From Garden to City reading: Matthew 9-12
In Luke, we read that Jesus goes to the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown, after his 40-day fast and after being tempted by Satan. He goes forward and reads a passage from Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-21)
Before sitting down, he announces, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing."
These words really irritate the people of Nazareth. They know his parents. They've watched him grow up. They remember his rather unconventional birth. After all, his mother wasn't married when Jesus was conceived.
Who does Jesus think he is? Certainly he couldn't be the promised Messiah, described by the prophet Isaiah.
And so Jesus leaves, and everywhere he goes, the lame walk and the blind see. He restores lepers. He casts out demons. He raises the dead.
Read the book of Matthew. It's filled with these stories.
He associates with tax collectors. He speaks to women. And Romans. He eats with "sinners."
And he forgives sins.
The teachers of the law quietly accuse him of blaspheming. After all, only God can forgive sins.
And Jesus responds, asking, "Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'?"
Obviously, it's easier to announce that someone's sins are forgiven than to make a lame man walk. Who can see forgiveness?
Jesus knows that and boldly announces, "But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . ." At this point, he turns to the paralyzed man and says, "Get up. Carry your mat home." And the man gets up and goes home.
Jesus heals to demonstrate God's power. He heals to demonstrate God's love. He heals to demonstrate God's authority.
The thing is, Jesus sees past the sin. He's moved by suffering and pain. He's come to give life, to restore their relationship with God the Father. He's come to release the prisoners, to bring freedom to the oppressed. Matthew tells us, "When Jesus sees the crows, he has compassion on them, because they are harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
When we see Jesus, we see God, made visible, the exact representation of his being. We see God reaching out to touch men and women. We see God making a way for us to have a relationship with him.
We must pay more careful attention to Jesus, to what he says, to what he does, lest we drift away from the God who sent him.