What would you say is your greatest need? You personally. Your top priority?
I don’t mean what’s top of your to do list at work tomorrow. I mean when the urgent things are not pressing in. What’s the most important thing in your life that plays on your mind? The thing that most needs to change. The thing that if you had one wish.. The personal longing for yourself or maybe it’s for someone close to you who is in great need.
What is it for you?
Perhaps you’re not aware of any need or perhaps it comes instantly to mind, …it’s often on your mind.Painfully so.
It might be a relationship - that you long would exist or could be repaired.
It might be to do with the way people see you .. or the way you see yourself.
Perhaps it’s your health, your habits. Or the health of someone very close to you.
Perhaps it’s your work. Right at the moment - achieving that goal at work - that’s got to be the priority; that’s the main thing What is it for you?
If the opportunity arose to solve your deepest need right now, this afternoon. You would take it wouldn’t you. You’d excuse yourself from this meeting and you’d embrace it - It’s the thing that matters most to you…
Well listen, this afternoon, and I am being absolutely serious here, this afternoon right here - I am going to give you the solution to your deepest problem and your friend’s deepest problem; your deepest needs.
The thing that matters most in the world for you - we can deal with it this afternoon.
That is, if you want to deal with it. And surely you will. Surely when an opportunity like that arises you have to take it..
In the Bible this afternoon we meet a man with a massive problem, and this problem, his deepest need is solved forever. It’s a great story and in the story there are two shocks.
shockwave number 1
The first is a shock about this man’s needs and our needs - i won’t tell you what it is until the end of making this point because then it won’t really be a shock will it? But it’s a shockwave about this man’s needs and our needs and the true needs of those close to us.
Let’s look at this story together, .
Jesus is teaching v17 in the crowded house. Probably Peter’s house in Capernaum where Peter lived at least with his wife and mother in law and probably kids. In a large one room space with a flat roof. Pharisees and teachers of the law - the religious leaders - have come fro mall over the region to check out this man - Jesus who is causing with his teaching and healing -such a stir and the place is packed. It’s like the Piccadilly line at rush hour in this front room. Hot and sweaty, people crammed in; faces in armpits, sitting on laps. People came from everywhere - anything to be with Jesus - because Jesus could do the impossible - that is he could instantly meet peoples needs.. He could heal people with a word, from any sickness, affliction or torment. God’s King, restoring the world and that Kingdom continues to grow in our lifetime. Jesus is alive, Jesus is here, by his spirit. - I wonder will Jesus meet my needs, your needs…. So many needs in that crowded room - so many needs in this one.
And…Look at the end of v17 Luke makes a point of telling us that the power of the Lord was present for Jesus to heal the sick.
And yet for the time being - with all those needs in the room - Jesus is teaching.. (we’ll come back to that)
Well there’s an interruption to Jesus’ talk - a scratching noise over head - perhaps it’s pigeons or cats or whatever they had in those days,…But then, little bits of ceiling start raining down, a puff of plaster and there’s fingers poking through the roof! then hands clawing away a small hole - then ripping up big bits of ceiling. What’s going on?! Sunlight pours into the crowded room - illuminating a great shaft of dust - and through the sunlight descends a body - lowered on a mat.
He is a paralysed man - Luke tells us v18 - He has no feeling or use in his body from the neck down. Remember the actor, Christopher Reevewho was most famous for playing the part of Superman with his square jaw and plastic hair - he became paralysed in a horse riding accident - what is that like? - how frightening. To lose the use of your body. It’s distressing enough in our day. But in the dusty sweltering heat of 1st C Palestine - no wheel chairs, no hospitals, none of the kind of treatments that have helped Christopher Reeve to walk again. No, what would life have been like for this man in Luke 5 ? How would he have eaten, survived? - probably people laid him at the beginning of each day by the side of the road to beg for money - unwashed, filthy, his back covered in pressure sores, helpless, vulnerable to being robbed. Terrible suffering…
Everything in the story points to the depth of his need.
I broke a bone in my foot once - same injury as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney - a tiny stress fracture in a little bone with a funny name and it really throbs - when i did it I thought I’d better go to A&E - so I limped to the hospital, waited like you do, and waited- and after a while… I left - cos there was Football on the telly. (And had to go back a few days later). But you see my level of effort to get help pointed to my level of need. Little metatarsal..
What about these men carrying this dead weight of a man up onto the roof, pulling the ceiling apart, knowing they’ll have to pay for it, ignoring the screams of the owner of the house?
The level of effort these men go to to get the man to Jesus says something about the level of his need.
