Now, let us look back to the text and place ourselves in this narrative. So we can fill one of these houses with roughly fifty people, and certainly the crowd was spilling into the outside. Then these people who know Jesus is the only means to getting their friend healed (whether their intentions be spiritual, physical or perhaps both) attempt to bring their friend to Jesus. They do not let the massive crowd stop them. They climb the stone steps on the side of the house to the roof and begin to dig. Now, immediately most of us are confused. If we were to try to “dig” on any of our roofs we would be met with shingles, plywood, and plausibly a painful back. These ancient Palestinian roofs were supported by large beams of wood then covered with thatch and mud. This mud would also have to be resurfaced every fall to prepare for the rainy season.
So, these men don’t let the plausible chastisement from the crowd stop them, they don’t let the social taboo of digging through other people’s roof stop them, they do whatever it takes to get their friend to Christ because He has the authority to heal him. Jesus beholds this faith they have and looks at the man in the stretcher and says, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” Maybe you are here today and you are an unbeliever. Maybe you have been sitting in your pew for years an never have been converted. Your sinfulness has been nagging upon you for so many ages making you weary. Satan has been standing by accusing you, but it is nothing compared to how the law of God accuses you. His law commands we love Him with our entire being, all of our heart, all of our mind, all of our strength! There is not one millisecond where I have fully obeyed this command. You, unbeliever are so caught in your sin that the scripture doesn’t call you a paralytic, it calls you dead! You are dead in your sin and there is nothing you can do about it. And as we see in this text, Jesus doesn’t merely know what we paint ourselves on the outside to be. He knows the very thoughts and feelings of our heart! If the person sitting beside you know every thought you’ve had they would hate you for all eternity. Say, I got up today in the pulpit and said “we will be doing something different than preaching today.” I hold up in my hand a DVD and say. “instead we have this DVD of every single one of your thoughts to show.” You would do EVERYTHING in your power to stop me. And as the DVD began to show you would flee out screaming and hiding yourself in shame. Such is our sinfulness! The cross isn’t a symbol of how much we are worth, it is a symbol of how depraved we are! But this is the reality, dear unbeliever. Upon your repentance and faith wrought by the Spirit, Jesus looks to you knowing all your filth, all your sinfulness to your core and says, “My son, my daughter, your sins are forgiven.” Dear brother, dear sister, hold on to this truth and cry out, “What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus! Oh! Precious is the flow that makes my sin white as snow!” That’s why we turn to Hebrews 12 and can with great joy, “lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” We do this when we stop beating ourselves up about our sin and preach the Gospel to ourselves with our every thought!
You might have noticed that we have arrived at the greatest dilemma of scripture. You see, the people of the day who would normally proclaim to the people, “your sins are forgiven” were the priests after a sacrifice was offered. Here there was no sacrifice. Justice, love, anger towards injustice, and grace are demands on this earth because they flow from God’s nature. Some look at this text and say, “well, here God acts lovingly, other places he acts justly.” But we do not serve a schizophrenic deity who can act with grace while ignoring His Justice. Last week on our mission trip, we went to the Panda Express for supper the first night. On this trip, Cami made what’s called a “suicide.” This is simply a combination of every drink in the fountain drink machine. Now say I looked at Cami and said, “Could I have a sip of the lemonade out of your drink?” She would probably look at me like I’m crazy and say, “it doesn’t work that way!” In the same way we can’t look to God and say, “Can I just have a bit of love out of you, and please don’t give me any wrath or justice I deserve” God would look back and say, “It doesn’t work that way” But thanks be to God that Christ endured the wrath we deserved in our place. That the great flood and eternal punishment in hell headed for us was taken on by Christ in out place. We also do not serve an illogical deity who simply throws out his justice to act graciously. Muslims commonly respond to the objection of Allah’s mercy by telling the story of the murderer who murdered 99 people. “here was a man who had heartlessly murdered ninety-nine people. Then, he felt remorse
He went to a learned man and told him about his past, explaining that he wished to repent, reform, and become a better person. “I wonder if Allah will pardon me?” he asked.
