Your Sins Are Forgiven
February 11, 2007
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
The Healing Of A Serious Skin Disorder
1. "When Jesus was in a certain town, there was a person afflicted with a serious skin disorder over his entire body. He saw Jesus and bowed down, asking, 'Oh Lord, if it be your will, you can cleanse me.'," (verse twelve). Thus, it is succinctly written in the text. But, this [whole] thing is actually impossible. He was not shouting and bowing down from afar. As we will see from a later development, he bowed down but was close enough to where his hand could reach. This was fundamentally not possible because anyone suffering from a serious skin disorder was not ever permitted to draw close to other persons.
2. In Jewish society, that disease was considered "unclean." A person hit with this disease was not permitted to live in town, but had to make his daily life separated from people. And when walking through a town, the [unclean person] was obligated to walk shouting the whole time, "I'm unclean," so that no one would make a mistake and touch [him or her]. Even this time, because it was while in town, he was expected to walk while avoiding others and being avoided by others. Breaking the law, he drew near to Jesus all of a sudden. Of course, Jesus was not expected to be alone. The disciples were around him. Besides them, there was probably a crowd of people around Jesus. He dove in among [all those people] and immediately went in close and bowed himself down.
3. The reason that something like this, which was fundamentally impossible, did take place is that it was none other than Jesus who was right there. He would definitely not have drawn near had it been Pharisees and scribes of the law. He drew near because it was Jesus. It was not simply because Jesus could heal him. Because [Jesus] might refuse [him] saying, "Oh unclean one, depart." Clearly the reason he was approaching him was because he had believed that "Since it's [Jesus] he will not refuse me." Since it's [Jesus] he draws near to [him]. Even though other people drive me away, even though other people consider me as a cursed person, this One alone will not drive me away. [He drew near] because he was thinking these thoughts.
4. Put another way, it would be that he was seeing in the preaching activities of Jesus the work of a deeply compassionate God. He was not seeing a God who would detest and drive him away even though he was considered unclean but a God who would cleanse him, a God who would draw near to him with his grace. Therefore, he turns himself over to that grace and asks, "If it be your will, you can cleanse me."
5. Jesus said to him, "Good. Be cleansed." Then his disease was cured. But, what he had received was more than the healing of a disease. The scripture says this about it, "Jesus held out his hand and touched him." -- Jesus touched that man. The people must have choked with "Oooh!" because everybody believed that whenever you touch an unclean person, you then become unclean. Thus, when this man with the serious skin disorder came near [to them all], they were supposed to withdraw themselves all at once. But, Jesus alone [among them] did not withdraw himself. Jesus had held out his hand to the person whom everyone else had refused to be near, Jesus touched the person whom everyone else refused to touch. This man had seen in the activity of Jesus -- a merciful God -- at that instant when [Jesus] had touched his heart and his body. The grace of God touched [him] through the hand of Jesus.
6. Similarly, scenes with Jesus extending his hands, scenes with Jesus placing his hands and touching with his hands can be found here and there in the gospels. This image of Jesus like that has been communicating something valuable. What is it? It is not for the mere purpose of telling about [some] image of Jesus in the past. It is for the purpose of telling us about the way Jesus still is, as he still lives and has been at work in all generations. Just as he stretched out his hand on the sick, back then, the Lord still stretches out his hand today. Just as he touched a serious skin disorder, back then at that moment in time, the Lord still touches us with his hands today. [Our] compassionate God touches us with those hands.
7. Have you ever seen Jesus' outstretched hands? You should have. Christ has hands in this world. He has a body. You know [where], don't you? It is the church. It is us here in this place. It is just as the scripture says, "You are the body of Christ, and each person is a part of [his body]," (First Corinthians 12:27). Through this earthly body Jesus touches us. And through us Jesus wants to touch the people. God's grace touches us that way, and then through us it touches this temporary world.
The Healing Of A Person With Palsy
8. As a matter of fact, we all, no matter who we are, have a need for a gracious God to draw close to us, for the grace of God to touch us. It is the narrative that follows this one that shows that. It is the story where the man with the paralysis is healed.
9. In verse fifteen, "As the rumors of Jesus spread more and more, great crowds had been gathering to hear [his] teaching and have him heal them from illnesses," says the scripture. Thus, the house where Jesus was is believed to have been jammed packed all the time with people seeking for his messages and healing. It was that way on that day as well. The crowd was already full up to the entrance. A man afflicted with the palsy was carried there set upon a flat bed. Of course he was brought along in order to have Jesus heal him. But, being blocked by the crowd, they could not bring him up to Jesus. The men who had brought him there thought, "Hmm now, lets go up on the roof." They went up on the roof, peeled off the tiles, and lowered the man with the palsy on the sick bed down in front of Jesus. They had an amazing zeal. I just wonder how blessed this man with the palsy was who had friends like these. They were of one mind in wanting their friend healed of his illness; for they even broke [open] a man's house.
