A Fact Upon Which the Faith Rises or Falls

With Resurrection Sunday on the horizon, many Christians are thinking about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. We are moved by the scenes of the love of Christ laying down his life to save us from our sins. We grieve with the disciples as we think of their loss at the sight of the sealed tomb. And we rejoice in wonder as we think of our mighty Savior walking out of the grave to physically live eternally.

As we think about these glorious truths, may we also remember that God, in his holy word, tells us that this truth, the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, is a truth upon which our faith either stands or falls. If Jesus is alive, Christianity is true. If Jesus is not physically alive right now, our faith is empty and meaningless.

1 Corinthians 15:17-19 – 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

In this chapter, Paul is clearly responding against some in Corinth who are denying the physical resurrection of the dead. Part of Paul’s logic here is that, if indeed the dead are never raised, then Jesus was not raised. If Jesus is not raised, then we have lied about God and we have no eternal hope. If Jesus is not raised, Christianity is a farce.

Again, see the power of that language. If Jesus is dead, there is not a shred of hope. If, as some would claim, the resurrection of Jesus must be a figurative truth, a metaphorical truth, an in-your-heart truth, then there is no truth in the faith. If the body of Jesus lies in a grave, then claims of life in Christ are lies.

Christians, our faith stands or falls on the objective reality of the resurrection of Jesus. This is not an opinion question. This is not a morality question. This question is a factual and historical question of eternal significance.

So, let me proclaim truth to you today: Jesus is alive! He is not in the grave. His resurrection is not an imaginary wish or a figurative claim. The Son of God stood up, walked out of the tomb, and lives right now. Were Jesus still dead, a body would have been produced in the first century when claims of the resurrection began to spread. Were Jesus dead, his disciples would not have willingly gone to their own martyrdom to continue to proclaim Christ. The claim of resurrection would have fallen away nearly two millennia ago but for one thing: it is true.

What one believes about the resurrection of Jesus is a thing that impacts one’s eternity. If you believe in the resurrection of Jesus so as to run to him for grace, you have eternal life. If you reject the resurrection of Jesus or turn your back on the resurrected Jesus, you have no hope before God. Look at how Paul closes his letter to the Corinthians in the next chapter.

1 Corinthians 16:21–24 – 21 I, Paul, write this greeting with my own hand. 22 If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed. Our Lord, come! 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Love Jesus, and you have life. Do not love Jesus, and you are accursed by God. All this begins with a genuine belief in the fact that Jesus walked out of the tomb. Without a living Jesus, our faith is worthless. With a living Jesus, with love of the living Jesus, with grace from the living Jesus, we have eternal hope and eternal life.

No Other Way

Have you ever stopped to think about the difficulty of our forgiveness? God is holy. God is good. God is just. God is merciful. God agreed within the trinity to save a people for himself before time began. What are his options when dealing with our sin?

Understand, by the way, that when I speak of God’s “options” for dealing with our sin that I am not at all suggesting that any external force or morality imposes upon God restrictions. I am simply suggesting that God, because of exactly who he is, will only do that which is perfectly in keeping with his holy nature. God is not forced to be just by some external principle of justice that restricts him. Rather, God does justice because God is just. Justice is just because of the nature of God who is perfect justice. Understand the same thing if you apply love, goodness, mercy, kindness, or even wrathfulness to the character of God. These things are true of God because they are who God is, not because they impose themselves upon him or measure him from outside of himself.

Keep some other thoughts in mind. It is good and right for God to have wrath for sin. We all know that good people are rightly angry when evil is perpetrated. You have certainly watched the news, perceived a wrong, and been angry. And you have likely known a person who has been hurt by another person and felt genuinely and rightly furious. But even the best of people is sinful; our anger tainted. We have no idea of the intensity of the white-hot burning fury of totally righteous anger.

It is also good and right for God to have a heart of compassion. God loves to show mercy. God is kind and gracious. We know a little of what that feels like. WE know what it is like to have compassion on the ones we love. But our compassion is tainted by our sin too. We only have a tiny glimpse of the depths of the love and compassion of the Lord for us.

These issues come together in the glorious plan of the Lord. God chose to save a people for himself. At the same time, God would appropriately punish with infinite fury every sin that has ever been committed. For those who persist in hating and rejecting God, the wrath of God in hell will be just and perfect.

