The Struggles of the Believer (Part Twelve)

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9 ESV).

Currently, we are looking at the struggles that some believers in Jesus Christ have about “that one sin”. They continually fret about how they could ever do such a sin or keep doing it or whether God would ever forgive such a person. So far we have considered that such struggles come from the work of Satan and the spiritual forces of evil and from a failure to apply Biblical teaching about God’s grace. This brings us to a third cause.

The person with this condition may be struggling about actually trusting the Scriptures. Is their confidence in what God says or in what they think about sin, grace, and their reception of it? Some Christians act like prosecuting attorneys against themselves. They refuse to accept a clear promise of God about forgiveness (1 John 1:9) about themselves. In theory, they admit that the Lord will forgive their sins, but they fail to rest in confidence on God’s words. They tell themselves that God cannot forgive them when he has promised that he will. Beware of getting into an argument with God—telling him “no” when he says “yes”. Don’t do what Peter did in a different situation. Don’t argue against God’s words (Acts 10:13-16).

This is another instance in which you may need to stop praying and simply start believing. Merely saying words is not praying in faith. God does not answer people’s prayers because they ritually or franticly or repetitiously pray. Your prayer might be an evidence of unbelief instead of faith. Listen to what God says in his word, pray on that basis, and then act in conformity with God’s promise of forgiveness.

A fourth cause is this. The person who struggles over “that one sin” may be deficient in his or her understanding of Christ’s redemptive work. Earlier in this series, I presented the concept that we are not saved by the amount or clarity of our understanding. Praise God that that is true, or we would all be in serious difficulty! However, knowing, understanding, and by faith acting on the truth revealed in the Bible provides us with a great advantage amid our struggles.

Some people know that it is the sacrificial work of the Lord Jesus on Calvary’s cross that saves them, but they have not fully grasped the significance of what he accomplished. They know enough to be saved, but not enough to rejoice always. They know enough to rely on Christ, but not enough to rest on him. What this person must do is to become intimately acquainted with the truth of Christ’s saving work. Learn the meaning and significance of passages like 2 Corinthians 5:21; Romans 3:24-26; 1 Peter 2:24; 3:18; Hebrews 9:11-15; Revelation 1:5-6; 5:9-10; etc. As you do, ask the Holy Spirit for his help. “Holy Spirit, help me know the power of God’s love for me expressed in these words!”

A person in this condition may feel unworthy to participate in the Lord’s Supper, but this remembrance of Christ’s death is the very thing that can help them. We need to know the Lord’s Table is not a ritual conduit of grace that works simply by participating in it. No, it is a remembrance of Christ and his saving work that points us afresh to our Lord, who is mighty to save. A woman was once weeping over her sinfulness and felt unworthy to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. Her minister wisely told her, “Take it; it’s for sinners!”

The Lord’s Supper is a proclamation that Christ paid for our sins fully and that now we have a new and better covenant with God. Yet some avoid “Communion Sunday” out of guilt and fear. Please do not make this mistake. Before you go to a meeting, boldly confess your sins and boldly receive God’s promised forgiveness. Then boldly go to worship with your brothers and sisters in the Lord and boldly remember the Savior with them.

We must see that our justification is not based on who we are or what we have done, but on the finished work of Christ. He secured our justification, our righteousness with God, by his saving work. So then, rejoice in what he did for you and find your access to God through him. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5:1-2).

Grace and peace, David

Zechariah’s Prophecy

Luke 1:67-80

Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied (Luke 1:67 CSB).

God has given his word to people like us in an understandable form. The Spirit of the Lord guided the biblical writers to express God’s message, not as random sound bites, but through word structures that make it easier for us to comprehend and to recall. For example, the Spirit tells stories, uses songs, and develops themes in “teaching patterns”. In this “prophetic song” of Zechariah, the Spirit led him to speak through a pattern: A-B-C-D-E-F-E-D-C-B-A. Let’s look at this together.

