God's Wide Plan - Can You See the Issue - Hope 103.2

God’s Wide Plan – Can You See the Issue

By Simon ManchesterSunday 26 Oct 2014Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 0 minutes


St Thomas’ Anglican Church
North Sydney

12 Week Series
God’s Wide Plan – Can You See the Issue

Based on the Book of Luke
Luke 5: 17 – 26

We thank you our Heavenly Father for being good to us day by day.  We acknowledge that we don’t deserve you to even speak to us but we pray that in your mercy and power you would speak to us from this part of your word tonight in a way which refreshes us or teaches us,challenges or comforts according to our need and so we will truly honour you with our lives.

We ask it in Jesus’ Name – Amen.

Tonight is Luke Chapter 5 verses 17-26 – a very famous and wonderful passage of the man being let down through the roof and Jesus giving to him forgiveness and then healing.

Whenever I read this passage and talk it through at Christianity Explained,it always refreshes me,it always strengthens me and I find that the people,who have come,even if they are complete outsiders,find that this particular event is unanswerably wonderful.  It says things about Jesus that just can’t be thrown out.

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Now Nathan has already reminded us about the soccer fever being on us and I am reminded within the soccer world that Nelson Mandela failed or refused to turn up for the Opening Ceremony because of the death of his great granddaughter and he himself saw that there is something to do with life and death which was bigger than football and I hope you believe that to be true.

If there is a game versus your life,the game becomes as we have heard,irrelevant. 

If there is your health on the backdrop of eternity,your health in a certain way becomes microscopic and almost irrelevant.

The most important thing is to get eternity right.  And that’s what Jesus does so wonderfully.

Now if you look at this section and go back to chapter 4:43 you will see that Jesus’ priority is to preach the kingdom.  He says in chapter 4 verse 43 “I must preach the good news of the kingdom” I must let people know,says Jesus that the rule of God and their surrender to the rule of God is the absolute priority of life.

But he still has compassion on people because you will see in chapter 4:13 that when a leper comes and stands before Jesus,Jesus is full of compassion and he heals him.  I think that is the perfect balance for us.  The Christian must know exactly what is going to be eternal – the kingdom – but we are also to be compassionate for the things which come and present themselves to us.

Now if you are writing something on the back of your Notice Sheet,I want to give you three brief headings this evening.  The first one I’ve called Short Term Faith.  Then we are going to look at what I’ve called Long Term Correction and then we are going to look at Long Term Faith.

First of all – Short Term Faith.  You notice in chapter 5 verse 17,Jesus is teaching.  In case you think his ministry is always miracles,a great deal of his ministry was teaching.  And the reason is that he is teaching is because it helps everybody who is listening to understand who he is,believe and live.  Miracles of course are exciting but they tend to bless an individual and for a short time.

The gospel message of the kingdom helps many who are listening to be benefitted for eternity and among the crowd in verse 17 there are Pharisees,Teachers of the Law,experts in the Jewish Law. They are mostly critical.  If you look down at chapter 5:21 you can see they say “who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy?”  If you look at chapter 5:30,you can see they complain and say “why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”  If you look over at chapter 6:2 you will see some of the Pharisees asked “why are you doing Jesus what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” and if you look at chapter 6:7 the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.  He is surrounded by critics.

But we also read in chapter 5:17 that the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick.  It’s a very unusual phrase.  It sounds as though a mist or a cloud has sort of come in the window and is hovering there making it possible for him for a brief time to heal.  But of course it’s not saying that.  What this particular verse is reminding us of is that when Jesus began his ministry and the Holy Spirit came on him in great power for living,preaching,healing and then eventually dying and rising,that Holy Spirit’s power was with Jesus all the time.  And here there is going to be an outbreak of the power in a miracle.  So the presence of the Lord is there for Jesus to do a miracle.

And these men in verses 18 & 19 who have a friend,who as we heard,
 is a paralytic or quadriplegic – these men climbed the roof of the house because the place is packed and they can’t get to Jesus through any door or window and they open up the tiles,they lift the tiles off the roof (interesting detail) and they start to lower their friend.  And as Jesus sees this man,you could imagine the roof above us starting to break up right now and somebody comes down on a kind of a mat on ropes and as Jesus looks up at the roof of the house,he says and then looking at the man on the mat “friend,your sins are forgiven”.

