"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!"--Matt. 9:2
The tree of forgiveness, shaken by the hand of faith, pours down rich fruits. From the showers of descending blessings let holy joy be now selected. This bright inhabitant of the believing heart quickly springs from the glad tidings--"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven." Joy is the product of this sweet assurance of forgiveness--it is among the rays which sparkle from the absolving work of Christ.
The cavilers who first heard the wondrous words, "your sins are forgiven," rightly reasoned, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" But He who thus speaks is the mighty God; Deity is His inseparable property--He usurps nothing beyond His own prerogative when with authority He dispenses pardon. As God He purchased, and as God He gives. Pardon is a myth, except it be divinely given; it is like the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.
But when faith gains this resting-place joy must ensue; doubts, fears, hesitations flee. All the black clouds of terror, anguish, and dismay vanish; beams of bright light shine joyfully around--thanksgiving and the voice of melody dwell on rejoicing lips; sweet echoes repeat, "Be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!"
To animate faith let the scene of this utterance be visited. The spot was Capernaum, the place in which Jesus often rested, as His adopted home.
The name suggests warnings, which it would be omission not to heed. In privileges, advantages, opportunities, this city was exalted unto heaven; nevertheless it was brought down to hell. Blessings within reach were spurned; the day of grace was unimproved--therefore the voice of condemnation thunders, "It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you." Let all take notice--their state is fatal to whom the Gospel comes and works no saving change.
Here Jesus was unfolding His glorious truths--as a prophet He was revealing the way of life, the only remedy for sin. When He taught, multitudes thronged to hear; but seldom was concern more earnest. Luke relates, that "there were seated around Him Pharisees and doctors of the law out of every town of Galilee, and Judea and Jerusalem." Mark adds that the concourse was so excessive "that there was no room to receive them--no, not so much as about the door."
These eager listeners won great reward. Not only did they receive lessons mighty to save, they moreover witnessed a miracle of mercy; they heard, also, the announcement of sin forgiven, and witnessed the resulting joy. "Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!"
Here is encouragement to seek with diligence all means of grace. Divine power is accessory to the words of life. A preached Gospel is the channel in which the Spirit flows into hearts with converting, reviving, sanctifying might.
Attention is now attracted by a strange appearance. Four men advance bearing on a bed a palsy-stricken friend. Their desire is obvious, their motive is not hidden--they are intent on reaching Jesus; they are eager to place an afflicted comrade at His feet. They had received news that Jesus was able and willing to relieve; that He wielded power to dispense all cures--this persuasion prompted their intrepid steps.
But now an obstacle threatens to defeat their zeal. The thronging crowd forbids approach; no avenue is open through the dense mass. But ardent faith cannot be baffled. This grace labors and wearies not--it has wondrous skill to invent and persevere; it scorns to succumb, and thus proceeds to triumph.
This narrative is a conspicuous proof. All approach is choked--be it so--the roof may be reached. It is not easy with such a burden to ascend; but these friends surmount all difficulties--they stay not, until the top is gained. They discover the spot where Jesus stands; they force an opening through the covering; they lower the pallet, and thus the palsied sufferer lies before Jesus.
Misery is now prostrate before mercy; infirmity is now admitted to the presence of the great Healer--the sick is now at the feet of Jehovah-Rophi. (Ex. 15:26.)
There is no statement that the paralytic uttered an imploring word--but there was eloquence in the speechless spectacle; and Jesus read the language of the act, and understood the supplicating look. Large is the promise to those who ask--they who seek find, and often receive beyond their warmest hopes. But sometimes before the lips speak He gives. It is so here. Jesus addresses him--"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!"
He knew that the root and core of malady is sin; He read the real anguish of the afflicted heart; His omniscience discerned the deep-seated pain; His skillful mercy applied the true remedy. He gave assurance that the oppressive evil was removed, and He bade the sufferer to take the full joy of pardon. He knew that bodily recovery with a soul unhealed could bring but evanescent joy. What is the worth of an undiseased frame holding a sin-sick soul? He saw, also, that the palsied man now lying at His feet had well-grounded expectations of healing--He pities the unhappy case; He honors the manifested trust; He blesses the undaunted effort. He freely dispenses pardon--"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!"
Oh, precious assurance! happy hour! blessed man! How rich is the harvest here reaped by faith! What joy would bound when this voice of mercy reached his ears! What love and gratitude would kindle!