For all his learning, the scholar was a man who had not been able to digest what he had learned. “You will not be pardoned;’ he said. “Then I may as well kill you, too,” said the other. And kill him he did.
He then found another worthy individual and told him that he had killed a hundred people. “I wonder,” he said, “whether Allah will pardon me if I repent?” Being a truly wise man, he replied, “Of course you will be pardoned; repent at once. I have just one piece of advice for you: avoid the company of wicked people and mix with good people, for bad company leads one into sin:”
The man expressed repentance and regret, weeping as he sincerely implored his Lord to pardon him. Then, turning his back on bad company, he set off to find a neighborhood where righteous people lived.
On the way, his appointed hour arrived, and he died. The angels of punishment and of mercy both came to take away his soul. The angels of punishment said that as a sinful person he rightfully belonged to them, but the angels of mercy also claimed him, saying, “He repented and had resolved to become a good man. He was on his way to a place where righteous people live, but his appointed hour had come.” A great debate ensued, and Gabriel was sent as an arbitrator to settle this affair.
After hearing both sides he gave this verdict: “Measure the ground. If the spot where he died is closer to the good people, then he belongs to the angels of mercy, but if it is nearer to the wicked people, he will be given to the angels of punishment.”
They measured the ground. Because the man had just set out, he was still closer to the wicked. But because he was sincere in his repentance, Allah moved the spot where he lay and brought it to just outside the city of the good people.
That penitent servant was handed over to the angels of merry.
If God simply picks and chooses to be just whenever he pleases like Allah is described to do, he ceases to be truly just. But God is faithful to Himself, He cannot deny Himself. So, this is the great dilemma that scripture sets about to answer, “How can God be just and the justifier of wicked man?” This is exactly what the scripture is pointing you to, “He who knew no sin became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him!” God is perfectly just because the wrath he had toward your sin and the punishment His justice said your sin deserved was placed on Christ in your place. Therefore, Jesus Christ, the God of all the universe has the authority to forgive sins.
And this is the second major theme you cannot miss. Jesus has authority. Notice upon the fall of humanity, mankind went into turmoil. He lost the ability to intimately commune with God, but Jesus has the authority to grant us right to pray and give us His Spirit. In the Fall humanity gained the noetic effect of the fall where we do not know God, nor is there anyone who seeks after Him. But Jesus preached with authority revealing God. In the fall, mankind was oppressed by all kinds of evil including demons. But Jesus has authority over evil. In the fall, mankind became susceptible to all kinds of illness. But Jesus has authority to heal the sick. In the fall, mankind inherited a sin nature in which we were born dead. But “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”
And in His grace, He does not leave the crowd and the scribes in their skepticism. He backs up his theological statement empirically by healing the man before them. Sadly many of the crowds that followed simply came to him for these signs. Just as many people come to church just for the shows. But that’s like me going to Wendy’s and looking to the Wendy on the sign and saying, “hey Wendy, can I have a baconator please?” Or going to the sign at starbucks and saying, “hey mermaid lady, could I have a coffee please?” These things are just signs. They aren’t going to do anything for me. Or say, I go find the new KFC mascot and say, “Hey I’m looking to buy the KFC franchise” (which, by the way would never happen). Obviously this guy has no authority over what happens in the company. He is just acting as a sign (a rather strange one at that) to make me go buy fried chicken. That’s the point of Jesus’ miracles, they point to the reality of who He is. If some random guy came up to you and said, “hey your sins are forgiven!” You would probably chuckle at the loon. Why, because just like the KFC mascot, that guy has no authority.
But the very God who has all authority to give you what you deserve for all eternity looks at you, believer and says, “My son, my daughter, your sins are forgiven!” And He can do so justly because what He did in your place! This is why we praise Him!