Advent, Daily Devotional

Advent: “Forgiven and Healed”

Isaiah 35:1-10, v. 6 Lame men and women will leap like deer, the voiceless break into song. Springs of water will burst out in the wilderness, streams flow in the desert. MSG

Luke 5:17-26, v. 20 Impressed by their bold belief, he said, “Friend, I forgive your sins.”  MSG

Isaiah the prophet sees a marvelous vision of the Lord’s redeemed people. They are streaming across the desert, which now flows with fresh water, and the head of this triumphant procession is already entering Zion, the Holy City. Jesus in the meanwhile is caught in a petty argument. People are overlooking his ability to cure a paralytic in order to argue theology. Human sophistication collapses before the obvious wonder of God’s ways.

We do not know what Jesus was discussing, surrounded as he was by a large group of people as well as by “Pharisees and teachers of the law who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem.” We are certain that confusion and consternation set in when several men made an opening in the roof and lowered a paralytic with his mat into the middle of the crowd.

Jesus abruptly stopped the theological discussion but immediately stirred up a hotter theological debate! He said to the paralytic: “My friend, your sins are forgiven you.” Jesus could have been interpreted to mean nothing more than what anyone of us might say: How can there be sin in your heart when you seek the Lord this earnestly? All of us forgive sins in this way, by recognizing the abundant humility in our neighbor. But Jesus was also hinting that he was doing more than what a human being would do.

For Jesus, moreover, the forgiveness of sin was to be linked with the total concern for the other person. To show the full implication of spiritual transformation, Jesus cured the paralytic who then “stood erect….picked up the mat he had been lying on and went home praising God.”

In this story we see that reconciliation should not be confined exclusively to forgiving sins, but should extend into a dialogue for reconciling with our neighbor in every aspects of life.

The Christian faith and every follower of Christ cannot be faithful to Jesus if it is confined to people’s souls. To forgive sins requires that we be anxious to help the other person in all areas of his or her life. This kind of concern that is reveal by Christ requires us to take seriously the social sins of today’s world and work vigorously to remedy those injustices.

Isaiah says:

Strengthen the hands that are feeble,

make firm the knees that are weak,

Say to those whose hearts are frightened:

Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God,

he comes with vindication.

Isaiah did not announce the forgiveness of sin and then leave the people otherwise without home or protection. These lines probably come from the time of the Babylonian exile or still later. They were added to the proxy of the earlier Isaiah as a confirmation of his hopes. Then also the people would return from exile so gloriously that their songs would echo from the hills and mountains.

We too ought to be instruments of love, so that our kindliness toward the physical and material needs of others will induce a love strong enough to burn away sin. The removal of sin ought to have repercussions across the total lives of others. Sometimes we may first address the sins and faults, at other times it will be more sensible to care first for the physical needs of others. Most of all we seek the full human dignity of our brothers and sisters.

The birth of Jesus should restore dignity and respect within the family. If we are worried about he faults and failings of others, Advent asks that we extend our concern over the totality of their lives and that we leave behind a vision of hope as did the prophet Isaiah.

Come to us, Lord Jesus, and bring us peace. Grant that this peace be rooted in hearts freed from sin and be manifest in concern for all the needs and worries of others. Amen.