Sermon Notes for 19th Sunday after Trinity 11 October 2015 Anno Domini
FAITH THAT CAN BE SEEN! “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matt 5:16 KJV)
The above text is not the sermon text from the Gospel for today, but it helps to illumine a great point in today’s Gospel text which I shall expound upon a bit later.
THE GOSPEL TEXT FOR TODAY:
1 And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. 2 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. 3 And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. 4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? 5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? 6 But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. 7 And he arose, and departed to his house. 8 But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.” (Matt 9:1-8 KJV)
Faith, like compassion, engenders action. Without faith, the Mayflower families would never have braved the dangers of storms and hazards on the open sea to come to America seeking religious freedom. Faith is not self-generated by the believer, but is found in the grace of God. (will the Son of Man find faith upon the earth?) Jesus saw their faith. Faith that is affected – and not genuine – is not faith at all, but a counterfeit. This is the kind of counterfeit faith that pervades most churches in our day.
I often find myself on the receiving end of vicious charges of being mean-spirited and judgmental when I castigate the modern churches – even narrow-minded. The vitriolic invectives used in their accusations seem strange and out of place in a religious discussion.
The church today is larger, wealthier and possessed of greater means of media publication than at any point of time in the history of the church; yet, what are the evidences of her faith and sincerity to God. When we observe the compromise and doctrinal apostasy of the modern church, we must admit that this is not evidence of a burning faith in Christ and His Holy Word.
In discussing the sermon text from Matthew, chapter 9, I will be making reference to a parallel account of the same event recorded in Mark 2:1-12. Matthew relates those points that are emblazoned on his heart by the power of the Holy Ghost, and Mark, likewise, does the same. The report of the event of both men, when combined, provides us with a fuller insight to the event of that day.
Mark, writing of the same occasion, tells us just a bit more in his introduction: “And again he entered into Capernaum after some days; and it was noised that he was in the house.” (Mark 2:1) Jesus was not flamboyant and brash in His travels. He often sought solitude (as we should do from time to time) to pray and to rest from the long days He spent in travel, teaching, and good works. He entered a home – most likely that of Simon Peter and Andrew. (see Mark 1:29) But reputation of the power of Jesus to heal and to open eyes was stronger than the door of wood to Peter’s dwelling. It was ‘Noised’ about that Jesus was in the house. When people recognize their needs, they swarm to Christ. It is unfortunate that men recognize their lesser needs of ‘physical healing’ than their ‘spiritual needs’ of rebirth to life eternal. Mark tells us that crowds flocked to the door so closely that one could neither enter nor depart the house for the press. “And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them.” Jesus was aware of many who were present needing physical healing but, more important to our Lord, was the preaching of the Word which He did first.
“3 And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four. 4 And when they could not come nigh unto him for the press, they uncovered the roof where he was: and when they had broken it up, they let down the bed wherein the sick of the palsy lay.” (Mark 2:3-4)
Please observe that four men of compassion had a friend who was stricken with palsy. Though prayer is vitally important, these men did not simply pray for their friend and forget about him – they carried him to one whom they knew could restore him to perfect health. They carried the man on his pallet to Christ. When they saw that any approach to Jesus was prevented by the crowds about the door, what did they do? Did they simply give up and return home? Were they easily discouraged from helping their friend? Indeed, they were NOT! Whatever was necessary to bring their friend to Jesus, these men were determined to do! They climbed to the roof and made an opening thereon through which they carefully lowered their friend down to Jesus. There are a few things that should learn from these faithful friends of the palsied man:
1) They loved their friend enough to have compassion on him and do whatever was needful for him. Jesus was needful for him! We, too, must often work together to bring a single soul to Christ!
2) They doubtless had prayed for their friend and considered every means of helping him, but they did not stop at praying – they added feet (ACTION) to their prayers. So must we!
3) They did not take their friend to just any man for healing. They had heard of, and considered, that Jesus could heal their friend; and so they took Him to the only Balm of which they knew – the Balm of Gilead.
4) Finding the approach hopelessly blocked, they used the brains God gave them to decide on an alternate approach to Jesus – the roof! Our various acts of mercy and kindness are beacon lights to the lost.
5) Making a hole in the roof, they had to labor together to let the pallet down so that the man would not be dropped. Each corner of the pallet was attached to a rope which each man held and worked together to lower at the same rate. This cooperation is often missing in churches where one-upmanship prevails above humble faith and grace.
They had already, by their strong faith, gone to the home of their cherished friend and prepared him on a stretcher to bring to him to Christ. We are not told of the faith of the man afflicted by palsy, but the faith of his friends would prove sufficient. The man being brought to Christ had a serious illness. It was a CHRONIC illness much as sin is to every man born of woman. His illness had taken away his liberty to move, to associate, and to speak out on matters of faith and life. Doesn’t sin steal away our liberty in the same way? It locks our jaws in the death of sin, and hobbles our feet.
Now this man is being brought to Christ, on the strength of his friends’ faith, to make him whole. It is much like the woman taken in adultery being dragged before Christ – the only source of healing and forgiveness – by men who intended her no good at all. We have all needed a friend, or even a stranger, to bring us to Christ and introduce us to that great Personage and Lord. The man with the palsy was in a most miserable of human conditions. So were we before we were brought to Christ by the power of the Holy Ghost.