But what about the forgiven? We deserve infinite wrath too. How can God forgive us and still be just? He cannot simply overlook our sin and still be a God perfect in justice. If he fails to punish our sin, something is wrong in his love. Something is wrong in his treasuring of all that is good if the wrong against the good can simply be ignored.

Hence the perfect and eternal plan of God. God would take upon himself the just penalty for our sin so that it is properly punished while he simultaneously grants us mercy. Jesus would die in our place, a sacrificial lamb, to carry out the justice of God. Jesus would take to himself the infinite fury of God for the sins of the forgiven even as he, in his infinite worth, covers our sin and satisfies the anger of God for the evil we have done. This is precisely what Paul was pointing us to in Romans 3 when he spoke of the death of Jesus as something done so that God could be just and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Christ (Romans 3:25-26).

Now, here is the question that got my attention to cause me to write this down: Was there any other way? Could God have chosen some other plan? Could God have forgiven us in any way that would not require the death of his Son and the outpouring of wrath on Jesus to perfectly do justice for our sin?

The answer to the question is unequivocally no. God could not have saved our souls in any other way.

How do I know? Consider Jesus in the garden the night of his arrest. Jesus prayed to his Father with a very simple request.

Matthew 26:42 – Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.”

Jesus asked his Father to remove the cup of wrath from him if there was any other way (c.f. Matthew 26:39). Jesus asked if there might be any other way for the cup of wrath to be properly handled without him drinking it. Could God still rescue the chosen without Jesus having to take their sins upon himself and suffer in their place? And the rest of the book shows us that the answer from the Father is that this in fact cannot be done. The only way that our souls can be saved is if Jesus is directly punished by the Father for every last one of our sins.

Analytically this is not super difficult to understand. God, in his perfection, will properly punish every sin. If he does not do so, his love and his perfection and his justice and his holiness are all called into question. God lays upon Jesus the proper punishment for every person he will forgive, and Jesus bears their sins in his body on the cross. For those who will not be forgiven, their sins are properly punished as they spend eternity in hell under the wrath of the Almighty.

Stepping back from the analytical, this is emotionally stunning. God wants to save a people for himself. God rejoices in showing mercy. God rejoices in, as the holy trinity, gifting a people from the Father to the Son. We receive the infinite mercy of God because that fits perfectly who God is. And there was no other way for this plan to be accomplished than through the perfect life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Friends, the gospel is glorious. Never lose that wonder. God is just. God is merciful. Jesus proves both. And we who know him receive that glorious benefit. Praise be to our Lord!

Our Hope: Resurrection

The world we live in is maddening. Christians have conflict with each other over politics, policies, masks, social media posts, ministry strategies, and so much more. The cancel culture makes our society look like a bad joke made in a poorly written dystopian teen novel. Society embraces evil. Some believers are misled with bad doctrine or no doctrine at all. And our own personal sinfulness is clear.

Where do we find hope? In a recent reading, I was reminded of hope in something that should never be outside of my field of vision. Sadly, sometimes it takes a reminder to put my mind back where it belongs.

Think with me to the upper room discourse. Jesus has just had the last supper with his disciples, and he is teaching them to prepare them for his coming suffering. And, though the disciples are barely ready to receive it, Jesus points not only to his coming death but also to his resurrection.

John 14:18-19 – 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

Jesus knows that his death on the cross will be a terrible discouragement for the disciples. They will feel that they have been orphaned. They will feel alone and afraid. They will feel like the years of ministry that they have done and the hope they put in Jesus has somehow all gone wrong.

In some ways, the disciples will feel like Christians today can be tempted to feel. When your body does not do what it is supposed to do, you feel alone. When your children remind you of your shortcomings as a parent, you feel alone. When you realize that you have never lived up to being the husband or wife you promised your spouse you would be, you feel alone. When you want a spouse or you want children and this seems like it is just not on the way, you feel discouraged. When you see the nation slide toward self-destruction, you feel overwhelmed. When you see Christians show little grace and much nastiness in how they write to and about one another in public, you feel like there is nothing you can do to fix things.

Hear both what Jesus says as well as the huge biblical marker that he gives you for hope. Our Savior says to you, “I will not leave you as orphans…Because I live, you also will live.” Jesus promises us not to leave us as orphans. He will not leave us alone. He will not leave us without him. He will not leave us to ourselves. He will not leave us to the hopelessness of this world.

Where then is our hope? Here is the familiar doctrine that comforts and motivates us if we will remember it. Because Jesus lives, all of those who have come to him for grace will live too. The resurrection is our hope. The life of the Savior after death is our hope. The Savior’s conquest of the grave is our hope.