He responds to their faith – the four of them on the roof and the man on the mat – they have faith in Jesus.  Well he sort of responds,doesn’t he?  Because he knows that they have come to the right person but he doesn’t actually give them what they have come for.  They’ve come no doubt for healing.  They have seen Jesus heal before.  Back in chapter 4 verse 40,Jesus healed pretty well everything and now they have brought their friend and their friend is obviously brought in front of Jesus for healing and in chapter 5 verse 20,he doesn’t give them what they want – he gives the man forgiveness.

Let me make a very brief detour on faith in case you think faith is a big strange and mysterious.  Four or five very quick things to say about faith – I may have done this before but it’s always worth remembering.

First of all,everybody in the world has faith.  Everybody in this building who sat on a chair has faith in the chair.  We have faith in a train driver,we have faith in a chef who cooks a meal,we have faith in somebody who makes our coffee – faith is everywhere.

The second thing,faith means that you have confidence in someone.  Confidence that they can do the job or the thing can support you.  You have confidence in your doctor,confidence in your car mechanic,confidence even in yourself.  Everybody has faith and faith means confidence.

The third thing is that faith is only good as its object.  It’s only as good as its focus.  It’s only as good as its target.  If you have very strong faith in thin ice you will go through no matter how strong you faith.  If you have very weak faith in thick ice you will be secure,it doesn’t matter how nervous you are.  Faith is only as good as its object.

The fourth thing is that faith grows with information.  The more information you collect it gives you the opportunity to build up your faith.  Of course if you build up information about somebody,your faith may decrease in them.  But your faith or your lack of faith will be more informed and more intelligent.

And I think it is safe to say that faith in Jesus grows with information and is completely sensible.  The more you do your homework on Jesus,the more you discover that he really did live,that he really did die and if you work at it you will discover that he really did rise.  And so faith in Jesus is eminently sensible.

Now these men have faith in Jesus – they have confidence in Jesus – but they don’t realise how good he is.  Jesus is going to teach them how good he really is and he’s going to teach the crowd how really good he is and he’s going to teach us how really good he is.

In their minds,of course,as they lowered their friend,there’s nothing more important for their friend that he would have legs to walk – the ability to walk.  And of course to be able to walk is extremely wonderful and extremely significant but their faith is just too short term – that’s the problem.

During the week I had the privilege of speaking to some women on Tuesday on the subject of raising happy and healthy kids.  I told them a very old joke which I’ve probably told you many times but it’s useful and that is the story of 4 men who were travelling in an aeroplane.  There is a pilot,there is a brilliant professor,there is a bishop and there is a student.

As they are travelling along,
 the engines of the plane fail and the pilot radios back and says “I’m sorry to tell you that the engines have failed,we are going to have to leave the plane,I’m even more sorry to tell you that there’s only 3 parachutes and because I own the plane and I own the parachutes and have a small family,I’ll be taking one” and out he goes.

The brilliant professor then stands up and says to the two men “I’m a very intelligent man,we owe it to the country to keep me alive – I think it’s only right that I should take one of the parachutes” and out he goes.

The old bishop then stands up and says to the student “young man,I’d be very glad for you to take the last parachute.  I’m ready to meet my maker – why don’t you take the last parachute?”

The student says “well that won’t be necessary sir,there are still two parachutes”.  The bishop says “how could that be possible – there were only three?”

And the student says “but the brilliant professor has just left with my rucksack”!!

Now it is an old story and I didn’t mean you to have to laugh again but I just wanted to point out to you what I pointed out to the women on Tuesday.  If you think that the journey that you are on is a short one – life to death – buy a rucksack or backpack.  Buy yourself a backpack because the journey is from start (birth) to finish (death).  If however you know that your journey is life through death,you’re going to need more than a rucksack – you’re going to need a parachute.  You don’t have the luxury you see of just having what you need for this world.  Happiness,health,education,two legs – you actually need something or someone who can get you through life,through the grave and on into heaven.  That parachute is Jesus.

Unfortunately in Australia,we live in an absolutely rucksack world.  Everything that is coming at us is rucksack.  Materialism is rucksack.  Naturalism is rucksack.  And somebody need to come along and challenge this short sightedness and produce something in its place and that’s what Jesus does and that’s our second point this evening – Long Term Correction.

Jesus turns to the man who is on the mat and he says “your sins are forgiven” and this is a shock for at least two reasons.