Perhaps he was at the end of his rope, everything had been tried for this poor wretch. Perhaps he was close to death so decayed was his unused body, perhaps he wanted to die.
And yet now here he is being lowered into the arms of Jesus Christ.. This is what the crowd had come to see. All look to Jesus to meet this poor man’s desperate need.. the power of God was present for him to heal the sick…
Jesus looks up at the friends of the man v20 peering down through the fresh hole in the roof. he appreciates their faith in him, they have made a wise decision bringing this man to Jesus. Then eventually Jesus turns doesn’t he to the paralytic v20 and he says Friend, get up take your mat and go home - be healed. How wonderful… What? Didn’t he? No, sorry have I made a mistake.??
It doesn’t say that?
v20 When Jesus saw the friends faith, he said to the paralytic, Friend your sins are forgiven.??
What? That can’t be right - To this paralysed man? Is that a typo? Does anyone have a different Bible translation? It’s the same in all of them?
What’s the point of that? To offer a paralysed man forgiveness, when his obvious greatest need is physical healing seems about as useful as offering a starving man a cookery book. What is this?…
Well, by the time the story’s ended Jesus has healed the man - ..he walks home... It is not that Jesus cannot or will not heal the man but Jesus who knows everything looks upon that paralysed man and sees an even more urgent need. This he attends to first, of first importance. Friend your sins are forgiven
We look at our world and we we see suffering - starvation, illness, oppression violence and we say surely people’s deepest need is to have suffering relieved.
We look at our lives and we see suffering - loneliness, addictions, illness, weakness and we say surely our deepest need is to have our suffering relieved
But Jesus says there is a deeperproblem than paralysis
a deeper problem than poverty
a deeper problem than abuse
a deeper problem than oppression.
a deeper problem than loneliness
….The problem of sin
Nothing matters more than forgiveness - that’s the shockwave here. To have our sins forgiven by God is our greatest need. Of first importance - Top of the list
For us and for every person we look upon in our work, in the street, in the pub.
Nothing is more important than forgiveness.
Because of the nature of what sin is…
And that brings us to the second shockwave of the story. The nature of sin and therefore the need for forgiveness
Shockwave number 2
Look at v 21 The pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, ‘who is this fellow that speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?’
How would you feel if you were at a party with friends from work and there was somebody at the party who was going around pronouncing forgiveness on people. ‘Friend, Your sins are forgiven.’
Your work friends will think he’s just a weirdo nutter. Butyou’re a church person you’d probably be offended by that person because you kinod of instincitvely know what the pharisees and teachers of the law knew that forgiveness is something God gives/does. So do around pronouncing is to play God. It’s blasphemy. But doesn’t it force you to think why is it that God has the authority to forgive sins?
This is beginning to take us into the heart of what sin is..
Why does God presume to forgive us.
I mean if i steal £20 from James May and Jo Briggs forgives me for it. That doesn’t mean very much. The offence - sin if you like - is between me and James. Only James can forgive me because the offence was against him. Only he has the authority to forgive in that sense.
Presumably this paralysed man has dome things wrong against people - he suffers those regrets even while he sits powerless by the road side. But surely only these people wronged can forgive? why do the pharisees - who can forgive sins but God alone?
What is this telling us about sin?
That first and foremost sin is not the bad things that we do against people. though they are a reality and we should seek forgiveness from one another and to make amends. But first and foremost sin is not bad things we do that moral people tick us off for. Not at all - Sin can actually ook very morally respectable. It’s not about actions - it’s about an attitude towards God that will destroy us. That’s what needs forgiveness
Heard about this BBC guy - colleague - woman had been thrown out of her flat homeless. It so happened, he was going away for a year or so -sabbatical. Offered her his flat - with a few ground rules. Left her his keys and went. After a year - he returned to his flat to find the locks changed and Entry refused. It took him 2 years and three thousand pounds worth of legal fees to get his flat back.
How did that BBC guy feel? He’d given her the use of the flat then to arrive back to that- outrageous, he must have been speechless with rage - its so contemptuous
But it’s actually nothing compared to what we all do by nature to God. This is God’s world. His flat he’s given us to live in. Our lives were made by him. All our gifts. So generous. And yet we change the locks on him. We don’t want him intefering. We don’t want his rules we want to determine how to live ‘our’ lives. And so we say
“Push off God, You’re not God. I’m God. I’m living my life my way.” Sin is effectively taking God’s place. I’m in charge. And that could look like a very moral upright life couldn’t it. But it’s just as contemptous to God as an immoral life.
All of the pain and hurts of this world arise from our individual arrogance of taking God’s place You and I haven’t caused all of the problems of the world - we’ve just added our contribution..
