The King’s Healing for the Nations

Rob Green March 6, 2016 Matthew 8:-9

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Matthew 8 and 9 give us three reasons for the nations to rejoice because of the King’s healing

Reason #1: God in Christ is the solution for the healing of the nations from their suffering

A. Christ’s gracious healing of the Leper (8:1-4)

B. Christ’s gracious healing of the Centurion’s servant (8:5-13)

C. Christ’s gracious healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (8:14-15)

Reason #2: God in Christ is the solution for victory over the captor of the nations

Reason #3: God in Christ is the solution for the sin of the nations.

A. The Centurion’s faith (8:5-13)

B. The lack of faith of the crowd and disciples (8:18-27)

C. Christ’s authority to forgive sins (9:1-8)

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All right. We are continuing our study this morning on Jesus and the nations, which is a study through the Gospel of Matthew encouraging us to be thinking about how it is that Jesus actually came not simply for the Jews but also for all the nations. That’s really part of our annual theme of loving the world. By the way, don’t you think that that is one cool graphic? I think that is one cool little graphic there. I'm so glad for people like Arvid who create stuff like that, just really creative. This is the first time I had the chance to mention it.

The first week, Pastor Viars demonstrated that Matthew presents Jesus as the King who was born not simply for the Jews but also for all the gentiles as well. His family tree included several foreigners, including Ruth and Rahab. The Magi from the East come looking to worship Christ while all of Jerusalem, just a few miles away, they don’t pay very much attention at all. John the Baptist confronts religious leaders and explains to them they are the axes at the roots of the tree, and the tree symbolizing the nation of Israel and the Lord is about ready to raise up new followers, that is from the nations. In Matthew 4, Matthew quotes from Isaiah showing that the Messiah King Jesus was born both to Israel as well as all the nations.

Then last week, Pastor Viars emphasized this King, King Jesus, was also righteous and he came to give us his righteousness because we did not have one of our own. That was then to be lived out in a kingdom ethic where we were to be salt and light of the earth, drawing all men around us to Christ. Now today, our task is to consider the King's healing for the nations, the King's healing for the nations. With that in mind, I'd like you to turn your Bibles to Matthew Chapter 8, Matthew Chapter 8. We're going to begin in Verse 1. That is on page 6 of the back section of the Bible in the chair in front of you, Matthew Chapter 8 or page 6 in the back section of the Bible.

As you're turning there, I'd like to highlight 2 things that are just kind of in the background of our study. The first one is that this is part of a larger section that runs through Matthew Chapter 10 that focuses particularly on Jesus' authority, that he is going to ask questions like, "How is it that you can announce that the kingdom of heaven is at hand? Who has the authority to actually do that?" He's going to ask the question, "Well, who has the authority to forgive sin? Who is going to call people to leave everything in order to follow him? Who has the authority to do that?" He's going to do "work" on the Sabbath day, so, "Who has the authority to do all of that?" One of the answers to that question is going to be the focus of our time, and that is his regular healing ministry to all sorts of people authenticates his message and demonstrates his authority.

The second thing I'd like to just point by way of background is that the healing ministry of Jesus does not fit into a single pattern. Instead, it is actually quite varied, but what it does do is every time points back to the person and character of our Lord. We're actually going to see some of the variability, and that’s going to be a source of encouragement and rejoicing for us this morning, even in this text. I'm going to be reading from Matthew Chapter 8, Verse 1, all the way to Matthew Chapter 9, Verse 8. This is the word of the Lord.

"When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him and a leper came to him and bowed down before him and said, 'Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.' Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, 'I am willing, be cleansed,' and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. Then Jesus said to him, 'See that you tell no one, but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded as a testimony to them.' When Jesus entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, imploring him and saying, 'Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.' Jesus said to him, 'I will come and heal him.'

"But the centurion said, 'Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof, but just say the word and my servant will be healed, for I am also a man under authority with soldiers under me, and I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it.' Now when Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who were following, 'Truly, I say to you I have not found such great faith among anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from the East and West and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, but the sons of the kingdom will be cast into the outer darkness. In the place, there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.' And Jesus said to the centurion, 'Go, it shall be done for you, as you have believed,' and the servant was healed at that very moment."

