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Sunday, September 02, 2018

[Matt's Messages] "Our Greatest Problem"

“Our Greatest Problem”
Following Jesus - The Gospel of Matthew
September 2, 2018 :: Matthew 9:1-13 

We’re in the section of the Gospel of Matthew (chapters 8&9) that you might call “Following Jesus the Miracle Worker.” Because right after the Sermon on the Mount Matthew tells a whole bunch of stories about the amazing miracles that Jesus did and punctuates, intersperses between these miracle stories, with Jesus’ calls to discipleship.

Last week, the sermon was called, “Follow Me.” And you know just about every sermon on every chapter in the Gospel of Matthew could have that title. Jesus is constantly calling people to follow Him.

He says those exact same words again in our passage for today. In fact, he says it to a certain tax collector named...Matthew!

That’s why our whole sermon series on the Gospel of Matthew is called “Following Jesus.” Because in Matthew, Jesus is constantly calling us to a life of discipleship.

He’s constantly showing us that He is wonderful and powerful and authoritative, with an authority unlike anyone else’s. And He uses that unparalleled authority to call us to follow Him.

In Matthew chapter 8, Jesus showed us that He has unparalleled authority over sickness (he heals leper, a paralyzed man, a woman with a great fever and all kinds of other diseases). And then He showed us that He has unparalleled authority over all of creation (He tells a storm to settle down and it actually does!). And then Jesus showed us that He has unparalleled authority even over the demonic. Even over unseen unclean spirits. When He say, “Go!” they must go.

And now in Matthew chapter 9, Jesus shows us that He has authority over our greatest problem.

You know what our greatest problem is, don’t you?

The problem that we all have.

And that we cannot solve on our own?

And it’s a greater problem for humanity than any other problem.

Matthew chapter 9, verse 1.

“Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town. [At this point in His life that is Capernaum.] Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat.” Stop there for a second.

Matthew has condensed this story. In Mark and Luke we find out that these men actually dug through a roof and elevatored this guy down on ropes into the house where Jesus was staying.

They were desperate to get their friend to Jesus.

But Matthew focuses on the essential detail here.

This man can’t walk on his own.

He must be brought on a mat.

What do you think Jesus is going to do?

Can you imagine what this fellow’s life was like?

He might not have been a leper and ostracized from society, but there are no wheelchairs in that society either. There are no elevators except some friends. There are very few accommodations for handicaps in that society in that time period.

He could not get anywhere on his own.

What do you think Jesus is going to do?

He is going to solve this man’s greatest problem! V.2

“When Jesus saw their faith [the man and his friends], he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’”

Wait, what?

Is that what you thought Jesus was going to do?

From what we have read so far in Matthew, especially chapter 8, that’s a surprise.

I would have thought that Jesus would have healed the guy.

I mean it doesn’t say anything about that guy asking for forgiveness.

That’s not why they have come. At least, I don’t think so.

I think they came for the healing.

But Jesus goes for something much deeper, doesn’t He?

Jesus indicates that He is solving the deeper problem. The deepest problem.

Not just sickness but the root cause of all sickness. Sin.

Not that every sickness is caused by a particular sin. I’m not saying that this guy was sick because he sinned.

But his greatest problem wasn’t his lameness. It was his sin.

And Jesus says, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’”

Now, what Jesus has said creates a conflict with the religious authorities. They are not happy about this. V.3

“At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, ‘This fellow is blaspheming!’”

Why are they so upset?

What does it mean to blaspheme?

It means to say something utterly untrue about God.

So you can blaspheme by saying that God is the same as the devil.

Or you could blaspheme by saying that you are the same as God.

That you are God.

That’s what they think Jesus is saying.

Why?

Because who can forgive sins but God alone?

Think about it. Jesus is not just saying, “God forgives your sin.”

He’s really saying, “I forgive your sin.”

And the scribes know it. They know that’s what Jesus is saying.

Think about it.

If I went out into the parking lot and stole Rob's truck.

Would it make any sense for Jane over here to forgive me for stealing Rob's truck?

“I forgive you, Pastor Matt.”

Thanks, but it’s really Rob that needs to forgive me.

But if Jesus is acting like the offended party and is forgiving people their sins then by doing that Who is He claiming to be?

The other title we could give to this sermon series on the Gospel of Matthew is “Who Does He Think He Is?” v.4

“Knowing their thoughts [supernaturally], Jesus said, ‘Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? [Reading minds is also something only God can do!] Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?”

What’s the answer to that one?

Which one is easier TO SAY?

