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The Authority to Forgive

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
February 6, 2022 12:01 am

The Authority to Forgive

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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February 6, 2022 12:01 am

When several men carried their friend to Jesus, Christ healed him of much more than his paralysis. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his expositional series in the gospel of Luke to display the divine authority of Jesus to forgive people of their sins.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind… Luke chapter 5 shows us the dogged determination of some devoted friends. They knew that Jesus could help their companion, so they literally broke through the roof to get to Him. This story is about more than ingenuity and resolve, though. Through it we see definitive proof that Jesus is the Son of God. Let's listen as Dr. R.C.

Sproul continues his first-by-verse series from the Gospel of Luke. It was about thirty years ago that a small movie production studio in Hollywood contacted me and asked me if I would please write a screenplay for a book that I had written that they may produce a full-length Hollywood motion picture. And I kind of giggled at the invitation because I told them I didn't know the first thing about writing screenplays. And they said, that's all right.

We'll help you and show you the basics that you have to do. So I agreed under duress to make the attempt. And of course, as you all know, as a result of that exercise, I was awarded an Oscar for best screenplay.

It's a terrible thing to lie from the pulpit. No, the movie, the screenplay was finished, but the movie was never produced for lack of interest in the story. But in any case, in writing that screenplay, what we learned we had to do was to try to imagine the story through the lens of the camera. And so every shot of the camera had to have a particular perspective or what the Hollywood people called a POV, a point of view. And as I read the story this morning of this strange incident that took place with the healing of the paralytic, as I thought about it, I thought there were all these different people involved in this incident in the life of Jesus. And so what I want to do this morning is look at this narrative from the various points of view of those who were participating in it. And so let me begin with the point of view of those who brought this paralyzed man to where Jesus was teaching the crowds. Obviously, they were men who not only had compassion for their friend who was paralyzed, but they went out of their way to do something about it.

I had a little existential response to this because in my high school years, my father who had been a very popular man in the community was stricken with a terminal illness, and all he could do was to sit in a chair for three years without being involved in any external activities. And during that whole time, not a single one of his friends came to the house to visit him, and I was disillusioned by that. I couldn't understand it, and I would say to my mother, where are Dad's friends?

Why haven't they come? And she tried to calm me down, and she said, well, you have to understand that it's difficult for them to see your father in this condition. I said, well, it may be difficult for them, but it's far more difficult for him to be in this condition and to have no one come to see him. And so that bothered me, and in stark contrast to that, I read what happens here, where this man who was paralyzed had friends who not only said their prayers and say, God bless this man, and not only sent over meals or other such things, but they went out of their way to do something to help him ultimately. They heard about Jesus.

Some of them had even been eyewitnesses of the miraculous healings that He had performed in their region. And so these fellows got together, and they said, we've got to take our friend to Jesus. And so they got a stretcher, a litter, and they placed the paralyzed man on the stretcher, and of course they didn't take him in an ambulance. They didn't have ambulances. They probably walked if they didn't rig up some kind of oxen-drawn cart, and in any way they were able to transport the paralyzed man to the house where Jesus was teaching. But if you look at it from their perspective, can you imagine how their hearts sank when they saw that not only was the house in which Jesus was teaching filled to capacity, but there were large crowds milling around outside so that there was no possible way they could even get near to Jesus to seek His healing power for their friends.

But they were not to be denied. The homes in the Jewish land at that time for the most part were very small. They had flat tiled roofs where much of the family activity took place on the roofs because the rooms in which they slept were very small. And again, traditionally, access to the roof came from outside stairs attached to the walls and up then to the roof. And since nobody was standing on the roof, these men went over and said, let's take him up to the roof. And so they had the difficult task of carrying this man on the stretcher up these stairs to the roof. And when they got to the roof, they set the stretcher down on one side, and then they began to take the roof apart.

They had to take a large portion of the roof apart, removing many tiles, not just a little slot that they could slide the man down on the stretcher, but they had to make a room big enough that they could lower the man with ropes on the stretcher down into the presence of Jesus. Or you could look at this story from the perspective of the man who was paralyzed. His friends came to him one day, and they said, we've got good news.

There's a man in the land who's healing all kinds of diseases, the blind are seeing, the deaf are hearing, and we want to take you to him because we believe that he can and he will heal you, just as he had most recently in the case of the leper. And I'm sure the man was afraid to believe, afraid to try one more possible remedy that might free him from his paralysis and give him the opportunity to walk again and to be productive again. And however weak or strong his faith was at the moment, his friends said, come on, we're going to take you on a stretcher, and whatever it takes, we're going to bring you to this man, Jesus.

