Your Sins Are Forgiven!

What is your most basic need? Food? Shelter? Someone to care for you? The paralyzed man in Matthew 9:1–8 might have spoken of the ability to move, to walk. But after his encounter with Jesus he would have told you of an even deeper need which had been met.

Come to Jesus Christ for forgiveness. Forgiveness comes through faith. Matthew’s shorter version of this account (compare Mark 2 and Luke 5) focuses on the forgiveness that Jesus gives. Sin is a basic problem that, since Adam, separates you from God. Notice how Isaiah begins the last part of his prophecy. Jesus sees the faith of the paralytic and his friends. Come to Jesus in faith. You have examined your life this past week. You certainly have not found yourself sinless. But if your trust is in the Lord Jesus Christ, if you are part of his body, his bride, he invites you to his table. Your coming to the Lord’s Table is an expression of trust in your unseen Lord.

Jesus does forgive your sins. Jesus deals with the man’s deepest need. The purpose Jesus had in coming into the world was not primarily to work wonders, or to teach, but to forgive his people. The miracles are related to the rest of his work, and thus are important. Focus on the central work of Christ, his coming to be the Savior of his people, his suffering, death, and resurrection. “Jesus then proclaims the good news that another and and better righteousness is needed than that of the Pharisees ([Matt.] 5:20), that this righteousness is is a good gift from God (6:33), and that God grants this benefit, not to the righteous, bu to publicans and sinners, to the lost, to the burdened and heavy laden, to children who do not look for salvation in themselves but expect all their well being from God. As proof of all this, he himself, as the Messiah of the kingdom distributes the benefit of forgiveness of sins (Matt. 9:2ff.; Luke 7:48ff.). Indeed, he gives his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28), creates the new covenant in his blood, allows his body to be broken and his blood to be shed fo rthe forgiveness of sins(26:26ff.), and promises eternal life to all who become his disciples (10:37ff.; 16:24ff.).” Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4., p. 183). The forgiving work of Christ is sealed to you in the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. The sacrament is a memorial, and it does express your faith. But God also speaks in and even through the Lord’s Supper. He is assuring you that Christ’s death is for you, that his saving work is as real as the bread you eat and the fruit of the vine you drink.

As important as it is that each of you repent of your sin, trust in Christ, and receive his forgiveness, this passage is not all about you. Recognize the authority of the Son of Man. The Son of Man claims authority on earth to forgive. The scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy–which would have been accurate if he were a mere man. Jesus claims the authority of the Son of Man, with all the glory of Daniel 7 in view. Further, Jesus claims this authority upon earth. As the Messiah, as the incarnate Son of God, he has the authority to forgive. Even the scribes would have been willing to grant, at least in the abstract, that the Son of Man of Daniel 7 had divine authority. It was something else, however, to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was that Son of Man, and that he did have the power and right to forgive. The reference by the crowds to giving this authority to men is not an assumption that all men have the power to forgive. Rather, it is marveling that this divine, heavenly function is being exercised upon earth, by one who is man. That authority is further displayed in healing the paralytic. “Which is easier…” Jesus asks. It may be easy to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” but how can you judge what has happened. The command to get up has immediately measurable results. “The feeling of awe was in keeping with the unique demonstration of the supernatural they had just witnessed in Jesus, while the glorifying arose from the reflection that this had been mediated through a man.” (Geerhardus Vos The Self-Disclosure of Jesus, p. 53).

Glorify God because of the majesty of your Lord. The record of three powerful miracles are tied together by the trip across the lake and back, Matthew 8:18-9:8. Jesus has power over the storm, over evil spirits, and here, not only power to heal, but even to forgive sin. At the beginning (Matthew 8:20) and the end (Matthew 9:6) Jesus identifies himself as Son of Man, using the powerful imagery of Daniel 7:13,14. Matthew is pushing you to recognize the full glory of your Lord. Praise him for his saving work. Look at the songs of Revelation 5. Christ forgiving you certainly benefits you. But it has a deeper, richer purpose. Christ redeemed you so that you can join in praising the Father and him. The greater praise of God is a basic reason for the forgiveness that Christ bestows! As you not only hear of his saving work, but even more, as you experience it, respond to God with praise. Include the element of joy in the solemn observance of the Lord’s Supper. It is a celebration. If your trust is in Jesus Christ, if you come to his Table in faith, he speaks to you as surely as he did to the paralytic, and says, “Your sins are forgiven!”

Come to Lord’s Table, this meal of peace, not because you are perfect, but because you are a forgiven sinner—who continues to need Christ’s forgiveness.

About jwm

I serve as pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, Newberg, Oregon.
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