Jesus died. Jesus died the worst death any person has ever faced. This is not because of the physical horrors of the cross, though those were great. No, Jesus’ death was horrible because as he faced it, he bore the wrath of Almighty God for every sin God will ever forgive. Jesus took upon himself a sentence worth several eternities in hell, one for every sinner he will save. And—get this; don’t miss it—Jesus rose from the grave. Jesus took the ugliest death in eternal history and walked out of the tomb on the third day. Jesus truly conquered death.

And Jesus, who conquered death, Jesus who broke the power of death, Jesus who proved God just and merciful, that same Jesus says to us that, because he lives, we too will live. His resurrection is our hope. Jesus defeated a darkness that none of us could ever imagine. None of us has ever seen or felt the type of death that Jesus died. And Jesus got up. And Jesus tells us that we will live with him.

I cannot over-sell this. Christians, your hope is in the resurrection of the Savior. Without the resurrection, the cross is hopeless and empty. With the resurrection, we know that Jesus has defeated death, perfectly paid the price for every sin he will forgive, and opened the way for all of us to live well beyond this broken life. Jesus reminds us that our hope is not in our government. Our hope is not in the masks we wear or the masks we hope not to wear. Our hope is not in the civility of Christians on-line. Our hope is not in our skill as parents, spouses, money-managers, or coworkers. Our hope is built on the perfect life, sacrificial death, and gloriously powerful resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christian, let yourself reflect on the hope you have in the resurrection of Jesus. Do not stop at the cross as if that is all there is to our faith. Oh, the cross work of Christ is glorious, do not get me wrong. But the cross only gives us life if the Savior walks out of the tomb victorious. And the Savior says to you, “Because I live, you also will live.”

And if for some crazy reason you are reading this and do not know Jesus, let me tell you that the resurrection of Jesus is your only hope too. If you want to live, you must find yourself in the grace of Jesus. Stop battling against God. Stop living for yourself alone. Stop thinking you are the boss of your life and the one who determines true and false, right and wrong. Surrender to Jesus. Ask him to pay for your sins with his death. Ask him to give you credit for his perfect life. Ask him to give you life in his resurrection. Believe and Jesus and ask him to be your Savior.

Why Be Thankful?

I’m glad today to live where I do and when I do. I’m grateful for all who have sacrificed and served to give me what I have. I am grateful for the opportunities and the freedoms that I experience. I’m grateful to have family, friends, and a church who love me. And these are not the primary reason I’m thankful today.

Why be thankful? I am created by the God who made the universe. He gave me value and a purpose. And I, like all of humanity, promptly refused to fulfill that purpose. I have failed to be perfect from conception forward. And the God who made me could very rightly have cast me into hell immediately.

I am grateful, however, because the God who made me, against whom I have rebelled, chose to rescue me. God the Father sent Jesus, God the Son, into the world as a man to accomplish some amazing things. Jesus lived a perfect human life—the life I should have lived but could not. Jesus died as a sacrifice on the cross—suffering the death I deserve to die. Jesus rose from the grave—a feat I could have never accomplished and which proves his success and his glorious identity. And Jesus brought me salvation.

God has said that all who will repent and believe, all who will genuinely come to Jesus and Jesus alone for salvation, will be saved. When God brought me to trust in Jesus, he gave me glorious gifts. God applied to my account the perfect life that Jesus lived. It is as if his perfect test score is written down on my score sheet. God also applied Jesus’ death to cover my sin—he died a death that would have cost me an eternity in hell. And God proclaims to me that Jesus’ resurrection is my own. Now, because of Jesus and Jesus alone, I know that eternity in joy with the Lord is my forever home.

Why am I grateful? It has nothing to do with politics, health, wealth, prosperity, family, food, music, or the rest. All good things are gifts that ultimately remind us of the good God who made us and who sent his Son to be our Savior. And I encourage you, be thankful like this. Be thankful for Jesus.

And if you do not have his salvation, come to Jesus for life. How? Believe that God made you. Believe that you have sinned in falling short of God’s perfection. Understand that you can do nothing on your own to bridge the gap between you and the Lord. Entrust your soul to Jesus, placing all your hope for all your eternity in Jesus and his finished work. Admit you are a sinner and ask Jesus to forgive you. Surrender your life to his lordship. By the grace of God, truly believe in Jesus, and you will be saved. And that salvation will change your life, reorient your priorities, and grant you the forgiveness and eternal hope that will give you true reasons for gratitude.