Verse 14, "When Jesus came into Peter's home, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and waited on him. When evening came, they brought to him many who were demon-possessed and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all of those who were ill. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, 'He himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.' Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea.

"Then a scribe came and said to him, 'Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.' Jesus said to him, 'The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.' Another disciple said, 'Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.' But Jesus said to him, 'Follow me and allow the buried to bury their own dead.' When he got in the boat, his disciples followed him, and behold, there arose a great storm in the sea, so the boat was covered with the waves, but Jesus himself was asleep. And they came to him and woke him, saying, 'Save us, Lord, we are perishing.' And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?' Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.

"The men were amazed and said, 'What kind of man is this that even the winds and the sea obey him?' When they came to the other side, into the country of the Gadarenes, 2 men who were demon-possessed met him as they were coming out of the tombs. They were so extremely violent that no one could pass by that way, and they cried out, saying, 'What business do we have with each other, son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?' Now there was a herd of many swine feeding at a distance from them, and the demons began to entreat him, saying, 'If you are going to cast us out, send us into the herd of swine.' He said to them, 'Go,' and they came out and went into the swine and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea and perished in the waters.

"The herdsmen ran away and went to the city and reported everything, including what had happened to the demoniacs, and behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus and when they saw him, they implored him to leave their region. Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to his own city, and there they brought to him a paralytic lying on a bed, and seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, 'Take courage, son, your sins are forgiven.' Some of the scribes said to themselves, 'This fellow blasphemes.'

"And Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, 'Why are you thinking evil in your hearts? Which is easier to say, 'Your sins are forgiven or to say get up and walk'? but so that you may know that the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins.' Then he said to the paralytic, 'Get up, pick up your bed, and go home,' and he got up and went home. And when the crowd saw this, they were awestruck and glorified God, who had given such authority to men."

I'd like to suggest to you that Matthew 8 and 9 give us 3 reasons for the nations, that is, us to rejoice because of the King's healing, to rejoice because of the King's healing. Here's number 1, that God in Christ is the solution for the healings of the nations from their suffering.

I. God in Christ is the solution for the healing of the nations from their suffering

You might even include the word "physical" there, their physical suffering. Jesus is going to heal a number of individuals in the text that we just read. The first one describes a leper. Now leprosy was not a specific disease back then as it is in our day, but referred to a general type of skin ailment. Here's what happens. There's a large crowd, Verse 1, who has gathered around and a particular leper comes. Let me tell you what that would have been like: the Red Sea parting.

You say, "Well why is that?" Because the leper had certain requirements. See, the skin disease made him what was called "unclean" in the Bible, so, therefore, there were certain things about that individual that were not true for those who were "clean." For example, he had to wear special clothes. They had to let their hair grow out. He had to cry as he went out into the camp, saying, "Unclean, unclean." He had to live alone, and his dwelling place had to be outside of the camp. The closer that he got to someone, the more they backed up. The closer he got, the more they backed up. You could just see the Red Sea parting as this guy's trying to make his way to Jesus. Can you imagine? Can you imagine the challenge that would be? Can you imagine the isolation that this man would have experienced? Can you imagine the humiliation that he would have experienced?

If we choose to isolate ourselves, that’s one thing, isn't it? If I say, "I don’t want to have any friends. I don’t want to hang out with anybody. Someone reaches out for and I don’t give a rip," well, that’s one kind of isolation, but it's a whole 'nother kind of isolation when it's forced upon you. You walk out and it's not because you want to be alone. People avoid you because you make them unclean.

See, there's one other little piece of the whole clean-unclean business, and that is if I'm unclean and you touch me, what do you become? You become unclean just like I am. You know what that means? That means you’ve got to live in isolation too. That means you're excluded from the community too, which is why I'm going to back up. I don’t want to be with you because I understand that if I hang out with you, I can't hang out with anybody else. What a difficult circumstance that guy is in, huh?

He asks the question. He already believes this. He knows that Jesus has the power to take care of his ailment. What he wants to know is, is Jesus actually willing to do that? Our Lord came to heal the sick, take care of the poor and the needy. Our Lord didn’t have to worry about the unclean business, because unlike us, when unclean touched him, what happened to the unclean? They became clean, right? See, me, when I touch the unclean, I become unclean, but when the unclean touches Jesus, the unclean becomes clean and he heals that man.

