A popular refrain today is the teaching that Jesus came to love people and meet their needs. I’ve constantly heard people say that religion and even Christians in general are too judgmental and restrictive. I would never argue that much of Jesus’ ministry was about meeting people where they were. He didn’t judge or outright condemn (John 3:17), but instead he spoke hope into people’s lives and met some of their immediate physical needs.
While all of that is true, Jesus does actually care about our sin problem and how it keeps us separated from God. He realizes that sin is a far greater problem in our lives than what may be ailing us physically or circumstantially. Yes, he came to sacrifice himself so we could be saved. But his sacrifice and love should affect us in such a way that we become repulsed by our sin. We should do whatever we can to get rid of it and not excuse our behavior because of the love of God (Romans 6:1-11).
“And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no more room, not even at the door. And he was preaching the word to them. 3 And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men. 4 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 bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”
In the above passage, Jesus heals a paralytic, but first, we see him forgive his sins. I’m sure that when this man came to Jesus, he was only focused on his physical wellbeing. And rightly so. This man probably rested all his hope on being able to walk again. For anyone who’s paralyzed, I’m sure they would give anything for that blessing. What this man doesn’t know is that he needs spiritual healing far worse than he needs to be physically healed. By forgiving the man’s sins, Jesus is giving him what he is truly longing for and doesn’t even realize. He’s giving him Jesus!
There is such a powerful lesson to be learned from this story, and it’s especially applicable today in our religious landscape of love and grace above all. Jesus is teaching that our sin does matter. He’s teaching that our sin is the biggest problem we have and that it keeps us from a relationship with God. Jesus doesn’t want us to build our hope on our own strength just like he doesn’t want the paralytic to build his hope on the ability to walk. He wants us to find our identity in Christ. He wants us to leave our life of sin behind (Ephesians 4:22-24) and quit making excuses so that grace may abound.
Jesus’ love and grace find their fulfillment when we accept those gifts with a grateful heart and are willing to do the work necessary to defeat the sin in our lives.