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When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,
“Tell the daughter of Zion,
Look, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,
Repeat after me
Hosanna to the Son of David! Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is the one who comes Blessed is the one who comes
in the name of the Lord! in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee
An Ancient Word
Matthew 9: 1-8
And after getting into a boat he crossed the sea and came to his own town. And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Then some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” But Jesus, perceiving their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Stand up, take your bed and go to your home.” And he stood up and went to his home. When the crowds saw it, they were filled with awe, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to human beings.
Mark 2:1-12 NI V Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man
2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Luke 5:18-26 New International Version
18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 25 Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. 26 Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.”
Sermon: Take heart!
28 March 2021
The Rev. Dr. Dianne ES Carpenter
This healing in Matthew is considered parallel to the healing in Mark and Luke where the friends of a paralytic man lowers their friend through the roof of the house where Jesus is preaching because the crowds prohibit them from coming in the entrance.
Now, imagine the scene in this house. Jesus is in His hometown. Mark and Luke (Mk. 2:1-12) say that Jesus is in His own house preaching the Word of God to the people gathered there. So many people come to hear Him that there isn’t any more room inside the house.
As Jesus preaches, the sounds of footsteps come from the roof. Then faint sounds of scraping and pounding followed by sprinkles of dust fall from the ceiling. A few blows later, and a thin beam of light hits the floor. Suddenly, the hole expands as a bunch of rubble falls to the floor. Dust and straw fill the room. And then a huge bundle is slowly lowered by four ropes.
The bundle finally reaches the floor, and the sheets fall flat revealing a man. He lies there. One arm is bent over his chest and the other lies motionless stretched out at his side. His legs are crossed, but in a most unnatural way. One would expect him to maneuver himself into a more comfortable position, but he doesn’t. In fact, the only sign of life is his eyes darting back and forth and his chest rising as he breathes a little frantically. This man is obviously paralyzed. Frightening – for me to be paralyzed is frightening…
Jesus looks up at the hole in the roof. He sees the faces of the people who have safely lowered their friend down. Then, Christ looks at the man and says, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Think about this for a moment. This man’s biggest problem seems to be apparent to everyone but Jesus. The friends are probably up on the roof thinking to themselves, “Wait, what? We didn’t lug him up here, rip off the roof knowing that we’ll have to fix it ourselves, and lower him down to get forgiveness.” To be made whole…
But Jesus knows what this man’s biggest problem is. Christ knows what this man needs most. In those days people believed it was sin that trapped one in a body that was paralyzed. Maybe not even his sins but the sins of his parents. Yes, the forgiveness of sins is what we need for our eternal welfare. But Jesus doesn’t always forgive people before He heals them.
In fact, in all the previous healings in Matthew, Jesus doesn’t forgive people before healing them. Thinking back thru Lent: In Chapter 8 Jesus heals a leper and doesn’t absolve him. Then, He heals the centurion’s servant, but Jesus doesn’t announce forgiveness there. He heals Peter’s mother-in-law and large crowds with no mention of forgiveness. He casts out demons from two men, no absolution. And as chapter 9 continues, Jesus keeps healing, and He tells people that they are healed because of their faith in Him. Your faith has made you whole…. Jesus doesn’t care more about these physical healings than forgiveness.
However, after telling the paralytic, “Take heart, your sins are forgiven,” Jesus diagnoses the scribes’ problem. Jesus – the Great Physician. They were grumbling in their minds thinking, “Just who does this guy think he is? Forgiving sins is God’s job.” But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?”
He doesn’t beat around the bush. Jesus calls out their evil thoughts. And He proves that He has the authority to forgive sins. He tells the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your bed and go home,” and the paralytic does, which proves that Jesus does indeed have the authority to forgive sins.
While everyone in that house – might have been thinking Blasphemy! when Jesus tells this paralytic that his sins are forgiven, the paralytic lying there heard the exact words he needed to hear. The words work in his body the fruits that Jesus COULD forgive sins. He needed to hear that his sins had been cancelled, so that is precisely what Jesus gave him.
The scribes needed to hear Jesus call out their evil. And the crowds needed to see that God had given men (plural [foreshadowing Jesus giving the authority to forgive sins to all Christians]) the authority to forgive sins on earth (Mk. 2:10). Jesus gives each person exactly what they needed. That’s what Jesus does…. Maybe not what they want but what they need.
As Jesus entered Jerusalem for Passover He knew what the crowds needed. They needed to understand that God’s intentions were completely in line with the words of the prophets and that He was headed for the one thing that He had come to do that only He could do. The 3 years of healing and teaching and preaching and empowering his disciples were prelude – just prelude – to the atoning act of Jesus’ substitutionary dying for the sins of the world, in order that the shattered relationship of humanity with God might be healed. In order that creation might have the possibility of wholeness.
We have heard two pieces of scripture this morning. Our worship began with the traditional Palm Sunday reading about the borrowed donkey fulfilling prophecy and then we sang with the people who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with loud Hosannas! Which we understand to have meant Save Us Now!
Save us from this debilitating system that makes us feel worthless!
And then this final week of looking at the healing scriptures in Matthew. From earlier in Jesus’ ministry. Another parade. This time the man being carried on a stretcher surrounded by hopeful friends thinking: Save him, save him!
Two parades…. Two men… both enroute to finally stand up and be counted. And stand up they do. The paralytic takes his bed home under his arm and the people part to let him out the doorway. His sins forgiven he can enter the temple, observe the rituals, act as an agent in his community.
Jesus stands up and confronts the money lenders, clearing the temple for the second time, he prepares for the Passover Feast and Washes His disciples’ feet, He predicts Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial while he confronts His agony of obedience and then He faces the Earthly authorities and dies…..
This is the old preachers’ stick… You have to go thru the whole week. You can’t just show up for the Parade and Easter…..
This story also brings the theme of sin into the healing narrative. Not just personal sin but systemic sin…. Not only can Jesus cure us from physical ailment, Jesus can heal us from sin. There is nothing we can do or say, nothing in the realm of humanity, that is beyond the saving grace of Jesus. And this too is the story of Jesus entering the city of Jerusalem, heading toward death on the cross. There is nothing, even death, that keeps us from God’s love.
Jesus can save the man and Jesus can save us now! But we need to be willing to be transformed by God’s love beginning with forgiveness that makes us WHOLE and Holy.. [signing holy]
Therefore, “Take Heart” is God’s first and last word for sin and humanity.
The crowd in the healing narratives always respond to Jesus. And we too are called to respond, to shout our Hosannas and testify to the power of God. We are called to a life of faith and action. How do we invite people to move from healing and wholeness to ministry and testimony? How do we encourage the people of God to move through Holy Week, to face the death and the fears and continuing on this journey of healing through Christ Our Savior, and then into Easter, a time to proclaim who God is and what God has done for us?