Saturday, March 21, 2009
MATTHEW 9:1-13 FORGIVEN!
So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own town.
2 Just then some men brought to Him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven.”
3 At this, some of the • scribes said among themselves, “He’s blaspheming!”
4 But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts?
5 For which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?
6 But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—then He told the paralytic, “Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
7 And he got up and went home.
8 When the crowds saw this, they were awestruck and gave glory to God who had given such authority to men.
9 As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him.
10 While He was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples.
11 When the • Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
12 But when He heard this, He said, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do.
13 Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
Jesus had been pressed by the crowds in Capernaum, so He and the disciples had gone across the Sea of Galilee to the "country of the Gergesenes [or 'Gadarenes']" (v.28). After casting the demons out of the men who lived in the tombs, Jesus "got into a boat" and then he "crossed over" the Sea of Galilee back to the Western shore.
He came "to His own city," that is His adopted headquarters in Capernaum. Jesus' hometown, Nazareth had rejected Him. In fact they would have thrown Him off a cliff it He had not escaped. Most likely while in Capernaum, He stayed at Peter's house.
1. You Need To be Forgiven
There is generally today in Christianity a planned, calculated de-emphasis on personal sin. One well known Preacher said that he doesn’t preach about sin because people already know that they are sinners and don’t want to come to church and be reminded of it. I could not more vehemently disagree with him. The problem is that people don’t know what sinners they are. We have so emphasized self esteem that people esteem themselves too highly.
David Seamands tells the story of the alchemist who sold villagers a special powder that he claimed would turn water into gold provided that when they mixed it, they never thought of red monkeys. Well, of course, no one ever got the gold, because you can't tell yourself to stop thinking about red monkeys or you'll just keep thinking about red monkeys. It doesn't work to say, "Well, I'm just not going to think about those things. I'm going to put all of that out of my mind."
D. L. Moody, the great American evangelist, once said, "If a man is stealing nuts and bolts from a railway track, and, in order to change him, you send him to college, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railway track." -- Ravi Zacharias, "The Lostness of Humankind," Preaching Today, Tape No. 118.
While no one claims perfection, most believe that they are just as good (if not a little better) than others and that’s probably good enough for God. Until we have our eyes opened to see the depth of our sin, we are not going to see our desperate need for Christ and His forgiveness. Most people are so filled with pride and love of themselves that they are strutting to hell thinking that they are too good to be condemned.
When Peter saw Jesus, he also saw the sinfulness of his own soul and said in Luke 5:8b (NKJV) "…Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!" Looking back at his life before Christ, Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:15 (NKJV) “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” Toward the end of the book of Job, God revealed to Job a true picture of himself and Job said in Job 42:6 (NKJV) “Therefore I abhor myself, And repent in dust and ashes." There are many instances in Scripture where people came into the manifest presence of God and were petrified because they saw the depths of their own sin. I believe that it is the role of the Holy Spirit to pull the blinders off of our eyes so that we can see our spiritual poverty, but the main means by which He causes us who were blind to see is to hear what the Scriptures say about sin and its consequences.
Modern evangelism seems to focus only on the principles of Jesus (Jesus All About Life campaign) and neglects our sinfulness and the need for forgiveness from the bondage and slavery of sin. The joy of forgiven sin is impossible apart from a deep conviction of our bondage to and saturation with sin and the horrible consequences that sin brings.
Donald Baillie rightly says: “A great many persons in the world today have something like a repressed moral-failure complex. They do not confess their sins to God or man, but they have an uneasy dissatisfaction with themselves and with what they have made of their moral opportunity.”
Guilt always possesses the power to shatter personality. George McLeod says that nearly half the hospital beds occupied in Great Britain on any day of the year are occupied by mental cases. Of these, half are there because of an overloaded sense of guilt. The superintendent of a mental institution said recently he could release half of his patients if someone could assure them that their guilt would be taken away.
Guilt paralyzes the body. There are many modern counterparts to the stricken man brought to Jesus. By the pronouncement of the word “forgiveness, by the removal of the crippling sense of guilt, he was made whole. Perhaps some men and women, lying helplessly in bed, sitting imprisoned in a wheelchair, would rise up and walk if only, only the forgiveness of God could be believed and accepted.
Guilt paralyzes the human spirit. Joy and guilt cannot exist together. Guilt destroys creativity, so clouding the sky that there is little mood to fashion something new. Guilt removes God from our side, and without God life becomes scarcely worth living.
