A Christian’s unique joy in the midst of distress can be heard at a Christian funeral, which will not only contain laments but songs of praise and happy thoughts of the paradise that the dead in Christ have entered. In this Christians emulate their Master, as we can see in Matthew 9:1-8:
It’s a famous passage. A paralyzed man is brought to Jesus by his friends. Jesus tells him, “Cheer up, my son; your sins are forgiven.” For this, Jesus is accused of blaspheming by the religious leaders—He did do what only God has the authority to do, after all. So in response to their charge, Jesus proves his authority to forgive sins by telling the paralytic, “Rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” He did, and God was praised for it.
We tend to focus on the healing, but that isn’t really the focus. Jesus only healed the man to prove that his sins had been forgiven by his say-so. The focus, then, must be his rather amazing statement to this paralyzed man, “Cheer up, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Think about how odd the Lord’s words are. “Cheer up, my son; your sins are forgiven”? Here is a man without the use of his legs, and without the use of wheelchairs, ramps, and ADA-required parking. He didn’t move under his own power—or his own whim. What job could he do in the ancient world? No working legs. No job. Without a chance of marrying. (Who would marry their daughter to a beggar?) Or, if he was married before his paralysis, he would have been reduced to feeding his family not by ability by through handouts. And yet Jesus tells this man to cheer up?
His sins had been forgiven. And what that means is of immense importance. Sins—our moral failings—break our communion with God. More than that, they require His justice. So while it’s sad that this man had little acceptance with human society, it’s devastating that he had no acceptance with the divine court. It’s one thing to have people shun you. It’s another thing to have God turn you away when you arrive in heaven. But this man’s future changes when Jesus says his sins are forgiven. God is no longer a judge to this man, but a Father (Jesus calls him “my son”). Someone who was certainly seen as a burden by society and family is now welcomed into God’s family by the forgiveness of his sins.
It is this forgiveness that is at the heart of Jesus’ happy command, “Cheer up”. This man had just received welcome and worth and dignity of an eternal and lasting kind. Yes, the man did eventually regain the use of his feet. But like all men and women, he lived with one foot, and eventually both, in the grave. Yet because his sins were forgiven, this man did not stay in death’s prison but entered life with Jesus. And like all Christians who die, he now awaits the resurrection of his entire body—in unbroken glory—at the return of Christ Jesus. The forgiveness of sins is the source of the Christian’s joy. These are the words Jesus says to all who repent of their sins and trust in him for salvation, “Cheer up, my son; your sins are forgiven.”
Have you been cheered by his forgiveness?
Matt Barker is an ordained minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and pastor of Grace Reformed in Walkerton, Indiana. He married up to a wonderful wife who gives happiness and wisdom, and has a wonderful daughter who encourages fun and vigilante prayer.