Rev. Sharon Prentis
21st September 2014
Matthew’s 9:1-9

Today is the day in the Christian calendar dedicated to one of the disciples our church is named after- Matthew. In chapter 9 of the gospel after which he is named we read the story of Jesus healing the man who was paralysed. It comes immediately before he calls Matthew to follow him. What’s so intriguing about the story of the healing of the paralytic is that Jesus says to the man something which is regarded as quite scandalous by the religious officials of the time. He says, ‘your sins are forgiven you’. The word sin is not one that we often use nowadays or even feel comfortable with. In a nutshell it means wrong doing against God. It’s quite apparent from the passage that the Pharisees did not like the presumption that Jesus could do something about sin. He implied he had the power to forgive. So what did this mean? From the passage as we might get the impression that this man was sick because he had sinned.

I don’t believe that’s simply the case- instead I think Jesus was saying something wider about the sinful nature of the world we live in and alluding to the fact that we have a sinful nature in a corrupted world and that, by ourselves, we cannot be redeemed from it. We live in a broken world far from the ideal perfect creation that God had intended. We only have to look around us at nations and wars. We have all sorts of things to contend with: broken relationships with each other and creation, as well as broken minds, spirits and bodies that don’t function the way they were intended to. I believe Jesus words were a declaration that he had come to redeem the world and this act of healing- in all it’s forms- was a fulfilment of that promise. What was so astounding to the Pharisees was that Jesus dared to presume that he could forgive sins. Their anger displayed their own selfishness, egos and their lack of understanding. How dare he- Jesus presume he had the power to forgive sins like God.

You see, if you look at the word sin it has an ‘I’ in the middle and the focus is on me, myself and I. The ego or self-centred will of the individual is- in the majority of cases – the reason why we go against God, or fail to do what we should or have the wrong attitude the three ways we sin: firstly by commission, the things we wilfully do; secondly, omission the good we fail to do and thirdly by disposition, the wrong attitudes we hold. The Pharisees had the last. There is a difference between the way God describes and explains sin, on the one hand, and the way, on the other hand, that men describe and explain sin. Every person can be charged with the sin of the Pharisees – having a bad attitude, or charged with leaving undone the things they ought to have done or of being wilfully self-centred

But more importantly, what does this passage tell us about God. Firstly, his mercy and compassion far outweigh what we deserve and also more importantly, that he has forgiven our sins through Christ. Christ as saviour, healer, restorer confounds the accepted thinking about who is worthy, therefore we can’t put God in a box. Why, because God cannot exercise his holiness apart from his love. He cannot exercise His grace apart from his power- something we don’t fully appreciate or understand. Only God can manage to hold these together in the way that is both righteous, full of justice and mercy. Why does this matter? Because we live in a broken world where often we get the balance wrong. Individuals may start out with good intentions but quickly they can turn into dictators. But we have a Redeemer that is able to help us see the possibilities. Christ is the redeemer of people, healer of broken dreams and lives. He goes out of the way to confront what might seem to be the impossible both in situations and with people.. Christ says he desires mercy not sacrifice- a repentant not a proud heart. Those are the conditions for his forgiveness. As we seek repentance and come to God he is able and willing to forgive us our sins and to restore us into a right relationship with him and one another.