Much has been said about three words – “I am sorry.” We dissect the need to apologize backwards and forwards. We talk about what they can mean – from “No, I’m really not sorry”, to, “Yes, I am deeply, deeply sorry.” We take apart what it really means to be “Sorry I got caught” to “I truly regret my actions / words.”
But what about the next three words. Why are these three sometimes considered “dirty”?
“You are forgiven.”
You might be wondering – How are those words dirty? They are cleansing. They are freeing. They are beautiful. And yet…
Much has been said about the actions and conviction of a former police officer, Amber Guyger, killing a man named Botham Jean. He had been sitting in his own apartment, eating ice cream, when she entered – mistakenly believing it was her home. Seeing him, she drew her gun and killed him.
During the sentencing Botham’s brother, Brandt, requested the judge’s permission to hug Guyger. The judge was so moved by his actions that she also stepped down to speak with Guyger. The judge also gave her a Bible.
The stunning image of Brandt hugging this woman and offering her forgiveness captivated people as they were drawn into the image of what seems impossible. Many confessed to actually crying at this incredible act of peace and love.
And yet, others got angry.
There were many who were upset with Brandt for offering forgiveness. There were those who were offended at the too-often witnessed scene and likened it to the Charleston, SC church families (June 2015 shooting). In the opinion of some, to put it simply, forgiveness was being too freely offered. I find that fascinating.
Granted, if you read the full comments of those who were upset, you can kind of understand why they are struggling. If we forgive those who do wrong too quickly, other individuals might perceive an open door for them to do harm to others.
However, in both situations, the forgiveness did not erase the ramifications. The various guilty parties still had to deal with the consequences (prison) and everything else. But what is it like to forgive when
1) No one expects you to do so; and
2) You don’t have to do so.
This is when I circle back to the only place I know with perfect (albeit challenging) answers – God’s Word.
We can look at many different verses, but I’m honestly struck by an account we read in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. It’s not so much the forgiveness as it is what we do NOT read in the text.
The Gospels tell us that Jesus was teaching in a home. Some friends of a paralytic bring him to Jesus in hopes that Jesus will heal him. Mark and Luke tell us that the friends take apart a roof and lower him down on ropes. Matthew cuts it short.
Some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. Matthew 9:2
Before you ask, I have NO clue why Matthew didn’t include the roof anecdote. For whatever reason, he did. While it may detract an aspect of the narrative, it does not take away from the point of the story – the DOUBLE healing. Let’s look at the first.
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9:3
So, here’s my question: WHAT IN THE WORLD???
Seriously. Why did Jesus say this? What did the man do? Clearly, the man needed to be healed physically, right? Where did Jesus come up with the “sins are forgiven” part?
Well, He’s God the Son. He knows what is in this man’s heart and He knows what has been in this man’s life. In other words:
Jesus knew this man needed SPIRITUAL healing and forgiveness MORE THAN he needed physical healing.
Think about that for a minute. This man was a paralytic. And yet, his greatest need was not for the ability to move again. No, his greatest need, in the eyes of the One who could truly help him, was for spiritual healing.
Not to get personal, but have you thought about what that means for YOU? Have you considered your own situation – whatever it may be – in light of what Jesus did for the paralytic?
I’d like to be physically healed. I’d like to chew with the left side of my mouth and have relief from other various aches and pains. And these are little things in comparison to the paralytic.
If there is pain in your life – physical, emotional, or even spiritual – Jesus can heal you. Miracles have happened for thousands of years as God has chosen to bless people with acts of mercy and relief. But we need to be aware of something crucial.
Jesus knew exactly what was right for him and He knows exactly what is right for you. You, and I, need to be spiritually healed above all else.
And He loved you so much that He gave His life on the cross so that you might not perish but have everlasting life. Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our sins, making the payment we could not pay, and reconciling us to the Father.
Jesus offered and offers spiritual healing. That is the most important thing.
There is more to the story though. Do you know the rest?
Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” Matthew 9: 3
To the ears of the scribes around Him, this was blasphemy. This new Rabbi is saying that He can do things that only God has the power to do. Leviticus 24 says that the penalty for blasphemy is death. They are to take Jesus and stone Him.
But Jesus knew their hearts. Even as they are whispering, He replies in a way that immediately quiets the whispering and shocks everyone. Let’s read this again:
Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” Matthew 9: 4-6
How many of us can heal someone? Granted, God CAN use you to heal someone. Miracles happen. But it is NOT the norm.
And so Jesus, in order to prove that He had power and authority, told the man to “Rise, pick up your mat, and go home.” To be clear, this was not an “ask”. This was a command. He told the man to get up. He told the man to pick up his mat. He told the man to go home. What happened next?
He rose and went home. Matthew 9:7
That’s it. I love the simplicity of it.
So, how about you? Again, I might argue that this account should draw our attention to the spiritual healing above the physical healing. This “new life” is more important.
We can say we are sorry. We can even say that we forgive someone. We can even mean both of those things.
But we can’t forgive sins. We can heal anyone spiritually. Only Jesus can do that. Only Jesus can offer that type of mercy.
There is one more portion of text to re-highlight.
“And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9: 2
It’s plural, isn’t it? It’s not HIS faith. It’s THEIR faith.
Jesus saw the paralytic, but He also saw the faith of those who were willing to carry the man up onto a roof, make a hole in it, and lower him down so that he could reach Jesus. He saw THEIR faith.
Here’s the question: Can Jesus see your faith? Can others see your faith?
I want to encourage you to “Rise, pick up your mat, and walk.”
Life happens. We sin. Others sin. There are going to be things that happen that just don’t make any sense. We might cry. We might get angry. We might get depressed. We might feel a full range of different emotional things.
But God is still going to be good. He is still going to be sovereign.
I want to encourage you to believe that. I want to encourage you to get up, grab your mat, and walk forward. It sounds too simple. There might be other things you need to do also, but the first step is simply to get up.
God is good. He is holding you in His arms. He is filling you with the Holy Spirit. Trust Him and let that faith overflow.
Yours in Christ,