The bookends of this pattern are the A sections (1:68a; 1:80). The pattern in this case is completed by Luke’s comment. Zechariah praised the God of Israel in his prophecy for what the Lord was doing to accomplish his plan for his people. Luke completes the thought by stating that John, the son of Zechariah, came to Israel. God cared for his people by sending the forerunner of the Messiah to them. He prepared the people to meet their Lord. This was an act of God’s mercy.

Next inside the bookend pairs as the B sections (1:68b; 1:78-79). They talk about two visits of God to his people. Zechariah saw the first as a done deal, although its accomplishment would take thirty plus years. The day of redemption had arrived; God had come to set his people free. There would be a new and better exodus (cf. Luke 9:31 – the word translated departure by NIV, ESV, and CSB is exodus in Greek) through Jesus the Messiah. Zechariah also saw another visit, which would bring light to the people (Matthew 4:14-17; Ephesians 4:13-14; 1 Peter 2:9).

Moving further inside are the C sections (1:69; 1:77). They announce the great news of salvation! First, Zechariah thinks of the son who would soon be born to Elizabeth’s relative, Mary. The Seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) would come through the line of David, since Mary was descended from David. John would talk about salvation, not through an earthly monarch, but through the forgiveness of sins (1:77; cf. John 1:29).

Next, we find the D sections (1:70; 1:76). They are linked together by the idea of prophets. God gave his word to Israel through his holy prophets hundreds of years before Zechariah lived. But now, John would be the prophet foretold by Isaiah to prepare the way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3-5).

Moving closer to the core are the E sections (1:71; 1:74). In both, Zechariah praises God for the rescue that God will give his people from their enemies. Since the earliest days, humanity has been divided into two groups: the righteous and the unrighteous. Cain’s murder of Abel was the first act to make this division clear. Zechariah sees an end to the hatred, so that the godly might serve God without fear in his presence.

Finally, we come to the core, the F section (1:72-73). Why was God doing all this? It was because of his holy covenant. God had made a promise to Abraham and his seed, and he confirmed his promise with an oath (Hebrews 6:13-20). As God mercifully remembered his people at the time of the first exodus (Exodus 2:23-25; 3:7, 9, 16), so in Zechariah’s time, he remembered his sworn oath, and he sent his son to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Luke will pick up the idea of a covenant again (Luke 22:20). The next time we read of a covenant, it will be about a new covenant, as the Seed of the woman and of Abraham points to his final sacrifice for the people of God. This new covenant guarantees the writing of God’s laws on our hearts, union with God as his people, the certain knowledge of God, and the full forgiveness of the sins of his people by God (Hebrews 8:10-12). In Christ, we have all these spiritual blessings. God indeed is merciful to us!

Grace and peace, David

The Attributes of God (Part Eighteen)

For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath (Deuteronomy 4:31 NIV).

God is merciful. The living God is merciful (Deuteronomy 4:31; Daniel 9:9). But how is God’s mercy to be distinguished from God’s grace? Both are closely related, springing from God’s love and goodness, so we should not draw sharp distinctions between mercy and grace. For example, the repentant sinner is encouraged to return to God and receive a free pardon because God will have mercy. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon (Isaiah 55:7 NIV), and God’s forgiveness of his old covenant people is traced to his mercy (Psalm 78:3). Perhaps we can safely say this. Grace is God’s attitude and action toward sinners as undeserving, while mercy is his attitude and action toward sinners in misery. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy (James 5:11). In the instance of Job, his suffering did not come from his sin, yet he needed God’s mercy.

“It is the great design of the Scripture to represent God as merciful. This is a loadstone [magnet] to draw sinners to him… God is represented as a king, with a rainbow about his throne (Revelation 4:3). The rainbow was an emblem of mercy. The Scripture represents God in white robes of mercy more often than with garments rolled in blood; with his golden scepter more often than his iron rod” (Watson, A Body of Divinity, p. 93).

