January 19 I Tuesday
“When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralysed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” —Mark 2:5
Imagine being one of the people in the crowd when Jesus first met the paralyzed man. In the middle of Jesus’s teaching, we hear some scratching as dirt crumbles from above. Light suddenly pierces through a hole in the roof, and after a few moments, we see a mat being lowered with somebody on it. Many in the crowd, including the paralyzed man and his friends, were now eagerly anticipating Jesus to do what He had done the last time He was in Capernaum. He had spent much of His time exorcising demons and healing people; there was no reason to believe this encounter would go any different.
But Jesus’s first concern was not with the man’s paralysis. He looked beyond the man’s physical condition to see his deeper spiritual need. We have no idea how the man came to be paralyzed, nor should we assume it was the consequence of some previous sin, which was often believed in Jewish tradition, but his physical condition in that moment does serve as a picture of the paralyzing power of sin.
Theologian John Piper explains, “There is a Christian version of this paralysis. The decision has been made to trust Christ. The shoot of hope and joy has sprung up. The long battle against sin has begun. But the defeats are many, and the plant begins to wither. One sees only clouds and gathering darkness. The problem is not perplexing doctrine or evolutionary assault or threats of persecution. The problem is falling down too many times. Gradually the fatal feelings creep in: the fight is futile; it isn’t worth it.”
We can want very much to get to Jesus but feel stuck on our mats. We can become so deeply ashamed or disheartened by the gravity of our sin that we think ourselves unworthy of seeking forgiveness. Even those who already enjoy a relationship with Christ feel this way. We know that Christ has forgiven us, but as we repeatedly give in to the same temptations, we may start self-diagnosing ourselves as unsuitable for participation in His work. We can have so much trouble seeing past our failures that we miss the victory we have in Christ’s death and resurrection.
The most important need we all have is the forgiveness of our sins. God is a patient and longsuffering God who will never cease offering us forgiveness. Though we must continually resist temptation, turning to Him in repentance means there is nothing we have done or ever could do that can separate us from Him. As David confirms, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).
Prayer: Gracious God, thank You for Your unfailing, never-ending love, forgiving me no matter how many times I sin. Work in me, Lord, to strengthen my resistance to temptation. Amen.