Try this little test. Say “Your sins are forgiven” and then “Get up and walk” (to a paralysed man). Which was easier to say? Well, both have four words in the sentence and are probably equally easy to say. But, for ordinary men or women, both are equally impossible to do. I think the point that Jesus was making was that, for God, both are equally possible. Therefore, to prove that – as God – he could forgive sins (an invisible outcome), he miraculously healed the paralysed man (a very visible outcome).
It was the author C. S. Lewis who noticed the importance of Jesus claiming to forgive someone their sins against God. The Jewish authorities were outraged at the implied blasphemy, since they only saw Jesus as a mere man. To them it was as though my neighbour had been burgled and I chose to forgive the burglar – what did it have to do with me? Only the ‘offended one’ can offer forgiveness. Jesus fully recognised that principle too and, so by forgiving the paralysed man, he was saying that He was the one offended – that He was truly God. The crowd were very impressed with the miraculous healing – but overlooked the more important miracle of forgiveness.
“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick… For I have not come to call the righteous but sinners” (vv12-13). Some people complain that the church is full of ‘weirdoes’, misfits and generally inadequate people, whose lives are falling apart. We need to recognise in Jesus’ words, that the church is not a gymnasium for muscle-bound saints to pose in, but a hospital for sinners who have become saints! If everyone in our churches is already ‘squeaky-clean’, then we are probably not doing our evangelism job well enough.
Churches are also human social structures (not buildings!) that are designed by God to contain the vibrant life of the Holy Spirit – compared to new wine. Freshly fermenting grape juice will expand, giving off carbon dioxide and changing all the time. If placed in a rigid old wineskin, the immense pressure will cause that skin to split, leaking and spoiling the wine. A new wineskin is flexible and stretchy, well able to cope with rapid pressure change. Clearly, for us, the metaphor means that our churches need to be flexible, malleable, open to change, and willing to submit to the direction of the Holy Spirit. They exist for the benefit of the new wine, rather than the other way around. Old inflexible structures cannot cope with life and are useless except as museum pieces!
Jesus continued with his day, healing a sick woman, raising a dead girl, restoring the sight of two blind men, and releasing a man from demonic powers so that he could speak again. A good day’s work! His motivation was compassion and a shepherd’s desire to care for his sheep. Looking around at the ocean of ‘need’, he pointed out to his disciples that there was no shortage of ‘harvest’ but far too few willing harvesters. The answer: ask God to supply some more willing workers – and be ready to be included in the answer to your prayer!
This is a beautiful story. The finding of a wife for Isaac has a sense of inevitability about it. It describes how yet more blessings flow from Abraham to his descendants and symbolise the blessings of Calvary flowing inexorably to all Abraham’s spiritual children – which emphatically includes us! (Romans 4:16-17.) The sovereignty and providence of God in the whole process cannot be overestimated. Symbolically also, Abraham represents God the Father who sent his trusted servant, the Holy Spirit, to find a Bride (the Church) for his son, Isaac (Jesus). This is a chapter to be meditated upon as well as taken at face value.
Historically, the region of Aram Naharaim, at the town of Nahor, was where Nahor’s extended family now lived; they had clearly migrated from Ur at some time after Terah, Abram, Sarai, and Lot had made that same journey. Rebekah was not only beautiful in appearance but had a beautiful servant heart that was generous towards all (something that Jesus also looks for in his own Bride!). She was also very industrious since she volunteered to water ten camels, who would have drunk between 200 and 300 gallons (900 – 1300 litres) of water; fetching that much from a spring or well was back-breaking work. She was the granddaughter of Nahor, Abram’s brother, and the perfect bride in every way, for Isaac.
Everyone in the family was convinced that the normal circumstances of this ‘chance’ meeting had been supernaturally choreographed by God himself. Rebekah was sent on her way with great wealth and with a delightful blessing that resonates down the ‘corridors of time’ to apply equally to Christ’s own Bride, the Church:
“Our sister, may you increase to thousands upon thousands; may your offspring possess the cities of their enemies”.