He's not unique. "God's well of grace must have a bottom to it," we reason. "A person can request forgiveness only so many times," contends our common sense. "Cash in too many mercy checks, and sooner or later one is going to bounce!" The devil loves this line of logic. If he can convince us that God's grace has limited funds, we'll draw the logical conclusion. The account is empty. God has locked the door to His throne room. Pound all you want; pray all you want. No access to God.
"No access to God" unleashes a beehive of concerns. We are orphans, unprotected and exposed. Heaven, if there is such a place, has been removed from the itinerary. Vulnerable in this life and doomed in the next. The fear of disappointing God has teeth.
But Christ has forceps. In His first reference to fear, He does some serious defanging. "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven" (Matthew 9:2
, NASB). Note how Jesus places courage and forgiven sins in the same sentence. Might bravery begin when the problem of sin is solved? Let's see.
Jesus spoke these words to a person who could not move. "A paralytic lying on a bed ..." (v. 2, NASB). The disabled man couldn't walk the dog or jog the neighborhood. But he did have four friends, and his friends had a hunch. When they got wind that Jesus was a guest in their town, they loaded their companion on a mat and went to see the teacher. An audience with Christ might bode well for their buddy.
A standing-room-only crowd packed the residence where Jesus spoke. People sat in windows, crowded in doorways. You'd have thought God Himself was making the Capernaum appearance. Being the sort of fellows who don't give up easily, the friends concocted a plan. "When they weren't able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher" (Mark 2:4
, The Message
Risky strategy. Most homeowners don't like to have their roofs disassembled. Most paraplegics aren't fond of a one-way bungee drop through a ceiling cavity.
And most teachers don't appreciate a spectacle in the midst of their lesson. We don't know the reaction of the home-owner or the man on the mat. But we know that Jesus didn't object. Matthew all but paints a smile on His face. Christ issued a blessing before one was requested. And He issued a blessing no one expected: "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven" (Matt. 9:2, NASB).
Wouldn't we anticipate different words? "Take courage. Your legs are healed." "Your paralysis is over." "Sign up for the Boston Marathon." The man had limbs as sturdy as spaghetti, yet Jesus offered mercy, not muscles. What was He thinking? Simple. He was thinking about our deepest problem: sin. He was considering our deepest fear: the fear of failing God. Before Jesus healed the body (which He did), He treated the soul. "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."