One reason – it would have been very disappointing to the men on the roof and the man on the mat.  There is no evidence that they were disappointed but surely they were disappointed.  Can you imagine those four men on the roof seeing their friend lowered and Jesus looking at him and saying “you are forgiven” and the four men,can you imagine them on the roof saying “great he got more than we ever bargained for”.  It’s very unlikely,isn’t it?  Surely they were disappointed.  Surely they are thinking to themselves,can he see that he is unable to walk?

You could imagine them calling out from the roof “LEGS,LEGS”! And surely they are hoping this man would be given this gift of healing so that he can go home and walk and carry his mat,walk in the front door,pick up his wife,pick up his children,walk to work,do the work of a strong man and surely they are hoping for that.

But Jesus is teaching this man and the men and the crowd and he’s teaching us,(listen very carefully to this) that the most important thing that you can get in this world is to be clean,right,acceptable to God.  There is nothing to beat that.

Jesus is looking up into heaven and saying ‘I’m going to give this man something which will make him right with God – there’s nothing more precious than that and I’m going to give this man something  which will take him right into eternity – there’s nothing more wonderful than that’.  And so Jesus who has been preaching about the kingdom now practises what he preaches which is to give this man a place in the kingdom.  He does not just give this man a place in the work force,   he gives this man a place in the kingdom.

And I think we get this correct if we imagine what it would be like if the story ended at this moment at chapter 5 verse 20.  Can you imagine the man comes down through the roof; Jesus looks at him and says ‘you are forgiven’.  Imagine the story finishing there.

The four men are very disappointed – they pull the ropes and they take the man up through the hole in the roof – they carry him home on the mat and the wife is standing at the door hoping (remember I’m just imaging this).  She is standing at the door and she looks at him still on the mat and she says “what happened,was he not there?”  No he was there.  “Did he not want to talk to you?” Yeh he spoke to me.  “Didn’t he have the power to do anything?”  Yes he has the power.  “So what happened?”  He gave me forgiveness.

And she says “what good is forgiveness?”  And they take him back inside and they lay him down in his room and for the next decade or two,although he can’t walk and he can’t walk with his wife and he can’t play with his kids and he can’t go to work,he does his own little business of making shoelaces or something in his own room and then a few decades down the track,he dies.

He suddenly finds himself walking through the gates of heaven. (I’m making this up!!)   And as he walks through the gates of heaven he says to the man (and I’m making this up) who is on the door,’how do I get in here?’ and they say ‘well your name is here – welcome’.  And he says ‘what sort of place is this?’  And they say ‘this is a perfect place’.  And he says ‘well I don’t really deserve to be here because I’m not a perfect person’.  And they say to him ‘it says right here that everything against you has been cancelled’.  And he says ‘this is a very wonderful thing – how long am I here for?’  And they say ‘you are here forever’.

And he walks over to Jesus (and remember I am making this up) and he says ‘I just want to thank you for giving me forgiveness when I came down through the roof for some legs.  I didn’t know what I was talking about and you gave me something absolutely wonderful’.

And a million years later he walks over again and he says to Jesus ‘have I thanked you lately for giving me forgiveness?’ and a million years later he walks over again and says ‘I just want to thank you again for giving me forgiveness’.

Jesus you see is looking up to heaven and giving this man something that is infinitely more wonderful than to be healthy and infinitely more eternal.

Now the reason,the authority Jesus exercises in giving this forgiveness is because he is God.  And of course the people in the room are going to reject that idea that he is God.  He has the authority to forgive because he is God.  But the reason he is able to forgive,the grounds of his gift is because in a few months or years time,Jesus is going to go to the cross and he is going to pay for that man’s forgiveness,he’s going to take on himself rejection from God in order that this man might be given acceptance with God.

This is a very old illustration but let me just remind you.  Imagine this is you – here’s my hand – and here is your story and here is God above and your story is a very mixed story.  It’s got some good bits and some bad bits.  It’s got some happy and sad things.  There are things that you are proud of and things that you are ashamed of and here it is – the barrier between you and God is your story.

And God sending Jesus into the world takes our mixed bag story and places it on Jesus and Jesus deals with the punishment and the penalty at the cross in order that we might be in the position of being able to say to God – please have me – please forgive me – please accept me – please welcome me – I want to be part of your family.