Guilt paralyzes marriage. I have been staggered over recent years at the power of guilt rising from mishandled sex life before and after marriage. I have seen homes breaking down because years later guilt for premarital unchastity lingers.
But the difficulty is that hich Jeremiah warned of so many years ago. Jer 6:14 They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, 'Peace, peace,' when there is no peace.
So often instead of discovering true forgiveness from God, people try and heal the wound lightly. They try and forgive themselves, instead of seeking the forgiveness of God.
Man’s inability to forgive himself is demonstrated in the strange novel by Albert Camus called The Fall, The central character in the story is a Parisian lawyer, self-assured, respected, secure in his self-esteem. Then one night, walking home late across a bridge over the Seine, something happens which he was never able to forget, It was his “fall.” “I had already gone some fifty yards” he said, “when I heard the sound of a body striking the water. I heard a cry, repeated several times which was going downstream; then it suddenly ceased. I wanted to run and yet didn’t stir. Then slowly under the rain I went away. I informed no one. The next day and the days following, I didn’t read the papers.”
Always thereafter the memory of that incident haunted him. Years later, still bearing his inner sense of guilt he said: “0 young woman, throw yourself in the water again so that I may a second time have the chance of saving both of us. It’s too late now, it will always be too late.”
How do we move from hearing the voice of conscience to receiving the word of forgiveness? How do we reach the point where, having confessed our sin, we “accept our acceptance,” to use Paul Tillich’s notable phrase? How do we become certain of the pardon of God? Jesus was able to help the paralyzed man, from guilt through forgiveness to healing, because he was able with authority to pronounce those words: “Your sins are forgiven.” This is the secret of the story, the power of Jesus to bring about the miracle of forgiveness.
2. He Can Forgive
Horatius Bonar wrote:
Not what these hands have done Can save this guilty soul;
Not what this toiling flesh has borne Can make my spirit whole.
Thy love to me, 0 God Not mine, 0 Lord, to Thee,
Can rid me of this dark unrest, And set my spirit free.
There is only one place in all the world where we become absolutely convinced our sins can be and are forgiven. It is in the presence of Jesus.
I. He Releases the Sinner (V1-8) Aphiemi
Man's greatest problem is not economical, political, educational, socially, physically, or psychological - it is spiritual, SIN! The most fundamental truth of the Bible is that man is a sinner and that he will never find real joy until he knows the joy of sins forgiven.
What is destroying humanity man can not fix, it is something that only God can fix. This is why all of man's attempts to solve our problems will prove weak at best, and futile at worse, only God can solve the true problem of humanity. Everything else that man does is like only putting bandaids on deep wounds.
The weight of sin is enormous, and the effects of it keep people from knowing the freedom that God has for us.
It was the custom of ancient conquerors to prevent the escape of their prisoners by tying a dead body to their backs. With such gruesome burdens, these poor wretches could not run away. Paul may have had this in mind; so some think Romans 7:24 should read: "Oh, wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this dead body?"
Never have more people gone to counsellors, and yet never have there been times of greater depression and emotional struggles. There is only ONE "wonderful counselor, prince of peace, everlasting father" that can truly remove the onerous curse of sin.
If what the world needed most was emotional healing God would have sent a Psychologist, if what the world needed most was physical healing God would have sent a doctor, if what the world needed most was a healthy government God would have sent a politician, if what the world needed most was financial God would have sent an economist; but since the world's greatest need is forgiveness, God sent a SAVIOUR!
From Mark and Luke’s account we find that they didn’t just carry him in on a stretcher and sit him before Jesus. The crowd was so large that they went to the roof of the house where Jesus was speaking and made a hole in the roof over where Jesus was standing and lowered him down just in front of Jesus. The paralyzed man showed faith by asking his friends to bring him to Jesus and the friends showed faith by risking rebuke and rejection to do whatever it took to get their friend to Jesus. When you boil it down, faith is when we look to Jesus as the One sufficient for the meeting of every need. The prevalent view during New Testament times was that disease and affliction was the direct result of someone’s sin. We know (with the whole of God’s word) that while all affliction, pain, and suffering are the result of the presence of sin in the world, they are not necessarily brought on by a specific sin of the person enduring the suffering. This paralyzed man no doubt believed that his suffering was because of his sin (and it could have been); he suffered in addition to his paralysis the crushing weight of the guilt of his sin. The paralysed man was correct in believing that his priority need was forgiveness. His faith is manifested in the fact that he went to Jesus as the source not only of his physical healing, but also the source of the supply to his greatest need – forgiveness.
