Matthew 9:1-8 1 Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” 4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? 5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” 7 And the man got up and went home. 8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.
I am so glad this morning that I serve a God who speaks. I am so thankful that our God isn’t made of stone or wood and isn’t incapable of having a conversation with us. I am glad that I don’t serve an inanimate object who cannot encourage me or instruct me or impact my situation. I am so blessed to know that my God is alive, that He is in touch, that He is all-powerful and that He hasn’t used up all of His vocabulary on the people who have preceded me. He walks with me. He talks with me. He tells me I am His own! He is still speaking and He has a word for us this morning from Matthew 9.
Jesus speaks in response to faith.
Verse 2 tells us that Jesus saw faith in action when this paralyzed man was brought to Jesus. Jesus wasn’t only impacted by the faith of the four friends who carried this man to him, but He was impacted by the faith of the man himself. The statement, “When Jesus saw their faith” is in response to the faith of all five men. These men believed Jesus had answers for the lame man. They believed He could impact his situation. They went to Him in faith that their friend could get help.
Listen, when we talk to Jesus, when we bring Him our needs during this pandemic, we need to come to Him believing He can and will do something about what we are facing. Some of you have messaged me this week to tell me you have been or will be laid off from work. Some of you have shared that your fear and anxieties are overtaking your mind and are robbing you of sleep. Some have reached out to say it is getting tough to be at home with so many people in the house. Some of you are having to work extra hours and are exhausted. Some need extra protection as you work in the healthcare field.
I usually have something to tell people that can lift their spirits or focus their mind and heart on something positive, but I will tell you friends, I have been challenged to think of things to say that can really impact your situation. But this I know, if you will get to Jesus IN FAITH, He can and will deliver you.
I encourage you to read Matthew 8 and 9 both today because they are power-packed with stories of people who came to Jesus in faith. Look at Matthew 8:1-3 1 When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” 3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.
What a powerful story! Notice that the man didn’t come to Jesus and say, “Jesus, if you can, make me clean.” No. He didn’t question Jesus’ ability to move, Jesus’ ability to heal. He wasn’t coming to Jesus with the mindset that he hoped Jesus could help. He knew Jesus could help. He simply asked if it was His will to restore Him.
Listen, we have to stop believing the lies of the enemy that life will never return to normal or that we won’t recover from this pandemic. We need to believe that God is a restorer and He can restore anything. The demonstration of the restoration of this leper’s skin is proof that God can restore anything. If you have lost something during this time that God wants you to have, He will restore it to you. Believe God for it.
How about this story from Matthew 9:27-30 27 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” 28 When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” “Yes, Lord,” they replied. 29 Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you”; 30 and their sight was restored.
What an incredible picture of people expressing faith. They were following Jesus. Blind men were following Him. I don’t know how. I don’t know if they had friends who were taking them by the arm or who were telling them to walk straight or then to turn left or right or how they were following since they were blind, but the fact that they were following tells us they were determined to have time with Him. They weren’t going to allow their condition, their challenge to keep them from talking to Jesus. And they weren’t just following Jesus, but they were calling out to Him, “Have mercy on us, Son of David!” Jesus specifically asked them a faith question-”Do you believe that I am able to do this?”
Is Jesus asking us some faith questions during this time? Oh, church, are we asking God for mercy and when we ask are we believing that He has it to give? Do we believe He can shorten the life of this pandemic? Do we believe He can supply our hospitals and medical professionals with what is needed? Do we believe our kids who are now trying to go to school online can catch up and still excel? Do we believe this time can be meaningful and even miraculous even though it is difficult? What if in the worst of times Jesus performs the greatest of miracles? Wouldn’t it be worth it?
This I know: Jesus speaks in response to our faith. Start following Him around today and call out to Him with a cry for mercy. When you go to God in prayer, go to Him with courage and faith. Say to Him, “Lord, I believe you are God and there is no other who can impact my situation but You. I believe you can rescue me from fear. I believe you can restore my finances. I believe you can bless my business. I believe you can give me patience with my kids or my spouse. I believe you can help me to sleep at night. I believe you will give me strength to work overtime. I believe you can protect me from this virus. I believe.”
What you believe and how you exercise that belief may determine what you will receive from God during this season. If you need a word from God, if you desire a word from God, if you need God’s help, start exercising faith. Jesus is responsive to our faith.
Jesus speaks and sin is forgiven.
