We all tend to feel some level of discomfort when another person shakes up our understanding about how the world works. This is not just true about the ‘big’ idea things. We tend to think that the way Mom made meatloaf is the way it’s done, right? When traditions get challenged, our response is often emotional. We tend not to ask, ‘is this reasonable?’ Instead we react. The more personal a tradition, the more it disturbs our sense of well-being, the stronger our reaction.
In our reading in Matthew today, Jesus takes on tradition and provokes a strong reaction in some religious leaders who saw His words and actions as a direct threat to the established ideas about spiritual authority. “Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. 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.”
At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 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.” And the man got up and went home. When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.” (Matthew 9:1-8, NIV)
Most people viewed the paralyzed man who was brought to Jesus with some pity, but also with judgment, assuming that his condition was the result of his sin and therefore, the judgment of God. They believed that there was a direct connection between suffering and some personal sin. The religious leaders heard what Jesus said and to them it was presumptuous. He was stepping into a place that belonged only to God. No human being had any business ‘forgiving sins’ unless there was involvement with the ritual processes of the sacrificial system and the priesthood – so they thought. That’s why Jesus’ words to the man were so controversial.
He was revealing something about Himself that would change the world, literally. Jesus, in his interaction with this paralyzed man, makes a declaration that He is God, that He has the ability to heal more than the body. He can heal the soul, giving eternal life, restoring the relationship of the sinner with God!
Two questions for your thoughts today.
First, what limits of understanding keep you from experiencing the full power and authority of Jesus?
We may say we have faith that He can do anything, that He is Lord of all, but then our words reveal a different conclusion. It happens to us all. In my prayers today I was praying for someone who’s life is full of suffering, addiction, so many tangled issues of brokenness that hope for transformation seems impossible. Hearing my own rather faithless words, my prayers that were without heart, I stopped and got honest with God. “Lord, this person’s life is such a snarled mess that I have no idea even how to pray. I confess that I need an infusion of real faith to think that even You can make a difference.”
I do not think I am the only person alive who has experienced that kind of inner conflict, that kind of limited vision. Are you willing to admit to yourself and to God that you need a gift of faith? Remember the father who brought his son to Jesus. He wanted his son healed but knew something of his doubts, so he prayed- “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9)
Second, are you humble enough to respond with faith when God shakes up your world?
Jesus purposefully offended those religious leaders that day with His words. Was He just trying to make them angry? Of course not. He was confronting them, hoping to make really think, to consider what they believed to be true. All of us develop traditions and reach conclusions that seem true to us. There is comfort in such ideas about how the world works, who God is, and why things happen. But, God wants us to grow in faith, to know Him beyond the sentimental song, to trust Him so deeply that we find an unshakeable confidence, not in ourselves, but in Him. To do that, He will let us experience things that challenge us, bring people into our lives that are uncomfortably truthful, and speak to us through the Word and His Spirit. What then? Will we grow and know Him as He is, or will we retreat to our comfort?
The ‘crowd’ that day saw what Jesus had done for the paralyzed man and simply trusted. They did not get wrapped up in ‘how’ or ‘why.’ They experienced awe and responded with praise to God. May we be like them, ready to see, quick to worship, always faithful.
Here is a word from the Word. “Do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord, no matter what happens. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And a righteous person will live by faith. But I will have no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn their backs on God and seal their fate. We have faith that assures our salvation.” (Hebrews 10:35-39, NLT)
“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:14-15, NIV)
Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name
The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me
Let me be singing when the evening comes
You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger
Your name is great and Your heart is kind
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find
And on that day when my strength is failing
The end draws near and my time has come
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending
Ten thousand years and then forevermore
Worship Your holy name
Lord I’ll worship Your holy name
Jonas Myrin | Matt Redman © 2011 Atlas Mountain Songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)
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