daily biblical sermons

We cannot earn God's forgiveness of our sins by our works, for it is a free gift given to those that put their faith in Christ
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Friday, First Week of the Year, January 15, 2021
Hebrews 4:1-5, 11, Psalm 77, Mark 2:1-12


Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“And when he [Jesus] returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘My son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, ‘Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise, take up your pallet and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ – he said to the paralytic – ‘I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home.’ And he rose, and immediately took up the pallet and went out before them all; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We never saw anything like this!’” (Mark 2:1-12).



Today we have a completely paralyzed man who is carried on a stretcher by four of his friends to Jesus, presumably that he might cure him of his paralysis. They had great faith that Jesus was able to do this, and so they went to a lot of trouble to bring him to Jesus, for there were so many in the house that they could not even approach the door. So, they carried him up the outside ladder at the back of the house to the flat roof, opened it up, and let him down on his stretcher, presumably with ropes, and set him right in front of Jesus.



To our surprise and surely to the surprise of the paralytic, his four friends, and the huge crowd, Jesus did not cure his paralysis, but rather forgave his sins. But since no one could actually see whether his sins were really forgiven or not, he then cured him of his paralysis to show that he, the Son of man, has the power to forgive sins.



What can we learn from this? First of all, we see that a physical sickness can be a blessing. Were it not for this man’s paralysis, he may never have come to Jesus and had his sins forgiven. He may have spent the rest of his life without ever meeting Jesus and having his sins forgiven.



Many suffer from various disabilities, but I think that if we looked at them more deeply with faith, we would see that they have been a great blessing for us. I know that that is true in my own life. If a physical disability limits our external activities, recreations, entertainments, travel, and even our Christian ministry, it at the same time opens up new doors to us and brings us new blessings.



It is unlikely that someone with a serious physical disability could, for example, be a foreign missionary, even though he might want to be. This will cause him to find other ways of ministry that in fact may turn out better than his original idea of being a foreign missionary. There are many things a foreign missionary has to do, such as building schools and keeping them under repair, while people are coming and going, constantly asking for this and that so that we often have little time to research and prepare good sermons.



A physical disability can change all that, giving you all the time you need to research and write your sermons, which you can no longer travel about on a motorcycle or land rover to preach in several foreign languages. So now you use your own language and preach online via a website and bulk email, and you find that you have readers in many different countries throughout the world. So, the seemingly inconvenient burdens that life brings us can turn out to be blessings, giving us wonderful new opportunities to serve God.



“How many in every age can testify that this paralyzed man’s experience has been their own! They have learned wisdom by affliction. Bereavements have proven mercies. Losses have proven real gains. Sicknesses have led them to the great Physician of souls, sent them to the Bible, shut out the world” (JC Ryle, 1857).



“Let us beware of murmuring under affliction. We may be sure there is a needs-be for every cross, and a wise reason for every trial. Every sickness and sorrow is a gracious message from God, and is meant to call us nearer to Him” (JC Ryle).



Jesus cured many sick people outright, without forgiving their sins first. Why did he forgive this man sins, rather than immediately curing him? Perhaps it was because of this man’s deep faith and the deep faith of the four who carried him with such difficulty. And perhaps more likely Jesus knew by his divine mind that this man’s real problem was unforgiven sins that plagued him with guilt.



Jesus probably recognized that unforgiven sins were this man’s real problem. With his sins forgiven, Jesus knew that he could live a happy life in his spirit, being taken care of by his family and friends. So, Jesus forgives his sins, and now his guilt is taken from him, and in its place heavenly peace, divine love, and spiritual joy fill his heart.



Then to prove to the scribes in his audience that his sins really are forgiven, Jesus also cures his paralysis, totally transforming his life. Jesus does not necessarily always cure our physical disabilities, but he does always forgive our sins, when we ask him with faith and have the intention of immediately abandoning them.



We cannot earn the forgiveness of our sins. For that, we need Jesus Christ, who is the one that God sent to us to forgive our sins, which he did by suffering our punishment for them for us so that they are fully expiated and God’s justice is fully propitiated and satisfied. And it is God himself who took the initiative to do this for us, for he “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). To do this for us we need Jesus, our great high priest, who mediates between us and God the Father by offering a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the world.



“Let us think for a moment how great a blessing it is, that Jesus is our great High Priest, and that we know where to go for absolution! We must have a Priest and a sacrifice between ourselves and God. Conscience demands an atonement for our many sins. God’s holiness makes it absolutely needful. Without an atoning Priest there can be no peace of soul. Jesus Christ is the very Priest that we need, mighty to forgive and pardon, tender-hearted and willing to save” (JC Ryle).



“Nor can any man procure the forgiveness of his sins by any thing he has, or can do; not by his riches, which will not profit in a day of wrath, they being not a sufficient ransom price for a man’s self, or by any of his brethren and friends; nor by his repentance, for though this, and the remission of sins, go together in grace and experience, yet repentance is not the cause of remission of sins … nor by his faith, for faith does not procure, but receives this blessing: and much less by good works, for then the forgiveness of sins would not be according to the riches of grace; and a man would be saved by his works … and besides the blood of Christ would be shed in vain” (John Gill, 1697-1771).



So, the forgiveness of our sins comes only through Jesus Christ who procured our forgiveness and our justification by suffering our death sentence for our sins for us on the cross so that all that put their faith in him and sincerely repent of their sins are declared righteous by God, who then reckons to them his own righteousness (Romans 4:5) so that they shine with the righteousness of God himself.



St. Paul tells us that “For our sake he [God] made him [Christ] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). That is, God made Jesus sin or a sin offering by putting our sins on him and then allowing him to be sacrificed and suffer and die on the cross, suffering our death penalty for our sins for us. Jesus knew no sin, but God made him sin or our sin offering for our sake “so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).



What does it mean to “become the righteousness of God”? It means that we do not become righteous by our own good works, but that we become righteous with the righteousness of God himself, who reckons his righteousness to us (Romans 4:5), because of our faith. We “become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).



So, Christ is the priest through whom we have forgiveness of sins, for “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). And when our iniquity was placed on him, “he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities” (Isaiah 53:5). That is, God punished our sins in him (Romans 8:3-4). He was wounded for our sins. “Upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).



He suffered our punishment for our sins for us, and by doing so, he paid our debt that we have with God of suffering in punishment for our sins. When we put our faith in him, God counts his suffering and death on the cross as paying our debt of suffering and death that we have with God in punishment for our sins, and so God sets us free of our sins. This is what Jesus did by way of anticipation, ahead of time, to this paralytic, thereby transforming his life. He will do the same for us if we come to him with sincere faith and genuine repentance.


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