Have you ever noticed how easy it is for us to hold thoughts and opinions on the same subject that appear to be in total contradiction? We can be both confident and pessimistic about the same matter. We can feel both encouraged and discouraged about the same situation. We can look at circumstances and express a real sense of hope, and moments later declare feelings of profound hopelessness about the same circumstances. According to us, a situation may provide real opportunity and no opportunity at all, or real advantages and no advantages. Have you ever noticed others doing that? Have you ever noticed yourself doing that?
Consider a specific example. Think about Jesus' amazing power. Have you ever been impressed with the reality of Jesus' power? Have you witnessed or experienced things that unquestionably happened because of Jesus' power? If you have been sensitive and observant, I have no doubt that you have been impressed in specific instances by Jesus' power. How many times have you witnessed a Christian in a hard, lingering, demanding, exhausting, punishing crisis endure, continue to live, and continue to function in unbelievable ways? How many times have you witnessed a Christian suffer enormous tragedy, endure the tragedy, and come through the tragedy as a stronger, better, more thankful person? How many times have you witnessed someone with a terrible problem develop a relationship with Jesus that totally changed his/her life (the "before" and "after" person were in complete contrast)? Have you ever observed an insecure, 'do nothing' Christian build a relationship of faith with Jesus and become a powerful servant?
I have seen all of that and more. I have been astounded, amazed, and said, "Lord, help me have more confidence!" It would surprise me if you have not had the same experiences.
Now, honestly change your perspective. Consider all the situations in which you thought there was nothing the Lord could do. Are there not problems in which you considered the Lord powerless? Are there not situations in which you wondered if it was appropriate to pray about the matter? You just felt certain nothing could improve the situation. You could see no way to improve the situation so you concluded the situation was beyond improvement. Have you ever felt that way about yourself or about someone else?
If we are honest with ourselves, I think we would admit that there are some things we consider easy for the Lord to do, and some things we consider difficult for the Lord to do. Quite often that is more a matter of our personal judgment than it is the Lord's ability.
Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city. And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven." And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes." And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"—then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home." And he got up and went home.
- The context of the incident:
- Jesus just returned from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee where he cast demons out of the man who lived in tombs.
- He return to Capernaum, the center of his Galilean activities during his ministry.
- Some people brought Jesus a paralyzed man to be healed.
- The man was taken to Jesus on a stretcher.
- He was completely helpless--can you imagine the situation?
- We do not even know if the man was there due to his desire or due to the desire of his friends.
- That looks like a hopeless situation!
- To many of them, it looked wastefully hopeless.
- Jesus was impressed by the faith of the men who brought the paralyzed man.
- They wanted to so something to help the man.
- They came with confidence and expectation.
- Jesus then did something completely unexpected by many.
- He said to the man, "Son [literally, child"], be happy! Your sins are forgiven."
- His friends brought him for healing, not for the forgiveness of sins.
- Jesus gave the man something more important than healing [though I wonder if the man or his friends realized that.].
- The typical view of the day was that people experienced horrible ordeals as a result of sins--they were being punished for wrong-doing.
- In that view, what Jesus said was more significant than a healing.
- The religious experts said among themselves, "This man is blaspheming!"
- Technically, to blaspheme was to speak scornfully or derisively of God.
- Even if Jesus were not God's son, his statement was not blasphemy--horrible arrogance, but not blasphemy.
- They called it blasphemy because Jesus presumed to do something they were certain only God could do.
- They were using his words as a justification for their intense dislike of him.
- Jesus knew what they were thinking.
- He asked, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?"
- (Sadly, we are all more prone to think evil than to think good.)
- He asked what seemed to be a ridiculous question: "Which is easier, to forgive the man's sins or to tell him to walk?
- The point was obvious: if Jesus had the power to make a paralyzed man walk, he had the power to forgive his sins.
- Jesus verified his power to forgive sins by enabling the paralyzed man to walk.
- The helpless man who had been carried to Jesus walked home!
- Without recovery time or rehabilitation, the man functioned normally.
- The people who witnessed this occurrence were filled with fear--the impossible had occurred!
- They gave God the glory for what happened!
- But the fact the Jesus has such power frightened them!
- Look honestly at the happening.
- Is it not likely that we might have reacted in the same manner the religious experts reacted?
- It had been over 400 years since there was a miracle-working prophet in Israel.
- As far as we know, there was no God-sanctioned prophetic activity in Israel in the intertestamental period.
- There had been no one who presumed to forgive sins!
- Jesus was not what they expected in a Messiah, and I dare say he would not be what we expected either!
- He came from a rural region, not an area known for its learning.
- He was the son of a builder, not of a scribe or priest.
- His family was unimportant in the nation.
- Perhaps some thought he was conceived out of marriage.
- He had not attended some prominent religious school in Israel.
- He wandered from place to place as he taught.
- They did not believe any human could forgive sins any more than most of us do. How would you react to someone who claimed to forgive sins?
- Not even miracles convinced his enemies that his power was real.
- Consider the things we freely ask God to do in our prayers.
- Forgive sins.
- Be with our missionaries.
- Help our nation.
- Bring world peace.
- Bless the works of the church with success.
- All of these are requests requiring enormous power.
- Yet, we make them so frequently we rarely think about them.
- Not only do we feel comfortable making such requests, but we also confidently make them.
- Consider what we are hesitant to ask God to help us with.
- Real, pressing personal problems.
- Enormous personal needs--love, insecurity, things that attack me, hard times, demanding situations.
- Often I am convinced there is nothing God can do, so I never ask.
- So I ask you to honestly consider which is easier:
- To forgive me of my sins or to help me with a personal problem?
- To help a missionary thousands of miles away in an unusual [to me] culture, or help me cope with needs facing me?
- To help our ungodly nation, or to help me in hard times?
- To promote world peace, or to assist me with a crisis?
- To bless the church in its work, or to help me with relationship problems?
- Why do we not see that God has the power to do both?
- Why do we think God can do something about one and nothing about the other?
- Do we think if God does not resolve our situation as we prefer, He can do nothing?
- He can remove the problem [our common preference].
- He can give us guidance to overcome the problem.
- He can provide us the strength to endure the problem and remain faithful to Him.
Which is easier? For Jesus to save a sinful person from a lost condition, OR to help a member of his family spiritually succeed in the face of opposition? Jesus is as willing and ready to help a Christian as he is ready to help a person trapped by evil.
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