AGCC Sun. a.m. 2/13/00
TEXT: Matt. 9:1-8
INTRO: The presence and power of God in this world gives us hope. Hope is a powerful reality. Despair is like a cancer to the soul, it dries up the heart, it removes joy from the mind, but hope looks forward and sees something new, something great, it brings life and the expectation of life. Hope helps those with loss see the possibilities of recovery, of gain, of something wonderful and new.
ILLUS:A man in his middle years was on a Caribbean cruise. On the first day out he noticed an attractive woman about his age who smiled at him in a friendly way as he passed her on the deck, which pleased him. That night he managed to get seated at the same table with her for dinner. As the conversation developed, he commented that he had seen her on the deck that day and he had appreciated her friendly smile. When she heard this she smiled and commented, "Well, the reason I smiled was that when I saw you I was immediately struck by your strong resemblance to my third husband." At this he perked up his ears and said, "Oh, how many times have you been married?" She looked down at her plate, smiled demurely, and answered, "Twice." -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 290.
In a world filled with brokenness and sin there is a place of hope, that hope is found in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus touched those who were filled with despair, and He rewarded those who came with faith and hope in having their needs met by an encounter with God.
Christ is able to meet the needs of body and soul … He is our hope for both eternity and this world.
PROP. SENT: The bible teaches us that Christ is able to meet all our needs, of body and soul. He who can heal the soul for all eternity can also heal the body for the temporal existence in this life.
I. THE GREATEST HEALING 9:1-2
A. Condemnation 9:1-2a
1. Somewhere in the vicinity of Capernaum there was a sick man who had some very good friends that cared enough about him to bring him to Jesus for healing.
a. There is little doubt that this man had exhausted the help from doctors and others without relief.
b. The fact that others bring him to Jesus would indicate that they knew he was desperate.
2. Jesus' first statement to this man had nothing to do with healing him physically however, it had to do with forgiving him!
a. This would indicate that this man's first and greatest need was cleansing from sin.
b. It may indicate that in this case his sickness was related to his sinfulness.
c. NOT ALL sickness is the result of personal sin, but sometimes personal sin can result in sickness, and it may be that this was so in this case.
3. The man needed help, but perhaps his friends didn't see the condemnation in his heart, only his physical need … Jesus saw both needs.
4. Since it seems to be the faith of the friends more than the man's own faith at work in the beginning it may be that this man was full of guilt and couldn't shake his own condemnation much less the physical problems he had.
5. No amount of convincing himself that he was not guilty had worked, and obviously Jesus saw this in him and so addressed his sin issue before his physical issue.
6. Sinful man tries hard to ignore the sense of his own sins, but trying to not accept the fact of guilt won't make it go away, it takes a Savior to make guilt of sins go away!
ILLUS:David Seamands tells the story of the alchemist who sold villagers a special powder that he claimed would turn water into gold provided that when they mixed it, they never thought of red monkeys. Well, of course, no one ever got the gold, because you can't tell yourself to stop thinking about red monkeys or you'll just keep thinking about red monkeys. It doesn't work to say, "Well, I'm just not going to think about those things. I'm going to put all of that out of my mind." So often I see Christian brothers and sisters trying to do that. -- Donald McCullough, "Blessed Are the Pure in Heart," Preaching Today, Tape No. 83.
7. This man could not escape his spiritual sickness nor his physical sickness … but his friends brought him to the right source!
B. Cleansing! 9:2b
1. Jesus' comment to the sick man before forgiving him of his sins is important here, "Take heart" (NIV) or "Be of good cheer" (KJV).
a. The sick man was in despair as much for his sins as for his sickness!
b. While he no doubt hoped to have his sickness removed he would not have enjoyed his health with a guilt ridden soul!
c. It is not enough to be well physically!
2. It may be that this man's sickness was related to sin, so the sin issue had to be dealt with first before physical healing was possible.
a. While not all sickness is the result of personal sin there are examples in the Bible where personal sin did bring on sickness:
(1. Moses' sister Miriam was struck with leprosy for sinning, and only after Moses prayed for her (indicating his forgiveness of her attempts to overthrow his leadership) was God willing to heal her also.
