*Be sure to read the Preface if you haven’t. Also, pastors and music ministers, feel free to encourage your congregations and musicians to subscribe as part of our corporate preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
Reader: “Be encouraged, my child!”
Response: “Your sins are forgiven.”
Scripture: Matthew 9:2-13
Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.”
But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?”
Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for giving humans such authority.
As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.
Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”
When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
Reader: The word of the Lord
Response: Thanks be to God.
We have a little addition to our pattern today. I’d like you to watch this clip before reading the commentary. It is portraying what you have just read. Matthew is one of the guys sitting on the roof with the children taking notes!
Film Clip: Jesus heals the paralytic from “The Chosen”
There are some profound things going on in this passage. The first encounter with Jesus clearly demonstrates a recurring pattern in all of Jesus’ miracles. The second account helps us understand the implication of the first incident. One of the consistent truths of Jesus’ miracles is that he always did them for a single purpose, regardless of the miracle itself and an example of such is clearly demonstrated here. The certain point of the miracle is always to establish his identity as the Son of God. There is one line Jesus says in the clip that makes things so clear. Something like, “anyone can say words about cleansing sin, but you don’t really know if the sin was cleansed. Humanly, there is no way to tell. So, rather than say ‘your sins are cleansed,’ I’ll do something miraculous so you can see I have the authority to forgive sins as the Son of God.”
Most of the religious leaders rejected what they saw with their own eyes and sought to kill Jesus. Now as then, people in our day simply dismiss Jesus as a moral teacher from ages past, nothing more, effectively killing him again. As we reflect on Jesus’ journey to the cross during these days of the Lenten season, let us remember that moral teachers cannot forgive sin. All sin is against God. So, he alone is in a position to forgive and also because he is the only One who could pay the penalty.
We look next at the second part of this passage. Since Jesus’ mission on earth was to save sinners, he went to people who knew they were sinners, a model for us. How much time do we spend with people who need the Lord? Maybe we could make a point of trying to spend more time with those in need of the Savior during these special days. Showing mercy to others is the mark of a life honored and affirmed by God. Jesus went after Matthew. He was among the most hated persons of his day . . . a crooked Jew who had sold out his own people to the occupying Romans. Tax collectors were very wealthy and very dishonest. Jesus befriended and embraced the despised man and called him to become one of his disciples! Matthew knew he needed a savior and he followed. The result was a transformed life. All of us have Matthews all around us. Let’s call them to follow the Master. With things as fractured as they are in the world, now is a time to be bold.
Music: “Lord, I Want to Be Like Jesus” Fernando Ortega
O God, our ever-living Refuge, with grateful hearts we lay at Thy feet the folded hours when Thou knowest us but we know not Thee; and with joy receive from Thy hand once more our open task and conscious communion with Thy life and thoughts. Day by day liken us more to the spirits of the departed wise and good; and fit us in our generation to carry on their work below till we are ready for more perfect union with them above. And if ever we faint under any appointed cross and say, “It is too hard to bear,” may we look to the steps of the Man of Sorrows toiling on to Calvary, and pass freely into Thy hand, and become one with Him and Thee. Dedicate us to the joyful service of Thy will; and own us as Thy children in time and in eternity. Amen. ―James Martineau, Prayers Ancient and Modern, p.139