Here are characteristics of God’s mercy:

  • Like God’s love and grace, his mercy is sovereign and free. God extends mercy to people in misery because he chooses to do so (Exodus 33:19). God’s mercy causes him to extend mercy because he is “a gracious and merciful God” (Nehemiah 9:31).
  • God’s mercy is the source of his redeeming activity, both regarding the old covenant nation (Isaiah 63:9), and the spiritual redemption of God’s chosen ones (Romans 9:15-16). From his mercy comes our rebirth into a living hope. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1 Peter 1:3).
  • God delights in extending his mercy to sinners in their misery (Micah 7:18). Being rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4), he has drawn up a plan of showing mercy to all—to both Jews and Gentiles (Romans 11:30-32).
  • God’s mercy involves powerful action on God’s part. He is able to relieve the suffering (Philippians 2:27) and to give us actual help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16), as we see many times in the earthly ministry of our Lord (Matthew 17:15; Luke 17:13; 18:38-39).

“One act of mercy engages God to another. Men argue thus, I have shown you kindness already, therefore trouble me no more; but, because God has shown mercy, he is more ready still to show mercy; his mercy in election makes him justify, adopt, glorify; one act of mercy engages God to more. A parent’s love to his child makes him always giving” (Watson, p. 94).

How should we respond to God’s mercy? Since we have been born again because of his mercy, God expects us to exhibit his quality of mercy to others. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High. For he is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:35-36 CSB; cf. Matthew 5:7; 18:33; Jude 1:22) with an attitude corresponding to God’s delight in mercy (Romans 12:8). God wants us to develop endurance in (2 Corinthians 4:1) and explanation of (1 Timothy 1:12-16) ministry that comes from recognizing that we are recipients of mercy. We are to face the future confidently expecting mercy from God (Jude 1:21). “Go to God for mercy. ‘Have mercy upon me, O God!’ (Psalm 51:1)… Give me not only mercy to feed and clothe me, but mercy to save me; give me the cream of thy mercies; Lord! Let me have mercy and lovingkindness… Though God may refuse us when we come for mercy in our own name, yet he will not when we come in Christ’s name. Plead Christ’s satisfaction, and this is an argument that God cannot deny” (Watson, p. 98).

Grace and peace, David

Intended for Good (Part Two)

Genesis 50:15-21

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives (Genesis 50:20 NIV).

To restore relationships, we must act according to God’s word. To approach situations in conformity with God’s word, we must understand it. We need to be convinced that the leading person in the God’s plan is God himself, and not ourselves or the other person. This God-focus is often alien to how we act. But observe Joseph’s good and godly reply.

First, Joseph brought God into their problem. He directed them to replace their fear of retaliation with a fear of God. It is like Joseph said, “Make your peace with God, and then you will find it an easy matter to make your peace with me” (Henry). I think you will find that most believers will have a responsive heart to requests for forgiveness (Matthew 18:21-35), though granting forgiveness might not happen without an internal struggle. As a godly man, Joseph knew that vengeance belongs to the Lord, and he was content to leave that to God. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21 NIV). It is very tempting to want to even up the score a little, isn’t it? Even when you’re right, you must resist the desire for personal revenge.

Joseph had already forgiven them, but had they made things right with God? There is a scene from Chariots of Fire, which is almost certainly fictitious, and used by the script writer to express Eric’s inner struggles. Jenny said to Eric after he missed a service, “It’s not me you have offended.” God was in his thoughts. While it is good to seek a restoration of relationship with another human we have offended, we must seek God’s favor above all. Do not make an idol out of your relationship to another man.

Second, Joseph explained God’s providence to them. They had intended evil; they truly had sinned. Notice that Joseph didn’t minimize their sin. When you counsel someone, don’t minimize their sin, but maximize God’s grace. Yet, Joseph made it clear that God had intended good. He can use a bad situation to produce a good end. Remember Peter’s words. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross (Acts 2:23 NIV). God and people can intend two contrary purposes in the same incident, but God’s ultimate purpose will prevail (cf. Proverbs 16:1, 9). Joseph also reflected God’s character to them. He promised to provide for them (cf. Matthew 5:44-47).