Notice the Forgiveness (V2b) – Even though it cannot be seen in the physical realm, when Jesus spoke these words, a miracle took place. This crippled man’s sins were forgiven! The word, “forgiven” in the Scriptures means to be sent away. David described it in Psalms 103:12 (NKJV) “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us.” Our sins separate us from God, but to be forgiven is to be separated from our sins and reconciled to God.
To reemphasize what I said earlier, our love for God is dependent on understanding the depths of our sin. If we have a low view of sin, we don’t see that we have been forgiven very much and we love God very little. When we see how our sin is not compared with others and that we were sinful down to the core of our being – our nature, then we stand amazed at such forgiveness that would send it all away. Jesus said in Luke 7:47 (HCSB) “Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven; that’s why she loved much. But the one who is forgiven little, loves little.”
I have talked with people - perhaps you have too - that knew they had sinned and were aware of the greatness of the 'sin-debt' they owe to God. They knew that there wasn't anything they could do to pay back that debt. But what was so sad was that, when they were told about the forgiveness available to them through Jesus Christ, they still wouldn't place their trust in Him. Often, they'd say, "You just don't understand. What I have done is just too sinful. God could never forgive me. I'm just too bad." Perhaps there is someone here this morning who thinks that way.
If you are thinking that way - and even if you think that way as a professing Christian - it's because you are still thinking that the only way you can get rid of your debt of sin is by paying it off yourself. And the fact is that you can't. You are bankrupt - as bankrupt and as incapable as that poor paralyzed man on the bed.
But the good news - the news that is taught us clearly in this morning's passage - is that you don't have to pay that debt back yourself. You have a Friend who is authorized to forgive your debt. And what's more, He is willing to forgive it. Jesus paid the whole debt of your sin by dying on the cross in your place; and God the Father has fully accepted the payment of Jesus His Son for all of your sins. All that you need to do is come to Him in faith, just like a spiritual "paralytic" - unable to help yourself - and place your trust in what Jesus did for you. You must stop believing that you must "do"; and trust confidently instead that it has already been "done".
II. He Announces the Sinner Released!
The Accusation (V3) In chapter 9, the religious leaders would accuse Jesus of: Blasphemy and Spending time with tax collectors and sinners
Here in verse 3, they accuse Him of blasphemy because He forgave this crippled man’s sins and only God has the power and authority to forgive sin. There are many skeptics and unbelievers today who say that Jesus never claimed to be God. He did here in this incident, because the Scribes were correct that only God can ultimately forgive sin. Jesus knew that in this claim, He was claiming to be God. Since they refused to accept the deity of Christ, the only other option was to accuse Him of blasphemy.
The Answer (V4-5) Jesus may have emphasized the word “say” in verse 5. In other words, saying something is always easier than doing it. He was setting them up for what He was about to do.
The Act (V6-7) Again, in the minds of these Scribes, a healing could not take place until sins were forgiven by God. Let me quote some Rabbis (not in Scripture) that these Scribes would have no doubt been familiar with: “No sick person is cured from sickness until all his sins have been forgiven him” (Rabbi Chija ben Abba). “The sick does not rise from his sickness until his sins are forgiven” (Rabbi Alexander). Jesus has power over sin and this miracle proved it!
The Acknowledgement (V8) The people did not fully understand the deity of Jesus, but they knew that a miracle had taken place and that Jesus was powerful. They gave glory to God knowing that this kind of power was associated only with God.
