Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost: A Story of Healing and Forgivness
Matthew begins this story of Jesus by telling us, "And entering into a boat . . ." That points us back to some of the other "boat" stories we've studied concerning Jesus; and to what they taught us about Him.
First, we saw that He was in the boat asleep while in the midst of a storm; and we saw that He rose from His sleep to rebuke the wind and the waves (8:23-27) - which taught us that Jesus has authority over the natural realm. He commands the wind and the waves, and they obey Him. Second, we saw that He crossed the Sea of Galilee to meet two demon-possessed men; and He cast the demons out of them (8:28-32) - which taught us that Jesus also has authority over the spiritual realm. He commands even the evil spirits, and they must obey Him.
In all these things, Jesus is showing Himself to possess full authority as the Son of Man in human flesh. He has authority over the physical world, and over the spiritual world. And now, as He enters the boat once again to cross over the Sea of Galilee.
We're told that he "came into his own city." This is Capernaum; by the shores of the Sea of Galilee. The news that Jesus had returned to Capernaum spread; and very quickly, huge crowds gathered to the house in which He was staying, in order to hear Him teach. In fact, there was such a huge crowed gathered at this house to hear Him that there wasn't any room for any more people. Even the doorways where stuffed with folks. And with all these people packed tightly into the house, Jesus preached the word to them.
And that's when this poor, helpless paralyzed man comes into the story. Matthew says, "And behold they brought to him one sick of the palsy lying in a bed." Mark, in his gospel, tells us a little more of the details of what happened. He said, “And they came to him, bringing one sick of the palsy, who was carried by four. And when they could not offer him unto him for the multitude, they uncovered the roof where he was; and opening it, they let down the bed wherein the man sick of the palsy lay.” (Mark 2:3-4).
Now it's important to recognize that this "tearing up the roof" was not a destruction of property. A first century home in Palestine had a flat roof composed of large stone tiles which were easy to remove and easy to replace. The tiles were sometimes covered with dirt or sod for insulation purposes. So there was no need to rip up shingles and saw through plywood and beams in order to make a sizable opening in the roof! God is certainly not teaching us from this portion of His Word that it's OK to break the law and destroy property as long as it's for the purpose of getting a person to Christ! The roof was not destroyed or damaged--only temporarily opened up.
Remember also that a first century home had an outside staircase up to the flat roof. This enabled the four men to carry their paralytic friend and his bed up to the rooftop without spilling him and without employing an elaborate ladder or block and tackle system! The "bed," of course, was not a heavy inner spring mattress and frame but a lightweight pallet or mattress-like pad. Thus the hole in the roof was not gigantic in size!
Now Matthew continues the narrative with these words, “And Jesus, seeing their faith...”
Jesus SAW THEIR FAITH.
Saint James says, that “What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?... So faith also, if it have not works, is dead in itself. But some man will say: Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without works; and I will shew thee, by works, my faith. Thou believest that there is one God. Thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, offering up Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou, that faith did co-operate with his works; and by works faith was made perfect?..Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only?...For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead."
Many years ago I heard it put this way: “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” The application is always the same. Live so there can be no doubt.
Understand this: That in order for faith to work, it must be practiced. Faith isn’t just believing that God can do what He says; faith is entrusting yourself to Him so He can do His work through you.
James focuses on how we respond when confronted with the practical needs of fellow believers. The phrase “brother or sister” means he’s thinking about needy Christians. These are the ones closest to us spiritually. They are close enough that we actually see them hungry and virtually naked. The Internet has turned the world into one village. We “see” suffering brothers and sisters every day via the media and the Internet. How do we respond? Here comes a suffering, starving, nearly naked brother or sister. We see them. We can’t help it because their plight is right before us. That’s part of the point. We see them just as much as the priest and the Levite saw the hurting man on the road to Jericho. They saw him and passed by on the other side. That’s an easy response. We’re busy. We’re tired. We’re behind schedule. We’ve got a meeting to attend. People are depending on us. We’re under pressure already. So we pass by on the other side for reasons that in themselves are not wrong. Eventually, along comes a Samaritan who helps the man by the side of the road. That’s the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).
But James asks us to imagine a response even worse than passing by on the other side. It’s one thing to see a need and simply walk away because you feel like you can’t get involved. But in this case, the Christian who brags about his faith doesn’t simply walk away. When he sees his suffering brother or sister, he actually says something. The translations handle it in different ways:
“Go in peace! Stay warm! Have a nice meal!” (CEB)
“God be with you! Stay warm, and make sure you eat enough” (GW).