We ought to imitate Joseph’s excellent attitude and actions. Learn to return good when you have received evil. And so, Joseph spoke words of assurance and kindness (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:8-10). When we speak this way, we keep the instruction of the Lord Christ. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:32 ESV).

Grace and peace, David

Providence Explained (Part Two)

Genesis 45:4-15

Yesterday, we viewed God’s good purpose (45:4-7). Next, we see God’s great action (45:8-11). So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God. He made me father to Pharaoh, lord of his entire household and ruler of all Egypt. Now hurry back to my father and say to him, ‘This is what your son Joseph says: God has made me lord of all Egypt. Come down to me; don’t delay. You shall live in the region of Goshen and be near me—you, your children and grandchildren, your flocks and herds, and all you have. I will provide for you there, because five years of famine are still to come. Otherwise you and your household and all who belong to you will become destitute’” (NIV).

The Lord exalted Joseph as the governor of Egypt (45:8). Observe his repeated insistence that God had sent him to Egypt. Sometimes it takes a while for the message to get through to people.

We must reassert the truth of God’s sovereignty to a human-centered, naturalistic generation. God had the ability to place Joseph in a position of high authority (cf. Daniel 4:17), and he did.

“Are our leaders appointed by God?” Most surely. “But they’re so corrupt!” Then we ought to call on God to change their hearts or give us new leaders. There used to be a day when Christians would pray for those in authority over them. Listen to the apostle’s words. I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NIV).

Joseph intended to use what God had given to him (45:9-11). He gave reassurance that he would care for them. Often the forgiver must reinforce that he or she loves those who are forgiven. This is what the Father has done through the new covenant ministry of the Spirit of adoption. Joseph knew this was necessary. God’s plan was to save their lives, and it included their relocation to Egypt. Observe how generous the Lord is. He paid for their moving expenses! God’s end includes God’s means to his end.

Lastly, Joseph conformed to God’s plan (45:12-15). He insisted that they bring his father down to Egypt. This also revealed his concern for his father’s well-being. And he wanted to be with his father again.

Joseph gave physical expression of his love for them. The repentant need to know that they are accepted again. If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:5-8 NIV). Sometimes a hug or even a handshake can go a long way. Joseph was a good picture of Christ. He is never weary of speaking peace to his brothers. “How He is ever striving, by His word and Spirit, to reveal Himself to you, and to get you to see Him! How does He raise you from the dust and set you on a rock that you may sound His praise!” (Candlish, Commentary on Genesis) “These kisses were seals of love, comparable to the witness of the Spirit in believing men” (Spurgeon).

Grace and peace, David

Thinking about God and His Friendship with His People (Part Three)

Psalm 25:12-15

Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. His soul shall abide in well-being,  and his offspring shall inherit the land.  The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for he will pluck my feet out of the net (ESV).

How did David find forgiveness for his confessed great sins? How did he light the way for others in the same kind of difficulties? David traced forgiveness back to its real source. He does not say “for my sake” nor “for the sake of what I have earned or deserved”. Instead, he looks to God’s name—his true character. He believed what God said about himself—that he forgives sinners. He believed that God would forgive even great sin, in order to show the greatness of his glory. “To forgive a great sinner like me will bring you great glory, Lord; therefore, for your name’s sake forgive me.”

Learn well how this verse is contrary to a legalistic attitude. A mentality of salvation by works looks at the man or woman and their indebtedness and actions to find mercy, but salvation by grace through faith looks higher to the goodness of God. Instead of being staggered by how much he or she owes, faith looks to the precious blood of Christ and pleads more vigorously for forgiveness for the sake of God’s name.

The more we see how serious and hideous our sins are, the closer we are to forgiveness. We wrote in our previous post on this psalm about calling our sins by biblical names, like rebellion, trespass, and missing the mark. Now, we need to see that all of our sins are great, because they are against the great God. In every sin we despise God’s greatness, mock his wisdom, twist his love, and make something else our god (cf. Col 3:5).

So, where is our hope when we admit that we are great sinners? When God interacts with those who repent and believe, all he does is in conformity with his love and faithfulness (25:10). He shows the mercy of his purposes and the truthfulness of his promises.

