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Be Of Good Cheer! Your Sins Are Forgiven!

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I came across a wonderful phrase that Jesus used on five occasions. It was a very short phrase. Only one word in the original Greek, but our English versions take four words to describe it. These four words are part promise, part commandment. They are more than a greeting and nothing less than an authoritative declaration. The four words are: Be of Good Cheer. That phrase only occurs only five times in the New King James Version of the Bible, and on all five occasions it was spoken by Christ Himself. Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you—Matthew 9:2

Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well—Matthew 9:22

Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid—Matthew 14:27

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world—John 16:33

Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness in Rome—Acts 23:11

Now consider this: Those words are not just dusty inscriptions from antiquity. They are given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit and recorded in the living Scriptures for us. They are intended for you and me, just as surely as they were spoken to the individuals who originally heard them.

Exercise your imagination for a moment. It’s possible for us to imagine sound, just as we can visualize scenes from our past or the faces of our loved ones. If we practice a little, we can hear sounds inwardly almost as clearly as hearing them audibly. See if you can imagine just now, with very little effort, the cawing of a crow, the blast of a jet, the crunch of autumn’s leaves, or the strains of your favorite song.

Now listen to the deep, resonate voice of the Son of Man calling your name and saying directly to you: “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven; your faith has made you well. It is I; don’t be afraid. I have overcome the problems you face; I have overcome the world. I want you to testify of me, so be joyful. Be happy. Change your mood, and be of good cheer!”

The most powerful antidote for discouragement is the life of joy bestowed by Jesus Himself, for the Bible says that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10).

How do we rejoice in the Lord? Why not begin by hearing His voice saying to you over and over and over: Be of good cheer! Be of good cheer! Be of good cheer! Be of good cheer! Be of good cheer!

As I mentioned, the actual Greek term used by the authors of the New Testament was only one word: θαρσέω (thar-se-ō). It is a single intense, dynamic word in the Greek. The lexicons and Greek dictionaries I’ve consulted say that the meaning is “Take heart! Take courage! Cheer up!” It occurs eight times in the Greek New Testament; and, as I have said, it is translated five times in the New King James Version, using the words, “Be of good cheer.” It is a ringing declaration of the attitude that Jesus Christ expects us to have in this world.

The first time is found in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 9, beginning with vs. 1, which comprises our Bible study for today:

So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own city.

Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

This is a story of paralysis, pardon, power, and cheer. It took place in the city of Capernaum, and it probably occurred in the house owned by Simon Peter. The ruins of this very house are still visible today, and visitors to Capernaum are impressed with how well preserved is this little town. It is located right at the edge of the water of Lake Galilee, and we can identify the ruins of Peter’s house by archaeological and historical documentation. It was in this little town and probably in this very house that the paralytic man was healed.

This story is also told to us by Mark and Luke, who add some fascinating details, such as the fact that four men brought their paralyzed friend to Jesus and because of the crowds they made a hole in the tile roof of the house where Jesus was teaching and lowered him on a pallet, interrupting our Lord’s sermon. But for the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to deal today with the story as Matthew gives it to us.

Sin Can Paralyze Us

Here was a man with two heartrending problems. Most people saw only one problem, but with a single glance Jesus took them both in. This man had a visible problem and an invisible one. He had an exterior dilemma and an interior one. The inner, invisible problem was by far the worse of the two, but most people saw only the lesser, external problem.

On a physical level, this man was paralyzed. We don’t know if he was a paraplegic or a quadriplegic, but at the very least he was paralyzed from the waste down; he may have been paralyzed from the neck down. But that wasn’t the worst of it.

The worst of it was the fact that this man was paralyzed in his heart. He felt guilty, at fault, culpable, to blame, wicked, ashamed, and self-condemning.

This man in Matthew 9, in my speculative opinion, had crossed the line and had caused an accident that had resulted in his own paralysis, and it has perhaps hurt someone else, too. In the notes of his study Bible, John MacArthur makes the same observation, writing, “Jesus’ words of forgiveness may indicate that the paralysis was a direct consequence of the man’s own sin.”

The old divine, R. C. Trench, in his famous Notes on the Miracles of our Lord, put it this way: “Perhaps in his own sickness he recognized the penalty of some special sin whereof his conscience accused him…. In the sufferer’s own conviction there existed so close a connexion between his sin and his sickness, that the bodily healing would have been scarcely intelligible to him, would have hardly brought home to him the sense of a benefit, unless in his conscience he had been also set free. ”

Now whether my speculation is true or not, we can say this—this man was paralyzed on the inside just as much as one the outside. He was paralyzed by sin. But Jesus said to him, “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven.”

I read the other day, for example, about a group of high school and college students who went to Florida for Spring break. They arrived too early in the day to check into their hotel, so they sat in their cars and started drinking alcohol. They decided to play football, but the parking lot became too crowded, so one of the members of their group went off to find another place and presently he came back with the exciting news that he had discovered access to the roof of the 11-story hotel. They all went up there to play football, intoxicated as they were, and they played football until one of them ran for the ball, fell off the roof, and was killed.

It was a somber, sober group that brought their dead friend home. They had crossed the Line, and it was a moment of pleasure they would all regret as long as they lived.

Guilt can cripple. It can paralyze. It can alter your personality and relationships. It can erode your self-image and sap your morale.

