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What is Our Greatest Need?
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
- Mark 2:5, ESV
Today's reading has one of the most dramatic and famous stories in the Gospels: Four men carry their paralyzed friend to see Jesus. When they can't get into the house where Jesus is, they go up on the roof and literally tear the roof off the house in order to get to Jesus. They then lower their friend carefully down in front of Jesus.
What happens next probably surprises the man and his four friends as much as it shocks and offends the scribes sitting around Jesus: Jesus says to the man, "Son, your sins are forgiven." He doesn't say, "Rise up and walk," as we would have expected. Why not?
Well, as we read on, we see that Jesus does end up healing the man of his physical paralysis, but He does so, "that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins." (v. 10) It seems clear that Jesus dealt with the man's greatest need first in extending forgiveness to him. He was then more concerned that we know that He has authority to forgive than that He has authority to heal. The healing is the greater visible sign, but it points to a greater hidden power, the power to forgive.
We miss out on the wonder of the Gospel when we fail to realize or remember that our greatest need is not financial or medical, not relational or psychological. Our greatest need to for forgiveness, for our sin is what keeps us from God and what condemns us forever. All other problems we face are temporary, but our sin is an eternal problem because it brings eternal consequences.
This greatest need is why Jesus would go to Matthew the tax-collector's house and why He would say,
Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
My sins overwhelm my soul
My sins overwhelm my soul
and the accusations of my enemy haunt me, tormenting me.
I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
I am desperate for Your forgiveness and deliverance.
O God, you know my folly;
the wrongs I have done are not hidden from You.
But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord.
At an acceptable time, O God,
in the abundance of Your steadfast love answer me in Your saving faithfulness.
from sinking in the mire;
let me be delivered from my enemies
and from the deep waters.
Let not the flood sweep over me,
or the deep swallow me up,
or the pit close its mouth over me.
Answer me, O Lord, for Your steadfast love is good;
according to Your abundant mercy, turn to me.
Hide not Your face from Your servant;
for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.
Draw near to my soul, redeem me;
ransom me because of my enemies!
You know my reproach,
and my shame and my dishonor;
my foes are all known to You.
But I am afflicted and in pain;
let Your salvation, O God, set me on high!
You have answered me with the perfect righteousness of Your Son.
I will praise Your name, O God, with a song;
I will magnify You with thanksgiving.
When the humble see it they will be glad;
those who seek You, O God, will see their hearts revive.
For You, O Lord, hear the needy
and You do not despise Your own people who are prisoners
held by our sin and by the oppression of our enemy.
Let heaven and earth praise You,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
For You save Your people
and build up Your church,
and people shall dwell there and possess the new heavens and earth;
the offspring of Your servants shall inherit it,
and those who love Your name shall dwell in it.