(2. But we must be careful here too, for godly people have also suffered and even died of diseases that are NOT related to personal sins; Elisha died of a disease though a man of God.
b. This man however was in need of healing spiritually as well as needing healing phsycially.
3. Jesus was impressed with these friends' faith, it almost seems that the sick man himself has none, perhaps his own guilt of sinfulness prevented his own faith from acting here and so it is his friends that bring him to Jesus by faith.
a. This man needed a change of heart before a change of physical condition.
b. Just healing this man physically would not help him ultimately.
c. This is where the world often makes mistakes, we treat illness as only a physical problem … but many times there are underlying spiritual issues at work or emotional issues at work that also need addressing.
d. The world often misses the true need of a sinner … and just giving more money or help physically won't solve the person's real need which is much deeper.
ILLUS:D. L. Moody, the great American evangelist, once said, "If a man is stealing nuts and bolts from a railway track, and, in order to change him, you send him to college, at the end of his education, he will steal the whole railway track." -- Ravi Zacharias, "The Lostness of Humankind," Preaching Today, Tape No. 118.
4. Jesus never misses the most important need first … and this man needed healing of the soul BEFORE healing of the body!
a. Jesus' statement to "be of good cheer" or "to take heart" indicated that this man could rediscover joy in knowing he is accepted before God, that his sins are gone!
b. this must have been a huge burden on this man's heart. Despondency alone can create physical illness over time!
c. If this man's soul wasn't healed first the physical healing might not have lasted long anyway!
II. THE GREAT HEALING 9:3-8
A. Contrasts 9:3-5
1. Jesus' forgiveness of this man evokes an outcry by a bunch of religious leaders who had come only to evaluate what Jesus was teaching.
a. There is not one word from them about this poor man's need, only their anger that Jesus was forgiving sins!
b. They cared nothing about this man, only their own status and theology!
2. When religion becomes more important than people we are in trouble and have missed true religion!
3. Here was a sick man laden with guilt of sins, and in need … and in the audience was a bunch of self righteous religious leaders whose only concern is their own theology … not one word about the man or his need, only anger at Jesus!
a. The sick man's hopes were in Christ.
b. The religious leader's hopes were in their own status.
c. It matters where we put our hope!
ILLUS:Several years ago the noted British journalist Malcolm Muggeridge was a guest at a breakfast in Washington, D.C. ... When he had finished his testimony, he made a number of comments about world affairs, all of which were very pessimistic. One of the Christians present said to the speaker, "Dr. Muggeridge, you have been very pessimistic. Don't you have any reason for optimism?" Malcolm Muggeridge replied, "My friend, I could not be more optimistic than I am, because my hope is in Jesus Christ alone." He allowed that remark to settle for a few seconds, and then he added, "Just think if the apostolic church had pinned its hope on the Roman Empire!" -- Richard Halverson in The Living Body. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 9.
4. Jesus asks them what is easier to say, "thy sins be forgiven" or "get up and walk"?
a. Obviously they will have to respond that saying sins are forgiven is easier, for who can tell if it happened or not … but this will set the stage for Jesus to prove to them the power He has, for in healing a paralytic man their arguments against him will cease immediately for this will be so obvious!
b. If Jesus can forgive sins with eternal consequences He can surely heal a physical temporary problem!
5. They were so concerned about the wrong things … in reality, the sinful sick man had the same need they had … the need to have sins forgiven!
B. Cured! 9:6-7
1. For the sick man his sickness was the ticket to finding two healings, of body and soul!
a. Without this physical need he may never have realized his spiritual need.
b. In this way it proved to be a blessing in the long run!