I recently read a story by a woman who said that as a girl she was poor. She said, "I grew up in a cold water flat, but I married a man who had money. And he took me up to a place where I had flowers, and I had gardens, and I had grass. It was wonderful. And we had children. "Then suddenly I became physically sick. I went to the hospital, and the doctors ran all sorts of tests. One night the doctor came into my room, and with a long look on his face, said, 'I'm sorry to tell you this. Your liver has stopped working.' "I said, 'Doctor, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Are you telling me that I am dying?' And he said, 'I, I can't tell you any more than that. Your liver has stopped working. We've done everything we can to start it.' And he walked out. "I knew I was dying. I was so weak, I had to feel my way along the corridor down to the chapel of the hospital. I wanted to tell God off. I wanted to tell God, 'You are a shyster! You've been passing yourself off as a loving God for two thousand years, but every time anyone begins to get happy you pull the rug out from under them.' I wanted this to be a face-to-face telling off of God. "And just as I got into the center aisle of the chapel, I tripped, I swooned, I fainted. And I looked up, and there stenciled along the step into the sanctuary, where the altar is, I saw these words: LORD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER. I know God spoke to me that night. I know he did." She didn't say how God communicated this to her, but what God said was, "You know what this is all about. It's about the moment of surrender; it's about bringing you to that moment when you will surrender everything to me. These doctors, they do the best they can. but they only treat. I'm the only one who can cure you." And she said, "There with my head down on my folded arms in the center of the chapel, repeating, 'Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,' I surrendered to God. I found my way back to my hospital bed, weak as I was. "The next morning, after the doctor ran the blood tests and the urinalysis and so forth, he said, 'Your liver has started working again. We don't know why. We don't know why it stopped, and we don't know why it started up again.' And I said in my heart, But I know. Oh but I know. God has brought me to the brink of disaster, just to get me to turn my life over to him." -- John Powell, "Prayer as Surrender," Preaching Today, Tape No. 108.
III. He Receives the Sinner (V9-10)
With the crippled man, we see Jesus forgiving sin and with the call of Matthew, we see that He receives forgiven sinners. Apart from knowledge of history and customs, it is hard to comprehend how amazing this passage really is.
Matthew Was Rejected by Others
From Mark and Luke’s account we see that Matthew was also called Levi and that he was a tax collector (publican). Matthew was a great sinner and everyone knew it. As a tax collector, he was doubtless one of the most hated men in Capernaum. Tax people in any culture are not likely to be named “man of the year”, but it was even worse in the Roman taxation system. People could buy franchises from the Roman government to collect taxes in a certain city or district. When a Jew got into the tax business, they were considered traitors to their nation. Nothing in the mind of a Jew was more despicable that a publican (tax collector). Rome required the publicans to collect so much money. Everything over the quota prescribed by Rome could be kept by the tax collector. To keep the tax machine well lubricated, the Roman government would nearly always stand behind their tax collectors. These men had almost unlimited authority in taking tax money from the people. They collected taxes from bridge tolls, road taxes, harbour dues, property taxes, and on and on. Publicans were so despised by Jews that they were barred from synagogues. Jewish tradition taught that it was impossible for a publican to repent. You can imagine the gasps in the crowd when Jesus told Matthew, “Follow Me”.
Matthew Was Accepted by Christ
The call “follow Me” is a call to salvation. There were no emotional appeals or human logic. It was a simple command. For His own sovereign reasons, Jesus chose Matthew and called Him to Himself. How do we know that this is the account of a genuine conversion and not just a following of curiosity? There are several reasons that we know that this was a true conversion.
He arose and followed Jesus – Saving faith obeys! He gets up and follows Jesus.
He left everything to follow Jesus. Matthew doesn’t mention this out of modesty since this is the same Matthew who the Holy Spirit used to write this gospel. Luke tells us in Luke 5:28 (NASB) “And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him.” True salvation is not tacking Jesus onto your life. It is a turning from everything to follow Christ. Luke 14:33 (NKJV) “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.”
He continued with the Lord. The perseverance of the saints is not a work that we do to keep our salvation; it is an evidence that our salvation is real. This truth is stated in the negative in 1 John 2:19 (NKJV) “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” From the gospels and from history and tradition, we see that Matthew continued faithful to the end.
He was burdened for his friends to come to know Jesus. Matthew had a party – a party with sinners to introduce them to Jesus. Verse 10 doesn’t make that as clear as Luke does in Luke 5:29 (NKJV) “Then Levi gave Him a great feast in his own house. And there were a great number of tax collectors and others who sat down with them.” This is a natural thing for those who have been forgiven, been released and been accepted by Christ; they desire that those they care about come to know Him, come to know that they too can be forgiven released and accepted by Christ. You don’t have to tell a true convert that they need to share Christ with their friends and family; that is a normal and natural desire for someone who has truly met Jesus. Matthew brings together a group of social and religious outcasts and Jesus meets with them. Matthew was a forgiven man now accepted by Christ as a disciple.
In a graveyard, a headstone.. one word “Forgiven!”
It was one word, but it said it all. And you? Are you forgiven? Are you released? Are you Accepted by Christ? Just come to Him. Receive Him as your Saviour and all this will be yours too.