God Provides His Own Lamb

H – Highlight

Genesis 22:8 – Abraham said, "God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son." So they went both of them together.

E – Explain

God tested Abraham with a command to sacrifice Isaac. Of course, Isaac was the fulfillment of God’s promise that Abraham himself would have a son with Sarah. And Isaac was to carry the promise of god.

When Isaac noticed that they had everything they needed to make an offering to God other than a lamb, he asked his dad. Abraham confidently tells Isaac that the Lord will provide his own lamb.

A – Apply

It is hard to say if Abraham knew how meaningful his words would be. We only understand it later. Abraham knew that God would solve the problem with Isaac. Abraham believed God, and his faith did not waiver here. But I wonder if Abraham knew that, in ultimate reality, God would provide his own Lamb, the Lamb of God, to pay for the sins of all he would save.

This text calls on me to understand that God provides what is necessary for my salvation. I could never have provided the needed Lamb for my sin. No animal could take my place and cover my sin. Only Jesus, the Son of God and the perfect Lamb of God, could do this.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for providing for yourself the Lamb. I could never have covered my own sin. This should make me grateful and humble. Help me to remember Jesus and be wonderfully grateful that you chose to do the impossible to save my soul. Help me live to glorify you, as you did all the work to save my soul.

Faith Alone

H – Highlight

Genesis 15:6 – And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

E – Explain

Abram was uncertain as to how God would fulfill his promise to him early in chapter 15. God had said Abram would have a family that would grow into a nation, but Abram and his wife had no children. When Abram asked God how this would work, God told Abram again that he would have as many descendants as he can see stars in the sky.

Abram believed God. And when Abram believed God, the Lord credited Abram with righteousness. Instead of Abram living a righteous life, fully sinless and perfect, God took Abram’s faith and credited Abram with a record of righteousness.

A – Apply

This verse got my attention because it is one of the most significant verses in all of Scripture. It lays a foundation for us to see that we do not please God by being good. Instead, God sees our faith, a faith that is a gift from him (Eph. 2:8), and he grants to us a record of righteousness.

R – Respond

Prayer: Lord, I’m so grateful that salvation is by your grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. I’m grateful that you give us our faith as a gift. Thus, I see that my salvation is completely of your doing, by your grace, and for your glory. I praise you for this gift. I acknowledge here and now that I have never been good enough to earn anything but your judgment. I thank you for Jesus.

Working Salvation with Your Own Hand

Gospel is found all throughout the Old Testament. We see clear pointers to Jesus in the tabernacle, in the Passover, in Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac, or in Noah’s ark. But we can also find pictures of the gospel in places we do not expect as well.

I found myself thinking of the more subtle presence of the gospel when reading about three strange yet similar incidents in the life of David in 1 Samuel 24-26. In 1 Samuel 24, David has the chance to kill King Saul in a cave. David nearly does, but instead cuts off a corner of the king’s robe. And David feels guilt for stretching out his hand against the Lord’s anointed and repents. In 1 Samuel 25, David straps on his sword and moves to kill Nabal, a foolish man who insulted him. Abigail, a godly woman, intercedes with David and prevents him from killing the unworthy Nabal. In 1 Samuel 26, David will not allow Abishai to strike Saul down when they sneaked into the camp of Israel and took Saul’s spear and water pitcher.

Where do I see gospel in these incidents? Look at David’s response to Abigail.

1 Samuel 25:32-33 – 32 And David said to Abigail, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who sent you this day to meet me! 33 Blessed be your discretion, and blessed be you, who have kept me this day from bloodguilt and from working salvation with my own hand!

David thanked Abigail for keeping him from working salvation with his own hand. Tie that thought back to the incident with Saul in the cave or in the camp, and you will see that, in those incidents too, David did not use his own strength to accomplish his own physical salvation. And there is where I think the gospel pointer is found. In our salvation, the one thing that we cannot do is accomplish our own salvation by the strength of our own hands.