ILLUS:I recently read a story by a woman who said that as a girl she was poor. She said, "I grew up in a cold water flat, but I married a man who had money. And he took me up to a place where I had flowers, and I had gardens, and I had grass. It was wonderful. And we had children. "Then suddenly I became physically sick. I went to the hospital, and the doctors ran all sorts of tests. One night the doctor came into my room, and with a long look on his face, said, 'I'm sorry to tell you this. Your liver has stopped working.' "I said, 'Doctor, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Are you telling me that I am dying?' And he said, 'I, I can't tell you any more than that. Your liver has stopped working. We've done everything we can to start it.' And he walked out. "I knew I was dying. I was so weak, I had to feel my way along the corridor down to the chapel of the hospital. I wanted to tell God off. I wanted to tell God, 'You are a shyster! You've been passing yourself off as a loving God for two thousand years, but every time anyone begins to get happy you pull the rug out from under them.' I wanted this to be a face-to-face telling off of God. "And just as I got into the center aisle of the chapel, I tripped, I swooned, I fainted. And I looked up, and there stenciled along the step into the sanctuary, where the altar is, I saw these words: LORD, BE MERCIFUL TO ME A SINNER. I know God spoke to me that night. I know he did." She didn't say how God communicated this to her, but what God said was, "You know what this is all about. It's about the moment of surrender; it's about bringing you to that moment when you will surrender everything to me. These doctors, they do the best they can. but they only treat. I'm the only one who can cure you." And she said, "There with my head down on my folded arms in the center of the chapel, repeating, 'Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,' I surrendered to God. I found my way back to my hospital bed, weak as I was. "The next morning, after the doctor ran the blood tests and the urinalysis and so forth, he said, 'Your liver has started working again. We don't know why. We don't know why it stopped, and we don't know why it started up again.' And I said in my heart, But I know. Oh but I know. God has brought me to the brink of disaster, just to get me to turn my life over to him." -- John Powell, "Prayer as Surrender," Preaching Today, Tape No. 108.
2. Jesus heals this man, his sins were forgiven and now comes God's mercy to restore the man's physical health.
a. Jesus commands the man to get up and walk.
b. Jesus tells him to also go home … he didn't need to be around these self righteous religious leaders who offered him nothing except their theological prisons.
c. The man walks out - forgiven and healed!
3. Imagine the joy this man must have experienced!
a. His sins were gone, his long term guilt removed.
b. His health was restored, and with his sins gone he could actually enjoy the good health that was now his.
C. Conviction 9:8
1. While the crowd didn't quite know yet who Jesus was exactly, they knew that God had just visited that place and they broke out in praise to God for what they had seen.
a. The only ones not celebrating were the religious leaders!
b. It was more important to them to be right than having a man healed!
2. It didn't take a Bible college degree for the crowd to recognize the hand of God at work.
a. You don't have to have deep theology to see God at work, just faith!
b. Christ is the answer to all our needs, spiritual and physical.
3. The faith of a few friends and the presence of Christ is all that is needed for God to do great things.
a. Once we get our eyes off ourselves, and put them on Christ things happen.
b. Never underestimate the power of God when Christ is the focus!
ILLUS:A friend of mine who was a minister in southern California told me recently of a woman in a mental sanitarium there. She'd been in the sanitarium for many years with an extreme depression. She used to just sit on a bench every day staring at the earth--no conversation, no response. And one day a new doctor who'd never seen her came down the hall and greeted her. He said, "Good morning!" She made no reply. "What is your name?" he said. No answer. "Well, my name is Doctor Heven, H-E-V-E-N, and I'll be by to see you again tomorrow." Then he started away. But she lifted her head and said to him--and because he did not know the patient, he did not know how remarkable it was that she was saying anything at all--"What did you say your name was?" He said, "Heven, H-E-V-E-N." Now, somehow in the confused processes of that wounded mind, that woman confused the word Heven with the word heaven, and she began thinking about heaven. As she thought about heaven, she thought about God, and she thought of God's love made known to us Christ. The next day she said to everyone she met in the hospital, "This is the day which the Lord hath made." And the day after that, "Yea, I walk through the valley of the shadow of evil, but I fear no evil." Within six days she was saying, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Within five weeks she had been released from the hospital, and for the last fourteen years she has been carrying out her responsibilities as a leading teacher in southern California. -- Bruce Thielemann, "Christus Imperator," Preaching Today, Tape No. 55.
c. Christ is still desiring to touch soul and body today, are we ready?
4. What's keeping you from Christ?
CONCLUSION: The needy found Christ, those who needed healing spiritually and those who needed healing physically. Christ is the answer to all our needs! When the lame came to Jesus they often walked away whole … but when the proud Pharisees who had walked to see Jesus left they often left spiritually lame - without hope, without faith, without salvation. Do you know the healer of soul and body?