Lovers of people
Luke 5: 20-24 “When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralysed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”
Jesus knew what they were thinking. How? Perhaps he could see it on their faces when he announced forgiveness over the paralysed man.
When you know what people believe (only God forgives sins) and when you have grown up in how things are done (namely the Day of Atonement) then you know what people are thinking (these were Pharisees and the teachers of the Law of Moses).
The instructions for the Day of Atonement are given in Leviticus 16. For this, two goats were chosen and the high priest cast lots upon them, one for the Lord and the other for Azazel (scapegoat). The priests slaughtered the goat chosen as the Lord’s and sprinkled its blood on the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies. It was representative of the people bearing their sins and as it was killed the people saw the penalty of sin is death. This goat died for the people becoming the substitute. But then the high priest laid his hands upon the second goat, symbolically transferring to it the sins of the people. Then the goat was driven into the wilderness, thus making clear God’s intent to remember no more the sins against his people. Those who grasped this for themselves were assured of forgiveness of sins and were brought into a personal relationship with God.
So when Jesus announces, “Friend, your sins are forgiven” they are immediately thinking the obvious thoughts:
“It isn’t the Day of Atonement today.
You are not the high priest.
Where are the 2 goats and where is the mercy seat.
There is no blood.
You are showing disregard for what has been practiced for generations since Moses. You are disregarding what God has said should happen. Who are you? Only God can sidestep His own words. You are either stating you have been given the authority by God to replace the way of Moses and to bring about a new way of forgiveness which actually is just words or you are indeed trying to take the place of God. This is blasphemy!”
The world over people think they have the monopoly on God or whatever name they call Him by.
For the past 30 years blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad has been punishable by death in Pakistan. There have been 1,549 known cases of the most serious charges – either blasphemy against Muhammad or desecration of the Koran – according to Pakistan’s Centre for Social Justice. In those cases, 75 accused people have been murdered before their trials. Many were killed in police custody, or by mobs.
Isn’t it strange how over the most beautiful, hopeful, joyful good news of the love of God that the threat of severe punishment, painful torture to the point of death hangs over those who carry this gospel?
Isn’t it strange that it is those who stand for ‘God’ who have such thoughts when they see this perfect beauty?
All over the world, outside the church oppressing it, inside the church destroying it, those who truly believe they are the lawyers of God sit in judgment on those who are lovers of people. Who is sitting near you today? Where do you sit?
Jesus has an idea.
“You obviously think what I have said to this man is cheap grace. You think I have made forgiveness too easy. You question my authority to be able to do this. So let me try something that is obviously really difficult. Something that even the high priest cannot do and what you have never done in your life. Let me make the blind see, let me set the oppressed free and right now, before your eyes, let me make this paralysed man walk. Then ask yourself ‘where did my authority come from to do this healing and more importantly to proclaim forgiveness over this man?’”
Jesus shows us that being a lover of people sets you as a target to those who only love their God. Loving people so much that you help them, lifting off judgment from their lives, seeing them transformed by the powerful touch of Jesus means that those who despise them will despise you too. Those who sit in judgment of them will judge you too. You have become sin also. You have incarnated into sinfulness becoming like them. You will be hated, persecuted, slandered and you will be hurt. The world will see Jesus in you and there are many in the Temples, Mosques and Churches of this world who hate this kind of Jesus. They always have. But whatever we do let us commit today to keep giving these people a bad day as we seek to bring hope to many!