When we are lost, we have no hope of saving ourselves. The offense we have committed in sinning against the Lord is infinitely great. We could never pay the penalty for our own sin without spending eternity in hell. Also, the gap between our own righteousness and that required by God for us to be welcome in his presence is infinite. Thus, we cannot behave well enough, even were we to be perfect from today forward, to earn entrance into the presence of the Lord. No, we cannot accomplish our own salvation by our own hands. We must instead trust in the Lord to accomplish our salvation for us.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is that Jesus, God the Son, has in fact accomplished our salvation for us. Jesus pays our penalty, a debt we could never repay. The Lord imputes to us Christ’s righteousness, granting us the ability to stand in God’s presence which we could never earn. And all of this comes to us, not by our works, but by God’s grace through faith in Christ.

The temptation to earn your way into God’s favor is a large one. And it is an anti-gospel. Thus, we should praise God for every picture he gives us to remind us that we are not to seek to work our own salvation.

God is Different Than People Think

You know why Scripture is such a gift? You could never know God without his revealing himself in his word. If God does not tell us what he is like, if we do not pay attention, we will totally have the wrong image in our minds as to who god is, what he does, and what he requires.

I Thought of this in a read through Exodus 19-20. In that passage, the text around the original giving of the Ten Commandments, God makes some restrictions on the people that do not sound like what many around you think God is like.

Why do I say this? In our world, most people think that God is open to any sincere attempt to worship him. People assume that God is open to all expressions of human religion so long as those expressions do not attack other humans. But look at God’s words and God’s standards for the people near the mountain. In two places, we will see something important.

Exodus 19:21-22 – 21 And the Lord said to Moses, “Go down and warn the people, lest they break through to the Lord to look and many of them perish. 22 Also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves, lest the Lord break out against them.”

As God prepared to speak to Moses from the Mountain, he gave two significant restrictions. The people could not approach or touch the mountain while God’s presence was upon it. And the priests could not experience this day without a holy consecration. Either group who disobeyed the commands of God here would die. God himself would kill people for disobedience.

But that does not sound like the modern understanding of God put forth by so many people. And at this point we have to ask, is our picture of god from God’s revelation or from our own minds? God is holy. God may not be approached by sinful man. And God will destroy those who violate his holy standards and remain without his forgiveness.

Exodus 20:25 – If you make me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stones, for if you wield your tool on it you profane it.

Here God points out that the people of Israel were not free to make just any kind of altar for worship. If they were to fashion a stone altar with their tools, their touching of the altar would defile it. God was clear that his worship was to be holy. God is clear that he sets the standards as to what is acceptable and unacceptable worship.

The simple thought that I want us to take away from these passages is that God is holy. God is not what the modern American believes. God will judge people. God will judge based on his own standards. God will not bend to our will and our standards. God is not OK with just any old action we want to take. God will tell us how he is to be worshipped.

And in both passages, we see that God is clear that sinful mankind cannot approach him. If we wish to avoid God’s judgment, we must find ourselves under his grace. We are sinners who need to be forgiven. We need to have God apply to us the perfect righteousness of Christ. If we do not have God’s forgiving grace and the imputed righteousness of Jesus, anything we would do that could be considered worship will only serve to bring us under God’s judgment.

So, what do we take away? First, you need Jesus. Ask him to forgive you and cleanse you before the Lord. Surrender to him and be saved by his grace through faith. Then, realize that God has a high and holy standard that is far more dangerous than anything you have ever imagined. Submit to his holy word in order to live and worship in a way that pleases the Lord.

Deliver God’s Call

Matthew 10:7 – And proclaim as you go, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

In Matthew 10, Jesus is preparing his disciples to go out on a little short-term mission trip. They are going to have to preach. Jesus reminds the disciples of the message that he has been preaching all along. Both Jesus and John the Baptist in this gospel have been telling people to repent because God’s kingdom is at hand (3:2; 4:17). Now Jesus tells his disciples to go preach the very message that he has been proclaiming. They are to deliver the call of God.

What would it look like to deliver this call? The disciples were to preach the gospel, at least its beginnings. Once Jesus had finished his work, the message and call became even clearer.

What, then is the message that we proclaim that can be summarized, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand?” It is the gospel message. Do you know it? Can you easily tell it to somebody? Let’s review it.

The gospel begins with God. There is a God who created this universe and everything in it. Because he created the universe, God has the right to own everything in it. God is perfect, pure, and holy in every way. He is loving toward the people he has made. He is also just and will always rightly judge.

God created humanity, mankind, in his image. The people God made are to display for the universe around us the glory of God. But mankind has rebelled against the Lord. Every last one of us has sinned against God, battling against his standards and trying to be our own masters. Because of that rebellion, we have all earned for ourselves the judgment of God, his wrath forever. If we die under that wrath, our eternal destiny will be hell.