It’s easier to say, “Your sins are forgiven.” Because who can tell if it’s happened or not?

It’s harder TO DO! But it’s easier to say.

It’s hard to say, “Get up and walk” to a lame man because what if they don’t get up and walk?! V.6

“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth [solve your greatest problem...] to forgive sins....’ Then he said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, take your mat and go home.’ And the man got up and went home.”

Wow! You see what happened there?

Jesus said the harder thing to say to prove that He could do the harder thing to do.

“And the man got up and went home.”

Imagine how that guy felt now!

Not only was he able to walk, but the man who made him able to walk just told him that his sins are forgiven.

Wow!

Here’s point #1 about Jesus today.

#1. JESUS CAN FORGIVE SINS.

V.6 “The Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...”

That is such good news!

Because that’s our greatest problem.

Let me give you two simple questions for applying that first point.

Two questions to ask yourself now that we know that Jesus doesn’t just have the power to change the weather or send demons into pigs, but that Jesus as the authority Himself to actually forgive our sins.

- Have you come to Him for forgiveness? 

Because He’s where it’s at.

You can’t get forgiveness anywhere else.

Search high and low, try everything out there, and you will come up short.

Church attendance, doing good works, doing penance, trying to repay those you have sinned against. Pretending that you haven’t sinned.

Anything and everything you try outside of Jesus will not work.

But Jesus can forgive your sins.

We know HOW He can do that, too, don’t we?

We know the end of this book. Where the Son of Man was crucified. He paid for our sins with blood. These sins are forgiven because they are going to be paid for. He absorbs the cost.

So when He says, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven,” He knows how much that forgiveness will cost Him.

Think about that.

That’s what this table down here represents. The ultimate sacrifice so that He can say, “Your sins are forgiven.”

But only to those who have faith, right? Only those who trust Him. V.2, “When Jesus saw their faith.”

If they had hard hearts, He might have healed the man but He wouldn’t have said, “Your sins are forgiven.”

So what about you? Have you come to Jesus for the solving of your greatest problem?

So many have asked Jesus for much lesser things.

And we can ask for the lesser things. He cares about them, too.

But do you see your sin?

Do you see how you need to be saved from your sin?

Have you come to Jesus for forgiveness?

- Are you worshipping Him as God?

That’s the point of this story, isn’t it?

We know Who Jesus is!

He claims to forgive sins, and He proves it by healing sicknesses. V.8

“When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.”

Hmmm.

I’m not sure about that phrase.

It’s good that they praised God.

We should be doing that, too, for every good gift He gives us.

But my read on verse 8 is that they intentionally missed the point of this story.

They couldn’t ignore the miracle. They were astonished!

But they didn’t worship Jesus as God.

The people of Capernaum are kind of famous for NOT believing that Jesus is Who he claimed to be.

They had all of the facts. They had all of the evidence. But they didn’t trust Jesus, they didn’t follow Jesus, they didn’t accept Jesus, and by and large, they didn’t worship Him as God.

Let’s not make that mistake here, okay?

Jesus is not just a miracle worker, He is God in the flesh. And He invites our worship.

Because He has come to solve our greatest problem.

Point #2 of 2 about Jesus.

#2. JESUS CAME FOR SINNERS.

This is why He came.

He came to solve our greatest problem. V.9

“As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew [what a great name!] sitting at the tax collector's booth. ‘Follow me,’ he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.”

Now, we don’t get just how scandalous that was.

Because as much as we don’t like taxes, we don’t have tax collectors like these guys.

They were kind of a like mafia.

They were extortionists.

They were in bed with the Romans. The Romans wanted taxes from the people. The people had no choice. They might pay as much as 40% of their income as small as it was in taxes.

And these guys contracted with the Romans to collect the taxes. So they had the authority and they used it to shake down the citizens for as much as they could do.

So they were Jewish but they were working for the oppressive enemy.

And they were doing the oppressing themselves.

Every time you read the word “tax collector,” you should under your breath say, “Boo! Hiss! Despised!”

They were traitors.

And they were getting rich off you by being traitors.

And there wasn’t anything you could do about it.

And Jesus says, “Yeah, I want you to come follow me. Matt, come be my disciple.”

And may even more amazingly, Matthew does.

Nobody saw that one coming.

The people that Jesus picks to be on His team?! This is crazy.

And then you know what Matthew does? He throws a party.

And He invites all of the low-lifes that He knows to come and meet Jesus. V.10

“While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ came and ate with him and his disciples.”

It’s getting even more scandalous, isn’t it?

A bunch of these extortionist traitors in one place.

