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A Truth We Need to Learn

October 18, 2020
By Rev. David French

As I began my study of this week’s text, it became very clear that Matthew has something very important to share with us today. Now I know that Matthew has something important to share with for the next ten weeks or so, but this is different. What really caught my eye on the first reading of this text is that five times in these eight verses the Holy Spirit guided Matthew to use the Greek word Idou which means to behold, sometimes also translated as to see or to know. There are several ways in the Greek language to say to see or to know. That’s why the choice is so noticeable.

A quick scan shows that we are to behold those who bring their paralytic friend to Jesus. Jesus beholds or sees their faith in this action. We are to behold how some of the scribes who were present accuse Jesus of blasphemy for forgiving the paralytic his sin. Jesus beheld or saw the wicked thoughts of the scribes and the crowd, beheld or saw this miracle and were filled with awe. All of them the same Greek word … Idou.

So, what does this mean? To begin, we need to understand that Idou is God’s way of saying “Hey, pay attention, important things are happening or are going to be happening!” Some examples of Idou’s use in other places: “Behold, the virgin will conceive and bear a son. Behold, I bring you glad tidings of great joy which is for all people. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Behold I am always with you. Behold, I am coming soon.” You get the point. This is a word that signals the fact that something very important, a truth we need to learn, is being taught.

So, behold, some people were bringing a paralytic lying on a bed to Jesus. And? And, that’s it. Remember, behold isn’t just a sentence starter. So, what do we see? We’re seeing what faith does! Faith comes to and calls upon Jesus. 

Next, Matthew tells us that Jesus beheld or saw their faith and says to the paralytic, who Mark tells us has just been lowered through the roof, “Take heart, my son, your sins are forgiven.” Did you notice anything? Jesus doesn’t heal him. He doesn’t even hint at the possibility of a healing. Jesus simply gives this man the one thing needful: the forgiveness of his sins. 

And how do the scribes respond to this word of forgiveness? “Behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming!’” Again, what are we seeing? The scribes are inwardly making a charge that carries the death sentence against Jesus for forgiving sins. So why is it so important that we pay close attention to this wicked behavior? The key is in noticing the fact that Matthew never says that the scribes were talking with each other. The text is very clear in stating that they were talking to themselves within the privacy of their own hearts and minds. They never put voice to their wicked accusation. They only thought it. It’s here we’re told that Jesus beheld or knew their thoughts! They never said a word out loud. No one in the crowd had any idea what the scribes were thinking. There was no public accusation that required Jesus to defend Himself. So, why not let it go?

Well, here we’re reminded Jesus doesn’t let it go because God desires the death of no man. God is not content to just let people live in the darkness of sin. Our Lord loved those wicked scribes enough to speak first; to force them to see what they were doing. “For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins [and all Israel believe only God can forgive sins] - he then said to the paralytic – ‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home.’” And that’s just what he did. 

Matthew next tells us that the crowd who beheld this miracle “were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.” That is, they feared and loved God because He was with them. So, what do you think? When Jesus beheld the faith of the friends, what exactly was He seeing? Was it their deed or was it the faith that produced this God-pleasing fruit?

It’s important that we remember that Jesus saw the evil thoughts of the scribes. They did nothing that would draw any attention to their disapproval. And yet, Jesus saw their wickedness, and He called it out. Surely, Jesus can see the hearts of those who brought their paralytic friend to Him as well. And what he saw wasn’t just an act of kindness, but a fruit of their faith. Keep in mind: The scribes and Pharisees were always coming to Jesus and He never once speaks about their faith. 

So, what does that mean for us today? At this point, I could take the easy path and turn this into a law-heavy sermon and just tell you what you need to do or not do so that God will look at you and see your faith. While it’s sad that is more often than not what people really want … just tell me what I need to do ... it is, of course, missing the whole point and not how it works. Not to mention that would be putting the focus on you and what you do or don’t do. But, even if I were to say, “What you have to do is follow the Ten Commandments,” you would still eventually compare yourself with how others are doing and not what God expects. And, I know I don’t have to tell you, but we do have a habit of quickly moving past a works-righteous examination of ourselves to the self-righteous judging of others. That is, we start looking for faith or sin in others instead of ourselves, because I guess we think Jesus needs our help.

My friends, what do you see when you come here? Don’t you receive forgiveness though ordinary bread and wine? Receive the gift of His Holy Spirt through His words combined with plain ordinary water? Don’t you hear of God’s continued love for you with ordinary simple words, from an ordinary and unimpressive half blind sinner in the pulpit? It’s all so … just not what you’d expect from an almighty God.

But, look closer. Look through the lens of your God-given eyes of faith. Don’t you also behold that right now Christ is in our midst? By grace, through eyes of faith, don’t you see His very body and blood given and shed for your forgiveness? Don’t you see the font and hear the words, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” and in your heart give thanks to God for washing you clean? For clothing you with the robe of His Son’s righteousness and remember the promise He spoke to you by name: that He would never leave nor forsake you? Don’t you in your heart hear Jesus and not the pastor saying, “I forgive you all your sins”?  

My friends, I can’t make you see any of this, and God won’t make you see any of this. But, He will, by the faith He gives, open your eyes so that you can see, and by grace, believe the important truth of God’s love for you, His imperfect but forgiven child.

In His name, Amen.