The Book of Matthew

Jesus and the Paralyzed Man, Part 4

Matthew 9:1-8 This week’s lessons provide us with the first example in Matthew’s Gospel of opposition to Jesus, and the contrasting need to repent of our sin and come to Christ for forgiveness.
Dealing with Our Sin

There’s something else we do with our sin. We try to recognize it, but when we recognize it we try to blame it on someone else. We have different ways of doing that. We usually use the word determinism today to express what we do. That is to say, we try to explain why we are as we are by reference to something that is somebody else’s responsibility. Sometimes it’s genetic. We say the reason I’m having the problems I am having is that my parents are like a certain way. They had a disposition to this, and therefore I have a disposition to this. Or because they acted in a certain way, I also act in the same way. So we try to blame it on somebody else. We recognize the problem but we shift the blame. Sometimes it’s a social determinism. We say I’m the way I am because of the environment in which I was raised.

Now, I’m not denying that those are factors. But it really doesn’t help the matter to try to blame it on someone else because the difficulty I face in my sin is not the fact that I inherit a sinful disposition but the fact that I am sinful. How am I going to deal with that? We have to face it on that level.

There’s a third thing we sometimes do, and that’s to recognize it but pretend it doesn’t matter. Haven’t you heard that? People say, “Well, true I’m not doing what I should do, but, after all, who cares. Everybody acts that way. I suppose it’s just the kind of world we live in. In the end it doesn’t really matter much at all.” Now what’s wrong with that? Well what’s wrong is if you say the evil I do doesn’t matter, it follows, does it not, that the good I do doesn’t matter either. Because, really, it’s just two sides of the same coin. If my doing something bad doesn’t matter, well then my doing something good doesn’t matter either. If my doing something good matters, then my doing something bad also matters because when I’m doing something bad I am not doing the good.

Now let’s go another step. If the bad I do doesn’t matter and the good I do doesn’t matter, then I don’t matter. It doesn’t matter what I do. I don’t count. I do not matter at all in this great scheme of things in God’s universe. Now some people may somehow think that’s a way of dealing with the sin problem, but what a cost! You want to pay that cost—avoid dealing with the sin in your life at the cost of saying you don’t matter?

That’s not the way Jesus dealt with it. To Jesus, everybody mattered. And he didn’t ignore the sin, and he didn’t blame it on somebody else. He didn’t say to this man, “Well, I forgive your father” or “I forgive your environment.” He forgave the man. He saw the sin for what it really was, and he forgave the man on the basis of the authority that he possessed as the Son of God and in anticipation of his death upon the cross.

This is not only true for others; that is true for you, whoever you may be or whatever your experience is. You may be like that paralyzed man, and your sin may have produced a paralysis in you. It might not be a physical one so you can’t walk, but some kind of paralysis such that you can’t move ahead in your life. We say, “I am just paralyzed by the memory of the past.” We speak of it as trauma, of being incapacitated by the memory of something we have done. Sometimes we speak of it as guilt. We say, “I just can’t escape the guilt.” You can’t put it behind you. You can’t get on. Sometimes it expresses itself in self-doubt and a lack of confidence. Somebody may have done something terrible and they say, “Look, if that’s what I’m like, if I’m capable of doing something like that, well then how can I ever have any confidence that I can overcome that and not do it again?”  Something bad is in the past, and they just can’t see themselves ever being what at one point in their lives they hoped they would be.

Some people are paralyzed by their fear of having the sin exposed. They say, “If I step forward, if I try to do a certain thing, somewhere along the line somebody is going to find out what I have done. How could I ever live with that? Why, I would be so ashamed I wouldn’t be able to carry on.” Now let me say that is not all together bad. If you have a sense of shame you at least have an awareness that sin is wrong and therefore something to be ashamed of. And the way of dealing with it, you see, is not to bury it or suppress the memory. That doesn’t accomplish anything. The way to deal with it is to bring it to Jesus Christ and have the sin forgiven.

When we heard Becky Pippert speak just last fall down in Washington, D. C. for the Congress on the Bible, she spoke about sin. She said one of the things that amazes her about Christians is that by their behavior they seem to not really believe that they are sinners. Isn’t that strange? We who above all people should know what it is to be a sinner and have sin forgiven by Jesus Christ somehow are afraid to admit that we are. If that’s a description of you then you have to recognize that the only solution is forgiveness by Jesus Christ, and to know that you’re forgiven. Because if you’re forgiven by God then that’s really what matters, and you can begin to go forward.

Study Questions
  1. What two other approaches toward sin are mentioned in today’s study?
  2. What are some ways people today are paralyzed by sin?

Application: Are there ways in which you as a Christian are not dealing with your sin as the Bible says?  What do you need to do to set things right, between God and perhaps between other people?

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