So obviously, hope began to be born in the breast of this paralyzed man, and he allowed himself to be lifted up and placed on the litter. And you wonder what was going through his mind as they bumped along and he was being carried on this stretcher. I'm sure from his vantage point when they came to the house where Jesus was, he could see that the place was a teeming multitude of people. It was so crowded that he thought, well, this was a wasted trip.

There's no way in the world I'm going to be able to see this man called Jesus. And then you wonder what was going through his mind when his friends started carrying him up the stairs. And they obviously would have a difficult time keeping the stretcher balanced even so that he wouldn't slide off the back or the front of it, and he's riding on this stretcher until they get to the roof. And they set him down on the roof in the midday sun and he's thinking, what good is this? I still can't even see Jesus.

He can't see me. And then he saw his friends start to take the tiles apart from the house and from the roof, and he saw his friends take ropes and attach them to the four corners of the stretcher. And he had to take a deep breath and trust the strength of his friends as now they picked up the stretcher with the ropes and they began to lower him down through the roof in front of all these people.

I doubt if this man in his entire life ever was more self-conscious than he was at that moment as he was being lowered in front of this group. Well, what about the people who were there? They're there, they're trying to listen to the Jesus teach. They're hanging on every word and all of a sudden they see some dust falling down from the ceiling and they look up and before you know it, there's a little hole that appears in the ceiling. They wonder what that is and they still try to return their attention to the words of Jesus. And then there's more debris starting to fall down from the ceiling and they look up and the hole's bigger and it gets bigger and bigger and bigger and they're standing down there and now they can't even pay attention to Jesus.

Everybody's looking up at the ceiling. And then they see this man on a stretcher being lowered right in the midst. People are scrambling to get out of the way of this man who's being dropped down now in front of them and in front of Jesus. And then there's Jesus. Jesus is looking at this. We don't know exactly what He was thinking, but He had to be thinking, boy, I've seen people go to desperate measures to come into My presence.

The kingdom is being taken by force by these people who are pressing into My kingdom. But I've never seen faith like this in all of Israel. And His eyes are now on this poor man who's paralyzed as He is lowered down from the ceiling in front of him. So often we're told in the New Testament writings that when Jesus looked upon people who were suffering, He looked upon them with compassion. And so it was He saw this man now on the stretcher in front of Him, and He knew that every eye in the room and those who could peer through the windows were watching to see what He was going to do. And He knew that the scribes and the Pharisees who were gathered there were also watching carefully, not only to see what He would do, but to hear what He would say. And so we read in the gospel, when He saw their faith, He said to the paralyzed person, man, your sins are forgiven you.

Can you hear the ripple through the crowd? Because what did He say? What did He say? He said the man's sins were forgiven. Well, what did that have to do with this whole event? This man didn't come here to get his sins forgiven. He wasn't coming to confession. He was coming to be healed.

And Jesus said, your sins are forgiven. Now what about the point of view of the scribes and the Pharisees who were gathered? They had come from all the places in Galilee, from Judea, from Jerusalem themselves to examine the work of Jesus, to catch Him in some unlawful act. They were skeptics. They were hostile towards Him.

We know that. And now they're looking at this, and they see this spectacle of the man being dropped down from the roof, and they think that's an insult to proper decorum, I'm sure. And then when they heard the words of Jesus, what?

What did He say? He told that man that his sins were forgiven. Who does this Jesus think that He is? We know that only God has the authority to forgive sins. You know, that was one point at which their theology was sound. Ultimately, that's true, that only God has the authority to forgive sins.

He may delegate that authority to His representatives to speak in His name, but the ultimate authority rests with God Himself. And even at the time of the Reformation, when the sacrament of penance was so much in dispute between Rome and the Protestant Reformers, it was that section of the sacrament that called for works of satisfaction and giving merits of congruity that was the point of dispute, not the point that the priest could give absolution and say, te absolvo, after somebody made a confession of their sins, because they recognized that the church had taught that the priest does not have the authority to forgive sins inherently, but that only God can ultimately forgive sins, and that they had given that Christ, the Son of God, had said to His disciples that whatever sins you remit on earth will be remit in heaven, and so on and so. It was Jesus who delegated that authority to the church, and when the church gives the assurance of pardon or the assurance of forgiveness, it's not doing on its own authority, but only on the authority of Christ to whom all authority was given by the Father on heaven and on earth. Just last night I talked to a woman who grew up in Eastern Europe in an orthodox church, and it was their practice to go to confession on a regular basis, and she told me that her priest was kind and compassionate, but it always bothered her to have to go to confession, and she said to her mother one day, why can't I just confess my sins to God?