“Good luck to you. I hope you’ll keep warm and find enough to eat” (Phillips).
Another good one comes from the Living Bible:
“Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty.”
This is worse than what the priest and the Levite did. They went to the other side of the road, but they didn’t mock him with their words. How much worse it is to mouth pious platitudes while not caring one bit about hurting people.
To be clear, James is not suggesting that caring for the hurting is the only measure of a living faith. The other things matter too. He’s not giving us an exhaustive list. But he is forcing us to realize we can’t hide behind noble religious activity as an excuse not to care for others.
A Sobering Question
So my question to you is this: When Jesus sees your faith what does he see? Are you doing works so that you can be right with God? Then your faith is dead. Are you living like the world but proclaiming that you have a faith in Christ? Then your faith is dead. Are you ignoring the needs of others because you do not want to deal with it? Then your faith is dead. What kind of faith do you have?
Or let me put it this way, “Are you a Christian?”
That’s what the gunman asked the students at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. If they answered yes, he shot them in the head. If they answered no or didn’t answer, he shot them in the legs.
Those students in Roseburg, Oregon had no inkling what was about to happen when they went to class that day. The Christians who died were given no advance notice. They had their own hopes and dreams for the future. They were thinking about their weekend plans. Some were no doubt thinking about a guy or a girl they would like to date. They were, in short, totally normal young people. Then the killer began to shoot and everything changed. God bless those young people who in the crisis answered “Yes” when asked, “Are you a Christian?” They paid the ultimate price for their faith.
For most of us, the tests of life will not be like that. But the challenge is the same for all of us. Get your faith in gear so no matter what happens today or tomorrow, you’ll be ready to stand up for Jesus.
Make it your aim to brighten every corner with the love of Jesus. Decide now to live for Christ every day. Take your stand so when you are asked, “Are you a Christian?” no one will be surprised when you say yes.
Now back to our Gospel reading: When these friends got to the house, they found the house to be packed with people wanting to hear Jesus and be healed by him. The friends climbed up an outside staircase and dug a hole through the roof. Then they lowered their friend down to the place where Jesus was. Jesus was so impressed by the faith of these men. First, Jesus forgave the man’s sins. and then, he healed the man so that he could get up and walk.
Now listen to what the scribes thought in their heart: "And behold some of the scribes said within themselves: He blasphemeth. (Matthew 9:3) Who can forgive sins, but God only?" (Mark 2:7)
First, We see that they considered Jesus as Man. They would be right. But that is only half the Truth. He was also God. The Man God.
Second, They felt that He was blaspheming. In this they would have been right except that they did not realize the whole story.
Thirdly, They were saying only God could forgive sin.
Were they right? Could only God forgive sin? The answer....yes. Only God can forgive sin.
But listen to the answer Jesus gave when he realized what they were thinking:
" Why do you think evil in your hearts? Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee: or to say, Arise, and walk? But that you may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then said he to the man sick of palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go into thy house.." (Matthew 9: 4-6)
Let's look closer at Jesus answer.
He called Himself the Son of Man not the Son of God. Why?
The common understanding is that "Son of God" implies his deity—which it does—and that "Son of Man" implies his humanity, which it does too.
He was a son of man, that is, a human being. And He is the Son of God, in that He has always existed as the Eternally Begotten One who comes forth from the Father forever. He always has, and He always will. He is the Second Person of the Trinity with all of the divine nature fully in Him.
He is born of a Virgin. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary. Thus He is human—fully human. The Bible wants to emphasize that He is fully human.
So that's the common understanding: He is both divine and He is human—two natures, one person.
If you do a study of the term "Son of Man" in the Gospels you'll see that he didn't refer to himself most often as Son of God but as Son of Man. He said things like, in Mark 10:45, "For the Son of man also is not come to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a redemption for many. ." So he calls himself Son of Man very often.
The Son of Man (Jesus in his humanity) had power.
What do we mean by having power? Was he saying he was a Super...Man?
There are six Greek words used for power in the New Testament. Exousia, dunamis, ischus, kratos, energeia, and bia.
For the sake of time we will only give the definition to the greek word that is used in Matthew 9:6. And that word is Exousia.
Exousia: it denotes "authority", permission, or liberty of doing as one pleases, it passed to that of "the ability or strength with which one is endued," then to that of the "power of authority," the right to exercise power.
So we see that the Son of Man, (Jesus in his humanity), has power (has authority).
Who gave him that authority? Well, as the scribes said. "Only God can forgive sin" And who is God? As we said before, Jesus is God and Man and so He gave himself the authority, as God, to forgive sins.