But God determined before creation that he was going to rescue a people for himself. At the proper time in human history, God sent into the world his very own Son. Jesus, God in flesh, the second person of the trinity, was born of a virgin in Bethlehem. Jesus lived out a perfect life, perfectly fulfilling the law of God. Jesus then died on a Roman cross, suffering the wrath of God for the sins of the people God would rescue. Jesus never sinned, and did not deserve to die. Jesus never failed, and did not deserve to be punished. But Jesus chose to serve as a substitutionary sacrifice, to take the place of those God would forgive.

After his death on the cross for the sins of others, Jesus was buried. But, on the third day from his crucifixion, Jesus rose from the grave. In his resurrection, Jesus proved that his perfect life and sacrificial death had in fact done what God had intended them to do. Jesus proved that everything he claimed about himself was true., His sacrifice was acceptable and he would be able to grant life forever to all he would rescue.

The message of good news is that now, for all who will turn away from their sin and trust in Jesus, there is forgiveness of sin and life forever in Christ. We must realize that we do not want to live in rebellion against God. We must declare to God that we are willing to submit to him and his commands, even if we know we will be imperfect. We must believe the truth about Jesus, and place our entire trust for our entire souls in his finished work. When this happens, we can know that God has done a work in our hearts, drawn us to himself, forgiven us of our sins, made us into his children, and granted us heaven forever.

What is the message? Repent, turn from your sin and trust in Jesus. Why? Because Jesus has brought God’s kingdom. God is holy. We are sinners. Jesus is our perfect Savior who died and rose from the grave. And we must believe in Jesus and turn from our sins to be saved. That is the message we declare.

Friends, learn the gospel. Believe the gospel. And go out and deliver God’s call to a lost and dying world.

And, if you have not come to faith in Jesus Christ, I urge you to repent, for God’s kingdom is here. Repent, turn from sin and trust in Jesus. This is your only hope.

Miraculous Proof

In the New Testament, Jesus performed miracles for multiple reasons. Of course he did miracles out of love and kindness. The Savior did miracles to show that he was pushing back the effects of the fall of man, defeating sin and Satan by his power and for his glory. And, Jesus did miracles to show us all that he is exactly who he claims to be, God the Son, God in flesh.

Matthew 9:2-8 — 2 And behold, some people brought to him a paralytic, lying on a bed. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming.” 4 But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? 5 For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise and walk’? 6 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” 7 And he rose and went home. 8 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

Here is an example of a miracle in which Jesus intends to attest to his deity and authority. Before he heals the paralytic who had been carried to him, Jesus pronounces the man’s sins as forgiven. What was he doing? Jesus was making a declaration that was only God’s to make.

Only God has the right to forgive sins against God. I cannot forgive you for sinning against my neighbor. It’s not my place. If you have offended my neighbor, you need to go to my neighbor to seek his forgiveness. And I cannot forgive your sins against God. Only God can do that.

The scribes, for all their flaws, saw exactly what Jesus was doing. They saw him claiming to be God by claiming the right to forgive a man’s sins against God. This is why they said he was blaspheming. And, were Jesus not God, he in fact would have been blaspheming.

Then Jesus sets the stage for the miracle. He asks the scribes which is easier, to declare the man’s sins forgiven or to tell him to rise and walk. This is not a difficult question. It is easy to declare a person forgiven. Who can prove you wrong? But it is hard to do the miraculous and to make the crippled man walk. Jesus is presenting an argument of greater to lesser. If he can do the obviously hard thing of giving this man the ability to walk, he will be showing us that he can do a thing only God can do. And if that hard thing is true, if Jesus proves he does what only God can do, then, Jesus has the right to declare the man forgiven.

WE see it happen. WE see Jesus heal a man. We see the crowds astonished. We see Jesus prove that he is God with God’s authority to forgive.

Do you see that Jesus is God with the authority of God to forgive you? If so, you should come to him in faith. After all, the paralytic was not forgiven because of his performance of religious rituals. Jesus forgave him when he saw the group’s faith. Trust in Jesus. Run to him for mercy. Know that he and only he can forgive you. And you, like the paralytic, will find the forgiveness of God. But know that, as the paralytic’s life was changed from that moment forward, so too will your life be changed as to come to Jesus is to surrender to him as your Master and Lord.

And, if we see this, we should know that we must come to Jesus and Jesus alone to find God’s forgiveness.