Now this story doesn’t actually tell us whether or not this man exercised saving faith in Christ. It just simply says that he believed that Jesus had the power to heal him from his leprosy, so Jesus actually does. That’s not the most shocking thing out of the story. It is shocking that Jesus heals the leper because everybody else wants to avoid him, but what's more shocking is that Jesus is doing anything for anybody, but that son of God, perfect son of God, has now come down, taken on humanity for the purpose of suffering and for the purpose of caring for all of us who are suffering.

Now Jesus then directs the man to go show himself to the priest. The issue there was to demonstrate to the religious leaders the authority that Jesus has even over leprosy, but here's what it also did. It also cured that man of his isolation, because when he went and made the proper offering to the priest, the priest then said, "All right, you are welcome back into the community." Now he's no longer in isolation. That was a gracious, kind gesture from our Lord, who was interested in healing that man from his suffering.

Here's another interesting point, not only the gracious healing of the leper, but the gracious healing of the centurion's servant. When we read the story from Matthew 8, Verses 5-13, we saw the centurion coming to Jesus, and a centurion we often hear is, okay, that’s a commander of a hundred. Yes and no, because a centurion was actually a rather broad term to describe a number of military leaders, and the highest centurion ... There was actually ranks of centurions. The highest centurion would be like a one-star general in our armies today. This centurion, however number of men he actually commanded, he was coming to Jesus and he's saying, "Hey, one of my servants is actually sick."

Now I want us to think about this particular story from the perspective of the servant. What does the servant bring to the story? The answer is, the only thing he brings is that he brings the illness. The only thing we know about the servant is that he is paralyzed and he is incredibly scared, but we don’t know. That doesn’t tell us that he had a conversation with his commander, his master, and said, "Hey, I've heard about this Jesus guy. Would you mind go talking to him for me?" Text doesn’t tell us that. What we must surmise is that this particular guy, he actually doesn’t even participate in the healing. Jesus doesn’t come visit him, he doesn’t talk to him. He is not involved in any way, shape, or form. However, Jesus heals him anyway.

What we find in the first few verses is Jesus heals a leper because he asks. Then he heals a servant because the master asked. Then what do we find next? Christ's gracious healing of Peter's mother-in-law. We get to Verse 14, the text simply says, "When Jesus came into Peter's home, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever and he touched her hand and the fever left [him 00:15:10]." The text actually doesn’t record that Peter asked Jesus to heal her nor does it say that she asked to be healed. Instead, he walks in and he sees that Peter's mother-in-law is sick, and so he decides to heal her.

Now these 3 episodes you should not see as necessarily back-to-back-to-back. Instead, what we have is a rather long timeframe, and that’s because Matthew isn't necessarily interested in telling us about the life of Christ from point 1 to point 100. He's interested in laying things out in theological order. Here's a series of healings which Jesus does, and I think it's very important that we not read Verse 15, which simply says, "He touched her hand and the fever left her and she got up and waited on him," to prove that Jesus wanted a sandwich, so he healed Peter's mother-in-law in order to make it for him. You know what I'm talking about? "Hey, I'm hungry. She's sick, why don’t I just take care of healing her and then she can do her job." That’s not the point. Think about it this way. I often describe, maybe you have, too, describe the stomach bug as 24 hours of misery followed by 4 days of recovery. You guys know what I'm talking about there? Twenty-four hours of misery followed by 4 days of recovery. No, what this point, this text highlights is that when Jesus healed somebody, they didn’t need 4 days of recovery. When he healed, they were ready to go right away. Jesus walks in, sees that Peter's mother-in-law is sick, heals her, and then she is taken care of. She doesn’t need 4 days to recover. She's up, ready to go, a picture of Jesus' healing. After all, that’s how Jesus healed anyway. When Jesus healed, regardless of the type of healing, they were immediately restored to function. It's very interesting to read a passage like this, get to rejoice. We get to be excited. This is the kind of Lord that we have. He heals the leper simply because the leper asked. He heals the centurion's servant simply because the centurion asked. He heals Peter's mother-in-law simply because he decides to, even though no one asked. That’s the kind of gracious King we have.

