Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Real Authority

There is a story about Jesus giving a lecture at someone’s house. Several men bring a paralyzed friend to Jesus. It is too crowded to get the man – on a stretcher – to Jesus, so they take the extraordinary option of removing part of the roof and lowering the man down to Jesus. Imagine someone wants to see you. Instead of knocking on the door, or ringing the bell, they rip part of your house down, so they can get in. They seem to have stopped thinking. They must have seen this as the only way to help their friend. And it was the only time, now or never. Jesus may never come this way again.

Jesus recognizes the desperation, but he also recognizes their faith in him as the answer to their friend’s need. “If we can just get him to Jesus, his problems will be solved.”

But Jesus speaks to a different need. He says their sins are forgiven. (I have often wondered why Jesus did this. Did he realize that this was their real concern? Was he setting up the crowd to demonstrate his authority as God?) The religious experts in the crowd see all sorts of red flags go up. Since, only God can forgive sins, how can this MAN say something like this?

So, Jesus asks the question, which easier to say “your sins are forgiven” or “rise and walk”? It is easier to say “your sins are forgiven.” No one expects anything to happen. There is no physical manifestation.

But if someone says “rise and walk” to a paralytic … If people expect something to happen, and it does not, then people get angry, disappointed or do not take the person seriously any more. If people expect nothing to happen, and it does not, people dismiss the speaker as a fool, who just likes shooting his mouth off.

But something happens, you have to take another look at that person. You have to take them a whole lot more seriously. He is not just a talker. He might just know something you should know. Maybe he knows something about forgiveness I do not know. Maybe there is something about him you should know.

Jesus intended it as an obvious demonstration that he does have authority to forgive. Not like we have authority to forgive someone who offends us. I can choose to not factor an offense into how I interact with someone. He has authority to absolve from real guilt, to justify and to declare righteous.

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