Verse 2 of our text tells us that when Jesus saw their faith, He said, “Take heart, son, your sins are forgiven.” Isn’t it interesting that the man came to Jesus for healing, which he received, but he also received forgiveness, which he needed more. We always think we know what our needs are, and we may know in part, but God sees all of our need. He sees the outside AND the inside.
Something reiterated in this passage is that only God can forgive sin. Oh, it’s not stated as such, but the religious leaders who were angry that Jesus pronounced forgiveness on the man said that He was blaspheming. He was claiming to have authority that only God could have. Well, yes, Jesus was and is God, so there wasn’t any blasphemy; only a display of the power of God. Jesus has the power to forgive sin because He was and is God.
It was a common maxim or belief of the Jews during that time that no one could be healed until their sins were blotted out. Most often, disease or physical malady was seen to be tied to a person’s sin or to their parents’ or even grandparents’ sin. It’s interesting that Jesus performed the series of events the way He did, sort of in line with the thinking of cultural norms by making sure it was known that the man’s sins were covered before he was healed. I’m not sure what to make of that except to say that I believe Jesus was dealing with the man’s greatest need first. Whether his sickness was tied to his sin, I couldn’t say, but the fact that his sin had not yet been dealt with was the greatest concern for Jesus.
Our greatest need isn’t to make sure our bank account rebounds or that our businesses will regain lost ground. The greatest need in our world today is for mass numbers of people to have their sins forgiven. We cannot be in right-standing with God apart from the forgiveness of our sins. Here’s the honest truth, the division between people in our country is in direct correlation to humanity’s division with God. That isn’t really a main emphasis for this message, but I believe God wanted me to mention it, lest we incorrectly conclude our greatest need is for this mess to be over. It isn’t. Our greatest need is for people to get right with God, and when that happens, they will live right with each other as well. So, as you pray, pray about that.
I’m not sure we often consider what it means to have our sins forgiven. Oh, I think we know forgiveness has given us access to Heaven and daily access to the Spirit of God who comes to live in us, but do we really consider all of the benefits of forgiveness?
Psalm 103:1-3 1 Praise the LORD, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. 2 Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits– 3 who forgives all your sins…
Let’s not forget about God’s awesome benefit package that includes forgiveness! Oh friends, sin is a slave master. It binds us. It restricts us. It brainwashes us. It stains our souls. It keeps us from pursuing God. It causes hardships and addictions and produces strife between us and other people. It keeps us from our destinies and makes us obey our flesh, our lust, our perverted thoughts. Sin torments us. It weighs us down. It robs us of quality of life. It impacts our physical bodies in a negative way, producing stress, anxiety, and fear. It puts strain on our relationships. It leads us to live self-absorbed lives. It causes us to think low and keeps us from living the true high life God has for us. It’s a big problem. It’s the biggest problem we have, but Jesus has made a way for it to be broken off of our lives completely.
We are born with a sin natural. That is our natural nature. Our natural nature desires to do things our way and to sin against God, but when we have our sins forgiven, when we allow God to become our Lord, we are born again and have a new nature given to us. Our old, sinful nature is replaced with a supernatural nature. We are gifted or given the righteousness of Christ. That is amazing. Christ’s perfection is conferred upon us and when God looks at us, He sees us as righteous. That is awesome. Someone ought to be shouting about that right now. Our sinful nature is replaced with a supernatural nature, one that is perfect.
Psalm 103 that talks about God’s benefit package says that all of our sins get forgiven when we give our lives to Jesus. Our past is forgiven. Our present is under His blood. And our future sins will be forgiven. Every bad thought. Every evil motive. Every selfish action. Every fleshly reaction. It can all be under the blood of Jesus Christ. That means we don’t have to live in fear of doing something wrong and falling out of God’s good graces. As we walk with Him, He will convict us of sin and help us to repent and to seek His ongoing forgiveness.
Not only is our sin removed from us but the guilt and shame that go hand in hand with sin are graciously taken off of us. (Romans 8:1) And Psalm 103:12 tells us that God removes our sin as far as the east is from the west and that He will never throw it in our face or bring it up again.
What an unexpected blessing the lame man received when He received forgiveness for his sin! My sin, O the bliss of this glorious thought. My sin not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord. Praise the Lord O my soul!
Has Jesus spoken forgiveness over your life yet?
Jesus speaks and the condition of our hearts is exposed.