That’s what Jesus has done.  The authority to give forgiveness comes because he is God but the reason,the grounds of the forgiveness comes because he paid and towards the end of Luke’s gospel,he dies on the cross and calls out those famous words “Father forgive them” I’m paying for this.

Now why do the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law reject his statement in chapter 5 verse 20?  Why do they turn around in 5:21 and say “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy?  Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Well the reason they say that is because they don’t get who he is.  Their question is how can a man who looks very like us forgive what’s been done to God?  Surely forgiveness should come from God and it probably should come by going to the Temple and getting somebody to offer a sacrifice.  But Jesus is God – he is not just a teacher – he is not just a miracle worker – he is God.  And knowing what they are thinking (verse 22) he sets them a question.

The question goes like this:  Which is the easier to say to the man on the mat?  Your sins are forgiven or get up and walk.  Think about it.  Which is the easier to say?

Well now the answer if you live in Jewish circles is that if you say No.1 ‘your sins are forgiven’ you would get into a lot of trouble.  That would be a hard thing to say.  But what Jesus means is it is much easier to say ‘your sins are forgiven’ because no-one can check up on you.  If you walk up to somebody and say ‘your sins are forgiven’ nobody knows whether it’s happened or not.  But if you go up to a quadriplegic and say to him and say “stand up and walk’,you’ll know within a few seconds whether you have said something that you mean or not.

It’s quickly tested isn’t it?  And that’s partly why these experts in the Law are very angry,not only should Jesus not say it because it’s blasphemous but he shouldn’t say it because it’s unprovable.  They are saying to Jesus,basically you are blaspheming by talking like this but you are also talking a lot of hot air.  So Jesus decides to prove unmistakably his talk is not hot air (verses 24 & 25).

He effectively says to them ‘you don’t believe what I say is true,you don’t believe I’ve got the authority and the power to do what I am saying,well watch this’.  And he says to the man “Get up and walk”.  And the man gets up and walks and everybody,everybody in the whole room knows that when Jesus something,he can do it.  His words have power,his power has authority and the reason that he is able to talk like this is because he is God.

You’ll see in verse 24 that the man praises God,of course he does and how thankful he must have been and we read in verse 26 “everyone praises God” because he can not only forgive sin he can heal,he can not only heal he can forgive sin.  So that’s Jesus correcting the short term thinking with this long term,high term perspective.

Now let’s finish by thinking about Long Term Faith this evening together.  I want you to notice why Jesus does the miracle.  Have you ever noticed this before?  I’ve been talking about this passage for years and years and years and I’ve never noticed the absolutely wonderful thing in verse 24 “Why does Jesus do the miracle”?

Part of you will think – Oh he does it because he’s compassionate.  Yes,I’m sure that’s true and part of you will think he does this because people will know he is God and I’m sure that’s true but the text doesn’t tell us that.  The text tells us in verse 24 that Jesus does this miracle because he wants people to know that he can forgive sins.

That’s why this man got up and walked so that the people in the room would know that Jesus can forgive sins.  That’s why Jesus does this miracle so that you (today/tonight) will know that Jesus can forgive sins.  He wants people to know that he is the Son of Man; it’s a phrase that comes out of the Old Testament from Daniel 7. 

It means the one who has all authority but it also is a very humble sounding name,he wants people to know that he,the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on the earth.  He can forgive sinners on the earth.  If you live on the earth and you know your sin,he can forgive you.  Therefore we see that Jesus has not left his priority because he says to the man on the mat ‘you are forgiven’ (that’s his priority) and he says to you and me this evening,you can know you are forgiven.  And you can know you are forgiven because when this man got up and walked,you know for sure that Jesus keeps his word.

So his theme is the cross and eternity and forgiveness and he never veers from his priority.  That is his absolute priority.  His priority is that you and I would have forgiveness,fellowship with God,a future that is eternal and wonderful.

Friends,you are here this evening,you need to know the Son of Man can forgive your sins for salvation.  There is always unsaved people in church,did you know that?  I mean we are not the judge and we don’t know who is saved and who is not saved but it seems to me and I’ve been in the ministry for a long time,there is always unsaved people in church.

And these people are very nice,they are very friendly and they are very sociable and they are unsaved.  And it’s no real big deal in the short term because you looked at the saved and you look at the unsaved and they are sitting in the same seat,they sing the same songs and they look much the same and they smell much the same but there is a barrier between the unsaved and God.  And it just sits there.  And they never really know God and of course they are not ready to meet God and there is nothing they can do to get rid of the barrier but Jesus can remove the barrier and forgive the sins.

