Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” –Luke 5:22-26 (NIV)
In working with churches, many will complain to me that they are handicapped by their size, their community or their lack of resources. They will tell me that they cannot do youth ministry like the big church across town; that they can’t bring in a big-name speaker like that rich church; or even that they can’t put together a mission trip or project like other churches because they simply don’t have the resources!
I understand their concerns.
And yet I wonder if they are missing the point about what Christ really wants from His church?
In the above passage, Jesus was “surprised” by a group of men who tore a hole in the roof and lowered their lame friend in front of Him to be healed. And Jesus, seeing their faith in not only His power to heal, but also His willingness to do so, looked up at these men and said, “Your sins are forgiven you!”
He said what?!?
Your sins are forgiven you???
That’s not what the men wanted! They wanted their friend to be made well, to be whole again and to walk again.
What’s more, what Jesus had just said was sure to get Him in trouble with those uppity Biblical Scholars… those experts… those Pharisees…maybe even those Regional guys that were there checking Him out!
But then Jesus explained Himself.
He simply said, “I want you to know that I have the power to forgive sins.”
Is it just me, or does it seem like forgiving sins was more important to Jesus than healing people physically?
Is it possible that He thought sin and the consequences of sin were more of a problem than someone not being able to walk… not being able to see… not being able to talk?
And if Jesus thought forgiving sin was more important than bringing what we might call “physical wholeness” to people, I wonder if He might have the same priorities for His church? I wonder if He thinks that helping people find forgiveness from their sins is more important than having a big youth group, a fancy worship service or even an exotic mission trip.
Is it possible that the reason Jesus gave Peter the keys to the Kingdom… the reason that He said to the disciples in His first post resurrection appearance that they had the power to forgive sins, was that He wants the church to be a place where people can find forgiveness?
Maybe, no matter the size of the church, we ought to focus more on forgiveness and less on correctness… political, theological or otherwise.
Maybe we should focus on helping others to find forgiveness and at the same time even try to find some for ourselves.
Because, after all, that seems to be something that Jesus wanted us to know He has the power to do!
Prayer: Help me Lord to learn forgiveness. Help me to learn that you not only have the power to forgive, but that forgiveness is important to you. Help me to forgive myself and to forgive others. Help me to help others to find forgiveness. And as we experience your forgiveness Lord, let us also find wholeness. Amen
Rev. Dr. Steve Van Ostran