I heard of a teenager who got into a raging argument with his father, and he stormed out of the house, jumped in the car, squealed out of the driveway, and took off in a blazing rage. He drove around a few minutes, passed by his house again, and an emergency vehicle was there. His father had died from a heart attack, and the guilt of it has descended like a shadow over the man’s life.

Well, this is where the Bible shines. This is where Jesus Christ excels. He is an expert in dealing with these matters, and in our passage today He deals with the problem headlong, and His words are for you and me just as much as they were address to the paralyzed young man lying on the cot before Him.

What does Jesus say? What answer does He give to our guilt? He speaks eight words: “Be of good cheer! Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus Can Pardon Us

There are two things to notice about this. First, Jesus pronounces forgiveness. He told the man just as He tells you and me: “Your sins are forgiven.” But Matthew does something very unusual in His recounting of the story. He shifts the camera away from the man before we can gauge his reaction, and he turns the lens toward the other people sitting in the room, specifically some of the Jewish authorities. Verse 3 said, “And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, ‘This Man blasphemes!’”

Well, they were right about that—if Jesus were no more than a mere man. The Bible teaches that you and I have the capacity to forgive sins only in an extremely limited and secondary sense. If you get angry at me or I with you, we might say something hurtful to one another. But if we come and sincerely apologize, we should forgive one another. Ephesians 4:32: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” But our forgiveness of another person is limited to what they did or said against us, and it is restricted to simply duplicating the forgiveness we ourselves have received from God. But we cannot forgive sin in a general since. We cannot absolve anyone from guilt. Only God can do that.

In an ultimate, primary sense, only God can extend true forgiveness because it is His law that has been broken whenever we sin and it is only against Him that all sin occurs. Even when King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, arranged the death of her husband, and lied about it to the nation, he confessed in his prayer to God in Psalm 51: “Against You and You only have I sinned.” It was God’s holy law that He had broken and God’s holy character that he had violated.

So when Jesus said to the man, “Your sins are forgiven,” He was claiming to do something that only God could do. He was acting on a prerogative that only God Himself could exercise.

Nothing about this passage makes sense if you don’t accept the biblical premise that Jesus Christ is wholly and fully God. He is not just “The Son of God,” He is “God the Son.” He is the Second Person of the Trinity, a member of the Three-fold Godhead. He is both fully human and fully divine. He is Himself absolutely and utterly and eternally God.

Look at it from another perspective. In this passage we can recognize our Lord’s divinity in three ways. We see His:

· Omniscience. He knew the need of the paralytic, and He read the minds of the scribes.

· Omnipotence. He can speak the words “Rise up and walk,” and suddenly the man’s paralysis falls away and he is instantly healed.

· Authority to forgive sins, which is a prerogative of God and God alone. Psalm 103 says: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits; who forgives all your iniquities, who heals all your diseases…” (NKJV). Only God can do those things.

And so from this we learn that Jesus Christ pronounced forgiveness. He has power on earth to forgive sins. He can forgive your sins and mine.

But the second thing to notice is something that is implied in this passage but not overtly stated. Jesus not only pronounces forgiveness, He provides it. The act of forgiving that man his foolish sins was very costly to our Lord, and it was going to require that He Himself by paralyzed on the cross, that He be nailed to the wood until His very life’s blood drained out of Him and stained the ground at the foot of Calvary.

In Matthew 26:28, Jesus said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”

Romans 3:23ff says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation (an atoning sacrifice) by His blood.

Ephesians 1:7 says, In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins….

Colossians 1:19-20 says, “For it pleased the Father… by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.”

Hebrews 9:12 says, “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

You may remember reading about the commuter train in Los Angeles that struck a sport utility vehicle parked on the tracks. The train derailed and stuck another train, causing eleven deaths and over 200 injuries. There was one story coming out of that accident that gripped Southern California. It involved a man who was on that train. Normally, he later said, he would not have taken the train, but he was called in early to work at an aerospace plant in Burbank. He was sitting upstairs in the double-decker car, asleep, when the wreck occurred. He recalled waking up to find himself trapped under the debris and covered with blood. He realized he had been badly injured, and using the blood that was oozing from his own body, he used his finger to write a note to his family, telling them that he loved them.

That is what Christ did for us. Using His own blood, He wrote a message of love for you and me, and the blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanses us from all sin. So sin can paralyze us, but Jesus can pardon us. He pronounces forgiveness because He provides it.

Faith Can Prove it to Us

You say, “Well, how do I know? Can I really accept the reality of this total and complete and ultimate forgives?” Yes, faith can prove it to us. Look at the rest of the story.

Vs. 3 And at once some of the scribes said within themselves, “This Man blasphemes!”

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

The man could have said, “What a bunch of rubbish. I don’t believe a word of it; I’m not going to accept it. This is a waste of time, boys, carry me home.” But he didn’t do that. He flexed his muscles, stretched his legs, took a deep breath, and rose from his stretcher.

And he arose and departed to his house. Now when the multitudes saw it, they marveled and glorified God, who had given such power to men.

Isn’t it time for you to rise up and walk? Isn’t it time for you to say, “I’ve wallowed around in guilt and sin and shame long enough. I’m going to embrace God’s forgiveness. I’m going to forgive myself. I’m going to live a life set free”?

What can wash away my sin?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus;

What can make me whole again?

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Oh! precious is the flow

That makes me white as snow;

No other fount I know,

Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

Listen once again to the voice of Jesus saying, "Be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven you."

(Robert Lowry, 1876)

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