I’ve been looking at the daily Bible readings from the Revised Common Lectionary. October 1st begins in the middle of the week with the text from Matthew 9:2-8 where Jesus heals a paralyzed man being carried on a mat. Jesus tells the man his sins are forgiven and the scribes are shocked. Who does Jesus think he is? Only God can forgive sins at the final judgement. Jesus tells them that He wants them to know that He has the authority to forgive sins in the world. That, Jesus says, was his point in forgiving the man to achieve healing.
My tendency is to become annoyed at texts that seem to reinforce the attitude that sickness is punishment for wrong-doing. Jesus clearly reprimands His disciples for this notion in the passage of the man born blind (John 9). Here in Matthew 9 Jesus is clearly making a point of His authority to forgive sins,now in this life. I think He is pointing out to all of us in this passage that we fall into a habit of thinking that we get what we deserve. The scribes believed that sins could not be forgiven until the Messiah came and made everything right in the end times. The Messiah was with them, but they missed Him because they were looking for a military leader to give them worldly authority. Jesus came to make us right with God, not give us authority over men. Our trouble today is that we often default to thinking like people still waiting.
Jesus has already died a brutal death on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus has already risen on Easter, the first-born from the dead. Why do I live like it is Maundy Thursday, and I’ve just eaten my last meal and terror awaits? I fall into the trap of thinking I have not done enough good. I have lost too much time. It is too late for me to fulfill my purpose in life. Or, most often, I did not get enough checked off my to do list today. I call myself a failure. Jesus calls us all forgiven. We don’t have to wait until our life is over to see if our good deeds outweigh our mistakes. By the power of the cross we are forgiven.
Each day is a new start. Jesus, The Son of Man, The Messiah has the authority to forgive our sins. He has given me a new start in the waters of baptism. In baptism we are reborn children of God. Why do I act like I have to earn my approval? I can’t earn my way to salvation, I’m too human. I make mistakes. But, Jesus has redeemed me. I’m not a hopeless case. I am a redeemed child of the living God. I can start over. The rest of today is one of hope. Tomorrow is filled with possibility. Sure, I’ll make mistakes, those are opportunities to learn.
Lord Jesus, please heal me of my habit of trying to earn approval. I did nothing to deserve your love, but I accept it. I am willing to admit my unending need for you. I am complete in you. Make of my life what you will. Help me to try again. And again…Thank you for your eternal love and forgiveness. In your holy name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.