10. But though the men had brought him in order for them to have him healed of the palsy, yet Jesus took one look and saw what the suffering of the paralyzed man was, what he was crying out for from the depths of his soul. Therefore, the first thing out of his mouth to him the Lord did not say, "I will heal you of your illness," but he declared unto him, "Oh man, your sins are forgiven." Of course since he was sick he probably did want him to heal him. But, what he wanted even more than anything else and what he needed most of all was forgiveness of sin.
11. I said, "What he needed most of all." But, if the truth be told, this is something all of us human beings most definitely have need of. Those who need healing of an illness are persons with an illness. So, since my body is well, we can make the statement that I don't need healing from an illness. But, there may be lots of persons whose bodies are well, but is there any soul so completely healthful, any person completely without any sin as seen from God's perspective, who does not need to be forgiven by God of his or her sins? I don't think there is. Even in the Psalms, I agree with the way it has been sung, "One who is considered righteous in your presence is not among the living beings," (Psalm 143:2).
12. However, the issue of sin is clearly different from the issue of bodily health. When a person is paralyzed, he or she is self-conscious of the illness and it is obvious to the sight of others as well. Therefore, the seeking of healing for an illness will come up. But, the problem of human sin, even though it is plain in God's sight, there are many people from whose sight it is hidden. It is not only hidden to the sight of others, but it is even hidden to our own sight. There are a lot of folks who are not even aware of it for themselves.
13. As a matter of fact, when Jesus declared, "Oh man, your sins are forgiven," the text doesn't say that anything took place, but "However, the scribes of the law and the Pharisees began to discuss this and that over it. 'Who is this man who is speaking blasphemy of God? Who, besides God alone, can forgive sin?'," (verse twenty-one). Are the remarks inside the single quotes the words of a person who thinks of himself or herself as a sinner? Are they the words of a person who longs for forgiveness of sin? No, they are not. They understand that only God can forgive sin. It is true. They know on a doctrinal level about the forgiveness of sin. However, it is never for them, just for other people. They don't think it has to do with them. They talk about forgiveness of sin, but they themselves do not long for it and want forgiveness of sin for themselves.
14. Thus, Jesus had to ask them the following question. "Which is easier to say, 'If I say Your sins are forgiven,' or 'If I say Get up and walk,'?" (verse twenty-three). Well, which is easier for Jesus, to grant forgiveness of sin or to grant healing from an illness? That answer is given in the unfolding of the narrative as it continues. Jesus said to the man with the palsy, "I say to you. Get up, take up your bed, and go back home." Whereupon, the man stood up immediately in front of everyone, took up the support upon which he was sleeping, and went back home while he praised God. Thus then, it was far easier for Jesus to grant healing of the illness rather than the granting of forgiveness of sin.
15. Why would it be easier to grant healing for an illness? Because there are not a few people seeking fervently for healing of an illness. A person will seek fervently from a gracious God who heals illnesses. Then when the healing is presented to them, with great joy, they will accept it with thanksgiving. On an extreme level, even if a person does not have the will to accept it on his or her own, he can grant healing on a compulsory level. So, when the illness is cured, the body becomes healthy.
16. But, it doesn't work that way when it comes to forgiveness of sin. The essential nature of forgiveness of sin is the restoration of a relationship. When it comes to the restoration of one's relationship with God, even though God has visited in so gracious a way, yet it does not come to be so by just a one way transaction. A relationship is not something of that nature. It does not have meaning by just the words, "Your sins are forgiven." The declaration "Your sins are forgiven" truly does have significance, [but] in accordance with those words, the man did get up and in order to live with God, it was very much necessary for him to be aware of his sins and to repent on his part.
17. So, the Pharisees and the scribes of the law, who were convinced that they were righteous persons, were for Jesus the most difficult of beings. It was a lot easier to heal and deal with large numbers of sick persons than to deal with them. There was no illness that Jesus could not heal. Nor was there any evil spirit that he could not drive away. However, even though it was Jesus, there were a lot of sinners who he could not get to admit their sins. Human stubbornness stood tenaciously right in the way of Jesus' preaching ministry right until the very end. "Which is easier to say, 'If I say Your sins are forgiven,' or 'If I say Get up and walk.'?" It was by far easier for Jesus to say "Get up and walk."
18. However, Jesus knew something. That he had come for that very reason, that it wouldn't be so easy. That he had come to grant people forgiveness of sin, so that a person might come to live in a relationship with God. [He understood that] it was precisely for that very reason that he was given authority from God. [He knew that] it was precisely for that very reason that he would have to offer his life [as a sacrifice]. That he would have to go to the cross. The Lord healed the man with the palsy mainly as a sign of that. [The Lord did it] through Jesus in order to show a compassionate God was at work with forgiveness of sin above all else.
19. This same Christ is still alive and working now. He is stretching out his hands now. He is declaring forgiveness of sin right now. "Your sins are forgiven," he says. This is the kind of body of Christ that the church is. We are the body of Christ at work right now to declare forgiveness of sin and to restore [people] to a relationship with God. The grace of God touches us in this way and then through us it touches the world.