By Sigrid Fowler
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
The name Jesus, Yeshua in Hebrew, means “salvation” or “deliverer.” When the angel spoke to Joseph, he named the child Joseph’s fiancée Mary would bear: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to embrace Mary as your wife, for the one conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son, and you will name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt 1: 21). Paul writing to the Christians of Thessalonica speaks of Jesus as the one “who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess 1: 10b). The picture is the same: This person will be the rescuer; he will take away the certainty of judgment, guilt, and punishment. His presence will change everything—instead of fear, dread, and hopelessness, there will be peace, the assurance of pardon, exoneration.
Jesus’ miracles reveal him as deliverer. When those four friends tore up somebody’s roof in order to lower that pallet into the crowd filling every square inch around the only one who could help the paralyzed man, Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic: “Son, be of good cheer. Your sins are forgiven you” (Matt 9: 2- 6; Mark 2: 1-12; Luke 5: 17-26). We may not be questioning Jesus’ authority to forgive sins, but still we may wonder why he started talking about sin here. The deliverance this man needed was physical. Who said anything about sin? What does it mean that Jesus is the deliverer? Deliverance from what?
Deliverance from sin is a strong, biblical theme—God as Avenger of wrongs and just Judge. We won’t be far off if we think of God as the one who delivers payment for sin and gives sinners what they deserve. In the Bible, we encounter the holy God, who does not tolerate sin. Isaiah had a vision of heaven. His immediate response was, “Woe is me, for I am undone! / For I am a man of unclean lips / And I live among a people of unclean lips, / For my eyes have seen the King, / The LORD of hosts” (Isa 6: 5). Knowing his sin and how powerless he is to deal with it on his own, Paul cries out: “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom 7: 24). Read Psalm 51 for the day King David deals with his sin in the presence of an offended God. In fact, sinners aren’t just those other guys we’re so different from. Paul declares, “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Rom 3: 23). David agrees: “All have turned aside, they have altogether become corrupt. There is no one who does good, not even one.” (Ps 14: 3; Ps 53: 3).
Clearly, Jesus was keeping the main thing the main thing when he told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” Deliverance from sin is what the Bible is all about. Isaiah describes what Jesus accomplished on the cross: “He was wounded for our transgressions, / He was bruised for our iniquities, / The chastisement of our peace was upon him, / And by his stripes we are healed” (Isa 53: 5). When Jesus forgave the paralytic’s sin, he was making an issue of sin, emphasizing it in a way that was brilliantly revealing. He knew what the nay-sayers were thinking (“Who is this who forgives sin? Who can forgive sin but God alone?” Luke 5: 21), and he also knew that when sins are forgiven, there may not be any outward evidence. Jesus said: “ ‘What is easier to say, “Your sins are forgive” or “Get up and walk”? ‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sin’—He said to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, take your pallet and go home’” (Luke 5: 24). And that’s what the man did. If Jesus could summarily dismiss paralysis, a physical disability clear to everyone there, he could also dismiss the sin hidden in this man’s heart. Wow! What a move!
In this awful year, the year of so many dreadful things wrecking the lives of so many, I’m suggesting this: When you face some terrifying thing, first ask God to show you a sin in your life. Look at that sin, feel the weight of it, and thank Jesus Christ for the cross. Ask him to cleanse you. Then, in the relief of that forgiveness, that pardon, look again at the terrifying thing. It will be different because Jesus doesn’t just deliver us from sins. Don’t know Jesus as Deliverer? Do this now: As a sinner, ask him for pardon. Then thank him that he has become your Savior and Deliverer. He says, “Everyone the Father gives me will come to me, and no one who comes will be cast aside” (John 6: 37).