The Lord confides in his people. The Hebrew is well-translated by the NIV here (cf. Proverbs 3:32). It means “confidential speech”. It is the speech of one friend to another (Psalm 55:13-14). This has been God’s way with believing people from long ago. He wanted to tell Abraham what he was going to do with Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:17). God chose not to act until he told his servants the prophets what he was going to do (Amos 3:7). So over the course of thousands of years, as God prepared to send his Son when his time had fully come, God gave increasing revelation to his people about the Messiah. And so that his people did not miss the Messiah, he sent John the Baptist to point him out clearly (John 1:29-31).

It is in Christ that God confides in us most closely. The Messiah is our covenant. The Lord said to his Servant, the Messiah: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness (Isaiah 42:6-7 ESV, my emphasis). Christ our covenant calls us his friends, assuring us of a hearty welcome into his company (John 15:15). And since we are in Christ, we have the source of all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3). God’s invitation is now to lay hold of his deep friendship by faith (Ephesians 3:14-19).

Our tragic problem as sons and daughters of God is that we settle for far too little. God has provided the way to know him in Christ, and has promised a warm welcome in him, yet we stand at a distance, imagining that God doesn’t really like us that much! We go on a wild goose chase for intimate friendship, when God invites us to draw near to him and promises that he will draw near to us (James 4:8). Dear friends, the way to friendship with God is wide-open and near. We need only approach the Father by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace, David

It Seems Strange

IMG_1078Luke 5:17-26

It seems strange. Jesus had healed so many, and apparently had left the paralyzed man unhealed. Instead, he had simply told him that his sins were forgiven. Yet one thing we learn as we read the Gospels carefully is that Jesus acted in situations in the way that would maximize God’s glory. As he cared for people, he also focused on making the greatness of God known. For example, read Mark 9:14-29. Since he is Lord over all, he was not in a hurry to act. We are wise to learn this, instead of demanding that God answers us “immediately if not sooner”. This seems strange to us, until we learn and adopt Christ’s priorities as we follow him.

It seemed strange to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for a far different reason. They correctly knew that only God could forgive sins, as Jesus had just claimed to do (Psalm 103:3; Isaiah 43:25; Micah 7:18). But Jesus had dared to say to the man in front of everyone that his sins were forgiven. To them this was blasphemy, because he slandered God by claiming to do what only God had the authority to do. This was a serious matter. If Jesus was only a man, they were right in what they were thinking about him, but it seemed too strange to them that Jesus could be more than a mere human.

It surely also seemed strange when Jesus revealed that he knew their thoughts. They assumed they had Jesus trapped, but suddenly the tables were turned and they were cornered. Over many years of preaching, I have wondered what people were thinking about during the message. It has always reassured me to know that I don’t need to know, because the Lord Christ knows exactly what everyone hearing a sermon is thinking about. By the way, when you hear the word preached or taught, what do you think about? But I digress. Jesus knew, and he was going to act so that they might know an important truth (5:24). Jesus, the Son of Man, has power to forgive sins. “Son of Man” was Jesus’ favorite name for himself. The roots of this term in the usage of Jesus come from Daniel 7:13-14. There it was written that the Son of Man was given authority, which is the issue in this event. Does Jesus have authority to forgive sins?

Jesus knew that it was one matter to tell someone that their sins were forgiven and another to demonstrate that he had the authority to do so. This was the reason that he had delayed to heal the paralyzed man. He met the man’s most crucial need first, which was his need of forgiveness of his sins. Now his delay does not seem so strange. So he said to the paralyzed 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 (Luke 5:24b-25 NIV). He acted in a way that everyone could know that he could forgive sins, for he gave an immediate and complete healing to the man. Not only was his paralysis gone, but he had strength and balance to go home, carrying his mat, and this without physical therapy. And not only could he walk home, he could return home with the confidence that he was right with God.