Let me just suggest a couple of possible application points right here. The first one is this. We understand that some of you are suffering right now. You have hardship right now. Can I encourage you to ask for God's healing? Can I encourage you to ask for God's grace? Because sometimes he may just simply decide to give it to you. If he doesn’t do that, then he at least answers. The way he answered the Apostle Paul was, "Well, no, I'm not going to take your suffering away, but here's what I will do. I will give you grace to sustain you in the midst of that suffering." I think you read a passage like this, you just go back, "Lord, I know you have the authority to take care of all of that. I know you have the ability to do so. I'm just asking are you willing to do that right now? If not, then would you at least provide the grace to endure it?"

Here's a second application point. Pray for those who are suffering around you. It is interesting that what Jesus decides to do is he offers the centurion to go to his home and to actually talk to and heal his servant, and the centurion says, "Well, no, actually I don’t need that. I just need you to say the word. I'm just asking on behalf of my servant." Is it possible that God may choose to grant a request to someone because you asked for it?

You look at the back of the prayer bulletin, and you just ask yourself the question, "I wonder if I pray for this whether or not God would just simply choose to give them that request because I asked." Because that’s what he does in Matthew Chapter 8, and it's not the only time that he does that in the Gospels. One of the characteristics of Christ's healing is that sometimes he heals people who ask to be healed and sometimes he heals people because somebody else asked that he heal them. Do we actually pray for others because who knows, God may decide to actually grant the request.

Tonight, at Church Family Night, we're going to spend a little bit of time focusing on several families who are enduring significant challenges physically, primarily with their children. That’s not to say there aren't others who have issues too, not in any way, shape, or form. We realize there's a whole lot more people suffering than just the ones that are going to be highlighted tonight, but we're going to take some time tonight to pray for a few families who are especially going through some deep waters. I want to encourage you to pray about that, because who knows, God may decide to grant that kind of request simply because you asked.

I think it's also interesting as you look at some of these episodes, you don’t necessarily hear anything about faith. The leper does not describe anything other than faith in the fact that Jesus is able to heal. The centurion's servant, we have no idea if he had any faith about Christ at all, and yet God chooses to heal him anyway. There was at least some side of Jesus Christ that simply cared for individuals because it was part of the authenticating message that he was given. It was part of his authority that he had from God. I think that’s an example that we can at least follow, too.

Just think about the testimony that we could have and do have in some cases with those in our community because of the care that we have for those who are suffering. The homeless shelter at ministry is active and been active for years, and Craig and Sue Swenson have been very instrumental in working with the mental health association and providing meals for the homeless. We think about ministry in schools. Do you want to know what that might look like? Did you know Pastor Garner is actually involved in our school systems and he goes on a weekly basis in order to help kids simply learn how to read? It's part of the authenticating the message that our message is for real, and if you want to get involved in that, there are opportunities.

Jobs for Life just started up again, a new cycle of Jobs for Life. Here's a simple fact. If you don’t have a job and you cannot find a job, you got a big problem. That’s the reality, you got a big problem. Either we decide that we're going to invest some of our time and effort and energy into helping someone find a job, which might then open their heart and mind to thinking about things of the Lord, or we'll just say as James does, "Hey, eat, drink, be well-fed."

Our counseling ministry is involved in people who have needs every week. Did you know that we actually have a human resource coordinator that is simply designed to help you connect whatever skills and gifts and abilities you might have to needs in our community. Her name is Jan Oakland, Pastor Oakland's wife. You contact us and we'll be happy to get you connected there. If you just said, "Hey, I want to emulate this kind of ministry. I know I can't heal anybody, but here's what I can do. I can care about their suffering and I can get involved."

Now here's a second reason. Not only do we see Christ as the solution for just physical suffering, and sometimes that’s as far as the text takes us. It doesn’t imply one way or the other whether or not that leper actually came to know Christ as his personal savior. We don’t know whether the centurion's servant actually trusted Christ as his personal Lord and savior. We do know this. They both died, but we don’t know their condition.

