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by Jonathan Evans
Mark 2:1-12,  2 Cor 1:18-22

The previous Bishop of Hull, James Jones, on at least one occasion asked a congregation to think about people who had prayed for them before they had come to a living faith in Christ.

His contention was that wherever you found a Christian you also always found someone who had prayed for that person to come to Christ.

This is where I start today ... with those four friends who brought that man on his bed .... and I start by asking you to think about this ... how many of you know of someone who prayed for you before you came to Christ ... someone who prayed for God to watch over you and keep you, someone who prayed for God to bless you and save you ...

and I start by asking you the question? Get hands up!!!

I want to take you on in the story ... to the obstacle that stopped the man from getting to Jesus ... the crowds around who were so many that the four friends could simply not find a way through!

FRUSTRATED BY OBSTACLES And what about the obstacles that stood in the way of us coming to Christ. For many of us it may have been far from simple ... there may have been things that stopped us from getting to see Jesus ... Maybe our unbelief, our unwillingness to come Maybe the church itself with its closed doors and the unknown Maybe our upbringing that just put us off .. maybe we had too much of religion and that put us off seeing Jesus May we had an upbringing where God and faith were ignored or even ridiculed and... Maybe we let the circumstances of our lives prevent us from seeing Jesus

We might even share some of these together in an interactive way.

What did the trick for the man ... his friends, their faith, and their persistence

And my guess is that its the same with us. It’s those we thought about earlier, those who prayed for you, those who took the opportunity to introduce you to Jesus in some way ... it’s their faith and their persistence that we remember with thanks when we read this story.

We’ll stop at this point ... and pray with thanks for those who brought us to Christ.

Silence and prayer

FORGIVEN BY JESUS And what was the man’s need ... on the face of it ... it was his paralysis. This is what his friends saw ... he had a need for healing, physical healing.

I wonder what your need was or maybe is today.


But notice .... when Jesus see the man the whole story takes an unexpected turn. Jesus has already got a reputation for healing. So the four friends come with an expectation that Jesus will help the man ...

But what does Jesus do?

He says ...Son your sins are forgiven. Jesus knew that beneath his apparent need lay a much deeper need for forgiveness.

Imagine that you bring someone to me ... someone who has a deep need in their life ... maybe they’ve had so much rejection in their lives and are scarred from that, suffering with ....

And I say to them ... Your sins are forgiven.

How would you react? How would you feel?

You may think ... That’s not why I asked you to see them!

This is what Jesus did with that man. That’s what this gospel is about ... it’s not really about the physical healing of a paralysed man. It’s about the Son of Man ... Jesus, and his authority to forgive sins.

The physical healing is important for them man no doubt, but it’s also a powerful parable of what happens when we hear the voice of Jesus saying to us

Son, daughter, your sins are forgiven.

Sin is paralysing .. sin is devastating, it has a more far reaching effect on our lives than we can ever imagine, and we need to be forgiven. It is our basic need as we come to God. That is why confession is always a part of our liturgy, because it reminds us of our position before God, as forgiven people.

As we come to the end of this episode in the gospels, and to the end of what I want to say, let us focus on this issue of forgiveness for a few moments.

One image used in the Bible is a legal one ... one of pardon ... we stand before God guilty of sin ... guilty of being self centred ... and as we come to God for forgiveness, we are pardoned.

In a court, someone may have their debt cancelled so that they no longer have to pay the penalty for their wrongdoing .... they may be ‘let off’ as I was once ... tell the story of when I went to court!

One day, during my engineering studies at University, a friend and I went to a seminar to find that the lecturer had not turned up. We took my friend’s car for a drive, and as it was snowing, we decided to have some fun, and practise handbrake turns on a deserted street. One of the handbrake turns wasn’t very effective and we ended up taking the car (a mini) sideways into a pillar box (a big red letter box). Being engineers, undaunted, we found some spare parts - a fibre glass mini cooper shell, and effected some repairs. Soon we had a new car, born our of our mini chassis and the mini cooper body shell. What had not ocurred to us,was that the new car, so ingeniously made, was in fact illegal. As such, it had no roadworthiness certificate and no insurance!!

One day soon after repairing the car, another friend and myself (neither of us owners of the car) were stopped by the police. The policeman seeing evidence of tax discs, and number plates relating to two vehicles, arrested us in suspicion of theft, and we were duly locked up in the cells.

Eventually, we called in the owner and perusaded the poilce of our innocence of the charge of theft, but were then landed, along with the owner of the charge of “Fraudulently evading the payment of Tax Insurance and Roadworthiness Certificate”

In the end, there was a bit of ‘plea bargaining’ and I, as the passenger, was let off with an unconditional discharge whilst the owner and driver were given fines and had their license endorsed. I was certainly guilty, and I deserved punishment as much as my friends. I was given a discharge ... which meant that I was still guilty, but I would have to pay NO fine.

That was the mercy of the court to me.

The mercy of God is of a different order ... My discharge did not remove the crime, it simply let me off the penalty. God’s mercy, God’s forgiveness is not just about removing the penalty, but about removing the sin as well.!!

The pardoned criminal is still a criminal, Everyone knows that he has committed the sin for which he has received a pardon, The punishment is gone, but the guilt remains.

but Christ’s forgiveness means that the sin is also gone. It is not just about cancelling the penalty for sin, it is about making us clean. The punishment is gone and the guilt is gone too. I am cleansed as well as pardoned.

This means that as God looks at us forgiven people, he sees us as clean. WE are actually declared - not guilty!!!!

Isn’t God brilliant?!

Verses to use after the confession. I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. Jer 33:8

If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1John 1:9). Amen