And bunch of other notorious sinners.

This word “sinners” comes up again and again in this story. Three times in four verses.

This party has prostitutes at it. It has pimps. It has thieves. It has gamblers. It has gang-members. It has drug dealers. It has thugs. It has those people you don’t want your kids to hang out with.

But Jesus is there.

And He’s eating with them.

And it’s scandalizing the Pharisees.

We’re going to see again and again the scribes and the Pharisees getting madder and madder at Jesus. And one day, this conflict is going to come to head. V.11

“When the Pharisees saw this [Jesus eating with the sinners], they asked his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?’”

I doubt they were at Matthew’s party.

My guess is that they were across the street taking notes on who came and went to this party.

“Oh, them? Eww. Oh, him, too? Yuck.”

And they don’t come to Jesus. They come to his disciples. Because they want to shake the tree and see if anything falls out of it.

“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?”

Jesus is like, “I’m a teacher am I? Okay, I’ve got a lesson for you.” v.12

“On hearing this, Jesus said, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

That’s really important.

Jesus is not condoning their sin.

He doesn’t like their sins.

He hates their sins.

He knows that their sins are their greatest problem.

Just because He’s eating with them doesn’t mean that He is accepting their sin or approving of their sin.

But He has come for sinners.

He uses the proverb, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.”

He’s saying that it’s not those who think they are fine who need a doctor but those who know they are sick. And in this case, sin-sick.

You have to know that you’re a sinner to get saved!

“For I have not come to call the [so called] righteous, but sinners.’”

That’s the very reason why He came.

Let me give you two application question for this point about Jesus.

- Have you begun to follow Him?

Like Matthew, I mean. Matthew left his table, left I assume all of that money on the table. He left a life of luxury.

Tax collectors ate the best food, stayed in the best hotels, got the best service. Because they had the money.

Matthew left all of that because Jesus called him to follow Him.

Jesus is saying that same thing to you today, “Follow me.”

He has come all this way to find sinners, to call sinners first to repentance, then to salvation, and then to a life of discipleship.

Have you begun to follow Him?

One last question.

- Are you seeking sinners, too?

Are you like Matthew or like the Pharisees?

Matthew wanted his sinner friends to know Jesus. So he went after them and invited them to his party.

The Pharisees were too “good” for that.

They were too pure for that.

They wouldn’t ever eat with “sinners.”

They would never eat with “those people.”

Who are “those people” for you?

“Those people” who nauseate you.

“Those people” who are beneath you.

“Those people” whom you love to complain about on social media.

They don’t have their act together.

They don’t act like you.

They believe all of the wrong things.

They disgust you.

In verse 13, Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 and says, “Learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy [or love or grace, hesed in the original, mercy], not sacrifice.”

God is looking for a heart of love, not just for outward obedience. Not even for sacrifices and offerings if you don’t love others.

God is after those who do not deserve it!

“For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

And that’s good news for you and me. Because that’s what we are.

But we have to own it.

And we have to see that He didn’t just come for us.

He came for other sinners, too.

And what we doing about it?

Are we seeking out the sin-sick, as well?

And introducing them to the Savior?

Or are we just congratulating ourselves for having cleaned up so nice?

I think that so often we misjudge whom Jesus is seeking.

We think that otherwise nice people, clean people, respectable people are where it’s at.

But Jesus is going after the hard cases. He is.

[And, by the way, that includes all of the nice, clean, respectable people who come to realize what their truly greatest problem really is!]

But Jesus is going after the hard cases.

He is not a cushy doctor who is just doing routine check-ups.

He is an ER doctor with his sleeves rolled up and blood up to his elbows saving the most desperate cases from their greatest problem.

In fact, He is the doctor who takes on the sickness Himself to cure the patient, dying in the process.

Jesus came for sinners.

He is the answer to our greatest problem.


***

Previous Messages in This Series:01. The Genealogy of Jesus
02. The Birth of Jesus Christ
03. The Search for Jesus Christ
04. The Baptism of Jesus
05. The Temptation of Jesus
06. Following Jesus
07. Jesus' Sermon on the Mount
08. The Good Life (Part One)
09. The Good Life (Part Two)
10. You Are The...
11. Jesus and the First 2/3 of the Bible
12. But I Tell You
13. But I Tell You (2)
14. But I Tell You (3)
15. In Secret
16. Choose Wisely
17. Seek First His Kingdom
18. Generous
19. These Words of Mine
20. When He Saw the Crowds
21. When He Came Down from the Mountainside
22. Follow Me

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