II. A second reason that we can rejoice is because Christ is the solution for victory over the captor of the nations.

Now sometimes the Lord just chooses to heal people's physical suffering because he can. It was part of his authority and authenticating message. Sometimes the Lord provides victory over the captor of the nations. We're talking about Satan here. We don’t like to talk about slavery. Invariably, it reminds us of the abuses of power, the mistreatment of one person over another, the negative aspects of our nation's history, but ultimately, there is a very important theological truth related to slavery. That is if a person does not know Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and savior, they are a slave to the worst master out there, Satan himself.

In the times of the New Testament, the evidence for slavery by Satan was as clear as the nose on your face. Why? Because demon possession was everywhere. Look at Verse 16 of Chapter 8. It says, "When evening came, they brought to him many who were demon-possessed." It was obvious. In Chapter 8, Verses 28-34, that section was far more detailed. These 2 individuals were actually called demoniacs. They lived among the tombs. They lived among the dead, which was the condition they were in. They were so violent that no one else would go near them except, well, Jesus, who not only goes near them, he actually takes a considerable amount of effort in order to get there.

He was, prior to this, ministering on one side of the Sea of Galilee and decides, "Hey, you know what, it would be good if we go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee." They take the journey. Gets over there and who is he confronted with but the 2 individuals he had come to minister to. He not only heals them, but then when the herdsmen begin to tell the story about it, what happens? They say, "Hey, Jesus, could you please leave?" Which he does. Jesus decides that all of the work that they went through was worth it for 2 demoniacs.

Now I don’t know about you, but I rarely see what is clearly demon possession. I've never had 2 individuals living in a cemetery who beat everybody up who showed up to go to a funeral. I've never had a person pick up my 300-pound desk and throw it through my window, demonstrating superhuman strength. I have never seen that, but here's what I do know. I do know that our struggles against rulers and principalities and forces of darkness ... In other words, there is a war that is going on that I cannot see directly, but I do see some of the results of that war. I see people in rebellion who refuse to give up their sin. They're going to decide, "I'm going to live however I want and everybody else can just get happy about it, including the Lord."

I see people who are blinded to the truth, "Yeah, I know that’s what the Bible says. I get it, but I've got a few other things that I believe, too." I see those who blame other people and do not take responsibility for their own actions. They find lots of ways in which they can blame someone or someone else. The excuse bus, if you will, backs up and unloads. I think we want to rejoice that we have Jesus as our King, huh, because we could be like that. We could be blinded to the truth, and we could be happy about it, too. We'd just be living in our own little world where we're happy about being rebellious. We're happy about living for ourselves and, quite frankly, we don’t care. Praise God we're not in that situation.

Jesus heals the demoniacs. We don’t know exactly how the demoniacs responded from that point forward, at least in the Gospel of Matthew, but here's what we do know. They were healed of their captor. That leads us to this point, that

III. God in Christ is a solution for the sin of the nations.

That brings us to our final reason to rejoice. It's the dominant reason to rejoice. In fact, it's every person in this section of scripture, every person at the time of Christ, every person today is in great need to be freed from their sin. The only thing that has been more surprising than Jesus going to the other side of the sea to heal 2 people, the only thing that’s been more surprising than Jesus actually healing a leper is the fact that he's healing anybody at all. Over and over again, we find in this passage that there is an issue of faith, at least in some of the episodes.

The first one that is perfectly clear is the centurion's faith. I mentioned that we wanted to take 2 passes at this. The first pass was just thinking about the servant himself, and Jesus simply decides to heal him because the centurion asked. We have no record or knowledge of any faith that he is exhibiting himself, but the centurion is different. He actually goes to Jesus. They have a conversation, and Jesus says, "Well, I'm willing to come to your house," and believe it or not, it's amazing. If Jesus offered to come to your house, what would you do? That would be great. We'll bring out the best food we got. Yes, please come over to our house and let's have a grand old time.

The centurion, he recognizes this, "You can't come to my house. You can't come to my house, and that’s because I'm not worthy to have you in my house. You are so great, you are so awesome that I'm not worthy to have you in my home." He was not concerned about whether being in his house was going to defile Jesus or make him unclean. He's just simply acknowledging the fact that, "Man, Lord, you are way too great, you are way too powerful, you are way too awesome to actually be in my house. My house isn't good enough for you. I'm not good enough for you. My family's not good enough for you." Jesus is described as being amazed, because this guy seems to get what nobody else does and that Jesus is from God.