Now lets fast forward to Jesus Ascension into heaven.
At this time He gives the great commission. Matthew, Mark and Luke each has a record of the great commission even though they differ in exact language (Matthew 28:18-19; Mark 16:-15-18; Luke 24:47-49). John 20:21-23 is John’s account of the great commission.
Matthew 28:18-19 records that Jesus said to the Apostles, "And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth." That word power is all Exousia, all authority. He therefore hands that authority over to the Apostles. "Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.
Jesus authorizes, he exousia, the Apostles to make disciples, baptize, and catechise. All the Gospels pretty much say the same thing. But St. John's gospel added one more thing. After breathing on them and giving them the Holy Spirit, he says this:
Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. (John 20:23)
Remember when I said Only God can forgive sin? And because Jesus is God and Man He was able to give himself the authority, as God, to forgive sins on earth while he was in His body. But now at the ascension he is about to leave. He is leaving his body the Church (see I Corinthians 12) behind with the authority to do what He did as Man. And one of those things he gave authority to do is to forgive sins, or retain them.
Now we the Church (The Militant Church) are his earthly body. We the Church through the Apostles, and their Successors, have been given authority to do what Jesus did on earth. And among these things is the authority to forgive sin and or to retain sin.
In John 20:19–23, we read: Now when it was late that same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them: Peace be to you. And when he had said this, he shewed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.
A priest’s authority to convey forgiveness does not come from himself. It comes from Christ. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the priest stands in the place of Christ to declare the sinner forgiven. That is why the formula of absolution uses the pronoun I. The I is Christ speaking through the human priest. If Jesus had not come to earth, there would be no forgiveness on earth, and if he had not conferred on the apostles this ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18), we would have no forgiveness today. But we can thank God that Christ did indeed come and that he passed on his authority to the Church to reconcile sinners to God.
HOW TO GO TO CONFESSION
Going to confession can be daunting. We know we should do it, but there is part of us that is still reluctant or even afraid of going back to the sacraments.
Besides feelings of shame, we may simply have forgotten how to go to confession.
For those who are hesitant to receive the mercy of God, here is a practical guide to the various steps of going to confession.
Step 1: Examine your conscience
This is the most necessary part of confession. Before you can confess your sins you need to know them. Also, think about confession as going to a doctor. If you don’t tell the doctor your arm hurts, he won’t be able to diagnose it and offer a cure. Similarly, if you don’t tell the priest a sin, he won’t be able to offer absolution for it and help heal that spiritual wound.
Step 2: Look up the local confession times or schedule a time with the priest
Sometimes if it has been a while, it is best to schedule a separate time with the local priest. However, if you don’t know the priest it might be daunting to think about it. Instead, find the nearest parish and inquire about their confession times.
Step 3: Go and start your confession
Wherever confession takes place, the priest typically will start first, saying, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.” Then it will be your turn to talk. Since it is possibly your first time in a while, it is best to let the priest know that, and say something like, “Father, this is my first confession in x amount of years. These are my sins.”
Then you go ahead and start telling the priest your sins. Do your best to remember them. If you need to, write them on a piece of paper ahead of time.
Step 4: Listen to the priest’s consoling words and say your act of contrition
The priest will respond with words meant to encourage you on your journey of faith. He will then give you a specific “penance,” which could be a number of prayers (like saying 5 Our Fathers), or something related to your sins. After that he will invite you to make an act of contrition, a prayer expressing your sorrow for your sins. If you are worried about that, then let the priest know and he will guide you through it.
Alternatively you can print your own copy of the following prayer.
My God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart. In choosing to do wrong and failing to do good, I have sinned against you whom I should love above all things. I firmly intend, with your help, to do penance, to sin no more, and to avoid whatever leads me to sin. Our Savior Jesus Christ suffered and died for us. In his name, my God, have mercy.
Step 5: Bask in the mercy of God and offer your penance
Take a while in the Church or somewhere quiet to thank God for what just happened. God just wiped your sins away! They’re gone. Praise him and allow God’s peace to flood your soul. Then do whatever penance the priest gave you.
Re-commit your life to Jesus Christ, and as you leave confession, start a new chapter in your life. God is always there whenever we fall. Trust in his mercy and allow his grace to permeate every aspect of your life. Plan to head to confession again soon.
SO IN CONCLUSION
Allow Our Faith To Work
Jesus as The Son of Man Has Authority To Forgive Sin
Jesus Gave That Authority To Forgive To His Apostle
May We Faithfully Use The Gift Of The Sacrament Of Confession.