Matthew

Why are these three words sometimes considered "dirty"?

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.

Wow.

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,
Marty

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Cookie Monster said it best, didn't he?

I blame Sesame Street.

How many of you have ever been in line at the grocery store and you hear a conversation happening next to you? It goes something like this?

Mommy, can I have a candy bar?  No, dear, not this time.

Please mommy! Just one? No, dear, not this time.

But mommy, I’m hungry? I’ll get you a snack when we get home.

But mommy, I’m hungry now! You’ll have to wait sweetie.

BUT MOMMY!!!! [Screams and crying follow…]

I’ve seen moms react in a variety of ways. Some are embarrassed but I always like when they simple shrug, stand strong, and move on. To me, that teaches the child an important lesson about delayed gratification. But then, how many of us grew up with Cookie Monster demanding his cookie?

cookie monster.jpg

I blame Cookie Monster

“Me want cookie”

That said…

How many of you have ever acted the way the child did but towards God? Think about it for a moment. Have you ever wanted something and thought He should give it to you at that exact moment? Have you ever wondered why He didn’t respond as you thought He would / should? Have you ever gotten… angry?

In continuing to walk through the Gospel of Matthew, the personal conviction I’ve felt in the Sermon on the Mount has been strong. Now, I’ll be quick to say, I’m not that bad. However, in the light of the Law (and the absolute perfection held only by God), I must admit to feeling like a whining baby when I don’t get my way.

The Christian journey and the process of sanctification (being made holy) calls us to accept the reality of our situation while also accepting the grace that has redeemed us. We must confess and press forward. It’s simple, yet oh so difficult…

Let’s jump into the particular text that called me to consider this more deeply.

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7: 7-8

Jesus has promised us that we only need to ask. It’s just like the little child asking his parent for a candy bar. We are to ask, through prayer, for our Heavenly Father to give us what we need. His ear is inclined toward us. But, as I imagine you are already guessing, His response is not to give us something that will harm us.

There exists a difference between wants and needs.

Jesus is clear. When you pray, it’s ok to ask God to give you what you need. It’s ok to ask your Heavenly Father. He is your Abba, your daddy.

The act and discipline of prayer changes us. It takes us closer to God as we speak and listen to Him. It allows Him to work in our hearts and minds and change us to follow Him more closely. We may not like His response to our “asks” (Yes, No, or Not yet) but we know that our Father always wants what is best for us.

Jesus illustrates this when He then gives us the example of bread and fish:

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? Matthew 7: 9-10

A quick reminder. If we don’t have our sandals on, this can sound a bit peculiar. 2,000 years ago, bread and fish were common. Think of the miracle of the loaves and the fish. Everyone connected with the bread / stone or fish / serpent analogies.

And so, when Jesus gave that example, followed by what He said next, these words were streams of living water. They nourished and refreshed those who heard them. And then Jesus said:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:11

Again, keeping the words in context and culture, imagine how these would have felt. These were God’s chosen people. They had been living under the rule of the Romans. They had been praying for generations to be delivered and restored. And now, they are receiving hope and words of life.

And now we have what many people call the Golden Rule.

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. Matthew 7: 12

What is the Law and the Prophets? Jesus summarized it later as the Greatest Commandments, but I believe the essence of it is right here. Love God and Love your neighbors. If you want people to be nice to you, be nice to them. If you want people to help you, help them.

Of course, the requirement we sometimes miss is that we need to do these things to them first. If we are cruel to others, then we shouldn’t expect them to be nice to us first. Act the way you want to be treated. Do the things for others that you want them to do to you.

Now, the last two verses deserve a bit more time. There is something a bit unpleasant that I’d like to discuss. This isn’t about any of you, but it is about all of us.

In the last several weeks, there have been two notable people in Christian circles that have stated that they are leaving the faith. I won’t say their names because that is not the important part. In fact, it’s the least important part.

One of the individuals is an author and former pastor. Over two decades ago, he wrote a book that became a best-seller. He went on to become a speaker and traveled around receiving all sorts of accolades. He pulled back from the spotlight a bit and then wrote more books and came right back into it.

And then he renounced his faith. He said that the terms that we would use to define Christians no longer applied to him.

The other person is a musician and song writer. He became a part of one of the most successful groups in Christian worship music today. Awards and all sorts of whatnot followed. He also has just come out and said that he has questions and would no longer consider himself to be a Christian.

Let’s be honest. It’s hard to hear Jesus’ words sometimes. We want to think that everyone will go to Heaven. We don’t want to think of our loved ones not going. But Jesus said very clearly:

Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7: 13-14

Now, there are about three or four messages I could share from those two verses. Let’s keep it simple and to the point.

Two-thousand years ago, the gate imagery was in the forefront of people’s thinking. Jerusalem – like other cities at the time – was a walled city. They were north, by the Sea of Galilee, and to go to the Temple inside the walled City of Jerusalem, had to go through a gate. If you were riding a camel or hauling a cart, you had to go through a large gate. If you were walking by yourself, you could use the small, narrow one.

First point. The gate had to be unlocked. Our sin destroyed our relationship with God. There is no way for us to get through. But Jesus, through His death on the cross, paid the price and He opened the door for us to be restored. It is only through receiving Jesus as your Savior that you can enter.

Second. You go through alone. It’s a narrow gate. You can’t take your husband or wife, son or daughter, friend or neighbor. If they want to go through, they need to receive Him as well. You can’t do it for them.

Third. It’s not hard, but it’s not easy. I’m talking about life AFTER you walk through the gate. Life with Jesus isn’t easy. Why not? Because sin still happens. We do it and others do it. Sin has ramifications. Sometimes we cause those. Sometimes we feel them.

But life with Jesus – knowing that God is sovereign and, in the end, God wins, makes everything a lot easier. How? You simply learn to walk in trust. No matter what, God is good and He is always in control.

God will supply your needs. But that doesn’t mean He will supply your wants.

I’ve found that when God does not give me what I think I need, when I think He isn’t listening, then I have to check myself. Am I like that kid screaming for a candy bar? Am I stomping my feet and whining? That’s a pretty good sign that I’m focused on a want and not a need.

God is always faithful to provide for our needs. Trust in Him.