All is bright and lovely while Jesus is prominent--the scene darkens when eyes turn to man. "He is fairer than the children of men--grace is poured on His lips." Evil also, frequently pollutes the sons of earth. Here is sad proof. Certain of the scribes now say within themselves, "This man blasphemes." They heard Him claim the power of forgiving sin; they knew such gift to be the sole prerogative of God. Their eyes were blinded--the light shone in darkness. They recognized not the divine Person in their midst.
Jesus perceived in His spirit their evil surmises. He proceeds to shatter their vile unbelief, and to manifest the glory of His Godhead. He asks "Whether is easier to say, Your sins are forgiven, or to say, Arise and walk?"
Let it be observed, He institutes no contrast between the comparative facility and difficulty of forgiving sin and dispelling sickness. Each act is far beyond the power of man; each work requires omnipotence.
The outward pretension is the matter of present inquiry. Jesus proceeds thus to meet the cavil. It may be regarded as an easy thing to say, "Your sins are forgiven," because forgiveness is an act consummated in the invisible world, in the court above, far beyond man's faculties to discern. If the pretension be empty boast there is no power to detect and to expose. But it is no easy thing to say, "Arise and walk." This claim is subjected to clear view--a failure convicts of undue assumption, and shows intention to impose. But if the latter power be evidently displayed the former can no more be questioned. He then triumphantly maintains His claim--"That you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, He said to the man sick of the palsy, Arise, take up your bed, and go unto your house." Let the scene be closely watched. If there be failure, if the helpless continues helpless, Jesus' power to forgive is wrapped in doubt. If success follows, if malady freshens into health, then doubts vanish, assurance stands firm, persuasion is established--it is indubitable that Jesus on earth can forgive sins, and is mighty and eternal God.
The issue puts the crown on Jesus' head. Mark relates--"Immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all." Jesus' power shines forth as the sun in his strength. He stands victor over prostrate doubts--He manifests ability to forgive sins. The palsied instantly is whole--the wasted sinews are braced; the trembling limbs are clothed with renovated strength--he takes up the bed on which he recently was motionless. The marveling, the amazed, the awe-struck multitude open a path for him; and he so recently carried, because he could not walk, now strides as a strong man, carrying his bed.
Who can fail to be convinced! Who will not give praises and adore! Jesus is able to forgive sins, and He is Jesus still--His never-failing property is power and willingness to blot out transgressions.
The miracle is ended. Without controversy Jesus grants forgiveness according to His will. Let the corollary be received, that the sense of sins forgiven will fill the heart with holy joy. A sweet train of confidence and peace will follow the assurance--"Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven!"
It may be boldly asked--Where the sense of this forgiveness is seated in the soul, what can trouble or dismay? What blessedness short of heaven's realities can exceed the conscious happiness?
The man thus cheered looks upward--no clouds, no darkness hide his Father's face; no chill discourages; no frown repels--paternal smiles beam graciously. Every aspect speaks reconciliation, adoption, favor. It must be so; for the cause of alienation has disappeared. No sins remain to provoke wrath; no barriers check the stream of overflowing love. Shall he not sing, "I am of good cheer; my sins are forgiven!"
Holy confidence may now confront the attributes of God--not one can press a charge against him. JUSTICE brings no more demands--it grants full acquittal. The LAW no more rolls its tremendous thunderings and forks its bolts to dash into perdition. Its menaces are only fierce against sin; but the pardoned man no more provokes. Shall he not boast, "I am of good cheer; my sins are forgiven!" He enters boldly into the court of CONSCIENCE, and fears not to commune concerning the transgressions of past days. The faithful monitor accuses not--it is at ease, because these sins are blotted from the recording tablet. He exclaims, "I am of good cheer; my sins are forgiven!"
SATAN, also, is spoiled of his terrific weapons. He cannot bind the blood-washed one, nor drag him to the fiery cell. Shackles are broken; he has lost his power to enchain. Sins are removed by pardoning grace. The happy song is heard--"I am of good cheer; my sins are forgiven!"
When SICKNESS comes, its presence calmly announces speedy deliverance from the burden of the flesh. When DEATH displays its dart it has no terrors--its commission is to bring the pardoned spirit into the presence of the King in His beauty. The judgment-seat will be the scene of final acquittal; eternity will be the cloudless day in which delights will find no end. The true believer counts this joy his own. Hence it is no presumption to adopt the enraptured song, "I am of good cheer; my sins are forgiven!"
But there are some who may not thus exult--they have no title to this assured joy. It is sole the property of those who have embraced Jesus as their full redemption, and who count all things but loss for the excellency of His knowledge. Let those who hitherto have stood apart seek a saving interest in Him without delay. He waits to be gracious. Let hesitation no more detain--weak resolves often perish. Hell is peopled with Satan's irresolute and procrastinating dupes!