See, the argument that the centurion makes is simply this, "Hey, look, I got people who are under me and I got people who are over me, and here's the way it works. I tell them what to do, and they go do it. That’s the way it works, because if they choose to disobey my command, whose command are they really disobeying? Caesar's, the emperor's. I was put in this position by Caesar. That’s why I'm under authority, but I'm also in authority over those that I have been given authority over." The analogy that he simply makes is, "Look, I get that you're from God. I understand that, so I understand that when you say that this is going to happen, it's going to happen because it's from God himself." Jesus says, "There's nobody in our nation that believes this. You are exercising a level of faith that nobody else is exercising."

I want to encourage you, man. That is a wonderful piece of compliment that Jesus gives to him. It's also a great reason to rejoice because that stands in contrast to the faith of the crowd and the disciples. See, in the crowd, there were 2 individuals in Verses 18-22. One of them is like, "Hey, I'll follow you wherever you go," and Jesus is like, "Yeah, right. Do you understand that following me costs you everything? Do you realize that you're not just allowed to take me along with a bunch of other stuff and it's going to be all okay? I am exclusive."

Another one says, "Well, hey, you know, do you mind if I just go ahead and bury my dad first?" The idea was not that he had just died and the funeral was going to be 2 hours later. The idea was that he just simply wanted to take care of his dad first and then he would worry about following Jesus, and Jesus says, "It doesn’t work like that. You don’t really understand who I am," and that’s true because following Jesus strips one of all of their rights. It strips one of all of their other priorities. Jesus says, "Here's what faith really looks like. It's putting me first above everything else."

This week, I'm happy to report that there are 3 individuals, at least that I know of, who placed their faith and trust in Christ this week, and here was the testimony that they gave. "I finally got it. I finally understood." They had actually been a part of the ministry around here for a while, at least some of them had. They had heard sermon after sermon after sermon. They'd been involved in various activities, but this week they said they get it. See, while the Christian life is a war full of ups and downs, it is possible that one of the reasons that we have more downs than we have ups is maybe that we haven't surrendered in the first place. If you're in that place right now, or maybe the Lord is convicting you, I want to encourage you to listen to that conviction.

Maybe your faith is not your own. Your parents have made you come to church, but if you had your way, you wouldn’t be here. Maybe your life doesn’t match that of a Christian and you know it. Maybe you’ve done a pretty good job of hiding it from other people, but you know it in your heart of hearts. Can I encourage you to surrender today? We just sang about that, didn’t we? "Lord, I surrender." That’s what it's going to take.

I want to encourage you that if that’s the position that you're in, that you would repent of your sin and you would place your faith and trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Surrender. Decide that that’s it, "Okay, I'm willing to give it up. I'm not going to be like those 2 guys anymore." That’s like, "Okay, Lord, I'll take a little bit of you as long as I get everything else that I want, too," or, "Yeah, Lord, I'll follow you until you really require something from me, until it costs me something and then I'm not going to follow anymore." Surrender.

Maybe some of you would say that there's some conviction going on in your heart right now. You're a genuine follower of Christ, but you know you have some sin in your life that needs to be dealt with. Can I encourage you to listen to the Holy Spirit? Can I encourage you to respond with repentance? If you want to talk, one of our pastors would be happy to talk with you today. Meet one of them in the gym or catch one of us while we're walking around. Those issues are important, a whole lot more important than other things that we would have going on today, so please don’t put it off.

For some of you, you might be thinking, "You know, I think what the Lord really wants is ... I read this passage, the Lord really wants me to be much more active in my neighborhood, much more active in my workplace." Dustin mentioned already that we're just 3 weeks out from Easter Sunday. Hard to believe. This is fruit-bearing time. If there's going to be a time in which our culture still has one sense of, "Hey, go to church at least one time a year," it's Easter.

