A. The Gospel illustrates the change in our manner of life that results from forgiveness.
1 We can understand the gospel healing in a few ways: At face value as a miracle of healing, as a sign of our future resurrection, and as an image of our spiritual healing. It is this last sense that we will look at today.
2. The NT often refers to the way we live as our “walk.” The Epistle: “That you henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their minds.” The way we lived apart from Chris is like the man in the gospel in his paralyzed state. As the epistle says, our understanding was “darkened,” we were “alienated from the life of God through ignorance.” But Jesus said to us, “Your sins are forgiven,” and “Rise and walk.” Now we are able to “Walk in love as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5:2) and “Walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16).
B. How the man in the gospel began to walk.
1. We can imagine what this miracle of healing looked like. Jesus commanded the man to rise and walk. When the man heard the command, he had to make the physical effort to try to get up. That is, Jesus gave the man the ability to walk, but the man still had to stand up and try to use his new abilities by an act of the will.
2. We can imagine that this man looked a little awkward in his first attempts to get up, and that he had to get used to walking because he had not done it for a while. This healing changed this man’s life in a number of ways. He no longer had to depend upon others to get around. He was now able to plan his life, do work and pursue new things. It would be fun to know the whole future story. Did he use his new freedom well?
3. We can compare this healing to the healing of the man by the pool of Bethesda in John 5. Jesus asked that man, “Do you want to get well?” The implication in the question is that the man rather liked the self-pity that his illness allowed him to indulge in. By healing him, Jesus took away all of his excuses. Jesus later saw the man in the temple and said, “See, you have been made well, Sin no more lest something worse befall you” (5:14). The man immediately went and ratted Jesus out to the authorities. This man did not use his new freedom well.
4. The point is to show that forgiveness and interior healing are gifts that set us free. It is still left to us to live according to our new freedom, and it is still possible for those who are forgiven and healed to fall back into the behavioral paralysis of the “old man”(Colossians 3:9-10).
C. Accepting our forgiveness means living in new way by acts of the will.
1. Jesus says to each of us. “Your sins are forgiven. Rise and walk.” As we receive forgiveness we must then put our forgiveness, our new power and freedom into action by actually getting up and walking. We must, by acts of the will practice new habit of love and service in the place of our old patterns of selfishness and manipulation.
2. It is a common error to seeing forgiveness only as freedom from the future punishment of hell and not as freedom live in a new way now. This separation is utterly foreign to New Testament. We have eternal life now; our future hope is made sure by the change in our current manner of life.
3. Barriers to the new way of life: One, our own self-pity and perverse enjoyment of our spiritual paralysis. We would often rather say, “Poor me” than move forward into the life that Jesus has for us. Jesus asks us, “Do you want to get well?”
4. Two, our own refusal to forgive. The Lord’s Prayer and the implications of our own forgiveness. Accepting our forgiveness means living in the new economy of grace, and dispensing to others what we have been given. What forgiveness means: To give up our right of retribution, and to give up our need for anything to be different that it is. This is part of accepting Jesus as Lord—accepting the good he is giving us rather than the good we may have wanted.
D. Liturgy and the practice of becoming who we are
1. Our life of prayer is remembrance and practice. We hear that our sins are forgiven and that we can live in a new way, but as we enter daily life we are pulled back into our old identity and patterns. Jesus tells us our sins are forgiven, but others may hold grudges. Jesus says, “Rise and walk,” but we are very accustomed to our old habits and it takes a training to learn new habits.
2. Thus, we come to the altar of God each week to remember who we are—to remember that our sins are forgiven. We go back into life to do the good works, to rise and walk. But we are forgetful people, so we must continually remember. We must rise each morning to pray in order to remember again that our sins are forgiven so that we may rise and walk in Christ each day. It is helpful to pause at midday to remember again so that we can continue to rise and walk. We return to prayer at the end of the day to remember again and rise again after the day has pulled us back into our old patterns. The goal is to, as St. Paul says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). But the ideal of constant prayer is built upon the foundation of rule and habit. Without habits and disciplines of prayer, the gospel will be an idea in our heads that never takes root in our behavior.
3. We are becoming what God has declared us to be in baptism through faith. Jesus says to us, “Your sins are forgiven. Rise and walk.” We are learning to accept our forgiveness, to accept grace. We are learning to forgive others, to administer grace. The church and her life of prayer is our school. We are continually learning to hear and apply the gospel in new ways to new areas of our life. Jesus says to you, again, today, “Your sins are forgiven. Rise and walk.” In what new ways, today, is Jesus calling you to accept his grace? What person or persons is Jesus calling you to forgive, today? And how are you being called to act differently, this week? “Your sins are forgiven. Rise and Walk.”