Just as only God could forgive sin, only God can know what is in a person’s heart. We see in our Matthew 9 story that Jesus knew what was in the hearts of the religious leaders who heard him pronounce forgiveness on the lame man. He asked them why they were entertaining evil thoughts in their hearts. Well, they knew He had busted them because they knew they were thinking evil things.
Jesus basically told them it was as easy for Him to forgive sin as it was to tell the lame man to get up and walk. He told them the reason He proclaimed the man’s forgiveness was to help them see that He had that kind of authority. You see, everything is equally easy for the One whose power is unlimited. Jesus wasn’t leaving any room for doubt about who He was, and He wasn’t leaving any doubt about the religious leaders’ real heart condition.
Yes, physical healing was part of His mission, but His main focus was the hearts of people, and the religious leaders’ hearts were bad. We can’t have an honest conversation with Jesus and not deal with Him and ourselves on a heart to heart level. I guess some people disengage with Jesus or dismiss Him because they don’t want to look inward. They don’t want to face the truth. Pride keeps many from admitting their hearts aren’t right. The Bible tells us that every one of us has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)
Is it to save face that we try to hide our faults and failures? Have we convinced ourselves that we are good to go or at least that we are better than others? The bottom line was that the religious leaders had no use for Jesus. They had no room for Him. They had evaluated themselves and determined they were good to go. They weren’t willing to be accountable to Jesus, and they thought they could simply dismiss Him.
Is that the way some people approach God? Like they can take Him or leave Him? Nothing could be further from the truth. God created us. He knows us. Intimately. He knows our thoughts. He knows our motives. He knows what we think we do in secret because nothing is hidden from Him. And we are accountable to Him whether we want to accept that or not.
The lame man’s heart wasn’t right, but he had come to Jesus in humility and faith and received forgiveness. The religious leaders’ hearts weren’t right either, but in their self-righteous state they had already determined themselves OK. They were delusional. They were hypocrites, and Jesus called them out. They weren’t opened to Jesus’ assessment. When Jesus pronounced forgiveness on the lame man, before he was even healed, he was in better shape than the religious leaders who were resistant to address their hearts.
The moment Jesus speaks to us about the condition of our hearts is the moment we need to surrender them completely to Him.
Jesus speaks and people are healed.
I will go out on a limb here and say that when Jesus pronounced the forgiveness of the man’s sins that he felt the weight of sin leave him. I believe he had an encounter with Jesus in that moment that confirmed to him that Jesus was God. I say that because when Jesus told him to get up and walk he didn’t say, “I can’t.” He didn’t say, “I’m afraid to try.” No. He got up and walked and walked all the way home. He didn’t even have to go to physical therapy to build up his strength a day at a time. He was good to go.
The fact that he just took Jesus at his word and stood up without hesitation or conversation tells me he had transferred the full weight of his faith onto Jesus, and when we do that, when we take Jesus at His Word, we can experience healing in a multitude of ways.
God is still in the healing business. His very Word can bring healing to our lives if we will read it, practice it and claim it. He can speak to you through your circumstances, and you can be healed. He can speak to you through other believers, and you can be healed. Psalm 107:20 says God sends forth His word and heals us. Does anyone need to hear Jesus speak about your physical or emotional condition this morning?
I told you that Matthew 8 and 9 were packed with stories of great faith. One in Matthew 8:5-13 details the faith of a centurion who came to Jesus and asked Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus offered to go with the centurion to his home and to heal the servant, and the centurion’s response was stunning: “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.”
The centurion was a commander in the Roman army. He wasn’t even a Jew, but he had somehow placed his faith in the powerful words of Jesus. He believed Jesus’ words were so powerful that Jesus didn’t have to be physically present to produce healing in this situation.
Verse 10 tells us that Jesus was astonished by the centurion’s faith and Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.” Jesus went on to say in verse 13, “Go! It will be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that very hour.” Healing came to the centurion and the lame man at the words of Jesus.
Lastly I will say that our Matthew 9 text tells us that when Jesus speaks and we get more than we came to receive. The lame man came for healing. He left with healing, with a cleansed heart, and with a ministry that would testify to others about the amazing power of Jesus. Verse 8 says the people were filled with awe and started to praise God. When Jesus speaks, you see, others are drawn to Him.
Perhaps that should be our greatest reason to want to hear God’s voice, that as He speaks to us, the things that flow out of our lives will cause others to be in awe of Him and to praise Him in response.
Oh Jesus, speak, and give us ears to hear, bodies, minds, and hearts to respond and may many see You and glorify the Father who is in Heaven along with us.