As we read this account of the healing of the palsied man (verses 1-12), we ought to remember that this man’s malady is a very fitting picture of the natural disease of each one of our souls. And just as was the case with this man, we have no power of ourselves to come to Jesus. But what a beautiful lesson is represented to us in the friends of this poor invalid, in the earnestness with which they brought him to the Savior! They would allow no crowd or obstructions to stop them, even if they had to go so far as to take off the housetop. O that we who know the blessedness of Jesus’ grace in our own case would feel something of the same earnestness for the salvation of our lost relatives and friends!
Jesus’ love infinitely exceeded the desires of this sick man’s friends. They brought the poor man to be healed only in his body, but Jesus extended His mercy also to the cure of his soul. And we must not overlook the gracious manner in which the Lord of mercy did this! “Son,” said He, “thy sins are forgiven thee.” By that tender name of “son,” He meant to show this poor man that he was indeed one of those children which the Father had given Him in the everlasting covenant! But the Savior’s words stirred up malicious thoughts from the scribes and Pharisees who were gathered there, even though their thoughts in and of themselves were indeed true – for none except God can forgive sins. Here, therefore, Jesus publicly manifested that He was truly God as well as Man, by exercising this Divine prerogative. And in confirmation that He was God, Who possessed the sovereign power to forgive sins and also do other things that are impossible for mere men; He also instantly worked a physical miracle to cure this man’s body, just as He had done a miracle of grace in pardoning his soul. Those who deny the Godhead of our Redeemer may sit down in shame. O that the Lord may convict these unbelievers with striking testimony of Christ’s eternal power and Godhead, and cause the knee of these sinners’ hearts to bend before Jesus – crying out, with the prophet of old, “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, transgression and sin!” (Mic. 7:18)
Levi the son of Alphaeus is the same person that is more commonly referred to as Matthew, the penman of the Gospel that bears His name. As the Savior was passing by the seaside, He saw him busily engaged at his table in his work as a receiver of the Roman taxes – a profession that was most disgraceful in the estimation of the Jews, who hated the Roman government that they were subjected under at this time. Moreover, the Roman tax agents (like Levi) often grew personally wealthy by collecting not only the required tributes, but also fraudulent extortions from their fellow-Jews. But the calling of Levi serves to remind us that as long as a person is still living and breathing, there are none who are so far gone that they may not still repent and become followers of Christ!
Christ did not refuse to dine at the house of His newly-called Apostle, where He was in the company of many who were in the same condition of life as Levi had been. At this act, the Pharisees took offence. But the answer and example of our Lord show us how much we mistake our duty if we endeavor to abstain from all interaction with those who seem to be “greater sinners” than ourselves. Yes, most assuredly, we should prefer the company of those who are Godly; for there is indeed a risk of evil if we develop close friendships with those who have less regard for God. However, we are to guard against this risk by prayer and watchfulness, for it is our duty to take a stand in the midst of our corrupt and perverse generation! We ought to exercise our faith, hope, and love; and as far as possible, we must endeavor to promote the growth of Christian grace among all with whom we come in contact. Here, then, we have a rule for our associations with others. And in the answer which Christ afterward gave to the disciples of John and of the Pharisees (verses 18-22), we find corresponding directions which are applicable to our Christian duty in the use of food and drink. There are some instances when it is good to abstain even from lawful blessings in a spirit of humble self-denial. But there is a time and a season for all things. Jesus here taught that the new spirit of the Christian Gospel was not fit to be confined by the rigorous ceremonial ordinances of the Old Covenant (like fastings), just as new cloth is not fit to be sewn onto an old garment, nor is new wine fit to be put into old bottles. Yes, seriousness and self-denial are indeed to be exercised with cheerfulness, but we are also permitted to thankfully receive and enjoy every lawful blessing and pleasure that God pours out upon us from His grace and His Providence (1 Tim. 4:4).
On the Sabbath Day, Christ’s disciples satisfied their hunger with corn that they gathered as they walked through the fields (verses 23-28). But the Pharisees, instead of feeling compassion for the disciples in their hunger, began to accuse them of profaning the day of rest. Yet Jesus, in His reply, laid down the true principle of observing the Sabbath. He declared that “the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath.” Hence it follows that the health and life of the man himself ought not to be sacrificed to the observation of a law which was ordained for the relief of both body and soul! Moreover, “the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.” He by Whom the worlds were made is the Lord of all that has been ordained for the good of mankind, including the Sabbath Day, which was made for our rest and for our help in the ways of holiness.
Lord, we repent of times when we have viewed the Sabbath as a drudgery, instead of realizing that You have made the Day for our own benefit and blessing! Amen.
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