Now, it’s as solid as it can be and you can go up.
My point is this. If you feel like you are too far gone, you misunderstand what Jesus has come to do. Not only can Jesus give us a new foundation, if we want to be super faithful to Jesus’ teachings, we have all already fallen over. And Jesus doesn’t come to straighten us up a bit. He comes to make us new. He says he comes to make us children.
John says, But to all who did receive him, swho believed in his name, the gave the right uto become vchildren of God, - John 1:12 We aren’t just made better, we are made perfect sons and daughters. Sons and daughters who have all the rights, privileges, and access to the Father. Sons and daughters who are given a new spirit that willinging calls to the Father and longs for His glory.
When we repent and put our faith in Jesus, we don’t just get off the hook, we get all the rights and privileges of a perfect, loved son or daughter of the Most High God. That’s how Jesus heals our sin, and in this text, we see one more thing. We see the results of Jesus healing our sin.
III. The result of Jesus healing our sin.
The short term result is that there will be opposition. Here we get to the second link between these stories: opposition to Jesus. The first opposition came from the pharisees when they called Jesus a blasphemer for claiming to be able to heal sin. They are attacking his authority. The second opposition came when they accused Jesus of eating with tax collectors and sinners. Here they are attacking his morals and character.
But what does Jesus say? “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn iwhat this means: j‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For kI came not to call the righteous, lbut sinners.” - Matthew 9:12,13
Back then, there was no hospital, there was no doctors office, the doctor had to go to the home of the patient and that is exactly what Jesus is doing. You don’t quarantine a doctor from sick people. How ridiculous would it be for anyone to speak poorly of a medical doctor who goes into the homes of the physically ill? Jesus is saying that it is equally ridiculous for anyone to speak poorly of the Soul Doctor who goes into the homes of the spiritually sick. One commentator said, “This doesn’t mean that his critics were spiritually healthy...These critics were as paralyzed by their sin as the paralytic and as unclean as the tax collectors.”
Jesus is also referencing Hosea 6:6 where Hosea is attacking the same kind of Angela from The Office religion that only looks at the outside and perpetually ignores the true state of the heart. Jesus says he doesn’t desire sacrifice, that is, going through the religious motions, he desires mercy. Mercy that only comes from true repentance and faith. If the pharisees had any repentance and faith in them, they would have shown mercy to the lost just like Jesus is.
Then we see even more opposition from the disciples of John the Baptist. I think this story likely happened at a later date, but Matthew is putting it here to continue to make the same point. And it’s actually more poignant because he’s putting it here.
Think about it, Jesus and his friends have just finished feasting and the disciples of John the Baptist who have been fasting to commemorate all the tragic events in Israel’s past aren’t happy. Why do we and the pharisees have to fast when y’all feat? It doesn’t seem fair! Can you hear the same kind of self-righteous religion here? We are working so hard for our spiritual status by fasting and you are over here feasting.
And Jesus answers them saying one thing in three different ways. He’s saying everything is different now. You are looking at the world through an old lense, but a new one has come. First, he’s saying this is a wedding not a funeral. p“Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? qThe days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and rthen they will fast. - Matthew 9:15
Do you hear what Jesus is saying? You don’t mourn the presence of the bridegroom at the wedding, you celebrate. There will be a time for mourning and fasting, but that time is not now. The disciples feasted and celebrated, but the pharisees and religious leaders mourned because they didn’t understand that Jesus is our bridegroom come to heal our sins. N.T. Wright says, “Because while the other movements, including that of John the Baptist, were waiting for the new day to dawn, Jesus believed that the sun had risen.”
Then Jesus says the same thing a different way. You can’t mix the old and the new. No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch tears away from the garment, and a worse tear is made. The old garment has already shrunk. If you put a new patch on an old garment, the new patch is going to shrink and make an even bigger hole.
Third illustration. You can’t mix new wine and old wineskins. The result is that the wineskin explodes. Everything is different now! The old and new do not go together. Now, it’s not that the old was bad, but it was insufficient. The new has come. Jesus has come. The promised New Covenant has come. Jesus is facing opposition because they don’t understand this. And we better not think it will be any different for us. Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 eIf you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. - John 15:18
Follow Jesus will mean opposition from the world. It will mean taking unpopular stances, but it will be worth it if we have the new lense. If we understand the new kingdom we live in.
Jesus has come to heal our sin. Many will be confused. Some will hate the claim that we have sin to be healed. But those who see it will spread the word. This is the third link between the passages. The paralytic is healed because his friends tell him about Jesus. Matthew is called and then goes and tells his friends. It wasn’t forced, it was joyful. This is the logical progression of things. Those whose sins are forgiven by Jesus are compelled to tell others about Jesus.
That man at the conference last weekend, he heard the gospel of Jesus Christ clearly and he told me, “Something crazy has happened and I don’t care what people think about me. I’m no longer trying to hide my sin.” Can you hear what he’s doing? He felt the freedom of forgiveness in Jesus Christ and he is spreading the word. He actually tried to call his friend who left the conference to try and get him to come back and hear about Jesus.
If we are a community of people who deeply sense that our sins are forgiven and whose solid hope is an eternal future with Jesus, we will joyfully follow and worship him. And as a natural overflow of that worship, we won’t be able to not tell other people and we will see God use us in ways we might never have imagined.