Forgiving Sins

14 Nov

Good morning friends,

I often repeat that one of the difficulties in reading the Bible is understanding the culture which formed the text.  In Jesus time the only way to forgive sins (which were thought to cause illness) was to go to the Temple in Jerusalem and give an animal sacrifice to God through the priests.  Even in our own history the Catholic church convinced its people that only their priests could hear confess of sins and give forgiveness (absolution).   Jesus turned this concept on its head.

The scripture today is of the paraplegic who was lower through the roof by four friends.  People often focus on the friends helping the man to come to healing, but I want to talk about the audacity of Jesus forgiving sins.  You see, sins are something that we do against God, not one another.  Yet, Jesus speaks as though the sin is against him and he has the power to forgive the sin.  The religion scholars, whose has part of their livelihood riding on the ‘forgiveness business’, objected to this traveling preacher forgiving sins, and cutting them out of the deal.

1-5 After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren’t able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, “Son, I forgive your sins.”

6-7 Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, “He can’t talk that way! That’s blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins.”

Jesus has no patience with people blocking the grace-filled power of God.  So, he just doesn’t heal the soul, he heals the body as well.  Boldly, fearlessly, he proclaims that the power of God is at his disposal.

8-12 Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, “Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, ‘I forgive your sins,’ or say, ‘Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking’? Well, just so it’s clear that I’m the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . .” (he looked now at the paraplegic), “Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home.” And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, “We’ve never seen anything like this!”

Jesus forgiving power transformed the life of the paraplegic.  God’s power was in the house, changing life and changing assumptions.  Even more than that, in the gospel of John after his resurrection in Chapter 20, Jesus says to his disciples,

22-23 Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”

As disciple of Christ in this generation, we have the power to change lives, too.  We can forgive and lighten the burden of those around us.   I encourage you with the words I heard at my ordination, “take thou the authority” to forgive, bring hope, share grace.  It might freak out people around you, as Jesus freaked out people, but it is a good thing to do.

Imagine what this would really be like; if people could really accept the forgiveness of God and let all the pain, mistakes, frustrations of the past stay in the past.  Let’s walk, walk into the freedom and joy God gives us and share it with those around us.   I think it can really lighten our lives.

 

Peace,

Mary

 

 

 

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2 Responses to “Forgiving Sins”

  1. Phyllis Terwilliger November 14, 2016 at 6:21 pm #

    I like your statement, “let all the pain, mistakes, frustration of the past stay in the past.” Amen!

  2. Annie Kronk November 15, 2016 at 5:41 pm #

    “If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?” – Wow – what a powerful, thought-provoking question. And what a wonderful reminder, that we all have the power of forgiveness if we just take it.

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