And you need to know that he can do it.  So once God has woken you up to the fact that he is real and you are real and there is a barrier called ‘sin’ that is a great place to be.  And the next great place to be is that you know that there is a God and there is you and there is a barrier and that Jesus can remove the barrier – that is a very wonderful thing.  As soon as you ask him to remove the barrier,the barrier is removed and you are in fellowship with God forever. I hope you will ask him if you have not asked him.

But you also need to know that the Son of Man can forgive sins as a priority for people who live in the world.  It’s the priority for Jesus and when missionaries go out (as we’ve prayed this evening) to do work in the world,they are under tremendous pressure today to do short term stuff.  To do some medical work and leave it at that.  To do some building work and leave it at that.  To do some teaching work and leave it at that.  But I hope you will pray with me that our missionaries will never stop seeing people as needing eternal life,forgiveness.

And if you live in this world as you do and you are just hanging around year after year eating,drinking,sleeping,partying,going to movies and living a fairly passive roll-along sort of life,I hope there will come a time when you will wake up and say ‘Lord,please use me for eternal things – I really want to help somebody to know that Jesus takes the barrier and have fellowship with you’.

It’s one of the reasons,I think the Ethics SRE debate is so tragic because what the world is really saying is we want people to go into the schools and we want people to go into the schools and to give the children who are there instruction or rules and there is no future with instructions or rules. We are just going to fail to keep them – it’s just law.  But the teacher who is young or old or male or female and goes into the schools and talks about Jesus and his death on the cross and forgiveness is giving to people in the schools an answer to their failures – Grace.

Which would you rather you children grew up knowing law or grace,rules or relationship,death or life?  It’s a big issue,isn’t it?

And when it comes to your giving as we have heard this evening,I hope that you will not just be giving your money to stuff which will go just down the drain of the world but I hope you have worked out that you can put your money (and you can hear a lot about this on Wednesday night) into things which will last for eternity and how to pick what you should put your money in know that it will last for eternity.

I hope that as a matter of interest that everybody in this congregation who has received a letter from the Elders of the church about expanding our facilities here at North Sydney so we can do our job better at North Sydney,I hope everybody will send something back,even if it’s $1.  It would be much more wonderful to get 200 replies from the evening congregation than 3 from people who consider themselves to be wealthy.

Everybody should give something back if God is giving you something.  And you also need to know the Son of Man can forgive sins so that you will see people correctly. 

Are you a teacher working with students? – see your students as students who not only need the subject you are teaching but the witness that you can give them.

One of my friends in the UK was a teacher and a pupil came up to him after the class (I think he was a Maths teacher) and said ‘could you please tell me how to become a Christian’.  He knew the teacher was a Christian.  The teacher had not been talking about Christianity and this teacher told him how to become a Christian and he went home and led his brother to Christ.  His brother’s name is Rico Tice. 

If you are a nurse,I hope you’ll see people that you are working on or if you are a doctor,you’ll see people who you are working on not just as a body but as a body and a soul.

If you are in business,you are very concerned of course to make sure that your heart does not get trapped by the treasure of the world but is committed to the treasures that will last forever.

If you are a parent or a child or a spouse in the congregation this evening and you live with others in the home and you are living among people who are not believers,you need to think very carefully how will my witness be a light to their conversion.

And if you are a student and you are thinking through what will I do with my life and the whole world is saying to you to be ambitious and wealthy and successful as you can,I hope you will say ‘that is rucksack thinking’.  I’m going to do something which will actually last for eternity.

I remember a man went for an interview once (a Christian guy) and the boss who was a fairly tough guy put him in his office,sat him down and said to him “son,what is your priority?”.  The young man said ‘Sir,in this company my priority is to be the most useful and helpful person on your staff but in this world,Sir,my priority is to point people to God and to see as many ready to meet him as possible”.

Well let’s pray,let’s give thanks –

Father we lift up our thanks to you for sending your son into the world to teach us things that are heavenly and eternal and to pay the price that we might enjoy them.

We ask that you would save us from short term and faulty and foolish thinking and we pray that you would give to us such a perspective like the Lord Jesus,that we might be truly thankful for what he has done and truly like him in the way we live and communicate.

We ask this in Jesus Name – Amen.