[July 29]--Whose Authority?

Matt. 9:1-8

Authority is sometimes a bad word in today’s political climate. We tend to be distrustful of both the word and those who claim it over us. Of course, this very nation started out by telling the Mother Country “You can’t tell us what to do!!!!” so this might not be so surprising. Whether we know it or not, however, we submit to authorities all the time, and rightly so. When you follow a doctor’s treatment, you’re recognizing his years of training and experience over your own (which is none). When you board a plane, you’re submitting to the authority of the pilots and flight attendants who have the responsibility of getting everyone to their destination safely.

Authority is the main issue in today’s passage, whether you notice it or not. A crowd had gathered around Jesus, and some men brought to him a friend who was paralyzed. Mark and Luke tell us that they couldn’t get to him because of the multitude of people, so they tore through the roof and lowered him down in front of the Master.

There are a lot of interesting things to notice about this passage.

• It was the friends’ faith that impressed Jesus, and this was a type of faith that doesn't give up at the first sign of obstacles or problems. They cared about one thing: Getting their friend healed. They weren’t leaving until they got it, sort of like Jacob when he wrestled with a “man.”

• Notice that Jesus addressed the man’s primary need first. People might have physical needs like hunger, thirst, health, but the most important need is to have our sins forgiven. Jesus easily could've eliminated all sickness from Israel (and he could do so today all around the world), but that wouldn't have solved our #1 problem: We all have an appointment with the Judgment Throne of God, and all of us will be found guilty before it if all we have is our own righteousness.

Then we come to the crux of the matter, that of authority. For the rest of this commentary, I have to give full credit to C. S. Lewis. According to him, Jesus' words to the paralytic man is one of the most audacious claims ever to come from someone’s lips, and it means he was either God incarnate or a blasphemer of the worst kind. He unilaterally proclaimed that this man’s sins were forgiven. Why is this so important? Aren’t we supposed to forgive? Yes, we're supposed to forgive sins against ourselves. You step on my toe, and I forgive you. I insult you, and you forgive me. But what if Joe stepped on your toe and I said “I forgive you, Joe”?

In other words, the one offended is the one who has the right to forgive. And Jesus didn’t bother to go around and find all the people who'd been hurt by this man on the mat. The reason for this is because there's only One whose law is broken and whose love is wounded every time we sin. So do you see why this is so important? Do you see what Jesus was claiming?

And then he backs up what he was claiming. Anyone can say the words “Your sins are forgiven,” but it’s a lot harder to say to a paralytic “Get up and walk.” So in order to show that he has authority to forgive sins, he healed the man. Now that's authority!

So I address this to two types of people today. First, have you come to an understanding of who Jesus really is? Have you finally stopped wrestling with his claims, and submitted to him? He’s God incarnate, and that means he has some claims on your life. And for those who feel like God can’t possibly forgive that sin, take heart. He has the authority to do it, and even more so, he promises to do so. You have his word on it.

Lord Jesus, you are God. You have full claim over me, twice over. You created me, and you’ve bought me. Thank you so much for proclaiming my sins to be forgiven. You're so good to me.

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