Now, it no longer seems strange, but amazing and praise producing. This ought to be our reaction when we read these accounts of the glory of God displayed in Jesus Christ. Praise God that we follow a leader who is devoted to honoring the Father in heaven. Praise God that he is wise to know the right time to act. Praise God that he has authority and power to forgive our sins and to heal us. Have you trusted in the Lord Jesus for the forgiveness of sins? This gift of his grace may be yours today.

Grace and peace, David

An Unexpected Response

IMG_1957Luke 5:17-26

The Pharisees and the teachers of the law wanted to hear what Jesus taught to the crowds, not out of any desire to learn from him. They were concerned. Their gathering included men from every village of Galilee and Judea. Even the prominent religious leaders from Jerusalem came. They were very concerned! Early in his public ministry, our Lord had made claims that upset the religious establishment (cf. John 2). Jesus was being watched. The religious leaders saw that he was gathering a group of disciples around him and was proclaiming that God’s kingdom (saving reign) had arrived. So they watched him. As they watched, they would hear Jesus give teaching that would greatly trouble them. They had to watch him.

The crowds came to Jesus also, but not to watch him, but in order that their sick and disabled might be healed (5:15). The Lord did not disappoint the common people. Jesus healed them by the power of the Holy Spirit. (This is what the “power of the Lord” means, cf. Luke 4:18-19.) At this point, Jesus was in a house. Picture him sitting in a great room, surrounded by the home owners, some of his disciples, many Pharisees and teachers of the law, and as many common people as could push themselves in. See a narrow path from the door to Jesus, where people could lead their family and friends to Jesus for healing. It must have been a hot and exciting scene.

Some men carried a friend on a mat to try to get him to Jesus. Simply carrying a paralyzed man on a mat was a difficult task, but it became harder. When they reached the house, they could not get their friend inside because of the crowded conditions. Intent on getting their friend to Jesus, they decided on a bold plan. They carried the paralyzed man up on the flat roof, probably by using an outside stairway. (Sharon and I went up on a rooftop this way in Mali, West Africa during a visit to that country, though we weren’t carrying anyone). Next, they tore up the roof; the sounds and then the sight of this must have been startling to those inside the house. Imagine the debris falling into the room, along with the light and the much-need oxygen. With the roof opened, they lowered him on the mat right in front of Jesus. There was probably a lot of loud talking of various sorts going on throughout this process.

Finally, everyone became quiet, and all eyes were turned on Jesus. Picture the Messiah looking at the man, next up at his friends on the rooftop, back down to the room of people, and then back to the man. Everyone waited to hear and to see what Jesus would do.

Let’s pause the story for a moment. If this is your first time reading the story of Jesus, you might be expecting him simply to heal the man and send him back to his friends filled with joy. But some of us have read or heard this story so many times, that it does not excite us or fill us with wonder. We nod our heads and think, “Yeah, that’s typical Jesus.” We expect what Jesus said. And so the glory of the story doesn’t grip us. However, I assure you that no one in that room, including the paralyzed man expected what Jesus was about to say. Okay, let’s hit the “play button”.

 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” (Luke 5:20 NIV). This was very unexpected! I can feel their stunned silence for a few minutes. Think about this. Did the friends of the man decide to go to all that effort to hear Jesus say to him, “Your sins are forgiven?” Is that what the paralyzed man wanted to hear? If you had been on that mat, is that really what you would have wanted to hear at that moment? What of the homeowners whose roof was partially torn apart? Did the disciples expect Jesus to forgive instead of heal? It undoubtedly caught the Pharisees and the law experts off-guard, too, though Jesus (in their eyes) had just handed them a golden opportunity. Jesus did the unexpected. And it is his unanticipated responses that provide us with occasions to wonder and to worship.

As we conclude today’s article, I want us all to ask ourselves, “If I want something big, like healing from paralysis, would I be content if Jesus simply said to me, “Friend your sins are forgiven”? To be a follower of Jesus means that we learn from him, that we learn from him how that he is able to meet our greatest need. It means that we will learn to say, “Praise God, Jesus has done the best thing for me, even when I assumed he would do something else.” Please let this work into all our souls until next time.

Grace and peace, David