Why do I have to confess them to a man? And of course, she came to the conclusion that she didn't have to confess them to a man, and she could have direct access to God or at least indirect access through our mediator, our high priest in heaven. But the scribes say, who is this who speaks blasphemy?

Who can forgive sins but God alone? Now Jesus, back to His point of view, He perceived their thoughts. He knew what they were thinking, and so He answered and said to them, why are you reasoning this way in your hearts? Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven you or to say, rise up and walk? Now you asked me why Jesus said that. I don't know, but He was responding to what they were saying and thinking, and He said, now come on, which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or rise up and walk?

Now what's the answer? Jesus doesn't tell us what the answer is. If you read all the commentaries, they are divided about which is easier to say. In one sense both are easy to say. Anybody can say, your sins are forgiven, and anybody can say, rise up and walk. That doesn't make it happen. But on the one hand, it's easier to say, your sins are forgiven than to say, rise up and walk.

Why? Well, it's easier to say it because there's no way that anyone can prove that what you've just said is true or can refute it because forgiveness is something that takes place in the invisible realm. It's hidden from our view. On the other hand, if a preacher says, rise up and walk, you're going to know very quickly whether what he says is true or false because the proof will be in the pudding. And if Jesus would have said, rise up and walk, and the man was not able to rise up and walk, then Jesus would be in a real pickle. So in one sense it would be much easier to simply say, your sins are forgiven. However, on the other hand, for Jesus to say, rise up and walk was not a difficult thing.

He had done much more difficult things in the past. But to say, your sins are forgiven in front of the Pharisees and in front of the scribes is to risk your life. And so I personally think given the circumstances that Jesus did not take the easier tack here, but the far more difficult one when He publicly pronounces that this man's sins have been forgiven. And He said, but that you may know that the Son of Man has power or authority on earth to forgive sins. He then said, that's why I did this, so that you might know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins, which is saying that you may know that the Son of Man is also the Son of God.

The Son of Man who descends from heaven from the throne of judgment, who will judge the earth is also the one who has the authority and the power to pardon the sinner, that you may know that. And then He said to the man, I say to you, take up your bed and walk. And the second He said it, the paralyzed man's legs were filled with strength. And he got up from that stretcher, and he didn't need his friends to carry him or the stretcher. He took the stretcher that had been his bed, and he started to walk on his own, free from the paralysis, free from sin.

Now, what about your viewpoint? If I don't want to spiritualize this text, this man wasn't spiritually paralyzed. He was physically paralyzed, but each one of us who deals with unforgiven guilt suffers the most paralyzing force there is on this planet. Nothing paralyzes people more than guilt that has not been forgiven. And if you suffer from that kind of paralysis, if there's a sin that has haunted you for years and years, has spoiled your liberty as a Christian, this text tells you what to do about it, because there's only one cure for guilt, and that's forgiveness. And here is the one who has the power and the authority ultimately to say, to absolve them, I forgive you. The good news of the gospel. Are you experiencing that weight of guilt today, thinking that you've sinned so badly that you'll never receive forgiveness and find that relief? You can go to the one who has proven that he has the power to forgive sin. You're listening to the Lord's Day edition of Renewing Your Mind, and we've just heard a beautiful message from Dr. R.C.

Sproul. It's from his series from the Gospel of Luke. We're making our way verse by verse through the book, and we're finding it to be so helpful to study God's Word this way.

We get to know the context of each passage, and that's vital to understanding it. We'd like to help you continue your own study of Luke. If you contact us today with a gift of any amount, we will send you the nearly 600-page commentary on Luke that Dr. Sproul wrote.

Our offices are closed on this Lord's Day so that our staff can worship with their families, but you can give your gift and make your request online when you go to And as we wrap up today, I'd like to encourage you to take advantage of the great teaching that's available on RefNet. We've designed it to be a source of faithful Bible teaching throughout your day. You'll hear teaching and preaching, Scripture reading, audiobooks, and more 24 hours a day. And you can listen for free at any time when you go to or when you download the free RefNet app. Remembering the sick was an important part of Jesus' ministry, but there was another critical element that we'll learn about next week, the calling and training of His apostles. I hope you'll join us next Sunday as Jesus calls Levi to follow Him. That's here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-06-12 01:18:04 / 2023-06-12 01:26:13 / 8

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