The Passion Play, hard to believe this, but 2 weeks from Thursday is the Passion Play's opening night. In just 2 weeks from today, there's going to be loading in all the sets and everything is going to be happening during that week, so can I encourage you to be praying? Can I encourage you to be inviting? There's invitation cards out in the foyer. Can I encourage you to take some of those and pass those out, have individuals in your life who see the significance of having their sin actually healed by the healer of the nations?

Then we also see Christ's authority to forgive sin. That last little vignette that I read at the beginning of Chapter 9, the paralytic comes along with 4 individuals and this time we're actually told about their faith. The 5 of them apparently, or whatever number there were, got together and said, "Hey, we need to go to Jesus because I need to be healed, I need to be rescued," and Jesus, recognizing that they're not just asking for his healing, they are asking for something far more than that, says, "Your sins are forgiven."

Everybody starts asking, "Wait a second," at least in their own mind, "hey, who can forgive sin except God alone?" The point is no one, exactly. They begin fussing at him, not because he announces forgiveness but because he does so outside of the normal procedures that would have taken place, that is, the proper Old Testament sacrifices, that is the proper Old Testament pronouncements, in the proper places, in the temple precincts. Not just standing in some guy's house, not offering any sacrifice. Nobody can do this.

Jesus demonstrates, well, yes, in fact, he can, because he says, "Well, which one is harder, to forgive his sins or to tell him to pick up his bed and walk?" At least from their perspective, the answer would be, "Well, to tell him to pick up his bed and walk, because I don’t know whether or not you forgave him his sin. I don’t have any way to test that, but I can test whether or not he picks up his bed and walks. I can tell whether or not you're a phony real fast. If he doesn’t pick up his bed and walk, then I know you're a fake." Jesus says, "Well, that’s fine. I'll just do the harder thing so that way you believe the easier one."

Friends, I think there's a lot of things about this text that should just cause us to rejoice, just cause us to be encouraged this morning, to rejoice that Jesus the King solves the most difficult problems facing human life, suffering and Satan and sin, and as a result of that, that our love for him would actually be growing and would be encouraged because of what Christ has done. Secondly, to invest in ministry so they can present the message of the Gospel to those around us. Whether that’s Easter, whether that’s Passion Play, but finding ways in which to encourage those who are around us to see their need for Christ.

Even the issue of Serve16. You know Serve16 is just around the corner. That’s where we're seeking to populate our children's ministry servants for the next summer and school year. Those ministries are highly evangelistic. You ask Pastor Trey, he could give you the stats right off the top of his head about how many individuals come to know Jesus Christ and live it out their whole life coming to Christ as a child. Then remember what we talked about regarding suffering. The Lord is the great physician and sometimes he just chooses to heal because he can. Sometimes he chooses to heal because someone asks. Sometimes he chooses to heal because we ask. Let's be thoughtful, mindful, and rejoice in that Christ really is the healer of the nations.

Let's pray. Father, we thank you for your grace, thank you for a passage like this that shows us not only the authority of Jesus but the compassion of Jesus when he chose to heal. In some cases, all that we see is the healing of physical suffering. In other cases, we see the healing, the release of someone being held captive by Satan. Then ultimately, we see the number of individuals who are healed of their sin. Lord, I pray that if there's anyone in this room this morning who has yet to place their faith and trust in Christ, that you would help them to do that today, to get that settled today.

If there are those in the room who are struggling in their faith and it's not very strong, it's hanging on by a thread, would you please help them to repent of their sin and to recommit their heart and mind to the healer, Jesus the King. Lord, for the rest of us, for those of us who would say that we're strong in our faith right now, we're encouraged in our faith, would you please help us to be that salt and light and share it with others, because it was part of the authenticating message of Christ. Lord, we ask that you would please help us this day to honor you and to live as if Jesus really is alive and is our healer. In Christ's name, Amen.

Rob Green

B.S. - Engineering Physics, Ohio State University
M.Div. - Baptist Bible Seminary
Ph.D. - New Testament, Baptist Bible Seminary

Pastor Rob Green and his wife, Stephanie, joined the Faith staff in August, 2005.  Rob’s responsibilities include oversight of the Faith Biblical Counseling Ministry and teaching New Testament at the Faith Bible Seminary. He serves on the council board of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and as a fellow at the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors.

Read Rob Green's Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Green to Faith Church.