There are two powers revealed here in the text – the power of sin to destroy and make miserable, and the power of Christ to make whole and impart joy and liberty. We see in this account that our own faith, informed by the Holy Ghost, may be essential to bring another to the point of being made whole in Christ. We learn, too, that often the efforts of more than one is necessary to bring one to Christ, and these must work in unison (in carrying the bed level at all corners).
Was it love that brought these men to Christ for their friend? No, love was the motive but not the reason. So what force brought them to Christ? The answer may be discovered in the reaction of Christ at the sight of these loyal friends who had brought the palsied man to Him. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee.” How could Jesus SEE their faith? It was determined by their selfless ACTIONS in bringing their friend to the only source of healing under Heaven! Let me give you another example.
Joseph Scriven, an Irishman, wrote the beautiful hymn. “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” Having lost the young lady he loved and was to marry the day before his wedding, Joseph left Ireland for Port Hope, Canada. It was there that he wrote the wonderful words to that hymn. He spent all of his days helping widows and orphans – chopping winter wood, carrying heavy burdens, and sharing his small store of provision with all he knew were in need. His name and good deeds are memorialized today on a stone marker at Port Hope and dedicated to Joseph Scriven – the Good Samaritan of Port Hope. Joseph Scriven acted out of a motive of love, but it was faith that fueled his actions – just as it did for the four friends of the man stricken with palsy!
The notice of Jesus is fixed on the faith of the men who bring the victim sick of the palsy – not to the victim. He sees THEIR faith and is moved to compassion and amazement. One point I will make at the onset of the account: the most pressing concern on the mind of the man afflicted by this horrible ailment is most likely not forgiveness. He desires, above everything else, to be made free of the disease. But he does not realize that faith precedes freedom and liberty. In first aid, we learn that the most important consideration in treating a victim of some violent crime or accident is to FIRST STOP THE BLEEDING, if there is any bleeding. This is the medical procedure of ‘triage’ which requires treatment of the most serious and life-threatening condition first. Our most serious affliction is not leprosy, or palsy, or physical blindness! It is SIN. Sin kills finally and forever! Jesus treats that affliction first! “Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.“
Is your faith the kind that prays and forgets, or does your faith give feet to your prayers for action?
The approach of Jesus was intended to be a test and an eye-opener to some doubtful observers that hounded Christ every step of His ministry. He forgave the man his most serious affliction first, and this was the grounds of ‘certain scribes’ present to accuse our Lord of blasphemy – a sin of which the Lord of Heaven could never be guilty if these men had truly known and believed. But Jesus is setting the stage for His eye-opening point which these men could not dispute!
“And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.”
That’s right! That same old gang of detractors and doubters that followed Christ everywhere. They still follow Him today, and doubt the miracles of life and love of which God is benefactor. They saw Christ heal blind Bartemeus; they saw Him call Lazarus from the grave at Bethany; they saw the young daughter of Jairus restored to life – yet, they believed not. Why not, do you suppose? I believe it was because they did not WANT to believe! If we believe Christ, we must abandon self. Our free wills (in bondage to sin and the devil) must be exchanged for that Will (Mind) which was in Christ! No longer would they be king of the mountain, but Christ would be – so they traded their birthrights in God for a bowl of Esau’s porridge. But never doubt – our thoughts are not kept from the notice of Christ. He knows our hearts better than we know them ourselves.
“And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?”
Be not deceived, God is not mocked! Jesus knows all of our thoughts – past, present, and future! Perhaps these rascals were shocked that Jesus read their hearts without their speaking. Why do ANY of us think evil in our hearts? Because, until we have known Christ as Lord and Savior, we have all of the traits and characteristics of our father, the devil.
“For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?”
Jesus Christ is God also. He has His seal of authority to prove all things. Any man could falsely proclaim, Thy sins be forgiven thee! But what would be the result? Our sin would remain just as excessively as before the words were spoken. But when the same words are spoken by Christ, they bear the seal of Divine Authority! In truth, they are not the same words when spoken by Christ. Our words are like gold-colored lead coins compared to His 24 karat solid gold words of the Realm of Heaven. He proves all things by the Power of His Word. It is easy for man to speak false forgiveness, but what of speaking true healing? Forgiveness is an inward and invisible work of Grace granted by God. Physical healing is an outward manifestation of miraculous proportion. The first is greater, but the second is more observable! The foolish high churchmen (Pharisees) have been asked a question they dare not answer. Nonetheless, the answer is immediately revealed to their doubting eyes!
“But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.”
The Seal of Authority of Christ is a plain manifestation to those who doubt. The man, stricken with the palsy, has been healed of his most critical disease (Sin) and is now given liberty to move and to shout after being healed of his palsy. He not only arises from his bed, he obeys that voice of authority and picks up his bed, and carries his bed to his house. Liberty in Christ is a TOTAL liberty! We are no longer held down and bed-ridden, but have liberty not only to move, but to bear burdens and to go to our wonderful home that awaits all who belong to Christ. “And he arose, and departed to his house.”
“But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men” It is paradoxical, indeed, that the multitudes of common folk recognized the miracle as coming only from God, but the Pharisees did not! Of course, even the multitudes did not recognize that it was God Himself that stood before them, in Christ, to perform this miracle. How many today see the miracles but not the hand of Christ behind them? How many walk the lonely road to Damascas, wanting to see Christ, when He walks right beside them?
Behold, I am with thee always, even unto the end of the world!