THIS Prayer Book Gospel reading shows why the Church must always resist the secular health-and-safety cult.
The passage is from Matthew’s Gospel and describes Jesus’s healing of a paralysed man during his Galilean ministry:
‘And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city. And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house. And he arose, and departed to his house. But when the multitudes saw it, they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men’ (Matthew 9v1-8 – King James Version).
Jesus’s first words to this man are astonishing under the circumstances: ‘Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.’
This is a man whose physical predicament was dire. He could not walk and had to be carried about by his friends. The account in Mark’s Gospel of this event is more detailed. Mark describes Jesus speaking to a packed house in Capernaum. The paralysed man arrived on a stretcher carried by his friends who could not gain entrance because of the crowd. So they climbed on to the roof, made a hole in it and lowered the man down to where Jesus was. Mark also records Jesus’s first words to the man when he saw the friends’ faith: ‘Son, thy sins be forgiven thee’ (Mark 2v5).
These are the first words every one of us needs to hear from Jesus. Our sins are more serious than all our other human problems. Because our sins alienate us from the loving God who made us, they affect us for eternity whereas our mortal sufferings are temporary. As the Prayer Book Order for the Burial of the Dead puts it: ‘Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live and is full of misery. He cometh up, and is cut down, like a flower; he fleeth as it were a shadow, and never continueth in one stay. In the midst of life, we are in death: of whom may we seek for succour, but of thee, O Lord, who for our sins art justly displeased?’
Death brings our earthly struggles to an end but not our spiritual plight. We face a day of divine reckoning after death and unless our sins have been forgiven, the verdict against us is guilty, for we have all ‘erred and strayed from (God’s) ways like lost sheep’ and have ‘followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts’, as the Prayer Book General Confession declares.
Therefore, the Church must proclaim to lost humanity the forgiveness of sins through faith in Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of the world as the divine Son of the one true God, as her first priority. Of course, Christians should perform practical deeds of love and kindness in their communities in obedience to the biblical command to love our neighbours as ourselves and not just be talking heads. But unless people embrace the message of the forgiveness of sins, humanity’s main spiritual problem remains unresolved. The Church has ‘a word for the world which none else can speak’, to quote the 20th century Welsh preacher, Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981).
That is why it was so appalling that British churches by and large acquiesced to their buildings being closed and their congregations banned from gathering during the first Covid lockdown in 2020. The powerful, transcendent word of the forgiveness of sins for all who believe and trust in Christ needs to be spoken as he spoke it, in person, not in the eviscerated virtual world of the Zoom meeting, so beloved of the globalist lockdown regime.