How does God feel - when he comes looking for some fruit in our lives which he has graciously given us and he finds that we’ve changed the locks on him. That we deny even knowing him.
What do we deserve from God? Having ignored and rejected and kept him out we deserve to be ignored, rejected, thrown out. We don’t deserve heaven. We don’t deserve friendship with God..
This is why Nothing matters more than forgiveness.. because of the nature and danger of sin.
And God comes and incredibly offers us a way out - he holds outforgiveness. and he does so at great personal cost to himself.
look at v23 Why are you thinking these things in your hearts, Jesus knows their thoughts that - they’re offended at him claiming to be God Which is easier? Jesus continues To say your sins are forgiven or to say Get up and walk?
What do you think? you answer Jesus’ question: - Which is easier to say?
On one level, obviously
Plainly it’s easier to say to a paralytic your sins are forgiven than to say to a paralytic get up and walk - forgiveness cannot be seen- whereas healing: the evidence is immediately apparent - you stand to look a right wally if it doesn’t happen.
It may seem therefore that making a paralysed man able to walk just by telling him to is a much harder thing to do than forgiving sins..
But actually - that’s not true.
Forgiving our sins will cost God everything.
It is not easy. it will come at the price of the suffering and death of Jesus. It will come with hatred, betrayal and rejection. It will come with whipping and nails, a crown of thorns, and the cross. It will come with separation from his Father as he bears our sin upon himself - all our rejection of God - Jesus pays for it that we might be forgiven. As Isaiah wrote 600 years before Jesus’ day
He was pierced for our transgressions
He was crushed for our iniquities
The punishment that brought us peace was upon him
And by his wounds we are healed
at the place where we most need healing
‘Friend - your sins are forgiven’
And Jesus says v24, so That you may know (be certain, be assured) that the Son of Man (a title Jesus used for himself) has authority on earth to forgive sins …” he said to the paralysed 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.
Extraordinary report on the BBC news on Friday night about advances in physical therapy that is helping people suffering with paralysis to walk again. It’s really happening through a process of re-learning and buliding strength in unused muscles. a slow and painstaking process
In the light of that this healing is utterly remarkable isn’t it? I’m no spring chicken anymore and i try and avoid sitting on the floor because it’s a bit of an effort getting up again. But i mean i can do it i’m not an old man..yet. But i sort of labour back up to my feet.
This man is lying on the floor and in response to Jesus’ word to get up v25 he immediately stood up.. and this man hasn’t used his muscles for decades. he hasn’t moved anything but his eyes for decades!
and yet Jesus speaks and everything comes toogether instantly - elecricity crackles from this mans brain to his unused and dead nervous system sparking his muscles back to new life energy and power. sinew returning bringing him to his feet. And he walks to everyone’s utter awe and amazement.
Jesus does the impossible and He does it to demonstrate that he has authority to FORGIVE!
Remember last week - the leper that Jesus cleansed and havingcleansed him of his uncleanness sends him to the Priests to conduct the ceremonies of cleansing. Baths an dnew closthes and all his hair removed and we said tha these cleansed lepers looking like new born babies were like walking parables of what Jesus has come to do - to cleans us from our sin. Well in exactly the same way. The paralytic leaping to his feet.. made new. he is a parable of forgiveness. God brings us to our feet. To stand forgiven in his presence. that’s why we stand after the confession for the declaration of God’s forgiveness. It’s real - God forgives completely. Jesus has the power and authority to do so because he died for us to make it so.
What do you think matters to God?
What’s top of his priority list? His greatest need?What might he even die for?
Nothing matters more to God than our forgiveness? God wanted you - to repair the relationship so that you will be with him forever.
- Be forgiven. nothing matters more than forgiveness. Jesus died that you might be. So call out for his forgiveness and start living with God as King now.
- What of you are forgiven. Think back to what you were bringing to mind at the beginning of this sermon as your greatest felt need. that God hasn’t met has he. And that’s deeply painful and it challenges your faith. I don’t what the reason is that he hasn’t yet provided that for you. But i know what the reason isn’t. It isn’t bevause he doesn’t love you; it isn’t because he doesn’t care because he has actually met your deepest need for forgiveness and eternal security. See areimmediate needs are exactly that - immediate. Affect our lives now. But God cares about our eternities.. which brings us to the third application
- The real need of those all around us, friends, family members, colleagues, locals - who have yet to be forgiven. To receive that gift. How can we share it this Easter? Invite services ‘you’ll be suprised’, easter story, CE group. God has met our greatest need. Amen.